A Lesson From Australia

In 1888 our church leaders and a large proportion of the Seventh-day Adventist church rejected the message that God sent to us through A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner at the Minneapolis General Conference. Ellen White, A.T. Jones, and E.J. Waggoner traveled all over the United States preaching and teaching our people, attempting to reverse the tide that had been set in motion by our leaders, but it did not work. The majority of Adventists flessonsdid not accept the message of righteousness by faith. The General Conference leaders decided they needed to get Ellen White out of the way, so they suggested that she go to Australia. She had no light from the Lord that she should go, but she said at one time when she had no light from the Lord, she followed the counsel of the brethren (see appendix part A). This statement has been quoted all over the world, but she made another statement later that she believed that she had made a mistake in going to Australia. Later the General Conference brethren wanted to get her even farther out of the way so they suggested that she go to Africa, but she would not go (see appendix part B).

She came back to the United States in 1900, just in time for the greatest crisis that the Seventh-day Adventist church would go through, up to that time. It is reported that Ellen White said in Australia in 1896, that if we had accepted the message in 1888, we would have been in the Kingdom by then. It was during the 1890s, after we had rejected the message of righteousness by faith, that we started on the long way home to the Kingdom. The long way involved the building up of many institutions.

If you look at the history of Adventist institutions, you will find that most of our colleges started in the 1890s. The college at Keene started in the 1890s; the one at Lincoln and Walla Walla started in the 1890s too. Shortly afterwards, we had two crisis General Conferences in 1901 and 1903. After the 1903 General Conference, which Ellen White said was one of the deepest disappointments of her life, the Lord chose to institute another plan for finishing His work.

Ellen White, through Divine inspiration, authorized Dr. Sutherland and Magan to begin Madison College, a self-supporting institution which she said was not to be under the control of the conference (see appendix part C). God authorized self-supporting work, work that was not under the control of the conference, and it has been under attack by the devil ever since. When Ellen White was in Australia, she was instrumental in helping them start a model school. There were two schools that were established in Ellen White’s lifetime which she spoke of as model schools. One of them was the college at Avondale; the other one was Madison College.

I recently visited Avondale College with Elder O. K. Anderson. His father was very well acquainted with Ellen White. Elder Anderson showed us around the college and showed us the place where Ellen White saw a furrow in vision and knew that this was the sight that they needed to purchase. Elder Anderson’s father was contacted and he went and investigated this property. People thought that it would not grow anything, but it became a very fertile farmland in just a few years.

Ellen White directed them to plant an apple orchard, where today they have a ball field. They had a high-producing apple and persimmon orchard on this farm. Ellen White lived at Cooranbong, just a stone’s throw from where this college was established, from 1896 to 1900. Under her direction this college was established, and the Austral-Asian Division became a flagship division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The work progressed very rapidly; Ellen White visited both Australia and New Zealand and taught them that they had the responsibility of taking the Gospel to all of that region of the world. From Australia and New Zealand we sent missionaries to Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and to New Guinea. In addition to that, there are many small islands scattered throughout the Pacific. Before World War II, we had mission boats and our missionaries would travel from island to island.

The work was established in these islands at great sacrifice. Many of the missionaries that first went there lost their lives. We lost one of our missionaries in 1920 from Blackwater Fever. In 1966 there was a new convert to Adventism who wanted to take the Gospel to the islands, so he and his wife went to the islands. He was there for only eleven days when he was speared and lost his life. In 1988 we had a missionary who was shot and lost his life. Taking the gospel to these islands has not been without cost.

As the work progressed in these islands, everyone looked to Austral-Asia as a flagship division—a place where the Adventist work was progressing rapidly in purity. We had no idea what was going to happen, that this would be the division that would be the first to come under a tremendous attack through the new theology.

