When a pastor remarries
The Torres Case
A tale of two conferences
1984 an Adventist pastor visited us. I had known him for several years;
and, since he and his family were on their summer vacation, they stopped
by for an hour. In the course of the conversation, he told us of a
conversation he had a few months earlier, with an older conference pastor.
mentioned to that older pastor that he had heard that a certain minister,
whom he named, was having an affair with another woman. With a little
laugh, the older pastor recognized it was time to educate the young man in
the ways of conference work, so he would learn the church policy of
silence in the face of sin.
in an offhand manner, he said to the younger minister, Oh, don't
worry about it; this happens all the time. Startled, the young man, who
has a very sharp mind, quickly responded, Names, places?
that, the older minister replied, Don't you worry yourself. Just
know it happens all the time--and it is our job to keep our noses out of
the past thirteen years of active publication, a number of incidents have
come to our attention. But we have said little. Although they need to be
exposed so the church can be cleaned up, it is difficult to gather
information on such problems so it can be done.
in the incident discussed in this report, two factors are different: (1)
The documentation is available, the witnesses are available and willing to
talk, and (2) the minister involved was afterward promoted to the position
of senior pastor of one of our largest churches in North America.
For several years, Rudy Torres pastored the Potomac Conference church. This position required much travel about the state, visiting shut-ins and collecting their tithe. He was then transferred to pastor one of the largest churches in the Northwest: the Green Lake Church, in Seattle, Washington.
In 1980, Torres received a call to pastor the Glendale Church, in California. (This congregation is known locally as the Glendale City Church, to distinquish it from the Vallejo Drive Church, also in Glendale; hereinafter, all references to the Glendale Church will be to this Glendale City Church).
In September 1979, Rudy and Maredith adopted their first and only child, Alison.
But, with the passing of time, Rudy wanted to change wives, even though Maredith had been his wife for a quarter of a century, and the divorce would irreparably hurt his daughter. The little girl needed her father, and Maredith needed her husband. There were no Biblical grounds for Rudy to divorce Maredith. She had been faithful to him.
We could give far more details about that, which we will not cite here. But do know that Maredith had been true to Rudy. There had been no adultery on her part.
Arthur (Rudy) and Linda have actively worked on church projects for community outreach over the past few years. They have now chosen to combine their ministries in further service to the members of the Glendale Church. Wedding announcement, City Lights, Issue 5, June 1990.
Rudy discussed the forthcoming divorce, in advance, with his wife, Maredith. After conferring with Charles Dart, Rudy explained some interesting details to Maredith. You are now going to learn the secret compact which the wife must agree to. By doing so, she implicates herself in the wicked plan offered to pastors by their conference presidents, to help them succeed in their adulterous intention of divorcing their innocent wives and remarrying someone else that they are attracted to.
It seems that, when one of our pastors wants to leave his wife and remarry without Biblical grounds, the forsaken wife is quieted with the assurance that, if she will remain silent thereafter, she will receive her share of her divorced pastor-husband's retirement sustentation immediately, and for the rest of her life. She will also be able to keep the children and continue putting all his children through church school, academy, and college at the usual one-half price of that which the rest of us pay.
So now you have learned the method used to silence forsaken wives of Seventh-day Adventist pastors. They are woven into the plot, and it is all made possible through the willingness of the conference leaders to aid and abet this violation of the Seventh Commandment of the Decalogue.
Maredith agreed to this arrangement. Recognizing that Rudy was going to remarry anyway, she told her friends that she did not want to see his life work (as a pastor) ruined, for she still loved him deeply, and she needed the financial help in schooling his daughter, who was only 11 years old at the time he divorced his wife and left the home. (Not only had Torres left his wife, he had left his daughter also.) In addition, the sustentation payments would greatly help in later years. Maredith felt she deserved financial help, since, at the time of the divorce, they had been married 25 years. From her divorce file, it is known that she got the conference to put this financial commitment into writing. She also got Rudy to promise to pay this amount if the church ever defaulted.
At the time, Charles Dart also interviewed Maredith. In his office, at 1535 East Chevy Chase Drive, in Glendale, California, he told her that, if this went through according to the plan, she would be suspected of having committed adultery as the reason for Rudy's divorce. But, Knowing that Rudy loved the other woman so much that he intended to divorce her soon, no matter what the conference president decided, Maredith agreed to the covenant of silence, believing it was the best of the sorry alternatives for her child, herself, and Rudy. At least, this way she would receive financial help for the rest of her life.
Rudy filed for divorce on November 21, 1988. (A copy of the divorce application is reprinted on a nearby page.) Rudy and Meredith lived together that last Christmas. The last day of cohabitation was December 31, 1988. It takes one year, from the last day of cohabitation, to get a divorce in California. That effectively delayed the proceedings for a year.
At the termination of that time, a sixty-day waiting period would be required, but, during that time, either spouse could file an appeal. This would effectively stop the divorce proceedings. On January 4, 1990, Maredith appealed the divorce decree, thus blocking the divorce action. She did this to force the conference office to provide her with more than a verbal statement of assurance that she and her child would receive financial support, and that the daughter would be able to able to receive an Adventist grade school-to-college education at one-half the usual price. She wanted it in writing. In response, the conference office provided her with that written statement, clarifying the financial and educational help, so she withdrew her appeal.
Thus the divorce decree finally occurred on February 26, 1990. After the 60 days passed without further appeal, a full divorce occurred on April 27, 1990. It was a Friday.
On the divorce application, this was written:
If no appeal [by the other party] is filed, the court may order the exhibits destroyed or otherwise disposed of after 60 days from the expiration of the appeal time. Los Angeles County judgment application, February 26, 1990.
In other words, Maredith was given sixty days in which to contest it, and then the divorce would become final. Just below that statement, in a box, was this information:
Effective date of termination of marital status (specify): 2-26-90. Warning: Neither party may remarry until the effective date of the termination of marital status is shown in this box. Ibid.
