Saturday, 2 November 2013


From Wacko to Waco until Death: An Introduction to Ex-Adventist Cults

Some well-known ex-Adventist cults include:
- David Koresh and the Branch Davidians
- Wayne Bent and the Lord Our Righteousness (LOR)
- Walter McGill and the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church (CSDA)
- Walter J. Veith and Amazing Discoveries
- Christopher Hudson of ForeRunner Chronicles
- Samuel Pipim and EAGLESonline
- Christian Berdahl and Shepherd's Call Ministry

Each of these leaders is also further explored in their own separate article

Introduction: Welcome to the examination of ex-Adventist cults
This website is dedicated to challenging the radicalization of all dangerous cult-like offshoots from the ‘mainstream’ and official Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA).  With this in mind, this article will provide a brief overview of some of the notable ex-Adventist cults.  In almost every case, these fanatics are apt at obtaining media attention way in excess of their tiny size – often to the great embarrassment of the official SDA Church.

Assessment criteria: The basis for claiming these groups as cults
The notion of a cult is hard to define and can be even harder to spot.  However, according to Walter and Martin and the Christian Research Institute (who famously declared the mainstream SDA Church not a cult), in the article “What is a cult”:
‘First, a cult may be defined sociologically. From this perspective, a cult is a religious or semi-religious sect whose followers are controlled by strong leadership in virtually every dimension of their lives. Devotees characteristically display a displaced loyalty for the guru and the group and are galvanized together through physical and/or psychological intimidation tactics. This kind of cultist more often than not displays a “we/they” siege mentality and has been cut off from all former associations including their immediate families.
Furthermore, a cult may be defined theologically. In this sense a cult can be a pseudo-Christian organization that claims to be Christian but compromises, confuses, or contradicts essential Christian doctrine. Such cults operate under the guise of Christianity but deviate from the orthodox teachings of the historic Christian faith as codified in the ancient ecumenical creeds. Typically, devotees become masters at taking texts out of context to develop pretexts for their theological perversions.’
Unlike the ‘mainstream’ and official SDA Church, which is not a cult according to Walter Martin and the Christian Research Institute, the ex-Adventist groups discussed on this site do satisfy all or some of these identifying criteria. 

Preliminary point: Rare praise for the SDARM
As a preliminary point, this site is not about the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement (SDARM) – the largest and best organized of the ex-Adventist offshoots. The SDARM is most likely also an ex-Adventist cult; however, because of its size it has its own specific forum.  Information on the SDARM can be obtained from this blog’s sister-site “Sevy-Taliban: Challenging the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement.”
Moreover, at this stage, this author offers a rare word of cautious praise for the SDARM. It should be remembered that for all its faults (and there are many), the SDARM Churches (because there multiple groups claiming that name) at least operate through formal worldwide organizations.  Despite strict controls, this does to some extent provide a degree of restraint through checks-and-balances against the most dangerous excesses of religious control. 
By contrast, the ex-Adventist offshoot groups discussed on this site are almost always single-congregation sized communities, led by charismatic leaders, who operate with virtually unfettered powers.  As a result, whereas one should have concerns about friends and relatives being involved in the SDARM, one should have mortal fear about the physical and psychological safety of those involved in the more extreme groups discussed on this site. 

Pantheon of ex-Adventist gods: Introduction to our offshoot cult-leaders
This article will now provide a brief overview of some of the better known ex-Adventist cult leaders.  With few exceptions, these cult leaders have been formally expelled from the ‘mainstream’ and official SDA Church – even if they claim to still be ‘Adventist’.  However, in a few cases, the persons of interest may still technically be members of an SDA congregation, given membership falls within the jurisdiction of each local congregation within the worldwide-federated SDA Church structure. 
It should also be remembered that despite outside perceptions, even the ‘mainstream’ SDA Church is a ‘broad tent’ comprising some 22 million adherents in almost every country, resulting in a wide spectrum of different beliefs and practices. Thus, even within the ‘mainstream’ SDA Church, there is of course a nuttier fringe.  In fairness, like most religions, fanaticism is found on both conservative and liberal extremes of Adventism. 
Finally, readers should note that the following descriptions of ex-Adventist cults are intended as brief accounts only. Further detailed explanations, with appropriate references, are outlined in group-specific articles found on this site.

Waco Doomsayer: David Koresh and the Branch Davidians
Probably the best-known ex-Adventist cult leader was David Koresh, who led the Branch Davidians.   In 1993, worldwide attention was given to this group when a raid by US Federal authorities on the Davidian compound in Waco Texas resulted in the deaths of some 76 people – including the death of Koresh himself. 
Koresh claimed to be the ‘Lamb of God’ – the Christ and Son of God.  He has also been accused of various sexual abuses.  Later reports suggest he engaged in paedophilic, adulterous and polygamous behaviour, having fathered some thirteen of the group’s children by seven different women.
Koresh and the Davidians are the ‘gold standard’ or template by which most other ex-Adventist cults can be compared.  The more similarities an offshoot group has to the Davidians, the more we should worry.

Bent Messiah: Wayne Bent and Lord Our Righteousness (LOR)
Wayne Bent is an ex-Adventist pastor who left the ‘mainstream’ SDA Church in 1987.  He leads a small community called the Lord Our Righteousness (LOR) based in Clayton New Mexico.
Bent bizarrely claims he is the Messiah: the embodiment of God, of divinity and humanity combined.  The LOR also teach an extreme version of perfectionism common throughout ultra-conservative offshoots – that one can obtain instant and lasting ‘Victory over Sin’.
In 2008, Bent was convicted of sexual contact with a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and is currently incarcerated in a US prison. Bent and his community have been subject to high degree of media interest, including a number of documentaries by US and UK television.

