THE BATTLE OVER THE NAME "Seventh-day Adventist"
Part 3: Ownership of the Name
The second major objection to calling ourselves by a different name other than "Seventh-day Adventist" is because many have been taught that the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was not given to an organization or denomination, but was only given to individual believers who must identify themselves by this literal name to the end.
This article was written not to cast down, or to needlessly cause any embarrassment or pain to, anyone who chooses to call themselves "Seventh-day Adventist" and thereby be identified with that church. But to show all those who have completely disconnected themselves from this church that there is no command from God, nor is there any directive from the Spirit of Prophecy, that they must continue to cling to and identify themselves by the name "Seventh-day Adventist".
Do you today, as an individual believer who is connected with the SDA church, have the right to call yourself "Seventh-day Adventist"? Yes. Do you have the right to call yourself "Seventh-day Adventist" even though you have no membership in, or connection to, the SDA church? I see no reason why you cannot do so if you wish yourself to be viewed as being connected with that corrupt church.
But while it is one thing to say you have the freedom to call yourself "Seventh-day Adventist", it is a completely different matter to declare that it is a command of God that you must call yourself "Seventh-day Adventist"--especially if you have no connection or membership in that apostate church! But this is exactly the position many are taking.
When one searches through the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy for such a statement clearly upholding this belief, not a single inspired reference can be found! As there is no clear inspired backing for this belief, let us turn our attention as to how the name "Seventh-day Adventist" came to be chosen and to whom it was given.
When you examine the history surrounding this name, you will discover that before the year 1860, the Advent people were not generally identified by any one particular name. It was not until there was a need for property and assets to be legally held by a church denomination (instead of having it owned by private individuals of the church), that the issue of a name came to the forefront and discussion ensued. In this way the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was finally chosen to represent a legally recognized and registered Corporation. It not only represented single individuals who believe the Advent truth, but also all who had chosen to join with this church denomination by organizing their home churches under this name.
To help in understanding this more clearly, let's consider the following from J.N. Andrews about this issue of the "Seventh-day Adventist" name, from a perspective of before, during, and after its discussion and adoption:
"As the message advanced, and the number of laborers constantly increased, the Lord in his providence, as we have seen, led us to an effective Bible plan for the sustenance of the ministry. With the increase in numbers came a demand for, and increase in, facilities for printing and publishing the truth, and a corresponding accumulation of property at the Review and Herald Office. That branch of the work started in July, 1849, by Elder James White, printing the first number of a paper, The Present Truth, with money earned mowing grass, had grown until now there were several thousand invested in the business. It became needful for some one to take the responsibility of this in the initiative. As the business had grown under Elder White's judicious management, the plant and good-will of the business was legally his. But he did not wish it so understood. He called it 'the property of the church.' In this position was an illustration of the principle expressed in the text at the head of this chapter, 'All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.' He desired to place the matter in the hands of the church, but the church was not in a condition to legally hold property. This brought us, as a people, to a point where we again recognized that something was 'wanting.' To make a move by virtue of which the church could receive and lawfully hold its real estate and other property, was a third step in the matter of order.
"In the Review and Herald of Feb. 23, 1860, Elder James White, in an article on this subject said: 'We hope, however, that the time is not far distant when this people will be in that position necessary to be able to get church property insured, hold their meeting-houses in a proper manner, that those persons making wills, and desiring to do so, can appropriate a portion to the publishing department... We call on preachers and leading brethren to give the matter their attention. If any object to our suggestions, will they please write out a plan on which we as a people can act.'
"In the Review of March 8, 1860, under the head of 'Legal Organization,' the writer made the following statement in response to Elder White's request: 'What I understand is necessary to remedy all the defects in this matter, is to organize in such a manner that we can hold church property legally. Then the property could be held in the name of the church.' Money could be borrowed in the same way, and no one individual would have to take a burden upon himself which he ought not to bear...
