Reading 3 – Sunday, December 7, 2014

Historical Evidence of the Reform Movement’s Existence since 1914

By Raquel Orce-Sotomayor, Spain/U.S.A.

“… Then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” Matthew 18:16.

We have the holy Scriptures as the immovable foundation of our faith and history; and as the inspired counsel, the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. The Scriptures themselves urge the necessity of referring to testimony to confirm facts, statements, or events. In the search for and identification of evidence related to the existence of the International Missionary Society of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Reform Movement, beginning in 1914, it is essential to consider the available sources of information–historical facts recorded in books, magazines, and newspapers. Valuable elements are found in legal documents, such as registrations and government bulletins and notices. Added to all of this are important personal memoirs, obituaries, and biographies.

The historical references presented in this article are from a previous selection of evidence in available documents. To facilitate understanding and put everything in proper context, the chronological order of events and their immediate consequences are especially considered, particularly in relation to the first week of World War I in Germany.


The definitive event that triggered the war was the attack that took the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) and his wife on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo (Bosnia); thus a terrible conflict raged between 1914 and 1918 that would later be called World War I. There were many factors that led to this conflict that occurred basically because of the economic and military rivalries among the different 2014 powers of continental Europe and colonialists, the process of militarization going on among them, and the continuing crises that were increasingly difficult to solve without the conflicts and nationalism of the time clashing with the totalitarian and imperialist powers. World War I lasted four years, three months, and fourteen days; but here we will analyze just the first year, 1914, for the purpose of showing the pacifist position and Christianity of a minority of faithful Adventists and the consequences they suffered in refusing military service and participation in the war.

Adventist European Division
The annual Adventist Yearbook for 1914 showed the organizational structure of the continents and countries which made up the European Division.1 Pages 93-125 describe in detail the countries in the geographical regions and the officers making up the European Division organized in 1913 (approximately 52 countries on three continents–Europe, Asia, and Africa). The territories covered are Europe; the Russian and Turkish possessions in Asia; Persia, Arabia, and Afghanistan; and parts of Africa, not including Rhodesia, British Central Africa, and the Union of South Africa. The headquarters of the Division were located in Hamburg, Germany, under the presidency of L.R. Conradi,2 who was also the vice president of the General Conference for the European Division and a member of the General Conference Plenary Committee. Considering this information is very important, particularly the relevance and extension of the jurisdiction administered by the European Division, which was never limited to the German Unions, nor just to certain countries of Europe, but exceeded national and continental borders.

Sabbath, August 1, 1914
Germany declared war on Russia, starting World War I. In August 1914, the Central Powers (Germany and Austria- Hungary) confronted the Allies (Serbia, Belgium, Russia, France, and England).

The declaration mobilizing the German army on that date3 is of great importance in the fact that the military summons of the male population at the beginning of the war resulted in an army of approximately 800,000 men. After publication of the military call-up on August 2, 1914, the army reached the remarkable number of 3,820,000 men.

In a pamphlet, “Wake-up Call to the Last Church,” Ordained Elder A. Stobbe presented clearly what happened among Adventists in the first days of August 1914 and afterward:5 “On Sabbath, August 1,

[1914,] in many places a unanimous decision was made not to go with Babylon.”6

It is very significant to consider that the reaction of the Adventist membership before the communication of Germany’s entrance into the war and the military call-up was overwhelming and a complete rejection of cooperation, for they considered participation in the war as “going to Babylon.”

Sunday, August 2, 1914
The second day after the declaration of war, the Secretary of the Adventist European Division, Guy Dail, sent a circular letter from the headquarters to the people containing four points, which are summarized in the following verbatim quotes: “While we are in the military or have to enlist in the military, [we should] carry out our military obligations cheerfully and from the heart.” “In Joshua 6, we see that the children of God made use of weapons of war and also on the Sabbath rendered service in the war.”7

This communication sent to all the churches in Germany unleashed actions and reactions: “In our country,” wrote Brother Otto Welp, “the confusion and division in the Adventist Church began in 1914, when war broke out. This was the consequence of the error proclaimed by the leading brethren in Hamburg with respect to observance of the Sabbath during the war and our position with respect to military service…. A circular letter of Brother G. Dail [Secretary of the European Division] sent from Hamburg on August 2, 1914, contained a call to participation in military service and the violation of the Sabbath. Our conviction of conscience and that of other sincere brethren was the reason why in many localities a protest arose against the distortion of the holy law and the rejection of the message of the third angel.”8

Another brother, giving a similar testimony, affirmed: “But when, in the course of the first week of the war, the writing came from Hamburg, the churches were confused, God’s holy law was trampled on, and the present truth was put under a bushel.”9

To this can be added the news of the day: “A division occurred among the Adventist followers after the war broke out. The majority wanted to invalidate the fundamental teachings during the war. The other part, however, desired the sanctification of the Sabbath even during these difficult times. These differences of opinion finally led to the exclusion from the church of the followers of the ancient faith. The position taken toward military service and in general was the cause of the division.”10

The above statements indicate without doubt that the positions taken were what led to the exclusion of those who decided to remain faithful to God and His law always and under all circumstances.