(To clarify this: Although the divorce actually went into effect on February 26, 1990, there was a sixty-day interlocutory waiting period after that. During that period, if a spouse appeals a settlement, it will annul any marriage, thus most people will not dare risk a remarriage in the interlocutory period.)
So Rudy could not remarry until just after 60 days from the date this divorce paper was filed. February 26, the date of the divorce filing, fell on a Monday in 1990, and it was not a leap year. Dating from Tuesday, February 27, the first day; Friday, April 27, would be the sixtieth day. On the evening of the sixtieth day, Rudy remarried.
There can be no doubt that Rudy selected an outstanding bride: Linda Mae Nelson. With a masters degree in nursing, she had worked successfully in various capacities and finally, after rising to the position of director of nursing at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, had started her own hospital management consulting firm with contacts nationwide.
Although the divorce and remarriage was in accord with the laws of the state of California, it was not Biblical.
Our concern here is not with the worthiness or unworthiness of all these people. They are probably very fine individuals. The problem we face is that the pastor of one of our largest churches in southern California made arrangements, through his conference president, to divorce his wife without Biblical grounds, remarry as soon as possible afterward, and then be retained and even greatly advanced in the ministry. We are also concerned that a number of false statements were made by church officials, in order to cover up what happened.
The wedding ceremony was held on Friday, April 27, 1990, in the home of the brides married sister. The associate pastor of the Glendale Church, Mitch Henson, performed the ceremony. So this unbiblical wedding was not only approved by the conference president, but presided over by a conference pastor. (Mitch Henson was not afterward censured for this, but instead promoted to the position of Glendale Church senior pastor when, six months later, Torres was transferred to another church.)
Neither Rudy's mother nor his brothers attended his wedding to Linda. The brides parents did not attend either.
The next morning (Sabbath), Rudy was at church as usual. After preaching a rousing sermon, he paused, and then said to the congregation, Hold onto your pew. I want to introduce you to my new wife. She has made me so happy. And then, as Linda stood beside him, the Glendale Church learned that he had remarried.
Although Maredith had agreed to silence, weeping was not part of the deal. Maredith arose from her place in the audience and, weeping, went through the door into the choir room--where she wept in the arms of lady friends who soon after crowded about her. The tears could not be hidden, and she said, This is the way we both wanted it; I just didn't know he'd remarry so soon. (Maredith had gone to the choir room because she is a regular choir member. She occasionally gives a solo, for she has an unusually beautiful voice.)
Conference leadership recognized the possibility of questions if Maredith were to remain at the Glendale Church after the remarriage. So Maredith had been strongly urged to transfer her membership to some other Los Angeles area church. But she refused to do so, declaring that the Glendale area had been her home for several years. The conference had taken her husband from her; now they were trying to take away the friends in her local church.
Maredith, and Linda were all well-liked at the church, and everyone
wondered what had happened. But it was assumed, by most everyone, that
the entire divorce/remarriage must somehow have had Biblical grounds.
All inquiries were met by the response that, prior to the divorce, the
matter had been taken to the conference office and the Committee on the
Pastorate had reviewed the case and approved of the divorce and
remarriage. Because of that approval, it was assumed that, surely,
Maredith must have done something wrong, and Rudy therefore had a right to
remarry. So, although bewildered somewhat because Maredith was respected
by all, the local church thought best to rejoice at the marriage of the
other two, whom they also thought highly of: Rudy and Linda. On Sunday,
June 24, the entire church held a wedding reception for Rudy and Linda at
the home of one of the church members.
As might be expected, the rumor spread that Maredith had committed adultery. It was intensified by local church officers who clearly said so. Who told those church officers that? For her part, Maredith did not dare speak, and she remained silent through it all. To close friends, she confided that she was glad that Rudy lived nearby, so he could visit his daughter from time to time. Maredith felt the girl needed a father as well as a mother.
(Later, when he accepted a call out-of-state, Maredith confided to a friend that she did consider it fair for Rudy to selfishly move away to that bigger church and leave her to raise their daughter, Alison, by herself. She had counted on him visiting his daughter from time to time. As she remarked in 1992, it made her a single parent, because, instead of visiting the 13-year-old daughter twice a week, he would now only see her a few times a year.
Shortly after the remarriage, Alison's reaction was becoming visible. She was seen to be very angry and telling her friends how she felt it was all Linda's fault. She was observed to refuse to speak with Linda during a church potluck. Refusing to eat, she sat in a stairwell with her head buried in her hands.
When asked pointedly, Lloyd Wyman, the conference ministerial secretary, said, Maredith had committed adultery. But some church members, knowing well the personal integrity of Maredith, did further checking.
One church member, Elizabeth Iskander, M.D., who had personally known Maradith for several years, called Maredith and told her about the rumor that she had committed adultery. When she heard that, she stated very clearly that she had not committed adultery, no one had accused her of it, and that, if the conference was going to slander her reputation, she would consider suing them.
One church member, who had been asking questions and digging out facts, was called in Rudy Torres pastoral office at the church on June 9, 1990. Torres and an associate pastor, Casey Bahr, were there, and immediately began threatening this church member.
We will disfellowship you, if you continue what you are doing!
What am I doing? was the reply.
Their only answer was, You know what you are doing!
The question was then asked, Please put it in words.
They refused, saying, You know what you are doing! Then they said that they had a small group of elders who were in agreement with them, and that they would disfellowship this church member if things did not change.
The question was asked, Will I be able to attend this little meeting?
They cried, No!
What about due process?
The Glendale City Church has its own process!
When the meeting was finished, that church member refused to give up. Thank God for church members who protest sin! A letter was sent to Charles Dart, the conference president about the threats, but he refused to answer it.
Then that member went to Bob Peterson, a conference attorney and Elder Paytee, conference vice president, and they gave the assurance that Torres would not dare carry out his threat.
church member then went to several conference leaders. When prodded, local
church officials said that they had nothing to do with the prior
investigation and determination that the divorce was acceptable. It was
all handled by the conference
offices Committee on the Pastorate.
