- The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement (SDARM) comprises a number of ultra-conservative offshoots separated from the ‘mainstream’ Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Thus, the term 'SDARM' is used as a generic term and not necessarily limited to just one legal entity. It is very important not to confuse the 'mainstream' SDA Church with the various SDARM Churches.
- This site is primarily dedicated to the SDARM because it is the biggest and best organized of the SDA schisms. However, other SDA offshoots are also explored in other articles, as well as on our sister-site "Sevy Taliban: Ex-Adventist Cults". Our sister-site discusses: David Koresh, Wayne Bent, Chirck McGill, John Thiel, Walter Veith, Christopher Hudson, Samuel Pipim and more.
- In a nutshell, the SDARM are fanatically conservative and extreme, treating ‘non-essential’ questions as ‘salvation' issues and tests of membership. For example, baptism will be refused or Church discipline initiated (i.e. censor or excommunication) on the basis of failing to comply with Reformist standards concerning vegetarianism, long hair and dress reform. They adopt a Pharisaic attitude to religion.
- The SDARM arose during World War One Germany, and there is a strong authoritarian German element to their religion. A major split within the SDARM occurred in the 1950s, with two major groups now both claiming to be the SDARM. There are in turn a number of ‘independent historic’ Reformist groups as well.
- Reformist devotees typically seek to live a rigidly parallel life to that experienced by the SDA pioneers, who lived in a Victorian society of 19th Century America. By obsessing with regulatory minutiae, the SDARM arguably can become assessed with law-keeping which in itself can become an idol, defeating the very good to which God originally intended.
- Although some might argue about classification, the SDARM Church(es) is probably a cult. Some members of the ‘mainstream’ SDA Church adopt a similar mindset; however, the vast majority of mainstream Adventists are not so caught up in regulatory minutiae.
The SDARM is an offshoot of the mainstream Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is important not to confuse the two. The mainstream SDA Church is quite different from the SDARM.
As will be discussed below, the SDARM does not represent one particular organization or church, but is an umbrella term, representing a range of different ultra-conservative groups, some large, some one-congregation churches, often hostile to each other and the mainstream SDA Church, but who all share a wide range of very conservative Adventist beliefs and practices. The 'M' in SDARM does after all stand for 'movement', not church.
Not every group will agree with the label 'SDARM', and some may wish to deny that label to others, whilst some may argue they have divergent beliefs from the SDARM. However, for the purpose of this website, the overwhelming similarities between these groups outweigh their differences, and the term SDARM offers a convenient label to describe groups with shared beliefs and practices. That said, readers should be aware that there may be small differences from place-to-place, and group-to-group.
This author is not intending to insult groups who would prefer not to call themselves SDARM. The term is largely a matter of classifying convenience.
In this way, the SDRAM differs from Adventists in turning ‘minor’ or ‘non-essential’ issues into ‘major’ or ‘salvation issues.’ For example, whilst most Adventist would agree on the importance of modest dress and apparel or vegetarianism, only the SDARM makes these tests of membership. One is reminiscent of the Pharisees, who Jesus describes in Luke 11:42 as follows:
Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
The SDARM has a range of minor beliefs about Church organization, which like most cults, in effect serve to ensure the authoritarian control of the SDARM leadership. These include teaching the leadership is the 'voice of God' (not far removed from Papal infallibility), 'Gospel Order' (no new idea is permitted without the leaders' ok), 'Church organization' (code for the leaders to have almost total control of the church and its monies), the 'missionary work of the church' (unnecessary and excessive funds spent on travel for leaders) and 'unity and submission' (code for those who do not submit to the leaders can expect swift disfellowshipment).
How might one describe the culture of the SDARM?
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For it their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will find yourselves fighting against God.
- In 1914, World War One begins.
- In 1915, SDA pioneers and messenger Ellen White dies.
- The German Government introduces conscription and the leadership of the SDA Church in Germany buckles under the pressure, encouraging Adventists to enlist in the military.
- The General Conference in the USA, who ended up on the Allied side of the conflict, was too far removed from this crisis now taking place within the German Conference.
- Many SDAs in Germany, citing Adventist beliefs and traditions about Sabbath-observance and pacifism, refuse to comply with the German Conference’s acquiescence to join the military.
- A number of German Adventists protested and were disfellowshipped.
- The disfellowshipped German Adventists begin a bitter campaign, distributing 10,000 copies of a pamphlet describing the Adventist Church as the great apostate woman.
- In 1919, the disfellowshipped German Adventists organise themselves into a church body called the “International Missionary Society of Seventh-day Adventists.” They later change the name to “Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement.”
- In 1920, after the War ends (thus making it possible for officials from the General Conference in the USA to re-establish contact with the German Adventists again), a delegation from the USA, led by GC President Daniells, travels to Germany.
- In July 1920, before some 200 pastors and laypersons, Elder Daniells apologises, making clear the German Conference was in error for its actions during the War. Elder Daniels then attempts to heal the rift with the new “Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement.”
- The attempt at reconciliation ultimately fails, primarily because the General Conference did not adhere to the demands of the Reformers, who request the German Conference be disbanded and its leaders disfellowshipped as punishment.
- The SDARM has ever since continued its bitter campaign against the mainstream SDA Church, and continued to accuse it of being in apostasy and being part of Babylon.
- In 1951 there was a major split during the session held in Zeist, Utrecht (province) Netherlands, where nearly half the delegates of the SDARM walked out following the then Secretary of the movement. Apart from accusations of maladministration, there was a power-struggle as to who was entitled to be elected President, and whether proxies from delegates stranded on the communist side of the Iron Curtin should be accepted.
- In 1952, the faction subject to the protest reorganized itself, under an old but unofficial name, ‘International Missionary Society of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement’ (‘IMS’), headquartered in Baden Germany.
- In 1955, the faction who had walked out formally registered the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference’ in the USA.
- Between 1952 and 1967, there were various legal actions between the two groups.
- In 1967 and 1993, attempts were made to further reconcile the two factions, but were again ultimately unsuccessful.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven… For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
- Educate yourself, by reading resources such as this and some of the articles found in the further information section below. Being forewarned is forearmed.
- Contact your local SDA Pastor or someone you know is solidly grounded in their own faith. Be especially careful of having anything to do with SDARM leaders without sufficient support.
- Avoid tit-for-tat theological discussions with Reformers. Do not underestimate the Reformers ability to recite on command a string of random scriptural verses, which may well overwhelm you. Whilst many of these texts will be out of context, it may be difficult for you to respond on the spot.
- When discussing the issue with your family member or friend, appeal to the spirit of the scriptures rather than their form. Whilst the Reformers can memorise enormous chains of Bible verses, they are not so successful at demonstrating their adherence to their spirit, such as the commands of Jesus in Matt 40:34-40.
- Most importantly, if they chose to remain in the SDARM, stay a friend. As often happens, they may eventually decide it is not after all a place for them.