by AT News Team
Lucan Chartier turned himself in at the Redlands, California, police station last night on a Federal warrant after holding a press conference on the sidewalk near the Loma Linda University Church. He had planned to surrender to U.S. Marshals on the Loma Linda campus, but they did not show up, nor did county sheriff’s deputies or local police. Campus police did ask him to move from the place where he was on the lawn behind the church and move his press conference to the sidewalk and he complied immediately.
Reporters from the daily newspapers in San Bernardino and Riverside were present, as well as the local community news service in Loma Linda. Chartier distributed a news release and related statements, and answered questions for half an hour before friends drove him to the police station.
Adventist Today has previously reported on this case which dates back to 2006 when the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination sued for trademark protection against the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church of Guys, Tennessee. This small group splintered off from the denomination because it follows a more fundamentalist version of Adventist faith which it claims represents the original teachings of the Adventist movement.
Walter “Chick” McGill, pastor of the Creation church, was arrested by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies on Friday, July 13, on the grounds of the Loma Linda church. He is involved in a hunger strike in his cell in the county jail. Both men were arrested on Federal Court bench warrants because they have defied the order of a Federal judge to cease and desist using the name “Seventh-day Adventist.”
The North American Division of the General Conference issued a statement soon after McGill’s arrest claiming that it never intended for him to go to prison. George Johnson, the spokesman for the denomination, stated that it respects the religious rights of McGill and his group, but wants to stop the misleading use of the denomination’s name by a group that is not affiliated.
McGill and Chartier believe that God has told them to name their group Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church. They believe that if they were to comply with the Federal court order, they would be disobeying God.
“This is a silly situation,” one pastor employed by the Adventist denomination told Adventist Today. “You would think that the people at the GC would be smart enough to see that they are creating publicity by the tactics they are using. This is a miniscule group that would otherwise be unknown.”
McGill and Chartier contend that they have not tried to mislead anyone about their relationship to the denomination. One of their handouts even includes a quote from Judge J. Daniel Breen that “there is no evidence that the Defendant intended to confuse the public into believing that his church was one of the Plaintiff’s.”
There has been a proliferation of independent congregations and ministries in the Adventist movement over the last couple of decades. Denominational leaders are concerned that this trend may reduce the ability of the denomination to “speak with one voice” and weaken their control over the local church. Before he retired in 2006, Dr. William Johnsson, beloved long-time editor of the Adventist Review, wrote a book entitled The Fragmentation of Adventism, commenting on this trend.
It is unclear how long Chartier and McGill will be held. Local news media in Tennessee have reported in recent days that the offending, hand-painted sign is still visible at their church.