"From Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, 1860, there was a general meeting of our people from Michigan and adjoining States, held in Battle Creek. At this time there was a full and free discussion, and a careful consideration of the subject of legal organization for the purpose of holding the office of publication and other church property, meeting-houses, etc. As the result of these deliberations it was voted unanimously to legally organize a publishing association, and a committee of five was elected by those assembled, that such a corporation might be formed as soon as practicable.
"As soon as a move should be made to organize, a name would need to be taken for the corporation. This, therefore, led to a consideration of the name by which we should be known. Some were in favor of the name 'Church of God.' This was objected to on the ground that it gave none of distinctive features of our faith, while the name 'Seventh-day Adventist' would not only set forth our faith in the near coming of Christ, but would also show that we are observers of the seventh-day Sabbath. When this matter was put to vote, only one person voted against the name 'Seventh-day Adventist,' and he shortly after decided in favor of it.
"The Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association was organized May 3, 1861. This was the first of the various legal organizations formed by this people. The formation of such corporation was point number three in establishing, in God's opening providence, the 'order and system' of managing the work of the third angel's message. All can now see the necessity for such corporations, and may wonder that it was not always seen by us. But let none lose the practical lesson contained in this case. While we should most earnestly seek the Lord for divine guidance, we must remember that as he works in us as his instruments, we too have a work to do. We are not to expect him to do what he has left for us to do and what he 'works in us to do.'...
"The summer of 1861 was not only important because of the 'Civil War' in the United States, but many important moves were being considered in connection with the cause of truth. So important were the times that a second general gathering of our people that year was held in October. On the sixth day of the month the Michigan Conference was organized by the election of a chairman, a secretary, and executive committee of three. By vote the conference recommended that the churches organize, adopting the following as a church covenant: 'We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church, taking the name Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ.' A committee was appointed to prepare an address formulating plans for organizing churches. This address appeared in the Review of Oct. 15, 1861." J.N. Andrews, "The Church, It's Organization, Order and Discipline", p 109-113, 124.
At the end of this study there are several more excerpts from articles dealing with this very issue of the name "Seventh-day Adventist" in the corporate setting.
As was pointed out, before a home church of individual Advent believers could be considered "Seventh-day Adventist" they all had to agree to organize their home church into one body of believers, taking the name "Seventh-day Adventist" as their church name, and adopting a covenant agreement. So the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was chosen to represent the name of a legal organization and State recognized and registered Corporation, as well as to represent the corporate body of believers who had chosen to join themselves in worshiping together as part of this organized denomination. Thus the belief that the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was not given to a organization or denomination is not according to the history surrounding this name. History is clear that this name was not given to represent individual believers outside of the SDA church denomination, but was chosen to represent both the organization as well as the individuals who had united themselves with it.
Ellen White recognized the above history of what had taken place regarding the name "Seventh-day Adventist", and she states in the following testimony:
"As our numbers increased it was evident that without some form of organization there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable." Testimonies to Ministers, p 26.
Hence the belief that the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was not given to an organization or denomination but only to individual Advent believers, is found not to be backed up by either inspiration or history. It is clear from history that the name was given to an organization, as well as to the people who chose to unite themselves in church capacity with this denomination. It was not given to those individual believers who were outside of the denomination--even if they chose to keep the same Advent faith!
So who is correct in this issue? The extremists over this name, or what history has revealed? Does the name "Seventh-day Adventist" belong only to individual believers, or does it also belong to the organized structure of Adventism, including all its institutions, etc.? Let us allow God to answer this question:
"The banner of the third angel has inscribed upon it, 'The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.' Our institutions have taken a name [SDA] which sets forth the character of our faith, and of this name we are never to be ashamed. I have been shown that this name means much, and in adopting it we have followed the light given us from heaven. Let us hear what the Lord saith, [Ex. 31:12-13, 17, quoted]." Manuscript Releases, vol 13, p 68.
What did inspiration declare? Inspiration clearly stated that the name "Seventh-day Adventist" does indeed belong to the institutions of the church, and hence to the SDA corporate structure. Thus no one can advocate in truth that the apostate SDA denomination cannot use, or be identified by, the name "Seventh-day Adventist", believing that only the true and faithful believers have the right to use this name.