Lloyd Wyman said that Rudy's divorce was handled by the Committee on the
Pastorate, and that they had found Maredith guilty of adultery. Elder
Palmer Wick, vice-president of personnel for the conference, and Elder Dan
Robles said the same. Don Sullivan, treasurer, said that he had heard that
Maredith kept going out with someone on weekends, and Rudy got tired of
it. He also understood that the Committee on the Pastorate had
investigated the matter and had approved the divorce based on that
information, and that Charles Dart, had assented to the committees
decision. Charles Dart told one inquiring church member that everything
had been done according to the Church Manual.
What is this Committee on the Pastorate? It is a conference-appointed committee, composed entirely of men, all of whom are church ministers of one kind or another. The conference president personally decides about each person who will be on the committee. It is their duty to study cases brought to their attention and render decisions which the president can accept or reject. We are told that each conference is supposed to have such a committee--but, whether or not they all do, is not certain. There are so many immorality problems which arise from time to time in our ministry, that the need for such a committee is obvious. The problem is that there are few standards by which it operates:
Who selects the committee members? It should NOT be the conference president! It should be the conference constituency.
Who does the committee answer to? It should include both men and women, laymen and workers, and representatives of various minorities.
Women should be included, just because conference presidents tend to favor and protect the men pastors. The poor, maligned wives need women on the committee who will view, with sympathy, their side as well.
What are the standards governing the committee? At the present, these vary from conference to conference, when they exist. There is no clear pattern.
Is the conference required to submit all cases to the committee? Is it required to adhere to their decisions? We will find that the answers to both are a farce. The Torres case illustrates problems with this and the other points mentioned above.
The conference president selects whomever he wants to be on the committee, he calls it whenever he wants, and makes decisions without it whenever he wants.
As noted earlier, inquirers into the Torres case were told that the committee had considered the matter, and that their decision had been adhered to. Surely, everything had been done properly and Biblically.
But, within the committee on the Pastorate, feelings were different. Several of the Committee members were distraught over various earlier incidents, and the Torres case was especially flagrant, since Rudy had no Biblical grounds for divorce, had remarried as soon as legally possible, and was then retained in the pastorate. And where was his pastorate? It was one of the largest churches in that immense conference, and it was the home church for the conference, in a sense, since the Southern California Conference office is headquartered in Glendale, California.
Last but not least, the committee members knew what the other church members did not know: They knew they had never investigated the case--even though it had been reported that they had! One committee member, an older pastor, was finally told to stop trying to change the situation, or he would be fired. So he joined the conspiracy of silence. Is that the way to run our church?
Another member went directly to Charles Dart, the conference president, and discussed it with him. He asked him pointedly, Why did you let Rudy Torres remarry? That particular questioner was in a position to get answers. Dart admitted he made the decision entirely on his own, without first presenting it to the Committee on the Pastorate, or any other committee or church authority. We have the name of the man Dart told that to.
Consider these facts, extracted from a letter later written by a southern California physician to a different conference president:
At the time you wrote me the letter, included, I was under the impression that the Committee on the Pastorate (C.O.P.) had handled the case of Rudy Torres because that is what our ministerial director, treasurer, and two other vice presidents told me.
Those conference leaders all said, unequivocally and without the slightest hesitancy, that they understood that the C.O.P. found Maredith guilty of adultery.
I then learned
the truth when I spoke with a member of the C.O.P., who told me they had
never handled the Torres case. They were told, by President Dart, that,
because Torres was their chairman, he had a different committee in the
conference decide his case.
When I told this C.O.P. member the widespread rumor above, this C.O.P. member went directly to President Dart and asked him, What committee handled the Torres case? President Dart then admitted that he alone approved of Torres remarriage.
The C.O.P. then requested President Dart to meet with them at their next meeting. At this meeting, Dart admitted he had no evidence that Maredith has committed adultery, but felt his judgment call was within his authority and was past history now and should stand. Dart also felt the job description of the C.O.P. was to advise the president only if he asked their advice.
The C.O.P., over the next few months, created the document that is included (entitled C.O.P. Recommendations on Divorce and Remarriage). They asked Dart for a written response to item 1, on page 2 (please read it carefully at this time). President Dart refused and said he was about to retire. This document is to be sent to the next Southern California Conference executive board meeting for approval. Dr. Elizabeth Iskander, letter dated May 31, 1993, to Ralph Martin, president, Potomac Conference.
we have a situation in which an unbiblical divorce and remarriage, by a
denominational pastor, was countenanced, promoted, and afterward protected
with untruths. Several different men were brought into the matter, and
required to give incorrect statements in order to retain their own jobs.
is of interest that Rudy Torres was the chairman of the Committee on the
Pastorate. But that fact does not really matter--because the Torres case
was never brought before the that committee! Yet that is the very
committee which was set up to handle such cases.
Great is the power of a conference president, when he decides to do something. Fearful is that power, when he is determined to hide his complicity in a wrong action.
As noted above, Dart wanted to retire and get out of there, before the situation got too hot. He well-knew his successor would be careful to cover over the matter as something in the past which should be not brought up later, which was exactly what was done.
Because Moses is no longer alive, the church in the valley of Achor lulls the people to sleep with false reports, and then threatens the few who would seek to rouse the others.
in this study, we will overview the document, mentioned in the
above-quoted letter, which was prepared by the Committee on the Pastorate.
Their document was entitled Committee on the Pastorate Recommendations
on Divorce and Remarriage.
Rudy continued on as senior pastor of Glendale Church throughout the rest of 1990 until December, when Dart had him transferred to one of the southernmost churches in the conference: the Rolling Hills Church (no relation to the one in Florida). A cooling-off period was needed, during which memories would grow hazy. His first Sabbath there was in January 1991.
might think that would be the end of the matter. But there was more to
come. Men in high places who countenance sin are becoming more bold in our
Astoundingly, the decision was made to transfer Torres to, what is generally considered to be, the second largest Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Why did our leaders do that?
rate, because of that decision to send Torres to the second largest
Adventist church in America, we now write and send out this report.