At the General Conference Session in 1980, H. M. S. Richards, Sr. referred to the possibility of losing a whole division. This attack began when Desmond Ford began to teach our ministers and theology students at Avondale College. A fight developed between Desmond Ford and many of our leading evangelists and pastors in Australia. These pastors and evangelists in Australia said that Desmond Ford was preaching heresy and something needed to be done about it. The interesting thing was that our organization would not do anything about it. Anyone in the Austral-Asian division that went to school after about 1960 was trained in this new theology. Ministers that were experienced said, “This is heresy!” But the church would not listen to them. However, it finally got so bad that something had to be done, so this is what was done:

People said, “He is just a big fish in a little pond over here in Australia. We’ll just ship him off to the United States and then he’ll be a little fish in a big pond and he won’t cause so much trouble.” So they transported the problem to the United States, and within a matter of months it became a worldwide problem. At that time Desmond Ford was “defrocked.” However, it was a situation in which outwardly he was defrocked, but actually instead he got control of a large portion of the Adventist church. New theology had already taken hold—it had taken hold in the 1940s and 1950s among some of the leading men in our seminary. In the mid 1950s we published the book Questions on Doctrine, and by the 1960s it was starting to take hold of the men who were teaching our ministers in the United States. By the 1980s it was everywhere, not just with the ministers, but all through the ranks of Adventism.

Let me just mention a few of the cardinal teachings of the new theology. The first and the main one is the teaching that you cannot keep the law of God perfectly. You can keep it, but you cannot keep it perfectly. Desmond Ford was grilled on this by his opponents; he would say, “Yes, I believe that you can keep the law of God.” So he was finally asked, “Do you believe that you can keep the law of God perfectly?” He said, “No, I don’t believe that you can keep the law of God perfectly.” That understanding is based on a certain understanding of the nature of Christ, original sin, what happened at the cross, and the meaning of the sanctuary. New theologists do not think that the Adventist doctrine concerning the sanctuary has any real relevance.

In 1979 Desmond Ford made the statement that he did not think that 1844 was relevant. If 1844 is not relevant, then our Sanctuary teaching from Daniel 8 and 9 and the book of Hebrews is not relevant. If that is not relevant, then you do not have any rational reason to be a Seventh-day Adventist, you might as well be a Seventh-day Baptist or something else. Of course, Ellen White would be a false prophet. Desmond Ford was forced to take a position on all of those things. He said that he did not believe that Ellen White had canonical authority (whatever that is)! He said that she had pastoral authority. That’s the same as denying the prophetic gift! A prophet has Divine authority!

This controversy exploded all over the United States, and we had a tremendous shaking in which we lost members from all of our large churches in the early 1980s. The effects of this liberal theology are still being felt in our conferences, institutions, and in the structure of the Seventh-day Adventist church today.

But this attack came first in Australia, and it has been there longer than any other place. The very same thing that happened there could happen in the United States if we are not thinking correctly. In Australia, as this fight between Historic Adventism and the new theology went throughout the churches, there were many ministers and laymen who were concerned, so they began to fight this liberal theology.

Colin Standish, Ron Spear, Marshall Grosboll and a number of other Historic Adventist preachers went throughout Australia preaching against this new theology. They preached about things like the nature of Christ, the Sanctuary, the Spirit of Prophecy, and all of these things that pointed out the difference between Historic Adventism and the new theology. They would get crowds of people—over a thousand—at these different meetings. By the time I was there in 1988 you were not getting crowds of over a thousand, but you could get crowds of several hundred sincere, Christian people.

But a terrible thing happened in Australia. I want to describe to you as briefly as I can, without mentioning any names, what happened. Preachers went around Australia preaching about this terrible apostasy. They preached the doctrines of Historic Adventism, and the people believed it. But there was one fatal flaw, and if we do not learn our lesson, the same thing that is happening there will happen in other places. Here is what many preachers were telling the people: “In spite of all this apostasy, in spite of this new theology, the church is the church.” Have you ever heard that expression? “The church is the church.”

What do people mean when they say that “the church is the church?” This organized church, this conference structure—that is the church, and you have to stay in there and fight it out. Let us just think this through a little bit. Suppose that you are in a mental and a spiritual battle with the forces of darkness. You are supposed to fight it out, but when you go to fight it out, all you can do is sit in the pew—you cannot say anything! The other side has the pulpit and control of who speaks all the time. Who do you think is going to win?