What many are doing is making the issue of the "Seventh-day Adventist" name into an extreme position which is unfounded by either the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy! Many have made this name "Seventh-day Adventist" into an idol that they would be willing to go to jail for, or even to die for, believing that they will lose salvation if they give up this name. In doing this they have made this name issue into a test of salvation, when neither God nor the Spirit of Prophecy has ever endorsed it as such! Dear ones, let us get our eyes off from being fixed upon a literal name, and look to the fact that it is character which God is concerned with in regards to our salvation.
"We are not saved as a sect; no denominational name has any virtue to bring us into favor with God. We are saved individually as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ." Review and Herald, February 10, 1891.
All of God's followers are saved individually as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, PERIOD! "No denominational name has any virtue to bring us into favor with God". One of the meanings of virtue is: "the practice of moral duties." So, in other words, if we did, or if we did not, practice or perform the supposed duty of identifying ourselves as "Seventh-day Adventist", IT WOULD NOT MATTER WITH GOD, because "no denominational name"--which would include SDA--"has any virtue" with God in regard to our salvation. Why is this?
"Not by its name, but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God's law, they were not His people." Desire of Ages, p 107.
Our salvation is to be decided solely upon whether our life and character has been in harmony with God's law or not! Thus our salvation is not to be decided upon what literal church name we call, or do not identify, ourselves by! That is why the Remnant of Revelation 12:17 and 14:12 are identified in Scripture by their character. "Here are they"... that are called "Seventh-day Adventist"? NO! But here are they "which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ", "and the faith of Jesus."
To those who have chosen to completely separate themselves from having any connection with the apostate and corrupt SDA church, and who may still believe that it is God's will that they must identify themselves as "Seventh-day Adventist", I urge you to take the Great Controversy, and carefully pay attention to each word of the last 7 chapters. These chapters clearly reveal everything regarding God's people through all the final conflict; through the time of the loud cry, the Sunday law, the death decree and all other events which take place in the closing scenes before Christ comes again. During all this period of time, never once will you find sister White identifying God's true people by the literal name of "Seventh-day Adventist", or by any other literal church name for that matter. But you will find her clearly identifying God's true people by their faith, their actions, and their character. It is our character which identifies ourselves as God's chosen followers, and not by what literal church name we may call ourselves by!
With this in mind, we are "Israelites"; we are "Christians"; we are "Protestants"; we are "Seventh_day Adventists", not because we are commanded today to literally call ourselves by these names, but because we show and manifest the truths connected with these once chosen churches and Movements of the past through our character. We believe in God as our Creator, who established the plan of Redemption and symbolized it through the Sanctuary services; we believe in Jesus Christ as our Messiah and High Priest; we believe in righteousness by faith and that the Catholic church is anti-Christian as well as the whore of Babylon; and we believe in keeping all of God's commandments, following the testimony of Jesus (the Spirit of Prophecy), and exemplifying the faith of Jesus in our lives! Thus it is by our character that we are shown to be true spiritual Israelites, Christians, Protestants, and Seventh-day Adventists, and not because we are commanded to call ourselves by these literal names.
Did you know that Paul was a true Adventist? (see Spirit of Prophecy, vol 3, p 389). Did he ever literally claim that he was a "Seventh-day Adventist"? No, but he lived the life and preached the truth which showed and made him a true Adventist. The same with Enoch (see Signs of the Times, October 12, 1904). He never claimed to be a "Seventh-day Adventist", but his life and teaching proved beyond a doubt that he was a true Adventist. And you could say the same about all of God's true people, including Jesus Christ Himself! They all were true Seventh-day Adventists, even though they never literally identified themselves such but called themselves by a different church name. It is exactly the same with us today! Therefore it should be clear that there is no basis in truth for anyone to believe that all who have completely separated themselves from the fallen SDA church cannot adopt a different church name, such as "Seventh-day Remnant". There is no basis in truth for believing that if they did so they would be disobeying God.