Rudy Torres was transferred, from the Rolling Hills Church in
southern California, to the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma
Park, Maryland, to be its senior pastor. Within the North American
Division, only the Loma Linda University Church is larger. In addition,
Sligo Church is home to more of our General Conference and North American
Division leaders than any other church in the Greater Washington, D.C.,
At the time that transfer (made in the Fall of 1992) was made, Charles Dart was still president of the Southern California Conference, and Ralph Martin was president of the Potomac Conference. (Dart retired in May 1993; Martin continues on as president of the Potomac Conference.)
Two questions stand out:
First, in view of what had happened, why was Torres transferred to be senior pastor of one of our two most influential churches on the North American continent?
Our answer to the question would be that it is obvious that Biblical rules no longer apply. What other answer can there be? Are we to say that an Adventist pastor is free to divorce his wife, leave his young children, and remarry? Is that Biblical?
Second, why did the Sligo Church accept him?
On October 27, 1992, in response to a letter from a Glendale church member, Ralph Martin, the Potomac Conference president, wrote this:
I explained to the large search committee--about 30 leading members of Sligo--the charges against Elder Torres; and they voted, unanimously, to ask him to be their pastor . . [They asked] Elder Torres to accept their call even after being informed of the issues. Ralph Martin, president, Potomac Conference, letter dated October 27, 1992 to Elizabeth Iskander, M.D.
Even after being informed of the issues! That is what the Potomac Conference president wrote!
Let us consider the ramifications of this: In the above-quoted letter (reprinted in its entirety elsewhere in this report), Martins position was that further discussion of the Torres case should be dropped, since Torres no longer lives where the problem occurred, and the Sligo Church has already accepted him. The implications of Martins logical points, in this letter, break down into five facets:
action occurred in California and Torres is no longer there, so the
Southern California Conference can no longer do anything about it. (2) The
action did not occur in Maryland, but across the continent, so no
investigation can now be conducted by the Sligo Church (and the Potomac
Conference office refuses to touch the matter). (3) The Sligo Church has
already hired him, therefore it would be inappropriate for anyone to
reopen the matter. (4) Because the Sligo Church accepted him, if an error
had been made on the East Coast, it is the responsibility of Sligo
Church and not the Potomac Conference office. (5) One thing stands out:
Everything is past--the divorce and remarriage, the transfer, and the
hiring. Because it happened so long ago (several months earlier, at the
time when Martin wrote), we now need to forget it. (6) That which is
right is to let things rest in the Lords hands rather than trying to
take them into our own.
We are here viewing present reality in our denomination. But it is a most terrible reality. Any action by a denominational worker, which does not violate the laws of the state, can be forgiven and passed over by church leaders. All it takes is the transfer of the worker to a distant place! Because then the sending conference can do nothing about it, the receiving conference can do nothing about it, and anyone who tries to bring up the subject is not doing right--because he should let the matter rest in the hands of the Lord.
Church leaders are placing a lot in the hands of the Lord. In the judgment He will speak.
This is the same method used by the Vatican. When a priest errs, he is moved on; he is never rejected from the priesthood unless the civil authorities move in. Unfortunately, such policies are now being followed in our denomination. Yet almost no one will arise and rebuke the men doing these things. Instead, the rebuke is aimed at the few whistle blowers who plead for the troublers of Israel to be dealt with (Joshua 7). My friend, God will judge for these things.
Let us now focus the situation even closer. The pivotal point in Martins letter is this: Why did the Sligo Church accept Torres as their senior pastor, when they were told the situation in advance?
WHAT were they told in advance? By far the largest church in the conference was searching for a replacement pastor. Surely, the conference president was either on that committee or regularly advised of its findings. In his letter, he said:
I explained to the large search committee--about 30 leading members of Sligo the charges against Elder Torres; and they voted, unanimously, to ask him to be their pastor . . [They asked] Elder Torres to accept their call even after being informed of the issues. Ralph Martin, president, Potomac Conference, letter dated October 27, 1992 to Elizabeth Iskander, M.D.
That is a clear statement.
In his written reply to the Glendale Church member, Martin said that he read the information sent, appreciated the quality scholarship, in all the details included, the strong Christian concern for moral uprightness which was shown, and the effort . . to see that things are done properly. All the facts were before him, yet his letter indicated that he intended to do nothing about the case. It is of interest that his letter of reply did not seek to deny any of those facts. Not once did he intimate that any of it was new to him, but instead he pled that the one who wrote him also become an accomplice in the cover-upby henceforth remaining silent.
Either the Sligo Church leaders were told the truth, and they hired Torres in spite of it, or they were not told the truth. If they were told the truth, what will they now do about the matter? If they do nothing, then they retain Torres in spite of the situation.
Read again the above quoted statement by Martin, in that October 27, 1992, letter. It reveals that the Sligo search committee was very largewith about thirty of the leading church members on it. That committee undoubtedly included a sizeable number of our leading General Conference and North American Division officers!
According to Martins letterwhich he wrote after having read that which had been sent to him about the case,he was able to say the Sligo committee voted unanimously to ask him to be their pastor . . even after being informed of the issues. It is hardly likely that Martin was not a prominent figure in this search and verification process. So he should know what they were told.
But, if it is possible that Ralph Martin knew nothing about the matter earlier, his responsibility clearly began as soon as he was notified of the truth of the situation. In his letter of reply to those facts, he indicated that, although current actions may be sinful, past ones should only be covered over. But, contrary to what he wrote, sin is sinwhether or not it is present or past; whether or not it happened in Potomac Conference or someplace else. Learning the issues, it was Martins responsibility, in October 1992, to do something about the matter. Not to do so, was to add his hands to the ongoing process of sweeping it under the rug. And, unfortunately, that is what he did.
