Breaking up is hard to do: Our love affair with the RCC

Go to any traditional Daniel and Revelation seminar and you'll hear about our Protestant departure from Babylon, aka the Roman Catholic Church. We make a significant effort to make sure attendees recognize how complete and distinct our ecclesiastical break was. The RCC’s theology caused Martin Luther’s departure, but we made ours even more complete by rejecting Catholic practices like infant baptism and of course, the ever large, looming, adoption of Sunday as Sabbath.

But, just like someone who still keeps their ex’s sweater or longingly looks at old pictures of a bygone relationship, the SDA church isn’t as “over” the RCC as we want everyone to believe! For a large portion of our history, our evangelism seemed at times downright hostile towards Catholicism, emphasizing all the things the RCC did wrong. But, as they say, there's a thin line between love and hate. And we still have vestiges of our former relationship that we don't want to give up. All the while, we swear to others (and lie to ourselves) that we have nothing to do with the RCC.

1) Ordination: So here's the biggie. No matter how you slice it, the ordination service as we practice and regard it, is wholly an extra-biblical practice taken straight from the RCC. To be an ordained priest is to receive an imbued power transferred from none other than the first Pope: Simon Peter himself. His power, given from Jesus, established him as the founding rock of the church. By the laying on of hands and ritual, today's Pope has power vested in him that was passed down from Pontiff to Pontiff starting with Peter #1. But not only that: “lower ranking” bishops and cardinals and priests and deacons all receive their ordination and power, by being ordained by members of the next “level up”. Therefore, they too get their power from Peter, (but in smaller doses???). This is why it's extremely important to guard the clergy class—it's an exclusive club. Only certain people are allowed.

While Adventists claim to believe in the priesthood of all believers and the mediation by Christ alone, we absolutely divide our church into clergy vs laity. And the clergy is a protected class whose “power” comes from a level up and is transferred by those previously ordained, by laying hands on the new initiates. There are all sorts of issues with this theologically. Many, many papers have been written explaining how and why this simply isn’t biblical, yet we have people fighting to the death and splitting the church over something we don't want to admit is a straight rip off from Catholicism.

Now not everything extra-biblical is un-biblical. You won't find Pathfinders or quarterlies discussed in the Bible. That doesn't make them “bad” (although the history of Pathfinders demonstrates how the idea that extra-biblical = unbiblical nearly did kill it before it gained traction). But we have to be clear why we do things and be honest about their origins. Every year, at my Adventist school, they read to us the origins of Halloween from the encyclopedia – to ingrain in us the roots of this practice. Even this year I was “treated” to countless expositions on the pagan roots of Christmas traditions. We won't go on that tangent for this article – but suffice it to say, we know how to acknowledge the significance of origins for many practices we want to discourage, yet we are reluctant to talk about origins with things we hold dear. This is deceptive. We allow people to believe that the history and procedures we follow come straight from the Bible. Therefore people defend these things as if they are defending Scripture. They falsely believe changing these practices is as blasphemous as attempting to change God’s Word. We misrepresent these traditions as being from God, and if that isn't the way of Babylon, I don’t know what is.

2) Tithe: Based on Malachi, we bring tithe into the “storehouse”. Yet who decides that the storehouse = the conference? I'm not saying that tithe absolutely shouldn't go to the conference, but let's not pretend that other options (such as giving to your local church) are illegitimate from a biblical standpoint. Our hierarchical institutional structure simply didn't exist during the time Scripture was written. Yet when we incorporated, we added layers of organization that resemble the stacks of bureaucracy that the RCC has. And our house of cards isn't self sustaining. We have to maintain it through benevolent giving. Now this isn't automatically a bad thing. However, we often attach a spiritual threat to the plea for finances. Indulgences were a great model that worked for the RCC to line its coffers, why not tweak the pitch a bit for our own purposes, no? Truth be told, while God asks for stewardship, the belief that your tithe check has to be written to the local conference (lest ye be cursed) is not supported by the Word. If we want giving to support our current structure, fine. But let's be honest about it. And let's not act like talk of restructuring is equivalent to talk of apostasy.