I sincerely hope and earnestly pray that all can understand that the foundational support given for the belief that the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was only given to individual Advent believers and was not given to the SDA corporate denomination is not in agreement with the weight of evidence provided by a "Thus saith the Lord". Nor is it in agreement with history.
As promised before, here are those additional excerpts:
"James faced financial problems as the business agent of the publishing house--a concern that had no more in the way of organization than a publishing committee. Steps had been taken in 1855 to transfer the business from the shoulders of James to the church, but the church was without name or organization and, from a business standpoint, was illusive. This left White to carry full business, financial, and administrative responsibility personally." Ellen G. White Biography: The Early Years, Volume 1, 1827-1862, p 410.
"Cautiously the conference moved into this highly sensitive area. Brother Poole feared that to adopt a general name would hurt them as a people. J. B. Frisbie was opposed to a sectarian name but saw the need for some uniformity of the terms by which the body of Sabbathkeepers would be known. Moses Hull thought that the churches in various places might be known as "the church worshiping on the seventh day in such and such places." James White stated that he did not see how they could get along without some name, and they could not hold property without a name. The law was specific on that point." Ibid, p 422.
"Without church organization... the rather loose-knit church was growing more and more unwieldy. Ministers and laymen who had met in Battle Creek in late September, 1860, in response to an invitation signed by four leading brethren and couched in the form of an announcement, set about to form a legal organization to hold the assets and manage the affairs of the publishing work. Out of the meeting came plans for a publishing association--but it could not organize legally until the legislature of the State of Michigan had formulated laws under which they could incorporate. Organizing the publishing work called for the choice of the name Seventh-day Adventists." Ibid, p 445.
"I (brother Bracket) now move that we adopt a name, as we must have a name if we are to organize so as to hold property legally....
"[M.E. Cornell stated] The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus is a distinguishing feature between us and the other denominations... It looks to me too that the gifts of the church are lost sight of, and are not held in so important a light as they should be, if we give way to so much fear of our becoming Babylon merely by adopting a name. There is confusion in the names already chosen; and if something is not done here, churches will go on choosing different names still. A general name will bring us into unity and not confusion." Review and Herald, October 23, 1860.
"Dear Bro. White: The church here [Green Bush Michigan] met May 22, 1861, and organized. They were unanimous in taking the name, Seventh-day Adventists. The subject of organization seems so plain, and the step so very necessary, that we do not see how any of God's people can have any objection to it whatever. We are few in number, but we feel the necessity of striving to overcome all our besetting sins, and to do our whole duty in the fear of the Lord. We have adopted the plan of systematic benevolence as laid down in the Good Samaritan, No. 5, and it works well. H.L. RICHMOND, Clerk." Ibid, Sept 24, 1861.
"Bro. A. S. Hutchins writes from South Troy, Vt.: "I am truly thankful that we have the light set before us in so clear and consistent a manner as in the Address of the Battle Creek conference. If the caution be used that should be in receiving members to church fellowship, God will be glorified, I doubt not in the least, in our covenanting to keep his commandments and the faith of Jesus. In the cause of our divine Master we are called to labor with men of clean hands and pure hearts. Let us not then be unequally yoked together, but perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
"Some weeks since the Sabbath-keeping brethren in Irasburgh and Charleston met for organization. All present were agreed in associating ourselves together as a church, taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. In this step my mind is greatly relieved, as the church will be freed from some of its clogs, either by humble confessions and hearty repentance from some who have professed to be with us, or by their leaving the church free from their influence. May the Lord help us not to be of those who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Ibid, December 24, 1861.
"Resolved, That this conference [Michigan] recommend the following church covenant: We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church, taking the name Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ. Seconded by Brother Hull. Adopted." Ibid, October 8, 1861.
"At the weekend conference held in Battle Creek in connection with the annual meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association in October, 1861, those who attended hammered out the basis on which local churches could be organized. They proceeded to organize the Battle Creek church and then the Michigan State Conference. Then the following action was taken:
"Resolved, That the first session of the Michigan State Conference of Seventh-day Adventists be held at Monterey, Michigan, October 5-8, 1862." Ibid, Oct. 8, 1861.