Tuesday, August 4, 1914
Under governmental and military pressure, the President of the East German Union with its headquarters in Berlin, Franz Schuberth, proceeded to address a declaration to the Minister of War, the first part of which stated: “Most honorable Lord General and Minister of War: … In these times of stress, we have bound ourselves together in defense of the ‘Fatherland,’ and under these circumstances we will also bear arms on Saturday (Sabbath). On this point we take our stand on the Scripture found in 1 Peter 2:13-17….”11

After the repetition of the official communications sent to the German government on the part of the Adventist leadership in the area, one author observed: “… It is natural to locate the roots and beginnings of the Reform Movement in August 1914,”12 because decisions had already been made and reactions had already occurred, as an eyewitness, Brother O. Kramer, stated: “Then we realized that this new position of our ministers was the result of the official letter sent to the German government by the German Adventist leaders.”13

Wednesday to Friday, August 5-7, 1914
“When the war began, the Germany leadership of the Adventist Church presented ‘recruitment as the duty of the brethren’ in a circular letter and described as ‘brave, loyal soldiers those who take up arms’ and ‘perform military service on the Sabbath.’ Of the 15,000 members in the church at that time, a minority did not follow this position. Those who refused military service and recruitment or deserted were disfellowshipped, as were those who supported such objectors….”14 It is important to consider how they ranked the members, according to their approval or rejection of the position taken by the leaders; namely, brave, loyal soldiers on one side and objectors, deserters, and traitors on the other, the latter being an excluded minority.

Sabbath, August 8, 1914
Relating what happened the following Sabbath, Brother Kramer continues: “The following Sabbath, the church met as usual. Brother Staubert shared the word…. Again he used the same Bible text as the previous Sabbath. But this time he mentioned texts telling us to be obedient to the government, because there is no government that is not ordained by God; that we should submit to the authorities; and that we should not resist, because otherwise we would be resisting God’s order; that we have the legitimate right to participate in the military, since Germany was fighting a defensive war, etc.

“For a moment, the members remained seated, mute and astonished. But then there arose a storm of protest: ‘No! No! It is apostasy from the faith. We cannot go to war!’ “15

“… In a circular letter entitled The European Situation, Elder C.H. Watson [President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference, 1930-1936] gave the following explanation:

” ‘There was in Germany and those other countries concerned a minority of our believers who refused to follow the leadership of Conradi and others into combatant participation in the war.

” ‘These were subjected to much suffering at the hands of their governments because of their stand.

” ‘In Germany, those who took their stand against Conradi’s wicked action in thus committing them to war were treated with great harshness by Conradi and his associates. The resistance of the minority to military service threatened to compromise the whole body of Adventists in the eyes of the German government; and, to avoid this, Conradi had the minority disfellowshipped from the church.

” ‘Thus the noncombatant minority was forced out of the church in that country, and this separation continued throughout the war years.”16

The official statements continued: “At the beginning of the war, our denomination divided into two parts. While ninety-eight percent of our membership took the position on Bible grounds that it was their conscientious duty to defend the Fatherland with weapons, and that also on the Sabbath, and this united position of the leaders was at once forwarded to the War Department, two percent, however, did not submit themselves to this united resolution and therefore had to be disfellowshipped because of their unchristian conduct….”17

Considering only these statements among many others, it is important to emphasize the institutional and church rejection that occurred, which brought about the declaration in verifiable legal documents, such as the statutes of the Germany Union of the Missionary Society of December 23, 1919, confirming that the members began meeting separately and independently as the International Tract Society in 1914, to which they previously belonged and as a consequence incorporated this society in 1914.18

In an eyewitness report, Brother Otto Welp described the situation at that time in the following manner: “Thus we fulfill the Saviour’s words: ‘All ye are brethren.’ Matthew 23:8. So, beginning in 1914-15, there arose a force of Reform believers. The Spirit and love of God impelled us then, and the testimony of the Faithful Witness was preached to the church of Laodicea. The Spirit of God accompanied us and convinced many souls in Laodicea; and the sincere, faithful souls decided for Christ and the truth of the Reform. They stood with those who were willing to keep the commandments of God in the war and amid difficulties and thus reveal the strong faith which works by the love of God…. The work was conducted under great persecution from 1914 on. Some brothers and sisters were imprisoned; also many brethren died. At the end of the war in 1918, this stopped.”19

