A spiritual fellowship steadfast in upholding the sanctity of the Sabbath and the non-combatancy principle amidst warfare.
Origin and Beliefs
The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement originated during World War I when a fraction of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe, led by L. R. Conradi and other church leaders, decided to participate in military service, contradicting the church’s historical stance on non-combatancy. This participation included bearing arms and engaging in combat, which was a departure from the Adventist Church’s established beliefs and practices since the American Civil War, where Adventists were known as non-combatants, working in hospitals or in medical care rather than in combat roles. The refusal of the church’s European leaders to adhere to the denomination’s traditional beliefs led to a schism, resulting in the formation of the Reform Movement by those who sought to maintain the original stance on non-combatancy and Sabbath observance.
Early Challenges and Development
Attempts at reconciliation between the Reform Movement and the main Seventh-day Adventist Church were made shortly after WWI but were unsuccessful. The Reform Movement was officially organized as a separate entity from the main Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1925 in Gotha, Germany, with the aim of continuing the original teachings and practices of the church, particularly regarding the observance of the Sabbath and non-participation in military service. This move came after a significant portion of the Adventist membership in Europe chose to support participation in the war, leading to the disfellowshipping of those who opposed this stance.
Organizational Structure and Global Reach
The Reform Movement shares a similar organizational structure to the main Seventh-day Adventist Church but with some distinctions, such as the absence of formal divisions. It operates through local churches, state conferences, unions, and a General Conference headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia. The movement has a presence in 114 countries and focuses on spiritual growth and readiness for the second coming of Christ, rather than prioritizing membership growth. As of December 2014, the movement reported approximately 40,000 members globally, with the largest memberships in Brazil, Romania, Peru, and Congo.
Educational and Social Initiatives
The Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement operates schools in several countries, including Peru, Bolivia, the Philippines, Brazil, and Colombia, and encourages homeschooling where possible. This approach reflects the movement’s concern for the moral and spiritual education of its youth, aiming to provide an environment that aligns with its religious beliefs and values.
Contemporary Relations and Outlook
Efforts for reconciliation between the Reform Movement and the main Seventh-day Adventist Church have been made over the years, including a significant apology from the two German Seventh-day Adventist Unions in 2014 for the actions taken a century ago. While the Reform Movement views the main SDA Church as a potential partner in the global Christian mission, differences in beliefs and practices remain. The Reform Movement continues to emphasize the importance of adhering to the original teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, particularly regarding non-combatancy, Sabbath observance, and a holistic approach to Christian living.