Commentary: Walter Rea: Enemy of the Church?
By Brother Anderson, November 12, 2004
Walter Rea was different from other teenagers. While they were reading comic books and novels, Walter was reading Messages to Young People. Walter grew up in an atmosphere where the prophetess was honored and revered.
Later, as an SDA minister, Elder Rea wrote three books based on Ellen White's works. While writing his fourth book Elder Rea made a discovery. He found Ellen White had copied substantially from other authors. He studied further into the matter and found even more evidence of plagiarism.
An enemy of the church? Hardly. He was a minister for 36 years. Many Adventists are shocked to find that Elder Rea is still a member of the SDA Church and has attended church regularly for nearly a century. Strange behavior for an enemy of the church!
It's not that they didn't give him a reason to become an enemy of the church. In 1980, General Conference leader Neal Wilson assembled a group of 18 auspicious leaders to review the evidence Elder Rea discovered. At the end of the meeting the leaders expressed appreciation for the work Elder Rea had done. They promised to educate the church on the issue. When faced with the evidence, the leaders could do nothing but conclude that Elder Rea was correct. They made an agreement to tell the truth. But then politics got involved. You see, the evidence Elder Rea presented could easily lead one to the logical conclusion that Ellen White was not a true prophet. What if SDA church members were to realize she was a false prophet? What if they started leaving the "remnant" church? What if tithes and offerings began to drop off? You get the idea. So the agreement was scuttled.
Obviously it was a great disappointment to Elder Rea. He was at a critical juncture in his life. He had two choices. He could let it go quietly and get on with his life. Or he could go public and lose his job and all he worked for 36 years. It was a battle with self. Would he take the easy road, and leave the church in blissful ignorance about Ellen White? Or would he take the hard road and share his research with the Adventist people?
As you know, Elder Rea took the difficult path. He lost his job. He was demonized, hated. They lied about him, tried to discredit him. They knew they couldn't overcome the evidence he presented, so they attacked the person. They attacked his writing style. They said he recanted. Just about any filthy lie that the demons of hell could invent was launched against him.
And what does all this prove? Walter Rea was no enemy of the church. An enemy of the church would like nothing better than to see the church destroyed, and there is no better way to destroy a church than to have it follow the teachings of a false prophet. If Elder Rea were an enemy to the church he would have remained silent. He would have let them go on believing a myth knowing that the church could never fully achieve what God wanted it to achieve while it was tied down to the teachings of a false prophet. Elder Rea proved his friendship to the church by going through great personal expense and trial to share the truth about Ellen White.
And how did the church repay Elder Rea for his friendship? Church leaders did their best to discredit Elder Rea, but behind the scenes academic researchers were studying the issue. Dr. Fred Veltman, an SDA theologian at Pacific Union College, was hired to examine the Desire of Ages. After eight years of research he concluded Ellen White used 23 sources including works of fiction.
Dr. Veltman summed it up when he wrote:
Walter Rea's material does indeed raise some new problems in our understanding of EGW and her writing methods. ... There are some errors in the book [White Lie] but there is also truth. He [has] evidence which appears quite convincing for his major points. This evidence...will "blow the mind" of many an Adventist. The answers which the church spokesmen give as Walter raises the questions are for the most part not adequate. ... Walter is dedicated to get to the bottom of the problem and to let the church know. He does not want another generation to go through his personal agony of disillusionment. ("Report to PREXAD on the E.G. White Research Project", pp. 23-34)
There you have it. A true friend of the church. He cared for the church members so much that he didn't want them to experience the same bitter disappointment he experienced.
So who are the real enemies of the church? They are the ones trying to keep the status quo. They are concerned about their jobs, the structure, the tithes and the offerings. They are satisfied to keep people bound in ignorance. The money is flowing in, people are joining the church, so why rock the boat? Astonishingly, many of them know the truth about Ellen White, but they won't share it with their flock. Cowards. Liars. Enemies of the church.
The next time someone asks you about Walter Rea, tell them this: He may just turn out to be the best friend the Adventist sect ever had.