According to a recent email sent by Georgia-Cumberland Conference Vice President for Pastoral Ministries & Evangelism Harold Cunningham to about 150 pastors in his conference, Seventh-day Adventists who choose to study the Shepherd’s Rod message and practice the reforms its calls for are not be considered Seventh-day Adventists but are to be identified as infiltrators whose intent is to destroy the Seventh-day Adventist Church from within and thus are akin to cancer cells in the human body. Some further accusations in Elder Cunningham’s letter are summarized as follows.
- The proponents of the Shepherd’s Rod message “are not earnest seekers for truth but hard core aggressors against the church seeking to draw disciples after themselves.”
- That Davidian Seventh-day Adventists deceptively try “to insert their teachings and plant doubts in the minds of their sympathizers regarding the Seventh-day Adventist church and its doctrines.
- Praying and studying with Seventh-day Adventists who study and believe the Shepherd’s Rod message is to be shunned because it will “create an atmosphere for their movement to take hold and thrive in the church.”
- The principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 are not to be applied to Seventh-day Adventists who study and believe the Shepherd’s Rod message. These verses only apply to interpersonal conflicts and applying them to address doctrinal differences is a misapplication of the text.
These are a remarkable set of charges to level against loyal church members some of whom are charter members in their congregations and have been faithful to the Advent message in many cases their entire lives! Is such an egregious character attack on Davidian Seventh-day Adventists warranted and stand on a sound scriptural foundation? We will analyze each of these charges in the context of scripture and the historical facts that bear record on the case and demonstrate that they are categorically false and without merit. The true motives behind such vicious and mean spirited assertions by Elder Cunningham in his desperate attempt to keep the pastors and their flocks under his administration from investigating the Shepherd’s Rod will be brought to light.
Now as in former ages, the presentation of a truth that reproves the sins and errors of the times will excite opposition. “Everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:20. As men see that they cannot maintain their position by the Scriptures, many determine to maintain it at all hazards, and with a malicious spirit they assail the character and motives of those who stand in defense of unpopular truth. It is the same policy which has been pursued in all ages. Elijah was declared to be a troubler in Israel, Jeremiah a traitor, Paul a polluter of the temple. From that day to this, those who would be loyal to truth have been denounced as seditious, heretical, or schismatic. Multitudes who are too unbelieving to accept the sure word of prophecy will receive with unquestioning credulity an accusation against those who dare to reprove fashionable sins. This spirit will increase more and more.” — Great Controversy, p. 458
Are Davidian Seventh-day Adventists not Earnest Seekers for Truth?
This is a rather bold presumption on the part of Elder Cunningham to falsely charge that Seventh-day Adventists who choose to study the Shepherd’s Rod message and welcome the reforms it calls for are not earnest seekers for Truth. If one considers the reproach an individual endures to investigate the claims of the Rod for themselves, i.e. shunning of other church members, removal from church offices, and eventual disfellowshipment from the church they love this seems like a far stretch from reality. It could just as well be argued that Davidian Seventh-day Adventists are in fact earnest seekers for Truth and that those, especially church leaders, who exert almost superhuman efforts to discourage or prevent members the liberty of their conscience are in reality the ones who are not truth seekers but rather, like the pharisees of Christ’s day, stand in gate not entering in themselves and hindering others (Luke 11:52) from hearing the message of the hour. Such spiritual pride rears its ugly head when the professed teachers are found wanting as the light of Truth shines in their pathway and exposes that many of their positions on scripture do not withstand a rigorous Bible test.
Precious light is to shine forth from the word of God, and let no one presume to dictate what shall or what shall not be brought before the people in the messages of enlightenment that He shall send, and so quench the Spirit of God. Whatever may be his position of authority, no one has a right to shut away the light from the people. When a message comes in the name of the Lord to His people, no one may excuse himself from an investigation of its claims. No one can afford to stand back in an attitude of indifference and self-confidence, and say: “I know what is truth. I am satisfied with my position. I have set my stakes, and I will not be moved away from my position, whatever may come. I will not listen to the message of this messenger; for I know that it cannot be truth.” — Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 28
Do Davidian Seventh-day Adventists Plant Doubts Against the Church and Its Doctrines?
Anyone who honestly investigates and studies the Shepherd’s Rod message for themselves will see that this charge is baseless and without foundation. In fact quite the opposite is true, Seventh-day Adventists who have had many questions about certain doctrines and teachings that have crept into the church in recent decades are amazed and quite relieved to not only have their questions answered in such a convincing manner but have their faith thoroughly reestablished in the fundamental pillars of the Advent faith such as the 2,300 day prophecy, the sanctuary, the millennium, etc. This is only possible as new light shines and makes manifest the value of the old established by the pioneers of Advent message. What they come to realize is that the Rod does not remove any true doctrine of the church but rather strengthens and reinforces them by brushing away all of the false teachings and winds of doctrine that have crept into the fold, especially after the death of Ellen White. Perhaps Elder Cunningham should consider that whoever prejudges another will in the end judge himself (John 7:1-5) and the Bible being sharper than a two-edged sword cuts both ways (Heb. 4:12). Could it be that in fact the ones who really planting doubts in the minds of church members about the fundamental doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist message are the leading men who discourage others to investigate the Rod for themselves and in its place offer private uninspired opinions on many portions of scripture which they have no real understanding, e. g., the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the “daily”, the judgment for the living, Dan. 11:40-45, etc.?
