Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and Richardson Church versus Eugene Shubert
Do Seventh-day Adventist pastors ever abuse their authority and silence individual church members they don’t like? Do they ever disfellowship believers without even granting them a semblance of a church trial? (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-4). Would an Adventist Christian ever join a conspiracy to silence a true believer with threats of arrest for criminal trespassing just for showing up at church? I believe that most of the pastors of the Seventh-day Adventist church favor using threats and intimidation and a direct appeal to the state for immediate prosecution, instead of obeying Scripture. I believe that most Seventh-day Adventists are very content with this practice. I will speak from my own experience with the Seventh-day Adventist church in Richardson Texas and the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. I can document many details. Here is a brief introduction:
The Richardson church is one of many SDA churches that promote the theology of A. Graham Maxwell. Maxwell denies substitutionary atonement and has a pantheistic view of the final judgment. In 1989, I chided the pastor of that church, Richard Dickens, for never preaching a sermon against Maxwell’s pantheism. Pastor Dickens took me outside and told me that if I ever returned to the church he would call the police and have me arrested for trespassing. I called the Texas Conference and they were extremely comfortable with my complaint and absolutely not at all surprised with their pastors giving these kinds of ultimatums.
I was in exile for 5 years. Then, a church member, Bob Fertsch, noticed me in a local restaurant and asked me where I disappeared to. I told him my story. He said that the treatment that I’ve received was terrible and invited me to his home to meet the new pastor. As I recall, it took months to even get a half-hearted welcome to return to church.
During my second week back at church, I noticed a young couple who had come in at the time the church was breaking up for Sabbath School. They were obviously visitors. They asked a greeter what class they should go to. They were escorted to the class that the greeter recommended and I followed them all to attend that recommended class. It was immediately obvious that the teacher was a devotee of Maxwell. This class didn’t follow the church quarterly. It was the usual Maxwell stuff with a Desmond Ford twist. The lesson denied there being a final judgment and a substitutionary atonement.
I continued in that church for six months, trying to be a positive witness to the truth that conservative Adventists believe. Near the end of that six-month period Alfred Akar approached me in the church hallway. Alfred befriended me and told me what a sharp dresser I was and that I was always smiling. He also said that he had noticed that I was always there, in church, every Sabbath. He then said, “I’m going to see to it that you get an office in the church.” I imagined having an office in the church and thought that an office in the church would be nice but a little inconvenient. I knew that he meant he would make me an officer in the church, but those were my thoughts. He asked me how it was that I attended that church many years ago (he remembered me) and that I was gone for a long time and now I’m back? I repeated my story. I told him that the pastor at the time (Richard Dickens) was offended when I told him about heresy in the church. I explained that Pastor Dickens escorted me out of the fellowship hall and told me that if I was ever to return to that church that he would call the police and have me arrested for trespassing. Alfred said that was terrible and reproved me for my self-imposed five year exile and said that I should have ignored the pastor and returned to church the next Sabbath.
I knew that Alfred Akar was a teacher in the Richardson church. He was also on the board. He wanted to know more about who I was. I said, “Well, I am my theology.” I believe that I am the sum total of my interests, experiences, aspirations, emotions, passions, capacities, faith etc. I wanted to share with him what defined me the best. I arranged to get him an article I wrote called The Seven Faces of Seventh-day Adventism. We planned on discussing it in his car on one of the many nights of the church sponsored Revelation Seminar. We did meet and I was invited into his car to discuss the article as planned. When we both got into the car Alfred pulled out the article. He was visibly shaken. He had nothing to say. That was the end of that. We got out of the car and went into the foyer of the church. Alfred, still agitated about something, told me that I shouldn’t have an interest in what I had written. I told Alfred that the church published a whole book about just one of the seven faces (called, ISSUES: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Certain Private Ministries) and that I covered all seven faces in just 3 pages. Alfred stressed that we are to forget about all that and just have a positive message. He must have been very confident that what I had published had no relevance to either him or me. I pointed to my page 3 of the paper he had in his hand and added that this heresy was in the Richardson church. At this he literally exploded in a fit of rage. There were witnesses all around and he made quite a spectacle of himself. That was on a Wednesday I believe. Alfred must have voiced some complaint to Ray House, the senior pastor. That Sabbath in church Ray asked me what I said to make Alfred so upset. I explained what happened and the pastor sided with me. At the end of church service on Saturday, the Pastor asked me to come to a meeting the next morning (Sunday). Jokingly I said, “Am I going to need a lawyer?” What I really thought in the back of my mind was that I would be meeting with the elders and I imagined that the senior pastor would reprove them in my presence for dragging their feet and not allowing me to be accepted into membership for the previous six months.
There were just three of us, Leo Mathieu (the head elder), Ray House (the senior pastor) and me. It was a short meeting. There were only two issues that came up.
Mathieu complained that there were members who had things against me that happened 5 years previous. I said let’s assemble these people and find out what they are. “They didn’t want to be identified.” The pastor then said some nice things about me and mentioned that I was helping him with his sermon preparations. Mathieu then complained about me not accepting the theology of A. Graham Maxwell. The pastor spoke up and said, “I think Eugene has some valid concerns.” Mathieu retorted in a stern, uncompromising voice, “Well I don’t!” It was obvious who was in charge. The pastor quickly sat up in his chair (to respectfully show that he was paying attention) and turned to me and with a tone of disapproval said, “Eugene, you’re just too animated.” He said that I was “too animated” several times. He kept repeating it. I thought to myself, “You want dead people in your church?”