3) Communion: Catholics believe in transubstantiation while we do not. Or don't we? In a Catholic mass, preceding the Eucharist, the priest blesses the wine and bread. According to Catholic belief, these elements become the literal blood and flesh of Christ. You want to talk about a “plain reading of the Word”? The RCC takes Matthew 26:26-28 as no joke! Adventists, of course don't believe in such spiritual cannibalism! We obviously know they're just symbols!

Oh yeah? Have you ever tried to get any leftover juice after communion? In many churches deaconesses will guard it feverishly, preferring instead to pour it on the ground which is practice per SDA tradition. They are also instructed to burn or bury the leftover communion bread. (Depending on the person making it that time, this may be more or less of a tragedy.) Why this colossal waste of perfectly edible crackers and juice? Well, despite claiming we don't believe that these things are literally components of Jesus, most churches have a blessing before communion asking God to “change these elements from their common use to their holy use” or similar wording. A small distinction from the priest petitioning for a substantive change – this is supposedly symbolic. But regardless of whether or not we claim to understand that these things are only emblems, we literally treat them as sacred objects to the extent that gallons of Welch's are wasted every quarter in our churches around the world. Sadness.

This list could be even longer, but we’ll stop here. If you are making resolutions this year, let's ask our church to make one too: to practice honesty and encourage people to know the Word for themselves. Let's not call out the practices of other institutions, yet obscure the line between Scripture and tradition when it suits our purposes. Let's get the plank out of our own eyes first. And then maybe we can make a true break from our “ex”.

Courtney Ray is an ordained pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

You missed the essential part, The view that the General. Conference is. The highest authority of God on earth. tz


Gee whiz. I can’t believe I am seeing such ideas in an Adventist Journal. I love this Church. I used to love the unleavened bread Sis Young & others made for communion. When a small boy,I used to ask for some of the leavings after communion service, but she always refused, on grounds that it was already blessed and therefore part of Christ’s body. But she could never really say no to me in most things, and so began the game. She would ask me to watch that delicious bread while she went to get something to bury the bread in. Cat watching butter? I then filled my pockets and left before she returned. Routine. When a young man Other(*doctrinal) matters were more serious. Some cried when they heard the Church Board voted to expel me for Sabbath breaking. I think I have it all together now and will remain in the church unless voted out. I do not believe in the Jewish version of creation in Genesis. Six-day creation(144 hours) is not plausible to me. I believe like some RCC’s that the seventh day Sabbath was established as a Jewish day of rest for slaves, for Jews in general to reflect, pray, and so on. Jews did not know about shabbat(Sabbath) before Moses met God atop Sinai, so this is a fairly recent cultural observance for sabbath keepers. Christians led by the RCC decided to honour the first day as a memorial of the Christian hero Jesus Christ Adventists stick with Jewish culture and single out the 7th day for worship(Saturn’s Day).The RCC is wrong about Peter being the first Bishop. Their Church fathers are known to have altered the gospels to suit their views. Simon Magus(aka Lazarus) was known as a Pope(leader of the chosen zealots) He was the MAIN man during the crucifixions anc was on the center cross. He was sentenced to “spiritual death” after leading a demonstration against Pilate in November 32 AD during which Roman soldiers were killed.He was demoted by the priests at the Jerusalem Temple was participating in acts which could bring Roman reprisals on Jews.The Leaders of the demonstration were Simon, judas Iscariot nd Theudas Barabbas. Simon was wrapped in grave clothes and put in a mausoleum. If no priest came to raise him from spiritual death ion three days he would be left to starve to death.Helena begged Jesus to perform the raising ceremony which Jesus did. Judas had fled to the monastery at Qumran to hide. During one supper( an event where villagers would bring food for the monks in return for spiritual instruction, Judas crept away and went to inform Pilate where the wanted demonstrators were hiding. The Romans therefore arrested Simon Magus, Theudas, and even Jesus though he was not involved in the killing of the soldiers. From after the crucifixions in those times the RCC decided that the empire’s future was in spiritual rather than military dominance,and acted accordingly. Their role model was Jesus the Jewish messiah whose fame and influence has lasted for thousands of years when all military empires however strong have withered away.