In every age there is a new development of truth, a message of God to the people of that generation. The old truths are all essential; new truth is not independent of the old, but an unfolding of it. It is only as the old truths are understood that we can comprehend the new. When Christ desired to open to His disciples the truth of His resurrection, He began “at Moses and all the prophets” and “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:27. But it is the light which shines in the fresh unfolding of truth that glorifies the old. He who rejects or neglects the new does not really possess the old. For him it loses its vital power and becomes but a lifeless form.” — Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 127
Why Are Shepherd’s Rod Believers Denied the Right of the Counsel in Matthew 18:15-17?
Since when did the Bible tell us that the principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 apply only to “interpersonal conflicts” and cannot be applied to address doctrinal disagreements within the church body? It must have been at the opinion of Elder Cunningham and higher up leaders in the church administration as there is no historical or interpretative foundation for such a view. What is ironic is that this radically deviant view of scripture is taken only to apply to adherents of the Shepherd’s Rod message and not for other dissident groups within the church such as the Anti-Trinitarians or the 2520 prophecy folks. In fact the Newport Washington SDA church has recently experienced much controversy with the proponents of the 2520 prophecy yet church members who held these views were given a hearing before the church board and elders to discuss their beliefs (for a report from the Newport church board click this link). Why is it that the followers of the Shepherd’s Rod are not granted such a right? The answer is simple. On the one hand the church is capable of mounting a fairly robust defense against the teachings of Jeff Pippenger and his divergent views of the latter rain, the judgment of the living, the trumpets, etc. In contrast, any church member who is well versed in the teachings of the Rod can never be allowed to present a study before the church body as it would cause great fear and trembling amongst church leaders which know they cannot refute it using scripture thus allowing their uninspired views to be exposed. What the Rod teaches it proves from the Bible and the SOP. The opinions of man and the theories of church theologians who resort to scholarly commentaries written by uninspired men crumble like ropes of sand in the face of plain scriptural evidence and this is what they fear the most for the laity to see. Their house of theological cards will fall under any sort to close examination when set beside a divinely inspired interpretation on topics they have no light on such as the judgment for the living, the seven trumpets, the “daily”, etc.
What Would Christ and Other Reformers be Called Today in the Church?
It is interesting to think about what reformers of the past that God has called to bear a message to His church would be called if they entered the Seventh-day Adventist church today? If Christ himself, the spotless Son of God was called by the church leaders of His day a “winebibber” (Matt. 11:19), “Beelzebub” (Matt. 10:25) one wonders what they would call Him today if He suddenly made an appearance at one of their meetings? Martin Luther who sought to reform the apostate Catholic church was called an outlaw and “notorious heretic”. William Miller, the father of the Advent movement, was likened unto a fanatic and spiritual wolf who produced subjects for the insane asylums by the leaders of the popular churches for preaching the message of Christ’s immanent return. And what about the two young young preachers Elders A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoneer who brought the most precious message of Christ and His Righteousness to the 1888 General Conference Session in Minneapolis? The then Conference President, Elder Butler publically likened these messengers unto fledglings (12 MR 377.1, 1888 Mat., p. 99). It is certain that if any of these past reformers showed up today to bear God’s present truth message to the Seventh-day Adventist church they would be likened unto cancer cells just as are the Shepherd’s Rod believers.
Opposition and resistance only serve to bring out truth in new, distinct lines. The more truth is spoken against, the brighter it will shine. Thus the precious ore is polished. Every word of slander spoken against it, every misrepresentation of its value, awakens attention, and is the means of leading to closer investigation as to what is saving truth. The truth becomes more highly estimated. New beauty and greater value are revealed from every point of view.–Manuscript 8a, 1888. Evangelism, p. 305.1
Do the Church Leaders Use the Holy Bible to Refute the Plain Teachings Coming From the Rod?
Elder Cunningham’s letter to his colleagues also includes resources for them to consult in a vain attempt to refute the plain teachings from the Rod. This includes the scholars at the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) and a former disgruntled member of one Shepherd’s Rod group who turned coat and rails against it and now enjoys much popularity and benefits traveling the globe promoting his anti-Rod book and movie. In a subsequent post we will analyze each of these sources more thoroughly and expose their unsound and misleading efforts contradict the Truth. Until then, please investigate for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to guide, lead, and direct you unto all the Truth we need today as a people to save us from our Laodicean slumber. Also, please pray for Elder Cunningham and our church leaders that they may wake up and stop the senseless warfare against God’s Truth before it is to late for their soul salvation’s sake.