by Matthew Gamble
Just recently, Dr. Samuel Pipim,1 resigned as a pastor in the Michigan Conference. His resignation letter he opted to make public as well as confessing the sin publicly on one of the ministry websites that he founded.2 Dr. Pipim is known for his controversial writings with books like, Receiving the Word, which is a classic amongst methodologically conservative folks. Additionally he is one of the founders of the Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC), a movement of young people which prides itself for calling Adventist young people back to godliness by focusing largely reforming people back to a 19th Century Adventism.3 At a recent GYC, Dr. Pipim proceeded to raise concerns for such movements as GODencounters,4 something that I am very much invested in on a personal level.
Several years ago, I was invited by Dr. Pipim to come and present on the campus of the University of Michigan where Dr. Pipim had founded a group of Adventist college students to reach the public university campus. While I had heard about Dr. Pipim, I had never met him up until that point. A friend of mine was attending the University of Michigan and they were having an outreach aimed at reaching unbelievers with the gospel. Seeing as that is one of my passions, I was eager to go.
Upon arrival into the hall where the series was to be held for the weekend, I realized quickly that the methodologies being utilized were different than what I’d experienced on other public university campuses. There would be no use of percussion and caffeinated beverages of choice were certainly not provided by the host organization.
On Saturday evening, after my third presentation based on the life of Jesus and after the last guest departed, Dr. Pipim drove me back to my room. His young son was the only other person in the car. As we pulled up to the apartment complex, Dr. Pipim put the car in park and turned off the engine. We ended up having an incredible heart-to-heart while his son curled up for a snooze in the back of the minivan. We talked until 2am and had, what I recall to be, a very delightful conversation about God, Jesus, Theology, Hebrew and life in general. I found Dr. Pipim to be very encouraging to me (I was really struggling in Hebrew class at the time). We prayed for one another and went our separate ways.
Some time passed and the next time I saw Dr. Pipim was on the campus of Andrews University. He actually tracked me down and handed me an endorsed copy of his latest book. He was encouraged to hear that his prayers were answered as I had passed Hebrew! I have not seen Dr. Pipim in person since.
Dr. Pipim and I run in completely different circles. He is from the Michigan Conference, and while I respect the likes of President Jay Gallimore,5 we couldn’t disagree more in our approach to ministry. Much of the content of Dr. Pipim’s books, articles and presentations, while they may sound convincing, are, in my opinion, flawed and at times, completely misrepresent the Jesus that I see in Scripture. Simply put, we don’t see eye-to-eye.
All that said, when I read Dr. Pipim’s resignation letter, I was deeply saddened. I became teary-eyed as I thought about the pain that he and his wife, his children, his family, the woman who he violated, those who look up to him, must be going through. As I sat there at my computer that day, I found some other links, one of which contained another public letter that Dr. Pipim posted on one of his ministry websites. In the letter Dr. Pipim made the comment that, “Undoubtedly, my resignation will be greeted with deep sorrow and hurt by those of you who have known me and worked closely with me. On the other hand, others who have always opposed what we stand for will have an additional reason to rejoice.”6 When I read that statement, I was cut to the heart. I won’t deny that some of Dr. Pipim’s public declarations have made me downright angry (I’ve had to repent from my reactions a time or two after hearing some of what he’s taught others). But would I rejoice over his moral failure? Absolutely not. But how devastating is it that he would even think that there would be those of us from different worldviews who would rejoice at his failure?! It reminds me of seeing the televised celebrations of the announcement of the death of Bin Laden. Did Jesus celebrate when Ben Laden died? With Jesus living in us, we should never celebrate another persons sin.
With the above mentioned, I do have to wonder what Dr. Pipim’s message will be in the future. It seems to me that he’ll be at a place where he has to admit that a focus on behavior and the law doesn’t equate godliness. Furthermore, it seems that he will have to proclaim the grace of Jesus Christ with deep passion, based on an firsthand experience.
Another aspect that I am eager to see what will unfold is how Dr. Pipim is treated by the church. He did a noble thing by not only resigning from his position, but also stating his actions publically. But where do we go from here? What do we as the church do to reestablish a man who has a deep passion for God and ministry? Do we simply pull his credentials and wish him the best of luck? Or do we rally at such a time as this. Let us not forget that the likes of King David and Samson were some messed up brothers, not to fail to mention the disciples and the Apostle Paul. God certainly used them, referring to one of them as a man after His own heart. It is my prayer that Dr. Pipim and his family will be encouraged and supported through this time. It seems to me, with the various counts of adultery committed within the fold of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, that it is due time that we pull our heads out of the sand, repent from our, at times, pride for claiming to be THE REMNANT CHURCH OF BIBLE PROPHECY, and establish healthy steps to assist people in a restorative process when sins like this occur.
Dr. Pipim, Jesus says, “I don’t condemn you.” By His grace, that is my statement towards you as well. And I remain optimistic that one of these days you and I can have another heart-to-heart in your minivan well into the wee hours of the morning. And hopefully this time, your son will be able to join in on the conversation too!
Grace be with you brother!
3 Please note that while some of the content that I’ve heard presented at the GYC concerns me deeply, I am all for young people coming into a deeper faith experience with God and embracing what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that many involved with the GYC, both on the leadership level and those who attend, are very sincere and I am thankful for the positive fruit that it is producing.
4 https://www.drpipim.org/documents/trojan-horses-all-outlines.pdf (see Part 3 Trojan Horses, pg 19-22)
5 When I was attending Andrews University in Michigan I frequently spoke at events that either the conference was supporting as well at Conference supported academies. I found Elder Gallimore to be the type of person who I could easily approach and who was always willing to return my calls and talk candidly with me. That attribute, as I found with Dr. Pipim, goes along in my book.