Trademark Prophet: Walter McGill and the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church (CSDA)
Self-professed ‘Pastor’ “Chick” McGill is leader of a small congregation in Guys Tennessee known as the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church (CSDA).  In 2012, McGill went to prison for contempt of Court over a trademark violation.
McGill claims to have the gift of prophecy. Much like the Lords of Righteousness (LOR), the CSDA also teach an extreme version of perfectionism – ‘Victory over Sin’. The CSDA also reject the doctrine of the Trinity.
McGill arguably provoked the ‘mainstream’ and official SDA Church, in order to engineer a situation supposedly proving to his devotees his alleged prophetic gift. In many respects, the CSDA are an ‘unremarkable’ ex-Adventist offshoot, as they seem to represent a ‘standard’ of typical ultra-conservative beliefs and practices.
Finally, there are claims that McGill is effectively promoting a hoax.  Despite a large presence on the internet and the illusion of many churches, it is possible the CSDA may in fact have virtually no members! 

Accused Anti-Semite: Walter J. Veith and Amazing Discoveries
Walter Veith is a South African Seventh-day Adventist who was born in 1949 and was at one time chair of zoology at the University of the Western Cape. Much to the embarrassment of the leadership of the ‘mainstream’ SDA Church, Veith is largely regarded as the leading conspiracy-theorist within Adventism.
Veith teaches a range of fantastical conspiracy theories, including about 9/11, Freemasons and the moon landing. Veith attracts massive attention, especially on the internet, with a following only dreamed of by the official SDA leadership or any other offshoot.
In 2012, Veith came under investigation by the German government regarding allegations of anti-Semitism and incitement of popular hatred [Volksverhetzung].  Both German Unions and the Inter-European Division of the official SDA Church have issued statements prohibiting Veith from speaking in Adventist churches.

Three-and-a-half Men: Christopher Hudson of ForeRunner Chronicles
Christopher Hudson is a self-described ‘Pastor’ (he’s not) of the SDA Church. He runs a popular ‘independent ministry’ called ForeRunner Chronicles, which peddles a range of bizarre conspiracy theories.  ForeRunner Chronicles is very popular and reportedly makes US$350,000 per week (yes per week!)
Hudson teaches a range of unusual and bizarre conspiracy theories, with everything from: crazy claims about the Freemasons (apparently Jay-Z is one), the Illuminati, bizarre rants likening President Obama to Hitler, and more.
Hudson is or was reportedly the spiritual mentor of Hollywood star Angus T Jones, from TV show Three and a Half Men.  In 2012, Angus went on a very embarrassing public rant, declaring himself an ‘Adventist’, whilst regurgitating the conspiracy views of his mentor Hudson.
After the Angus Jones incident, the official leadership of the SDA Church came out distancing itself from Hudson and ForeRunner Chronicles; however, the Church probably should have done more proactively to tackle our nutty fringe.  Hudson seems to have tacit approval from some conservative corners of the official SDA Church.

Serial Adulterer and Downed Eagle: Samuel Pipim and EAGLESonline
Samuel Pipim is an ex-Adventist pastor who was disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the SDA Church in 2011 on account of a ‘moral failing’. Pipim was previously something of a ‘Sevy-celebrity’, heavily involved in the conservative youth movement – Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC).  Pipim now runs his own ‘independent ministry’ called EAGELSonline.
There are claims that the 2011 incident involved rape of a 20-year old woman. When Pipim was to be re-baptized back into the SDA Church in 2012, the baptism was cancelled at the 11th-hour when another woman came forward claiming abuse by Pipim.     
Pipim teaches a more conservative brand of Adventism; however, it is not his theology by which he should be considered an ex-Adventist cult leader.  It is Pipim’s predatory conduct, not his theology, which is the primary basis for his characterisation as an ex-Adventist cult leader. Moreover, what distinguishes Pipim from most other removed ex-Adventist ministers is Pipim’s unapologetic defence of aspects of his conduct and continued ministry. 

Christian Berdahl and Shepherd's Call Ministry
Christian Berdahl is an Adventist who runs his own independent ministry called Shepherd’s Call Ministries.  Berdahl’s series is a criticism of contemporary Christian music (‘CCM’), which relies on a type of rhythm called ‘syncopation’.  Concern over syncopation is not new but ‘has been a ‘hot’ topic in the “worship wars” across the denominational spectrum for years.’
What is more controversial are Berdahl’s claims that:
  • there is a definitive link between syncopation and the occult; 
  • syncopation, as found in CCM, supposedly leads to demon possession;
  • syncopated rhythm damages the frontal lobe of the brain;
  • the syncopation in CCM stems from African origins and is therefore ‘inferior’ as a form of music;
  • CCM brings out negative emotions, which is bad;
  • CCM is celebratory music, which is also bad; and
  • CCM is full of repetition, which is to be condemned, as bad.

Further reading
As outlined above, this is but a brief description of some of the main ex-Adventist cults and their leaders. Further related articles will be posted, which will attempt to draw some anecdotal observations and patterns from these various ex-Adventist cults.  In particular, what similarities and overall trends can be observed?  What common warning signs can be gleaned?  How can future potential tragedies be avoided?