Helpful, not least for reminding us that all our minds are brimming with flotsam and small grudges, and we need–desperately need–openness to correction. Nor is that in the least depressing: growth in knowledge is good; often it is even fun. Self-satisfaction and uniformity, on the other hand, leave us bored, stuck in our sins, weighed down with a kind of deadness.




Christmas Eve 1995, two of my daughters and I were in Paris, and chose to attend the midnight mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Because we had just attended the Paris Opera Ballet performance of Swan Lake, at the Bastille Opera House–mind blowing in its superb excellence.
On leaving the ballet we observed the orchestra members getting into buses which would transport them to NOTRE DAME, to play for the midnight mass, and we wanted our evening’s musical odyssey to continue.

Yes the music at the mass was superb, but we were crowded, standing room only, in back, just inside the sixty foot high front doors of the cathedral.

At midnight, those front doors pushed open, and in swept the red robed Cardinal, followed by his retinue of bishops and priests, in full regalia.

My youngest daughter, made an astute remark:
“Look Dad, just like the Adventists, NO WOMEN!”

No, there was not one Mother Superior, not even Mother Theresa, in the priestly parade, not one nun, NONE to pun!

And Notre Dame Cathedral, the Cathedral of OUR LADY, has multiple statues of the revered Virgin, but the only representation of CHRIST, is as a babe in his mother’s arms. The Virgin supersedes the Christ!

Just as there are often more quotes from EGW than biblical texts in our venerable leader’s sermons!

For me, the greatest similarity Adventists have to Catholics, is that we place one woman, EGW, on a PEDESTAL , and all other women are SECOND CLASS CITIZENS!

EGW has become our Virgin Mary!

BREAKING NEWS: The Vatican has paid out four billion to cover up pedophilia!
Thankfully not a pervasive problem in Adventism!


We often forget that EGW singled out protestants as being a greater concern than Catholics in the last days. This seems especially lost on the North American evangelicals among us who increasingly support political efforts to bring “morality” back to America and make it “great” again. Many such individuals somehow think that legislated morality is not only okay, but that we are obligated to support it in order to become a member of the “purified” church.

Jesus mingled with sinners of all stripes, and so should we. I admire those who find positive things to say about people in all faiths–including RCs, protestants, jews, muslims, SDAs whose views might be disagreeable to us, and even non-believers. We can’t help in winning their hearts to Jesus if we openly condemn them.


Let’s Face It!
ALL of Christendom is related – either cousins or grand kids.
And because so, we have “borrowed” our Traditions, ways of doing our Christianity from each other.
The RCC is OUR Mother Church.
Much as we don’t like to admit we Have borrowed from her.
Our early pioneers were Methodists [kid of Anglicanism, grand-kid of the RCC]. Also Baptists. Notice most of our US churches have a Baptist church liturgy format.
And as someone pointed out – at least for now – we do have our own “pope”. Appears anyway.
A male priesthood, just like the Catholics.
Our Relatives, many of them abandoned the All Male Priesthood quite some time ago.
We do REQUIRE foot washing prior to communion.
Other groups allow bread and wine by themselves.
Other groups do allow for more GRACE than we do in our Doctrinal Belief System as they are
PUT INTO practice at the local congregational level.
YES! Tithe is ALWAYS declared to be a Quid ProQuo with God. “You GIVE and I will bless you. You Do Not Give and I will take away ALL the stuff you already have.” – Flat tire? Burnt finger on a hot pot? TV go out? “That’s ME! Pay UP!” … Yes! and we tell people “God Blesses” because I pay my tithe to the Conference.
We Say that we don’t run our Denomination based on What The Church Fathers Say. We DO have OUR Church MOTHER instead. And ALL the hundreds of Books BASED on our Church Mother’s writings. We can’t even have a 13-week Bible Lesson Quarterly without Mother Ellen to explain the texts.

I sure ALL this could be confusing to ANY VISITOR visiting our church services anywhere, at least in North America.

EDIT-- Denominationalism Mentality KILLED the Movement Mentality.
At one time we WERE the Great Advent Movement.
No More!!
We are a Denomination with all its Rules, Regulations, Thought Police
like any other Christian Denomination.