"Page 210, organization--up to the year 1860 there had been no legal or church organization among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists. They had not even adopted a name. They spoke of themselves as the 'Scattered Flock,' the 'Little Remnant,' or some variation of such expressions. Now Elder White had announced through the Review that he must refuse to continue to assume personal responsibility for money lent to the Review and Herald office. He further expressed the hope that the time might soon come when 'this people will be in that position necessary to be able to get church property insured, hold their meeting houses in a proper manner, that those persons making their wills, and wishing to do so, can appropriate a portion to the publishing department.' He called upon his brethren to make suggestions as to how this desire might be effected so that 'we as a people' might act to secure the above advantages.
"Among the first responses to this request was one from the Brother B referred to in this connection, in which he expressed his conviction that it would be wrong to incorporate as a religious body according to law...
"After much discussion the misgivings regarding the propriety of legally organizing the publishing office were largely overcome, and at a conference held in September, 1860, the Advent Review Publishing Association was formed. A few months later the name was changed to the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association. Even after this step there still remained with some a reluctance to enter into church organization, and the subject continued to be discussed. However, with the large majority favoring organization, the movement proceeded, first by the organization of churches, then of state conferences, and, finally in 1863, of the General Conference." Testimonies for the Church, Volume One, p 715.
"The Seventh-day Adventist church was organized in 1863 with 3,500 members, half a dozen local conferences, about thirty ministerial laborers, and a General Conference committee of three." Last Day Events, p 50.
"The 'cause' in those days centered largely upon the publishing plant, its staff, and its products. To give the organization that was formed to handle it a name, a term was devised--'Seventh-day
Adventists.' When church organization was finally attained, the Review plant was all the office the church leaders had. This was to be so for another forty years." Ellen G. White Biography: The Early Elmshaven Years, Volume 5, 1900-1905, p 226.
"Bro. J. N. Andrews has been laboring with the church in Brookfield [New York] for a few weeks past, setting before them the subject of organization in its true light. All were convinced of its importance, and entered into it in earnest by laboring faithfully with each other to correct the erring, to reprove faults and remove stumbling-blocks. The church then organized, taking the name, Seventh-day Adventists, and adopting the covenant recommended in the Review. Bro. Henry Main was chosen elder, and Bro. Ira Abbey, deacon. The church now numbers twenty-four members. Six others made application, but for various reasons their names were postponed till our next meeting for action. The systematic benevolence plan was then cheerfully entered into, by which we shall raise about $100 annually." Review and Herald, March 13, 1863.
"Q. --How do you organize your churches and raise funds for your work?
"A. --Our organization is very simple. A body of believers associate together, taking the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of (whatever locality they may be in,) and adopt a covenant 'to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.' They have no creed but the Bible. Elders, deacons, and clerks are the officers employed. A local organization to hold church property is formed the same as in other denominations, according to the laws of the various states. Next to the churches come the state conferences, embracing all the churches in a state, or other district; next is the General Conference, embracing all the state conferences. This is the highest body, and its decisions, although only advisory, are generally cheerfully complied with by all the members of the organization. Tract and missionary societies, and Sabbath schools throughout our denomination, are organized on the same lines, the headquarters of the first being the 'International Tract and Missionary Society,' at Battle Creek, Mich; that of the second being 'The International Sabbath School Association,' at Oakland, Cal." Uriah Smith, "Seventh-day Adventists and Their Work", p 10.
"In our church organization, the General Conference, composed of delegates from the different State Conferences, is our highest authority. This Conference chooses annually, besides the usual officers, a committee of three who have the oversight of the work throughout the entire field.
"Next to this are our several State Conferences, composed of the ministers and delegates from all the churches, in their respective States. These Conferences also have a committee of three to take the oversight of the work in their several States during the Conference year.
"Next to these stand individual churches, associated together under the following simple covenant: 'We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church, taking the name Seventh-day Adventists, covenanting to keep the commandments of God, and faith of Jesus.' The officers of the church are local elders, deacons, and clerk." James White, Life Incidents, p 300.
~By elder Robert Sessler