In Revelation 3, what is the big problem among the people of God in the last days? They think they are all right! People got the idea, “I’m not part of the new theology, I believe the Historic Adventist doctrines, but I’m going to stay here.” So they stayed; they kept going to church. And over a period of time their convictions, their fervor, their zeal, their burden for lost souls just seemed to disappear. Why? Because of the preaching they were listening to. Don’t you ever let anybody tell you that where you go to church and what kind of preaching you listen to has no affect on your soul’s salvation. It does!! If you go listen to people that are preaching the new theology or easy-going sermons, it is going to have an affect on you. God is not going to work a miracle to cover up or take away the effect of your presumption, when you go and listen to that kind of preaching.

Do you know what has happened in Australia today? I have talked to some very concerned people who have been there and watched this whole thing develop, some have even lost their own children! They decided that they needed to keep going to these churches. The new theology people had control of the pulpit, and as they kept going there year after year after year, finally they got calmed down. And at the same time they got calmed down, the apostasy got worse.

There are still some today who are trying to tell the people that they need to stay in the conference churches. They have had evangelists come in from the United States who have had evangelistic meetings, and they have had twenty to twenty-five people get ready for baptism. But they said, “We’ve got to keep these people in the church structure; take them to a conference church.” And after a few months, they do not have anything to show for. Either the people leave the church, or what is even worse, they become Laodicean, they get calmed down. There is almost no protest going against the apostasy.

I spoke at three different places in Australia, and in every place that I spoke, it was a place that just happened to have a home church, and so people came. These people were still alive spiritually, they were not totally asleep. The places that are still alive are the places where there are home churches. We need to pray for a miracle in Australia; it used to be one of the strongest divisions in Adventism, and, at the present time, it is one of the weakest.

I do not want to see what happened in Australia happen here in the United States. We are going to have to tell everyone, “You cannot keep going where the new theology is being preached and people say, Just believe in the Lord, trust Him! Everything will be all right.” If you go and listen to that, you will get calmed down and will go to sleep. Jude 3 says that we are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The word contend literally means fight. There is a time to fight; there is a worldwide battle going on in Adventism. If you just sit and get calmed down, the devil will put you to sleep and the end result will be that you will lose your soul.

Here is what has developed in the Austral-Asian Division. Eight years ago, when all this was going on in Australia that I described, I was over there for the first time. I was told that all of these awful things that are going on in Australia and New Zealand had not gotten out to the islands. How long do you think that would last if things keep getting worse in Australia, which calls the shots in the islands? It should not be impossible to figure out that the time is coming when the same thing that is going on in Australia and New Zealand is going to start up in the islands; it did in the early 1990s. The same thing that has happened in Australia and New Zealand is now taking place in the islands.

But there is one difference: Evan Sadler has been up to these islands and they have figured out that they have to stay together as a church. You have to have a church of people that believe the same way, you have to meet together, exhort one another, and help one another get to Heaven. You cannot stay in an apostate church! We are hoping that we will have a completely different outcome in the islands. There has been an effort to crush the revival and reformation movement in all the islands, but it has not been possible. God has raised up people to proclaim the Adventist message in Fiji, Vanuatu, in the Solomon Islands, and in Papua New Guinea.

In Papua New Guinea, when Livingston Kul was raised up by the Lord to preach, he did not intend to be a preacher. He already had a very good job, a nice home and was better off than most of the people on the island. He left his good job and went to get trained to be a minister. Not too long ago, Livingston Kul got in trouble with the conference because he was preaching the Three Angels’ Messages on the street. There were so many Roman Catholics that were listening to him that one of the Catholic clergy went and talked to one of the leaders of the Adventist mission. The president of the Adventist mission called Pastor Kul into his office and told him, “We want you to quit preaching on the street.” Livingston Kul was convicted that he was doing what the Lord wanted him to do, so he said, “I will never, never, never quit!” A short time afterwards the Adventist mission did not have any money to pay him anymore.