I have read the materials that you sent and have a deep appreciation for the quality of your scholarship and your strong Christian concern for moral rightness. Only those who love their church deeply make the effort that you have to see that things are done properly.
However, I believe that you have carried your concerns to those who have been involved in such a strong way that there is little that can be added by continuing to press them . .
I hope we do not have to go through a series of charges here in the Potomac Conference.Ralph Martin, Op. cit.
last sentence said it all. Our church is plagued with time-servers who
twist policysometimes by a hideous distortion of Bible/Spirit of
Prophecy principlesin order to keep peace within their borders, so they
can hold unto their jobs and move into higher positions. This is not the will
of God as revealed in His Word, but upward mobility is the goal
of far too many of our leaders.
On July 22, 1993, after months of trying to do so, Dr. Iskander was finally able to speak with Ralph Martin, the Potomac Conference president.
stated that he had read all the information sent him, including the
recommendations by the Committee on the Pastorate. He said that Charles
Dart had not told him anything about the process nor the grounds by which
Rudy Torres was cleared to remarry,but only that he had been cleared.
Martin felt that Rudy should not be placed in double jeopardy. He
emphasized that Rudy had established himself at Sligo, preaches to 1,500
each week, and that it would hurt the congregation if he were removed. His
exact words were, Two wrongs dont make a right. He also said that
letting this decision stand would be the lesser of two evils. He
said he felt sure that Rudy had repented and asked God for forgiveness. In
any event, he felt that he, Martin, was under no obligation to do anything
until he had received official word from Southern California Conference.
As for the Committee on the Pastorate, back in the Southern California Conference, they stated in writing that they did not have the authority to retry a case that was not within their jurisdiction.
ON THE NEXT SIX PAGES
would not have discussed this case, if it had not been such a flagrant
instance in which a minister divorced his wife of 25 years, left their
11-year-old daughter, married again as soon as legally possible, was
retained as pastor of the same large city church, and then, within a
relatively short time, was made senior pastor of the second largest
Adventist Church in North America.
this and the next six pages you will find:
10 - The Ralph Martin letter, urging that
the matter be forgotten, so no one will be disturbed.
11 - The divorce paper itself, finalized on
February 26, 1990, forbidding remarriage before the termination of the
interlocatory period, which would be Friday, April 27the date on which
12 - The front page of the June 1990
newsletter of the Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church, the church
where all this took place.
13-14 - The two-page
Recommendations of the Southern California Conference Committee
on the Pastorate, which they prepared after the Torres remarriage, in the
hope that somehow conference presidents would stop secretly approving such
divorces, remarriages, and retentions in the ministry.
15 - Will Anything Be Done? A
brief overview of Dr. Iskanders attempts to get the Pacific Union
Conference and the General Conference to put a halt to practices, such as
the Torres casewhich prompted her to begin her appeals.
PAGES 15-16 - A Statement
by Elizabeth Iskander, M.D. This is an appeal to church members by
a respected southern California physician, urging them to make sure their
pastor is not an adulterer, to arouse others, and demand that such
violations of church standards no longer occur.
sin in the church be rebuked? Should we expose sin, which has gone beyond
the private level,and tell it to the church?
over a year, others pled with the individuals and officials involved, both
before and after the divorce and remarriage. Now it is time to tell it to
the church (Matthew 18:17). Will the church care, or will it go back to
sleep? The sin is on the church if it does nothing. But, in most cases,
all it does is to blame the reprover as being the one at fault.
have changed [they say]. These words strengthen their unbelief, and they
say: The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil. He is too
merciful to visit His people in judgment. Thus peace and safety is
the cry from men who will never again lift up their voice like a trumpet
to show Gods people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their
sins. These dumb dogs that would not bark are the ones who feel the just
vengeance of an offended God . .
abominations for which the faithful ones were sighing and crying were all
that could be discerned by finite eyes, but by far the worst sins, those
which provoked the jealousy of the pure and holy God, were unrevealed.
great Searcher of hearts knoweth every sin committed in secret by the
workers of iniquity. These persons come to feel secure in their deceptions
and, because of His long-suffering, say that the Lord seeth not, and then
act as though He had forsaken the earth. But He will detect their
hypocrisy and will open before others those sins which they were so
careful to hide. No superiority of rank, dignity, or worldly wisdom, no
position in sacred office, will preserve men from sacrificing principle
when left to their own deceitful hearts. Those who have been regarded as
worthy and righteous prove to be ringleaders in apostasy and examples in
indifference and in the abuse of Gods mercies. Their wicked course He
will tolerate no longer, and in His wrath He deals with them without mercy
day of Gods vengeance is just upon us. The seal of God will be placed
upon the foreheads of those only who sigh and cry for the abominations
done in the land.
5 Testimonies, 211-212.
AS IT WAS
IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
But as the days of Noah were, so
shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were
before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And knew not until the
Flood came, and took them all away.Matthew 24:37-39.
THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH
[Mark 5:31-32; Luke 16:8; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; and Luke 17:26-30] Is there danger that the standards of the church will be lowered to the level of the usage of the world around us? We believe this danger exists, and that the church should be warned of it . .
Has the church any responsibility or duty to take account of the experience of a member who has secured a divorce on other than the conditions stated by Christ, and then formed a new marriage relation? Indeed, the church has a bounded and solemn duty to fully follow the actions that have been passed in regard to such a situation.
[1942 Church Manual statement:] 4. That a church member who is the guilty party to the divorced forfeits the right to remarry another, and . . that should such a person marry another, he be not readmitted to church membership so long as the unscriptual relationship continues . .
