True and Free Seventh-day Adventists

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The True and Free Seventh-day Adventists (TFSDA) are a splinter group of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose most well known leader was Vladimir Shelkov. The group formed in the Soviet Union as a result of religious persecution in World War I. TFSDA members believed that the Seventh-day Adventist Church had apostatized and had become "Babylon". The group related its origins to the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement which formed in Germany during the period of World War I, when Seventh-day Adventist leaders determined it was permissible for Adventists to bear arms and serve in the military.[1]The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement formed as the result of a schism within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe during World War I over the position its leadership took on Sabbath observance and in committing Seventh-day Adventist Church members to the bearing of arms in military service.[2]

The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement was formerly organised on an international level in 1925 at Gotha, Germany and appears to have been the catalyst for the formation of the (TFSDA) and both held to the core belief of a Protestant Christian denomination, part of the Sabbatarian adventist movement. Both the (TFSDA) and the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement formed as the result of the controversy within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe during World War I over the position its leadership took on Sabbath observance and in committing Seventh-day Adventist Church members to the bearing of arms in military service.[3]

The movement group in Germany adopted the name "Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement" while that in Russian appears to have adopted the similar "True and Free Seventh-day Adventists". While the ‘Reform Movement’ in Germany registered as a General Conference association in 1929, the (TFSDA) was organized but did not do the same. However, much like in Russia the crackdown on the Reform Movement’ in Germany began with the General Conference association's dissolution by the Gestapo in 1936 but it was re-registered in Sacramento, California, USA in 1949 so was more familiar and became better known in America than the (TFSDA).[4]

Both the (TFSDA) and the Seventh Day Adventist Reform movement's beliefs largely reflect its distinctive Seventh-day Adventist Church heritage, with some small divergences.

History of the Schism[edit]

1914-1918 Seventh-day Adventist Church Schism (Europe)[edit]

The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement came about as a result of the actions of L. R. Conradi and certain European church leaders during the war, who decided that it was acceptable for Adventists to take part in war, which was in clear opposition to the historical position of the church that had always upheld the non-combative position. Since the American Civil War, Adventists were known as non-combatants, and had done work in hospitals or to give medical care rather than combat roles.[5]

The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists sent Seventh-day Adventist minister and General Conference Secretary William Ambrose Spicer to investigate the changes, but was unable to change what L. R. Conradi and the others had done during the war.[6][7][8] After the war, the Seventh-day Adventist church sent a delegation of four brethren from the General Conference (Arthur Daniells, L. H. Christian, F. M. Wilcox, M. E. Kern) in July 1920, who came to a Ministerial Meeting in Friedensau with the hope of a reconciliation. Before the 200 Pastors and the Brethren from the General Conference present at this meeting, G. Dail, L. R. Conradi, H. F. Schuberth, and P. Drinhaus withdrew their statement about military service and apologized for what they had done. The Reformers were informed of this and the next day saw a meeting by the Adventist brethren with the Reform-Adventists. Daniells urged them to return to the Seventh-day Adventist church, but the Reform-Adventists maintained that the church leaders had forsaken the truth and the reconciliation failed.[9] The movement's beliefs largely reflect its distinctive Seventh-day Adventist Church heritage, with some small divergences.


(TFSDA) group of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Russia[edit]

Leaders of the TFSDA movement were vigorously hunted by the KGB (national security agency) and almost without exception, pastors and leaders of this church spent many years in prison, their children were taken from them and forced into exile. Three prominent leaders of the TFSDA were V. A. Shelkov,[10] and two brothers named Murkin.

One of the great accomplishments of the TFSDA was to smuggle out of the Soviet Union documents chronicling their persecution, which became an international embarrassment to the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Key points of doctrine and controversy for the TFSDA were:[citation needed]

  • They did not allow their children to attend school on Saturday (Sabbath), while many families in the official Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Soviet Union did
  • They did not allow their young people to serve in the Soviet military
  • They rejected the requirement for pastors and religious groups to register with the government
  • They believed that because the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists did not dis-fellowship those who bore arms in World War I, that the General Conference had officially compromised its principles and had become "Babylon" (Revelation 18:1-5; compare Seventh-day Adventist eschatology)
  • They believed that because the General Conference continued to accept the official Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Soviet Union as legitimate, the General Conference had become Babylonian
  • The group saw itself as a "Remnant of the Remnant" (see: Adventist remnant belief)

The True and Free Seventh-day Adventists continue today in small numbers. The group focuses its outreach on members of the regular Seventh-day Adventist Church and expects to see an imminent return of religious persecution.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Murray, Katharine, "Soviet Seventh-day Adventists," Religion, State and Society 5:2 (Summer 1977), p.88–93.
  2. ^ Holger Teubert, “The History of the So called ‘Reform Movement’ of the Seventh-day Adventists,” unpublished Manuscript, 9.
  3. ^ Holger Teubert, “The History of the So called ‘Reform Movement’ of the Seventh-day Adventists,” unpublished Manuscript, 9.
  4. ^ See on "The Name of Our Church", official SDARM Website, http://www.sdarm.org/origin/his_12_name.html
  5. ^ http://www.sidadventist.org/lead/index.php/resources/essent/89-leadership
  6. ^ http://www.imssdarm-bg.org/content/view/185/66/
  7. ^ http://www.sdarm.org/origin/his_05_crisis.html
  8. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald. 1996. pp. 266–267. ISBN 0-8280-0918-X. 
  9. ^ http://www.sidadventist.org/lead/index.php/resources/essent/89-leadership
  10. ^ Sapiets, Marite "V. A. Shelkov and the true and free Adventists of the USSR," Religion, State and Society 8:3 (1980), p.201–217

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]