Our Letter of Resignation from the SDA Church

~ July 4, 2009 ~


Dear SDA Church Family:


It is with a combination of sadness and joy that we write you this letter.  The sadness comes from our need to request that our names be dropped from membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  We cherished the blessing of having you as a church family, and we consider many of you to be dear friends.  We praise God for the fellowship and worship we shared with you.  We are truly sad that our decision may bring pain and discomfort to anyone; however, we are rejoicing in a newfound understanding of God that has brought us spiritual peace for the first time in our lives.


Our journey out of the church began with questions about the inspiration of Ellen White.  We desperately wished to maintain our SDA beliefs, so we approached these questions with great caution.  Seeking answers to our questions, Joe read approximately twenty-five Ellen White books and numerous SDA books on the inspiration of Ellen White and SDA history.   What Joe found while reading Ellen White was more disturbing than the original questions.  In our opinion, Ellen White is a legalist and a perfectionist.  We’re not trying to run her down, but we are convinced that she never understood the gospel of grace or the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.


Specifically, we are troubled by Ellen White’s insistence that the remnant must keep God’s law perfectly during the time of trouble in order to prove that fallen man can keep the law, thus vindicating the character of God.  They must accomplish this without benefit of the mediation of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary.  If you doubt what we are saying, please read the second half of The Great Controversy.  We believe this system introduces human works into the salvation equation, but the Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).   We believe it detracts from Christ’s completed atonement if God’s character must still be vindicated by a perfect remnant.  In addition, the perfect, sinless remnant would be responsible for a significant salvational attainment, even if, as Ellen White said, the power came from God.  They would have maintained perfect reliance upon God, something that no other human being ever has or ever will achieve, except for Christ.


As Joe was reading Ellen White’s writings and encountering perfectionism in literally thousands of passages, he felt a huge sense of despair; he realized that he would never be able to rely on God so perfectly that he could literally become perfect as Christ was perfect.  Fortunately, we discovered that EGW is not a prophet; therefore, we don’t have to fear the impossible requirements she placed upon salvation.  We discovered that her prophecies were invariably tentative or else inaccurate (read what she wrote about the Civil War in Testimonies, vol. 1).


We discovered and personally documented massive amounts of plagiarism in her writings.  The extensiveness of the plagiarism suggested to us that she really wouldn’t have needed visions to produce her material.  In addition, she appears guilty of a shocking lack of candor with respect to the plagiarism.  This might even be termed dishonesty.  Her only admission regarding the use of sources is the 1888 introduction to The Great Controversy, and this must be considered a late acknowledgement since there were several previous denials.


In our studies, we also discovered the erroneous “shut door” teaching which she attributed to her visions, but which she later tried to delete from her writings.  It is Adventism’s forgotten doctrine.  We could continue talking about Ellen White, but we’ve probably already said enough. Everything we’ve said can be substantiated from SDA sources, with many coming from her own pen.


For several years, we remained strong Sabbatarians even though we were studying Ellen White’s teachings.  We thought it impossible that the New Covenant argument could be the correct interpretation of the Bible.   However, the Sabbath seemed so dull, so lifeless, so Spirit-less; it never met our longing for Jesus.  It was, we believed, a requirement for the remnant, and we held it tenaciously.  We thought we had rejected the errors of Ellen White, so we wondered why we still had no joy.  Then Jennifer began reading the book Sabbath in Christby former Adventist pastor Dale Ratzlaff.  Joe wanted her to hold off, but she felt the Lord calling her to read it.  Joe read some SDA works on the Sabbath and then began looking at the non-SDA materials Jennifer had obtained.


While Joe was reading Discovering the New Covenantby Greg Taylor, he came to a discussion of Colossians 2:16.  He had always been certain that the Sabbath days referenced there were the ceremonial Sabbaths, and he was utterly shocked to discover that the phrase “festivals, new moons and Sabbath days,” which appears many times in Scripture, always refers to the weekly Sabbath.  Thus, there is a progression from yearly to monthly to weekly.  So, let’s look at this passage in more depth.


