Walter Rea, the Seventh-day Adventist minister whose research into the writings of Adventist church co-founder and prophet Ellen G. White led him to label her a plagiarist, has lost his ministerial credentials.
Rea, 58, who until the recent decision by the Southern California Adventist Conference was pastor of their Long Beach, Calif., church, is the second Adventist minister to be unfrocked this year.
The plagiarism charges are particularly unsettling to Adventist, a denomination of 3.5 million people, because church officials believe White's published writings were inspired by God.
C.E. Bradford, president of the North American Adventist Division, said in the official church statement that "Rea's action toward one of the denomination's highly respected pioneers, in my opinion, has rendered him incapable of serving as an Adventist minister."
An official of the Ellen White estate, Robert Olson, said in the same statement: "The situation is very similar to the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, each of them unique, but all sharing many elements in common. However, the parallels between the Gospels are far more extensive than anything which can be found between the 'Desire of Ages' and other biographies on Christ. Any New Testament scholar who examined the evidence would see this."
Rea, who had been a minister for 36 years and had been researching White's literary sources for 15 years, said the church's decision is unfair because he is being punished not because his information is incorrect and not because he failed to perform his ministerial duties, but because he spoke out publicly on his findings. This, he contended, was against the church's wishes.
"I hate to see the church hurt," Rea said, "but I think if we've erred and admit it no one would be upset. It makes us look foolish when they don't admit it. Three-fourths of our members live outside America and don't go by Mrs. White anyway."
Desmond Ford, an Australian Adventist theologian, was unfrocked in September after challenging Adventist doctrine concerning the Second Coming, which White had prophesied would occur in 1844, but which the church has since reinterpreted. Ford now lives in Sacramento, where he is a lecturer.