EDIT-- God is a God of REST. 1. The day begins with Sleep [darkness] before Work [day light]. 2. the Week begins with REST [the Sabbath] before Work. God made Adam and Eve rest first before work.


I would argue that the SDA church will never get “over the RCC” because the RCC is the core issue of our doctrinal existence. It is a defense mechanism as it were to a vulnerability with the treatment being to neutralize and extinguish what makes the church vulnerable. But as it stands, if our church were to neutralize and extinguish what makes us vulnerable to the RCC, our church would dissipate in thin air. How can a treatment be the cause of death all at the same time? So in our case, our church will always be an appendage to the RCC. No more and no less.


“Breaking up is hard to do.” Especially since the RCC has been unaware that there was/is a relationship, so I guess the SDA church is in need of severing its relationship with an imaginary friend. One of my children had an imaginary friend. There didn’t seem to be any angst when they “drifted apart” at about age 5 or 6. It’s probably harder for organizations. :slight_smile:


The fragmentation of Christianity (like Islam) is one of the greatest arguments against its validity.

It is a strong argument for population dispersal as a natural hominin phenomenon.


One more connection - the SDA 7th day is the 7th day of the Roman calendar, established in the 5th century; and not according to the original method of counting time in the Bible.


26Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Ezekiel 22:26.

You err not judging aright the symbolism in commune, tithe, and ordination with the connection to
Christ. A leader if it be elder or pastor that believes such as this leads the flock away from Christ. Their conception of holiness
will usually rise no higher than their pastor.

SOP, that would be Ellen White, writes that tithe should stay within your conference and should even under
the worst of conditions.

This can’t be stated too often, Sirje.

And…how can the Sunday Law ever happen without the RCC bringing about the great and final test for mankind?


isn’t the laying of hand lineage from JESUS
and in keeping with JESUS upbringing and education in OLD Testament teachings and laws

we like to switch chop and change between catholic debates
general conference only have to act if they are cornered or snookered
like with women’s ordination
its not there own power or there own will, they simply are snookered and bound by a vote
if one arm wants to reject holy spirit why would it go through whole body

its funny
reading spectrum

This may be so but I think we need to look at Islam as well being a major player in end-time apocalyptics…

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i’m not so sure about this one, although i’ve heard this question expressed often in these terms…i’m thinking that paul gives the impression to timothy that he imbued timothy with some kind of power when he ordained him:

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands”, 1 Tim 1:6…

but i would think the 800lb gorilla in this room is really WO, and the fact that we have difficulty separating from the RCC on this point, even though our founder and prophet is a woman…


The GC Headquarters in Silver Springs is our Vatican City, and if time should last another 2000 years the Vatican will pale in comparison. The Vatican Guard is led by the Bohrish faction. The major Adventist enclaves have their Cardinals. ASI is our Opus Dei. Our Pope has instituted an inquisition of sorts to purify the faith and weed out heresy through its Jesuit mouth pieces trained at Amazing Jesuit schools, this being our first openly archetypal Jesuit Pope ( GC President). School Teachers and Nurses are our Nuns, although allowed to marry, and even be men. AHS is nearly as wealthy as the Vatican Bank. Indulgences are given to major contributors even erecting monuments in their honor (Allred). There is nothing new under the sun. Had we chosen a congregational model, it may not have turned out much different. The Southern Baptist Convention is as efficient as the SDA’s in corralling the sheep for the slaughter (emptying the pockets). Knowing all this, I stay in the flock albeit on the edges but nevertheless bleating the familiar mantras. After all I am a sheep.


Is this phenomenon akin to a woman who hates her mother so much that she eventually becomes just like her?


I would like to add that I agree SDA is keeping a Jewish Sabbath as careful study into Jewish tradition and history clearly will proof that the day starts at dawn, first light, and not at sunset. The sunset doctrine was added by Jewish Rabbi’s for the sole purpose of ‘adding to God’s law’ which placed a burden on the people, then and now. They were afraid the Sabbath may be desecrated and believed it would be best to add the previous evening. No scriptural basis what soever. Since I am a ‘Feast Keeping’ - 'Dawn to dawn" SDA…and there are many more like me. What a blessing to “come out of her”!!!

“Evening and morning were the 1st day.”