Here is a sister in the church who
secures a divorce on other than Bible grounds. She then proceeds to marry
another man. The church to which she belongs then withdraws from her the
status of fellowship. After this, she with the man move to another church
and upon baptism unite with that church. But the baptism does not
absolve her from her state of adultery. She is continuing in this state as
long as she lives with her second so-called husband, and the church in
receiving her and her husband into membership is condoning her state of
adultery.F.M. Wilcox, Review editor, The Question of
Divorce, Review, January 15, 1948.
THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH
According to the 1976 edition of the Church Manual (pages 286 ff.), those who have remarried without Biblical grounds may be readmitted into the church by repentance and rebaptism.
AND THE REPROOF OF SIN
There will be those who, upon seeing this report, will wrap their righteous coats of silence about them and sniff, It is wrong to discuss such situations. The church should give it no attention.
Such individuals need to read 1 Corinthians 5, Joshua 7, and the clear comment on it in Patriarchs and Prophets, 495-498. Our denomination needs solutions; it needs victories; it needs purity and obedience. It does not need to be laden down with responsibility for sins it has conveniently avoided reproving.
Others will say that we should first have gone to the offending party, in agreement with Matthew 18 (Matthew 18:15-17). But consider these facts:
First, in regard to those sins which are of a private nature:
Pilgrims Rest never discusses, by name, any issue which has not already passed beyond the boundaries of Matthew 18. By the time we report it, it has already reached the tell it to the church level. According to Matthew 18, the final step is to tell the churchafter it has passed the stage of being a private matter. Others have already appealed to the individual. Now it is time to tell the church.
Lower levels of contact and appeal to Torres and church agencies have been made for over two years, without effect. Both the pastor and the offices of two conferences have been pled with, all to no avail. The appeals of laymen were ignored; those workers who plead for adherence to our Bible/Spirit of Prophecy standards in this matter were, in some instances, threatened with firing or disfellowship.
It is now time to bring the matter to the church.
Pilgrims Rest does not deal with private sins, but with those which affect an entire local church, conference, division, etc.
Carefully read 2 Testimonies, 15-16. In that passage, the difference between a private and public sin is defined,and we are definitely told that (1) a public sin is one which affects, at the very least, an entire local church, and that (2) Matthew 18:15-17 does not apply to public sins.
In this present report, as is usual in other Pilgrims Rest reports, pleading with our people to put away the Achan sins among us, we are dealing with a public sin.
(For more information on this, see our tract, Matthew 18 and Open Sin in the Church [PG41].)
ARE FEEDING YOU?
I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, no be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord . .
For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in My house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord . .
I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto Me as Gomorrah . .
In the latter days ye shall
consider it perfectly.Jeremiah 23:4, 10-11, 14, 20.
OF PROPHECY COUNSEL
woman may be legally divorced from her husband by the laws of the land and
yet not divorced in the sight of God and according to the higher law.
There is only one sin, which is adultery, which can place the husband or
wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the
sight of God. Although the laws of the land may grant divorce, yet
they are husband and wife still in the Bible light, according to the laws
of God.Adventist Home, 344.
Your ideas in
regard to the marriage relation have been erroneous. Nothing but the
violation of the marriage bed can either break or annul the marriage vow
. . God gave only one cause why a wife should leave her husband, or the
husband leave his wife, which was adultery.Adventist Home,
I saw that the
seventh commandment has been violated by some who are now held in
fellowship by the church. This has brought Gods frown upon them.
This sin is awful in these last days, but the church has brought
Gods frown and curse upon
it by regarding the sin so lightly. I saw it was an enormous sin
and there have not been as vigilant efforts made as there should have been
to satisfy the displeasure of God and remove His frown by taking a strict,
thorough course with the offender.
is an awful corrupting influence upon the young. They see how lightly the
sin of breaking the seventh commandment is regarded, and the one who
commits this horrible sin thinks that all he has to do is to confess that
he was wrong and is sorry, and he is then to have all the privileges
of the house of God and held in embrace of fellowship of the church.
have thought it was not so great a sin, but have lightly esteemed the
breaking of the seventh commandment. This has been sufficient to remove
the ark of God from the camp, if there were no other sins to cause the
ark to be taken away and weaken Israel.
who break the seventh commandment should be suspended from the church and
not have its fellowship or the privileges of the house of God.Manuscript
3, 1854, quoted in Review, February 17, 1977.
[Ellen White] left these people [those who had committed adultery
and remarried] with the Lord. She gave them hope when they had done their
best under the circumstances. In this she has set us an example to follow.
We find, however, no record of a single instance where she suggested
that one living in an adulterous marriage who had had their membership
withdrawn, should have it restored. This point is often
overlooked.R.O. and M.S. Williams, Gods Seventh Commandment,
After researching into this case, the
present writer found several more West Coast adulteries by ministers,
which were covered up; at least two of which have an unique relationship
to the Torres case, although not in any way his responsibility. Witnesses
and paperwork are available. But the Torres case, because of his rapid
elevation to one of our largest churches, will illustrate the problem.
Pray for reformation. It is urgently needed. How much longer will the
mercy of God be extended to our world? It cannot continue much longer. May
Jesus come soon and put an end to this corruption.
ANYTHING BE DONE?
the individuals concerned about the Torres case was Dr. Elizabeth Iskander,
of La Canada, California. In view of the Torres and other cases, this
woman physician appealed to the two southern California conferences and to
the Pacific Union to prepare definitive guidelines, governing all
conference policies on ministerial divorce and remarriage.
Charles Dart stated that he would send a paper she had prepared (an
in-depth Bible-Spirit of Prophecy study on the grounds for divorce and
remarriage) to the Committee on the Pastorate.
later learned that only two people on that committee (one of which was
Rudy Torres) had ever read the paper. The official response from the
committee, consisted of nebulous, but basically negative, comments.
additional urging, the conference office sent it on to the Pacific Union
Conference, which set up an ad hoc committee composed mainly of Union vice
presidents, plus only one scholar, John Jones, dean of Religion at La
reading her paper, they could not refute her points, so, in a written
communication on March 10, 1992, they agreed to send this on to the
Biblical Research Institute, in Silver Spring, Maryland. In addition, that
same month the Union set up a special 20-member committee, appropriately
called the Divorce, Adultery and Remarriage Committee.