“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  Therefore do no let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:13-17).

What is the written code?  What else could it be but the law?  Paul doesn’t distinguish between the moral and ceremonial law:  These terms never occur in Scripture.  He’s talking about all lawthe Ten Commandments, and specifically the fourth, since Sabbath days are mentioned.  We are instructed not to worry about human judgments regarding the seventh-day Sabbath, for our rest is now in Christ.


Joe’s favorite argument for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath was that the apostles didn’t mention Sabbath-keeping at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.  They argued extensively over circumcision, and Joe wondered, Wouldn’t they have mentioned the Sabbath if there had been any question about seventh-day observance?  Circumcision was hidden; the Sabbath was public.  Joe reasoned that had there been any proposed change in the Sabbath, it would have caused much more of a stir than circumcision.  Then we discovered that circumcision was the entrance requirement into the Old Covenant.  The Old Covenant would have been meaningless to anyone not circumcised.  When they decided not to circumcise the Gentiles, they were deciding against initiating them into the Old Covenant legal system.  Notice what Peter says in Acts 15:10-11:  “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”  Was circumcision the “yoke” that the Jews had been unable to bear?  No.  It was the entire Old Covenant.  They couldn’t keep it.  Therefore, in throwing out circumcision, they were actually throwing out the entire old system.  That’s why Paul instructs the Gentiles not to let people judge them regarding food, days, and the other requirements of the Old Covenant.   Acts 15 is crystal clear when we understand the context.


It’s interesting that the New Testament never tells believers how to keep the Sabbath.  If the Sabbath is the seal of God, then New Testament believers would need to know how to receive and maintain that seal.  Incomplete Sabbath observance would do no more for a person’s salvation than no Sabbath observance.  But we find no instruction in the NT for Sabbath keeping.  Why?  Could it be because the Holy Spirit is the seal of the New Covenant?  (see Eph. 1:3, Eph. 4:30, and 2 Cor. 1:21-22).  Ellen White taught that the Sabbath is the seal of God.  Shouldn’t these texts cause us to question the very foundation of Seventh-day Adventism?


There is still a Sabbath rest for true believers.  And thank God that rest is daily.  The Sabbath never ended in Eden (note that Genesis 2 never says that “there was evening and morning, the seventh day”).  Likewise, it isn’t intended to begin or end as a daily period under the New Covenant.  “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God . . . .” (Heb. 4:9).  As Adventists, we read that text as indicating the seventh day, but this was a rest like God’s rest in Eden.  It is a rest for the soul, found only in Christ.  Notice that the word for Sabbath here is the Greek sabbatismos, which can best be understood as a “Sabbath-like rest.”  It is not a reiteration of the fourth commandment, for this word is never used anywhere else in Scripture.  It is a restoration of the never-ending Edenic rest God originally intended.  Notice how the writer of Hebrews keeps referencing “Today” in chapters 3 and 4.  Through grace, we enter His rest every day, not just on the seventh.


As we no longer believe several key Adventist doctrines, we request our names be dropped from membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  We love the Adventist people and hope to maintain our relationships with our SDA friends.  Joe resigned from his job as an English teacher in the SDA school system, and we are joining a joyful non-denominational church.  Our spirits are lifted in praise for the goodness of God.  For the first time, we feel secure in His grace.  There’s nothing for us to do but believe and receive:  He’s done all the rest.


Lastly, we would like to encourage you to read a couple of additional portions of Scripture that now have great significance to us.  The book of Galatians is keyit is now Jennifer’s favorite book of the Bible!  Also, II Corinthians 3 is a very important passage for understanding the New Covenant.  May the Holy Spirit guide as you study God’s Word.


Living in His joy and assurance,


Joe and Jennifer Rector