Before our brethren came to the conference of 1925 and reached an agreement about the name to be adopted for our church, they used different local names. In Scandinavia: Adventists of the Original Faith; in Czechoslovakia: The Seed of the Woman; in Transylvania: Adventists of the Ancient Faith; in Yugoslavia: Remnant Adventists; in South Romania and Bulgaria: Adventists Standing on the Basis of the Faith of 1844; in Hungary: Seventh Day Adventists Standing on the Old Platform of 1844. In Germany, at first they called themselves International Missionary Society of Seventh Day Adventists–German Union (Internationale Missionsgesellschaft der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten–Deutsche Union). This can be seen from a circular letter issued in February 1919. The German brethren showed the same name, except German Union, in the magazine Watchman of the Truth (Waechter der Wahrheit) published before July 1919. Beginning with the issue of July 1919, however, they put an addition to the name in use so far: International Missionary Society of Seventh Day Adventists–Standing on the Old Platform of 1844 (Alte, seit 1844 stehengebliebene Richtung). The German Union was incorporated, December 23, 1919, under the name: International Missionary Society of Seventh Day Adventists–Standing on the Old Platform of 1844–German Union. At the end of 1921, as can be seen from the Watchman of the Truth, they preferred to be known as International Missionary Society of Seventh Day Adventists–Reform Movement (Internationale Missionsgesellschaft der STA Reformations-bewegung). After the return of our two delegates from S. Francisco (1922), where they were not given any hearing, our brethren published, under the name International Reform Movement of Seventh Day Adventists (Internationale Reformbewegung der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten), the booklet Revival and Reformation among the Seventh Day Adventists–Our Experience during the General Conference Session in San Francisco, May 1922. But, afterwards, their Sabbath Watchman (Sabbat-Waechter), a monthly paper, was published under the name Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. Later on they added the designation German Union.
At our first General Conference session, 1925, the delegation adopted the name, Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference (Generalkonferenz der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten Reformations-Bewegung) for “the joint connection of all Union Conferences,” namely, “the entire denomination in general,” according to the Minutes of the General Conference delegation session(1925 session, resolution 11). Resolution 11 also says that the Principles of Faith should be published under this name.
It was agreed in 1925 that the General Conference should be incorporated separately from the German Union. But this was not done immediately. After a few years, due to circumstances mentioned below, the registration of the General Conference became an urgent need, and it was carried out under the name, International Missionary Society of Seventh Day Adventists, Reform Movement, General Conference (Internationale Missionsgesellschaft der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten Reformations-bewegung, Generalkonferenz), and not under the name that had been adopted by the General Conference delegation in 1925.
When the statutes were ready for the incorporation of the General Conference, with the signatures of the Board of Directors, Brother Otto Welp, the reelected General Conference president, signed as representative of the Seventh Day Adventist Church–Reform Movement–German Union.
According to the laws then in force in Germany, a corporation must own property in order to qualify for registration, and the General Conference owned no property at that time. Therefore, its registration was delayed. During the General Conference Committee meeting held in the mission house of the German Union, June 29 through July 4, 1927, it was resolved:
“That the General Conference be registered in the same way [as the Union Conference], so that the same statutes filed at the registration of the Union may cover also the General Conference; and that in future the German Union operate under these statutes, under the name of the General Conference” (Resolution 8).
The main reason for this resolution was that the property at Isernhagen, near Hannover, used by the German Union, had been purchased with a loan taken from the General Conference, and that the Union president, Brother W. Richter, had a serious difference with the General Conference administration. It was certainly wise, on the part of the General Conference leading brethren, to take precautions for the protection of the properties and interests of the work.
The registration of the General Conference at Burgwedel, near Hannover, Germany, January 11, 1929, in that emergency situation, was done on the initiative of the Executive Committee. Both names–the one agreed upon by the General Conference delegation in 1925 and the one registered in 1929–were used for some time, even on the same documents, although the General Conference delegation in session never authorized the change. It was wise at that time to use both names in order to prevent splinter groups from legally taking any of the names once used by the Reform Movement. The registration of January 11, 1929, was canceled by the secret police (Gestapo) on May 11, 1936.
Under the name that was adopted by the General Conference delegation in session, in 1925, and that was always maintained by the General Conference delegation, the General Conference was registered in the state of California, USA, by Brethren C. Kozel and D. Nicolici, respectively president and secretary of the corporation, April 8, 1949, in harmony with a decision made by the delegation at the 1948 General Conference session. When this was done, Brother Kozel wrote in his circular letter of April 18, 1949:
“We were able . . . to have our General Conference registered a few days ago. The Lord helped us wonderfully in all these things. The name of our General Conference is as follows: Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference, P. O. Box 234, Oak Park, Sacramento, California, USA.”
The Union Conferences and Fields were notified about this registration, which they ratified by letter.
In May 1951, when Brother C. Kozel and his supporters still were united with us in one religious body, of which he was the president, the General Conference delegates met in Holland, under the umbrella of this registration, and under this name. And it was under this name that the polarized leaders and delegates, unable to settle their differences, reorganized themselves into two separate General Conference Committees, each claiming to be the continuation of the original General Conference organization, with the original name adopted by the General Conference delegation in July 1925. Brother Kozel and his newly elected General Conference Committee still recognized the bylaws that went along with the registration of April 8, 1949. They called them “our bylaws” in their declaration of May 24, 1951.
In spite of the split, for one year both parties of the divided General Conference brethren claimed to belong to the corporation carrying the original name, Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference, registered in the state of California, USA, with headquarters in the city of Sacramento. They even signed an agreement on May 7, 1952, recognizing each other as members and leaders of this corporation, under this name. That was the only corporation and the only name officially recognized by both sides. In those days there was absolutely no controversy over the official name used by the Reform Movement.
The two parties continued within one and the same body, with the same name, the same registration, the same headquarters, until June 6, 1952, when Brother Kozel and his supporters decided to reorganize themselves separately from us, but together with the Denver brethren, who had been disfellowshiped in the presence and with the approval of Brother Kozel on March 4, 1949. It was only then, and not at an earlier date, that they formed their own General Conference corporation with headquarters in Denmark and later in Germany.
In a pamphlet published in Latin America by the leaders of the separated brethren, they explain why Brethren Kozel, Mueller and Ringelberg (their highest leaders at that time) decided to make their own reorganization (June 6, 1952):
“In 1951 . . . Nicolici retained the name of the church, the properties, and the headquarters, exactly as the big church had done. For this reason, the brethren . . . were forced to organize themselves without, however, giving up the true name of the church –Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. In front of this name they only added the words, International Missionary Society. . . . This they did only to distinguish themselves from Nicolici’s organization, which retained the name, the properties, and the headquarters, exactly as the big church had done.”–Breve historia de la iglesia en la tierra, p. 2.
In a nutshell: The name that we have retained is the name that was adopted at the first General Conference delegation session in 1925 and that was registered in 1949. That name has never been changed by the General Conference delegation in session.