7, 1992, the working committee of Biblical Research Institute (which they
call BRI-COM) met at Andrews University. At her request, that day, Dr.
Iskander was given an hour to present her concerns to the committee. Then
she left the room and the twenty-two scholars on the committee discussed
two-page letter, dated June 1, 1992, was later sent to Dr. Iskander by a
director of BRI. In it, he stated that the committee had concluded that
they dared not give any attention to specific cases, such as the Torres
case which was brought to their attention. The committee felt it was
not their proper work to address these personal cases.
committee was divided on some points and united on others. Some items
pertaining to our present study would be these:
involves a betrayal of trust, as shown by one or more of certain acts. Dr.
Iskander asked that adultery be defined by the church in such a way as to
protect innocent wives of pastors and laymen.
decision in this matter was that (1) the definition of adultery
could not be ascertained without extensive, time-consuming study and,
since BRI already had long-range prior commitments, it could not
undertake such a study project in the immediate future. Instead, it
recommended that such a study be carried out by a review committee, to be
established by the Pacific Union.
took care of that one. So the church still has no normative basis for what
adultery is. (You probably thought the Bible told us.)
also stated that, since the Pacific Union had set up a study committee
(the Divorce, Adultery, and Remarriage Committee), they should continue on
with the study.
Iskander presented several problems which could arise. Her objective was
to crystalize the grounds for divorce and remarriage, so pastors and
others in the church could no longer, through church-approved divorce and
remarriage, avoid their responsibilities to their mates and children.
Iskanders concerns about sexually impaired persons and what constitutes
grounds for dissolution of marriage, as well as sexual deviations among
church members, are important matters for Adventists. We encourage you to
have qualified persons consider them seriously . . We hope the questions
raised by Dr. Iskander will not be allowed to lapse.Biblical
Research Institute to Pacific Union Conference, letter dated June 1, 1992.
Pacific Union headquarters has been given the responsibility for setting
up a committee and developing standardized guidelines. Will it be done?
Will they be Biblical?
the Committee on the Pastorate, in the Southern California Conference, was
for a time trying to get the conference executive committee to clarify
their role: Are they merely a rubber stamp to make the presidents
decisions look like committee process? The Committee on the Pastorate
wanted to clarify all possible paths by which a minister could get
permission to remarry. They wanted to ascertain whether any of those paths
could be determined solely by the conference president. They wanted to
know whether they were to follow the Church Manual in all such
cases, or were they to be given other guidelines.
someone might eventually consider opening the Bible and Spirit of
Prophecy, and seeing what those books have to say.
Charles Dart retired from the presidency of the Southern California
Conference on May 16, 1993 On
that date, the conference constituency voted to elect Bjarne Christensen. (Pacific
Union Recorder, June 21, 1993).
has afterward consistently assured inquirers that he will not permit
another incident like the Torres case, and that, henceforth, all such
incidents will be referred to the Committee on the Pastorate.
the Committee on the Pastorate, it has with slight revision, officially
adopted the Recommendations (reprinted on pages 13 and 14 of
addition, the Pacific Union Conferences Divorce, Adultery, and
Remarriage Committee has promised to give the Recommendations
its careful scrutiny, with the possibility of adopting them.
1976 Annual Council had approved actions on conciliation, divorce, and
remarriage. But it concerned members, not pastors. However, in reaction to
an increasing amount of litigation against the church, in November 1993,
the North American Divisions Year-end Executive Commitee meeting
adopted a two-part set of Guidelines on Sexual Misconduct, which
outlined policies concerning church
employees. This document was the result of seven months work by the Sexual
Ethics Commission, comprised of 25 workers and laymen, under the
chairmanship of Rosa Taylor Banks, director of the divisions Office of
Human Relations (Review, January 27, 1994).
approval of such a document by division headquarters, does not mean that
union and conference presidents and their committees will adopt it. What
is needed is, first, an official statement by each union and conference
that they have adopted the document, and will enforce it. Second, that
statement should include a requirement that each union, conference, and
institutional president must refer all such cases to the special
committee. Third, that each president actually refer all such cases to the
committeeinstead of dealing secretly with certain men, hiding their
adultery, and retaining them in the work.
YOU CAN DO
others to take hold of this good work, to purify our ministry. Go alone or
with others to your conference leaders and ask them some questions:
What committee is allowed to give a minister permision to divorce and
2 - How
many members are on this committee?
What is considered a quorum for doing business on this committee?
4 - Is
this committee composed of ministers only?
5 - Are
there any women on this committee?
6 - Is
there an attempt to make this committee ethnically balanced?
7 - Is
there an attempt to make this committee age balanced?
8 - How
long a term may the members on this committee serve?
9 - Are
the members of this committee elected or appointed? By whom or what
nominating committee did they join this committee?
Does the president of your conference have the right to bypass this
committee and grant permission for a minister to remarry?
11 - If
your regular standing committee, which usually deals with these matters,
was not the committee desired, do you have any alternate committees which
could handle an adultery and/or remarriage case? If the answer is yes,
please answer the above questions about this committee.
12 - Do
you have any required minimum time which must elapse between the divorce
decree and remarriage?
How many ministerial remarriages have been granted to ministers, who
remain in a pulpit in the last ten years?
your conference officers, Perhaps thou art come to the kingdom for such
a time as this. Urge them to take hold of the good work of purifying
the conference, and returning it to obedience to the law of God. Thank
them for their time and effort in doing this.
So what if you fail in your
efforts? It is better to try and fail, than to succeed at doing nothing.