The identification of the faithful minority group at the beginning of World War I and throughout with a specific name that confirms the present historical heritage was reconfirmed during the meetings held in Friedensau, Germany, in 1920:
“E. Dörschler: As the International Missionary Society and people, we have elected a spokesperson; namely, myself on this occasion, while Brother Welp answers questions related to Germany.” 20 At this same meeting, which took place July 21-23, 1920, L.R. Conradi presented a series of questions, and the sixth was related to the name of the organization that represented the minority who preserved the fidelity to the law of God during World War I. He mentioned the name exactly: “6. Question:… And you are called International Missionary Society of Seventhday Adventists?”21 In the final sessions of the meeting in Friedensau in 1920, the President of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, A.G. Daniells, joins the questioning; his statements allow us to confirm that the representatives of 1920 were members of the same organization registered in 1919, with its origin and name assumed since 1914. “L.R.Conradi: Your letterheads and documents confirm that you are the denomination that has existed since 1844.” “A.G. Daniells: Do you want to keep this name?”

“E. Dörschler: It will depend on the answers to the questions presented.”22

This brief collection of statements and documentation of the historical proofs for the existence of the International Missionary Society of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Reform Movement, as a result of the position taken in harmony with the ten commandments and the fundamental truths of Scripture and the Spirit of prophecy is really short and selective. Nevertheless it is sufficient to inspire us to unite our voices with the words of Isaiah 43:9: “Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.”

1 1914 SDA Yearbook http://docs.adventistarchives. org//docs/YB/YB1914__B.pdf#view =fit.
2 1914 SDA Yearbook, pp. 93-125. http://docs. pdf#view=fit.
3 Mobilmachung, August 1914. Source: BArch PH 6 I / 213.
4 bilderdokumente/00857/index-25.
5 A. Stobbe, Weckruf für die letzte Gemeinde.
6 W. Egerter, El Camino de los Adventistas (2006), p. 218.
7 2014/05/21/auswirkungen-des-erstenweltkriegs- auf-die-adventisten-in-deutschland1.
8 Excerpts from the Report of Otto Welp at the International Conference, Würzburg, Germany, November 1921, cf. Der Sabbat-Wächter, 1921, Special Edition.
9 W. Egerter, El Camino de los Adventistas (2006), p. 218, de Llamado al Despertamiento Para la Última Iglesia (May 1915), A. Stobbe.
10 Kölnische Zeitung, September 21, 1915.
11 Reformation Study Course, Lesson 12, International Missionary Society of the Seventhday Adventist Reform Movement, American Union, 1982, cgi/live.cgi/page/ReformationStudyCour.
12 Ruttmann, H. (2002), Die adventistische Reformationsbewegung, 1914-2001: Die Internationale Missionsgesellschaft der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten, Reformationsbewegung in Deutschland. Köln: Teiresias.
13 O. Kramer, Rise and Progress of the Reform Movement, pp. 5-9.
14 11&r=7&a=0.
15 O. Kramer, Rise and Progress of the Reform Movement, pp. 5-9.
16 http://theadventistforum.yourlivecommunity .com/l-r-conradi-and-his-rejection-of-the-sop _topic2909.html.
17 Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, April 12, 1918, p. 3.
18 Satzungen der Deutschen Union, Internationale Missionsgesellschaft der Siebenten-Tags- Adventisten–Alte seit 1844 stehengebliebene Richtung Deutsche Union, December 23, 1919.
19 O. Welp, Abfall in Laodizea, p. 6. 20 Protokoll [Minutes] of the Negotiations with the Opposition Movement from July 21 to 23, 1920, in Friedensau, p. 25.
21 Protokoll [Minutes] of the Negotiations with the Opposition Movement from July 21 to 23, 1920, in Friedensau, p. 40.
22 Ibid.

“The religion of Christ does not require us to lose our identity of character, but merely to adapt ourselves, in some measure, to the feelings and ways of others. Many people may be brought together in a unity of religious faith whose opinions, habits, and tastes in temporal matters are not in harmony; but if they have the love of Christ glowing in their hearts, and are looking forward to the same heaven as their eternal home, they may have the sweetest and most intelligent communion together, and a unity the most wonderful. There are scarcely two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one may not be the trials of another, and our hearts should ever be open to kindly sympathy, and all aglow with the love that Jesus had for all His brethren.” –Gospel Workers, p. 400.