International Missionary Society
|Official Name:||Foundation Year:||Reach:|
|International Missionary Society, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Reform Movement (IMSSDARM).||1925||Worldwide|
The IMSSDARM first appeared as a distinct organization in Germany shortly after World War I (1914-1918). Its first members were former Seventh-day Adventists who had been disfellowshipped during World War I for their “unchristian conduct” in openly opposing leaders of the church for supporting the war and committing its young men to the battlefield, weapons in hand. The original Adventist Movement had come out of the greatest religious awakening and revival since apostolic times (1814-1844), but it was not until the American Civil War (1861-1865) that expedience demanded it organize as a distinct denomination.
Note the official statement:
“The denomination of Christians calling themselves Seventh-day Adventist, taking the Bible as their rule of faith and practice are unanimous in their views that its teachings are contrary to the spirit and practice of war, hence they have ever been conscientiously opposed to bearing arms.” –Letter to Austin Blair, Governor of Michigan, August 3, 1864, (Signed) John Byington, J.N. Loughborough, Geo. W. Amadon, General Conference Committee.
Exactly fifty years later however, a change took place as church leaders in Europe, under the political pressures of World War I, yielded to government demands and committed its young men to military service. Here, in part, is their official statement. Note the change in position:
"Most honorable Lord General and Minister of War, August 4, 1914:
"…While we stand on the fundamentals of the Holy Scriptures, and seek to fulfill the precepts of Christendom, keeping the Rest Day (Saturday) that God established in the beginning, by endeavoring to put aside all work on that day, still in these times of stress, we have bound ourselves together in defense of the 'Fatherland,' and under these circum-stances we will also bear arms on Saturday (Sabbath)….” (Signed) “H.F. Schubert, President”
Shortly after the above official statement was made to the government, approximately 2 percent of Seventh-day Adventist members in more than 14 European countries were disfellowshipped from the church for their open opposition to war and their support of pacifism. In some countries, entire congregations and their elders, within just one week, found themselves deprived of church membership because of their stand on the war question and the Sabbath.
After the war, while hoping for reconciliation with their former brethren, they found it necessary to organize in order to legally hold their collective resources and support their ministers and workers. Since many had been members of the International Missionary and Tract Society of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they originally organized in 1919 in Germany as "Internationale Missionnsgesellshaft der Siebententags Adventisten Alte seit 1844 stehengebliebene Richtung Deutsche Union" (International Missionary Society of Seventh-day Adventists, old movement standing firm since 1844). When all efforts failed in both 1920 and 1922 to obtain an open and impartial hearing before the Seventh-day Adventist Church representatives on issues related to non-participation in war, and when they discovered that a reform movement within the church had been prophesied, the latter part of the original name was changed to Reform Movement. Thus the name: International Missionary Society, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Reform Movement.
In July 1925, brief basic Principles of Faith were formally compiled by representatives from around the world during a Reform Movement General Conference meeting in Gotha, Germany. With new enthusiasm, the International Missionary Society spread rapidly into many countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
Then, in April 1936, the German government closed down and confiscated all property belonging to the organization, and their members subsequently suffered persecution, imprisonment, exile, loss of property, and even death. Many leaders and young men of the International Missionary Society died as martyrs in concentration camps, some having been denounced and even betrayed by members and leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
After World War II, the International Missionary Society again grew rapidly around the world. But during General Conference delegates’ meetings held in the Netherlands, on May 21, 1951, the acting Secretary of the General Conference, Dimitru Nicolici, from Romania, objected to certain procedures of the meetings and walked out with 10 other delegates and an interpreter. Within a few days, this group had set up their own separate organization with Nicolici as president and retained the name that he had registered in the U.S. in 1949 with approval by the General Conference; it had eliminated the International Missionary Society part of the name. Testimony written in 1952 by eyewitnesses to this incident and official minutes of the 1951 delegates' meetings from both organizations are on record. Attempts to reintegrate with that movement failed in 1952, 1968, and 1993.
There are now two distinct branches of the Reform Movement as a result of the 1951 split. One uses the name "Seventh-Day Adventist Reform Movement" (sometimes referred to as the Nicolici group, or '51 movement), whereas the other uses the name "International Missionary Society, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Reform Movement." Both have entirely different organizations, personnel, and websites. The General Conference website of the former is www.sdarm.org (headquartered in Roanoke, VA), while the General Conference website of the latter can be found at www.sda1844.org (headquartered in Cedartown, GA).
The organizational structure of the International Missionary Society follows the original pattern of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are churches, mission fields, districts, fields, unions, and the General Conference. The highest governing body of the denomination, the General Conference Assembly, is composed of delegates from around the globe, meets in full session once every 5 years to elect a 13-member governing Board, to study doctrinal issues, and to establish missionary priorities. The most recent such Assembly was held in 2017 in Tortoreto, Italy.
The International Missionary Society is represented in more than 100 countries. Its adherents worship on the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The organization holds the Bible to be inerrant and acknowledges the writings of Ellen G. White to be part of the Spirit of prophecy (inspired writings) for the last days.
Points of difference with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, besides conscientious objection to war, include the view that abortion and homosexuality violate God’s will, a refusal to participate in political activity, the upholding of the marriage institution as sacred before God, a refusal to participate in ecumenism and labor unions, and advocacy of health principles, such as vegetarianism and natural healing, while abstaining from harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
They do not divide into different churches on the basis of language, ethnic, or racial differences. They have a strong family, education, health, and missions emphasis in their projects, funding, and resource allocation.
The international headquarters facility in Cedartown, Georgia, U.S.A., was purchased in 2007 and is staffed by ministers, doctors, teachers, and missionaries from a broad base of countries.
Membership: The International Missionary Society, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Reform Movement numbers approximately 35,000 members worldwide with more than 73,000 congregants attending church services on the weekly Sabbath day.
Periodicals: The Sabbath Watchman is the official publication of the International Missionary Society, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Reform Movement, General Conference.
The Church attaches much importance to their name, historical roots, and Adventist doctrines.