A STATEMENT BY ELIZABETH ISKANDER, M.D.
as a member, are concerned about adultery in the pulpit and church
policies that approve remarriages, let your voice be heard. Discover if
this scenario of Rudy Torres could happen in your conference.
your leaders you want every possible path for approval of a ministerial
remarriage clarified. Tell your leaders you want all possible Biblical
grounds that could be used to approve a ministerial divorce and remarriage
clarified. Tell your leaders you want women to participate in the judgment
process of ministerial
remarriage. I have found that both sides of the ordination of women
controversy agree that women should sit with an equal vote over the matter
of ministerial remarriage. Tell your leaders you want all points of
potential bribery, such as the divorce settlement or any financial
benefits the church might give an
x-ministers wife, dealt with openly.
professional societies have developed ethical standards and a board to
judge those who break such standards. As a physician, I am acquainted with
the Board of Medical Quality Assurance in California. If a physician
breeches the ethical codes of his or her profession, complaints can be
registered with this board. The board has a separate investigative arm
which will visit with the participants of the case and review records.
investigators are not private detectives. They submit a written record of
their work to an administrative law judge employed by the board. Then the
case is judged by a seven-member board. Four of those on this board are
physicians. Three are consumers from any profession other than medical
doctors. This is because the Department of Consumer Affairs governs the
Board of Medical Quality Assurance. It was found that purely peer review
frequently does not work and that physicians are usually more lenient with
their colleagues than with the public. Thus the presence of consumers on
believe the same problem exists when the judgment board which judges
ministerial remarriage is composed entirely of clergy. Purely peer review
in many professional organizations leads to cover-ups. I believe such a
judgment board should include men and women who are not employed by the
church and are not clergy, such as loyal Adventist lawyers, psychologists,
are the principles which prevent what Amos and other prophets decried as
the injustice, bribery, and deception which existed in the courts of
Israel. Our God hates injustice and, when the leaders of Israel allowed
such injustice to exist, the whole nation suffered and was taken into
response of our leaders to my suggestions is that the structure of our
church is not a representative government. It is structured like a family.
The administrators are the father of the family. The difference between
this and the hierarchical form of church government, such as in the
Catholic Church, is unclear.
bottom line is that the administrators of our church do not want to lose
the power to control the judgment of ministerial remarriage. They either
want to control the decision alone, such as Dart did, or they want a
committee who will act as a rubber stamp to do whatever they tell them to
do. They also want to be the sole investigators of any case so they can
tell their committee what decisions to make. They are also doing the best
they can to suppress me from presenting my information and ideas.
parallel situation is taking place in the Catholic Church. The victims of
pedophiliac priests are coming forward and attempting to find justice from
the administration of the church. They are only finding double talk and
further cover-up. These victims and others knowledgeable about the great
sin within the church are having to take their case to the highest court
in our land: the press. The
cover-up of such sins is increasingly presented in print and on
television, and the public is outraged. The Catholic Church has set up a
review board to look at the decisions on pedophiliac priests, only
because of such public pressure.
am seeing in our church is that, even if there is hard evidence that a
minister is adulterous, administration is still unconcerned--unless the
Adventist public becomes concerned. Unfortunately the only court left is
the press. Thus if you want clear principles and policies and just courts
to judge adultery, it will only happen when you, the people, demand it. If
you want to be protected from adulterous pastors, you must make your voice
heard. I believe that the best way for this to happen is for a
statement, similar to the following, to be placed in the Church Manual:
cases of ministerial divorce and remarriage shall be judged by a standing
committee of no less than ten
(10) members. There shall be at least four (4) women on such a committee.
At least two (2) of the committee members shall not be employees of the
church. The term of the members of this committee should not exceed three
(3) years, and the members shall be elected by the entire conference.
Attempts to make this committee ethnically balanced should be made. This
committee shall not form policy on divorce and remarriage, but merely
apply previously formed policies that have been approved by the entire
there are church representatives are in agreement with my words, then I
pray you will use whatever powers you have to cause such thoughts to be
placed in the Church Manual. I pray you will also help the church develop
the Godly policies and a clear definition of adultery that should then be
applied to individual cases.
the reader to study carefully Jeremiah 23:4, 10-11, 14, 20. I believe God
is warning each member of the church, especially Sligo, that God
wants shepherds who are the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2). If the
church does not have a clear method of proving fitness to remarry, then
the flocks are in danger of being pastored by adulterous shepherds.
The devil will have certain powers to affect the lives of the sheep under
that shepherd. The rain of the Holy Spirit will be dried and the sheep
will be scattered and lost. You must remove yourself and your family from
such a blight. Many have the mistaken concept that, even if they sense a
moral problem with their shepherd, that they will just wait it out,
expecting him to eventually move on. Jeremiah 23 is warning such sleeping
members to flee to the safety of a church where you know your shepherd has
Gods fullest blessing in his own home and is not separated from his
children. Find a pastor whose wife is an example of modesty where the
purity of their marriage shines forth like sunlight as an example for your
troubled couples in your flock come to his office for counseling,
they will not see before them the divorce solution, a man who has left the
wife or wives of his youth and created a broken and distant family. There
is no spiritual safety under such a pastor, no matter how intelligent and
talented he is. Not even if he fills the church, conducts two
services, and fills the coffers. Refuse to place yourself under such
leadership. Demand, from your administrators, laws that make policy on
remarriage perfectly clear and protect you from the adulterous shepherd.
scrutinize a pastor that has been cleared in another conference and may
be--or is being--transferred to your church. If you are not sure, then I
believe the evidence is clear: You cannot trust many church leaders to
properly defend Gods seventh commandment.
you are not sure of your pastors purity, then err on the side of
being overly zealous to protect the spiritual welfare of your
family. Find a shepherd where you feel
secure in his purity and the purity of his marriage before God. When you
find such a pastor, do not even let your church membership lag behind you
under the shadow of an adulterous pastor. Move yourself, your family,
and your membership away from the curse of such leadership. If Gods
people express themselves in such pure actions, it will have a purifying
effect on the entire church.