My family’s faith story is in the most recent issue of Proclamation Magazine.
Here is an excerpt:
Ben: In retrospect, there were some theological things that were hard to understand—because I was told they were hard to understand. Scripture is so clear to me now.
I left the Seminary with lingering questions but with hope and ambition for my pastoral career. I was hired in the Southern California Conference as an associate pastor. On the Sabbath I was introduced, I proudly shared with the congregation that I firmly believed in the ministry of Ellen White (and heard a resounding “Amen”).
That first year in California, we attended a pastoral family retreat in Phoenix. During our stay there, Delina and I stopped at the bookstore of a church that was near our hotel. As we browsed, we saw shelves with anti-Ellen White and anti-Adventist books in a section labeled “Cults”. We were shocked! Back at our hotel, we promptly googled the church and discovered that the pastor, Mark Martin, was a former Adventist pastor.
Delina: We didn’t set out to leave Adventism. Leave? For what? We were part of a community where we’d always felt loved and supported. Leaders regularly affirmed that Ben had a bright future in the denomination. We still thought we were part of a group who were just like other Christians, except that we kept Saturday as a Sabbath. I thought Adventism just had different, quirky interpretations. I didn’t see it as wrong but began to think that maybe it just wasn’t for me.
Ben: The more I began to study and prepare for sermons, the less the obligatory Ellen White quotes appeared in my sermons. Simultaneously, I found a deep love for Christ and the Scriptures that I didn’t know before.
Delina: Ben would go to the library to prepare his sermons. Without fail, he would return home energized and excited by what he’d discovered in the richness of the Word. Oftentimes, his zeal would be dampened with, “But I can’t preach that,” because it was something that was not in line with Adventist doctrines. “I just want to preach the Word,” he would tell me.
Ben: For a year, every week we’d hear something that was blatantly unbiblical at church, or I heard other pastors talk about their special remnant mission at worker’s meetings. It was like nails on a chalkboard. I couldn’t ignore it, and I didn’t know how much more I could take. Finally the time came, and during a favorable employee evaluation, I handed my supervisor my resignation letter explaining that I no longer believed that Scripture supports:
- The Mission of the Church (3 Angels’ Messages) (Fundamental Belief (FB) #13)
- The SDA Church is the remnant church (FB #13)
- Investigative Judgment/Pre-Advent Judgment (FB #24)
- Ellen G. White is a messenger of God (FB #18)
- Sabbath is the seal of God (FB #20, GC p. 640)
- The Great Controversy worldview (FB #8)
When my pastoral colleagues found out I was resigning for doctrinal reasons, not one pastor came to me with open Bible in hand to show me that I was mistaken. What I heard was, “How will you support your family?” “Who’s got your ear?” “Those aren’t reasons to quit your job!” or “I don’t believe in that either. I just don’t preach it.” Only one person tried to address the points in my letter, but he used The Clear Word as his “scriptural” support.
My conference president offered a three-month paid sabbatical to study under an Adventist scholar of my choice and get my questions answered. What many people didn’t understand was I wasn’t leaving to search for answers. I left because I’d searched and found that the Bible didn’t support what I’d believed all my life and what I was being paid to preach.
Delina: Leaving was stressful, emotionally, financially and relationally, but I can tell you example after example of how we’ve seen God’s faithful hand through it all. I mostly feared how relationships would change. And they have—some for the better, and some not.
Even if we’d wanted to stay for our own convenience, for the sake of our children, we could not have stayed. Knowing what we know, we could not intentionally expose them to false teaching in church, Sabbath School, Adventist Youth, Pathfinders, and Adventist “Christian education.”
Ben: The temptation to stay was there, but my desire to minister with integrity was strong. I could have stayed to collect a paycheck, have a flexible schedule, and a respected job. Life is easier when you don’t rock the boat, offend people, or risk having your name dragged through the mud. But I did not want to imply by my silence that I agreed with doctrines that were unbiblical; I couldn’t pledge my allegiance to the doctrines before an ordination committee. At the same time there was a temptation to get all my ducks in a row first—money saved, a job lined up, a five-year plan in place—before doing what God was calling me to do. But those thoughts were conventional wisdom, not faith. I encourage everyone, especially pastors, to follow the Lord. Trust Him. He’s faithful.
Read the whole story here.