Now he was without a job and he did not know what to do, so he started praying. The Lord led him to start teaching laymen how to be street preachers, and he has organized a force of street evangelists. Seventeen people were disfellowshipped because they were supporting Livingstone Kul and all these street preachers. When they were disfellowshipped, eight churches said, “We’re going with them.” Now the revival and reformation movement has about twenty churches. These lay preachers are going out and they are shaking Papua New Guinea.

Right now they are going through a similar experience to what Australia went through fifteen years ago. I hope that the outcome will be much different. What is it that will make the outcome different? You must gather all the people that want to do the Lord’s will and organize. You need to have regular meetings and organize for evangelism.

One of the things I learned when I visited Australia was that if I want my religious experience to stay hot, I have something to do. I need to be part of a church that has regular meetings, that is organized and has discipline, where we help each other get to heaven.

The purpose of the church is two-fold. 1. We are to send out a warning message to a lost world in an organized way. 2. We are to help those inside the church get ready for heaven. Where you are going to church is either helping you get ready for heaven or for hell—one or the other. It would be better to be in a little home church with six or eight people and be helping each other get ready for heaven, than to be in a great big church and just sit down and warm the pew and lose your Christian experience. Ellen White said that it was difficult to maintain a high level of Christian experience in large churches. The small churches are where the action has always been.

It is the little home church where people meet together regularly to pray and to study the word, to encourage and help each other get ready for heaven, to send out the warning message to the world—that is the places where people are going to be ready for heaven. I want to be in a place like that, do you? I want to take advantage of all the spiritual opportunities the Lord gives us, to help each other to have discipline and order, and to be ready for heaven.



PART A – Australia

I have not, I think, revealed the entire workings that led me here to Australia. Perhaps you may never fully understand the matter. The Lord was not in our leaving America. He did not reveal that it was His will that I should leave Battle Creek. The Lord would have had W.C. White, his mother, and her workers remain in America. . . There was so great a willingness to have us leave, that the Lord permitted this thing to take place. Those who were weary of the testimonies borne were left without the persons who bore them. Our separation from Battle Creek was to let men have their own will and way, which they thought superior to the way of the Lord. . . . It was not the Lord who devised this matter. I could not get one ray of light to leave America. 1888 Materials, 1622, 1623

PART B – Africa

Elder Olsen, I wish to say to you, You must not make any calculation for me to go to Africa, I see no light and consistency in such a move. . . . I have not the slightest inclination to go to Europe or to visit Africa, and I have not one ray of light that I should go. I am willing to go where ever the Lord indicates my duty, but I am not willing to go at the voice of the Conference unless I see my own way closer to do so. 1888 Materials, 1263

PART C – Madison

The Lord has instructed me that, from the first, the work in Huntsville and Madison should have received adequate help. But instead of this help being rendered promptly there has been long delay. And in the matter of the Madison school, there has been a standing off from them because they were not under the ownership and control of some Conference. This is a question that should sometimes be considered, but it is not the Lord’s plan that means should be withheld from Madison, because they are not bound to the conference. The attitude which some of our brethren have assumed toward this enterprise shows that it is not wise for every working agency to be under the dictation of conference officers. There are some enterprises under certain conditions, that will produce better results if standing alone. Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 202

The Lord does not set limits about His workers in some lines as men are wont to set. In their work, Brethren Magan and Sutherland have been hindered unnecessarily. Means have been withheld form them because in the organization and management of the Madison school, it was not placed under the control of the conference. But the reasons why this school was not owned and controlled by the conference have not been duly considered. Madison School, 31, 32

The Need for Union Conferences

There is need of a most earnest, thorough work to be carried forward now in all our churches. We are now to understand whether all our printing plants and all our sanitariums are to be under the control of the General Conference. I answer, Nay. It has been a necessity to organize union conferences, that the General Conference shall not exercise dictation over all the separate conferences. The power vested in the Conference is not to be centered in one man, or two men, or six men; there is to be a council of men over the separate divisions. Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 279

The End