I was dismissed by the pastor and was told that there would be a decision made about me being allowed to continue attending church. The pastor came to my place at 6 PM that evening to give me the news. The decision was no. A few days later I walked to the church to speak with the pastor. The pastor received me warmly and invited me into his study. I remember telling him that his actions were worse than that of Judas because Judas at least showed a sign of remorse and hanged himself. The pastor confessed that I did nothing wrong and said he was convicted of that when he left my home that Sunday. The pastor said that Leo Mathieu had been on the board for 13 or 14 years, and that all his close friends were also on the board. He was relatively new at that church. Ray then promised to assemble the full board for a special meeting. The possibility of letting me be there was out of the question. The board met. Some sort of agreement was reached. The board sends Pastor Ray House and the associate pastor Tibor Shelley to my place to deliver the news. Ray quickly excuses himself saying it’s a family matter and leaves as quickly as he appeared.
I invited Pastor Tibor Shelley to sit. He was wearing a face of utter sadness. It was either visible anguish of soul and brokenness of spirit or truly the most sanctimonious disappointment that I’d ever seen. This pastor said that I could not come to church for 8 to 10 weeks. He said I had betrayed a trust. Six months earlier I was told (and I allegedly agreed) not to share any of my papers with anyone on church property. One evening after a Revelation Seminar, I was seen giving a paper to a visitor.
At this accusation I was grinning ear to ear. Yes, I gave away a paper. It was a compilation I assembled that was approved of by the Ellen G. White Estate and advertised in the Pacific Union Recorder for free distribution as the definitive answer to the question, What is the Seventh-day Adventist gospel and Why did Jesus die? See, Pacific Union Recorder, February 6, 1995 p. 26.
Pastor Shelley could not see the absurdity of me being banished for sharing the gospel. I suspected that the board would not allow me back, even after 10 weeks. I thought they would reconsider the banishment of only 10 weeks and make it permanent. I thought that they just wanted me to get accustomed to the idea of staying away.
I waited two weeks then returned to church, fully believing that church leaders must sometimes be disobeyed. I set my mind to do right, knowing that I would be arrested. I thought that some good might come out of it. I did this with a sincere hope that a sleepy congregation might be awakened and properly respond to a great evil in their very midst. As expected, the police were called and I was arrested for trespassing.
When released from jail two days later, I didn’t feel bad about my experience. The pastor and son came to visit me the next day. The pastor asked, “So what is it like to be in jail?” Even in this I presented a straight testimony. I said, “It's just like being in church. The conversation isn’t very stimulating and the food is bad.”
What I did not foresee, nor could endure with any grace at all, came a few weeks later. The Richardson church board appealed to the Texas Conference for instruction and guidance and they said, ‘No problem, we’ll file a lawsuit against that guy. We do this sort of think all the time.’ It’s all in the Richardson Church Board Minutes, subpoenaed by me and is part of the official court record.
The president of the Texas Conference refused to speak with me. The church attorney, David Coggin, was going to handle everything. The lawsuit he filed on behalf of the church was full of purposeful deception. The lies say,
The members of the Richardson Seventh-day Adventist church have repeatedly requested that the Defendant not engage in [the alleged reprehensible activities]. ...The members of the congregation have repeatedly asked him to not return to the church. ...Shubert insisted on entering the church against the wishes of the membership.
This accusation is a total fabrication. Such sentiments were never expressed.
If you read the Church Newsletter that was published immediately following my arrest, you can see that the whole purpose of the newsletter was “damage control” and to get a feel for what the church might be thinking about that high Sabbath day when the police came and took Shubert to jail. The testimony of the Leadership to the church powerfully contradicts what the Leadership told the court.
This whole scandalous affair was a secret to the church and solely the work of the “satanic agencies” whose decisions were formed in secret committee meetings.
Answers to questions
| What dismays me is that it seems you were never given the opportunity to really talk the whole situation with any of the persons directly or indirectly involved. Neither before, during, nor after the trial. Is it true not one of these christian fellows was willing to lend you an ear?
After my arrest for defying church
authority, I must have called virtually all the members of the church
board but none of them wanted to talk to me. All of them gave me the same
excuse. They couldn't discuss the matter with me because all the
particulars were part of an ongoing lawsuit.
| This is so extremely impressive. What about the
rest? Was there not even one single ordinary layman member that stood by
First of all, I didn't give up easily because the civil and criminal trial didn't happen immediately. I waited about 1 year for that. In the interim, I sought help from Pastor Jose LaPorte of the Garland Seventh-day Adventist church, which is just one town away. I spoke to him privately about what had happened to me and the trouble I was in and he was greatly moved and humbled by my story. He said that he knew the pastors of the Richardson church and with great sympathy he said that he would help me and that he would speak to them and to the Texas Conference and get to the bottom of it. He seemed to believe that it was all just a terrible misunderstanding and that he could resolve the conflict as Christ would want it resolved. He must have certainly spoken with the Conference President because the next time I saw that pastor, his attitude was one of transparent hostility and anger toward me. Not because I had misrepresented the facts or circumstances but, I surmise, because he was told very bluntly what his duties were if he wanted to keep his job. But I guess that the Conference President and/or pastor weren't entirely unsympathetic to the demands of Christian decency and my desire to fellowship with fellow Seventh-day Adventists because the pastor told me that I could attend his church if I would never speak of what the Conference and Richardson church were doing to me.I later attended that SDA church about a dozen times.
Here's part of the story of how that changed: