Teresa Beem on “Journeys Home”

The Journey Home is a program on the independent Catholic network, EWTN, featuring stories of converts to Catholicism. It is hosted by Marcus Grodi, a former Presbyterian minister, who is the director of the Coming Home Network, an independent Catholic ministry to support converts, particularly clergy. I was one of the first CHN members; it grew out of an informal network of converts who had connections with the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I was never on the program, but Marcus invited me to expand an article I wrote for the newsletter for his book, Journeys Home.

A recent program featured Teresa Beem; she was raised Adventist, left the Adventist church in 2001, and after some time checking out various Protestant churches became Catholic.

She said her family was liberal, and thus they “were protected in our home from the more dark doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism.” Marcus Grodi is a very gracious and genial host, and that caused him to raise an eyebrow. She explained she was referring to Adventist teachings on the role of Catholicism in the last days.

She claimed Adventist teachings on eschatology came from the visions of Ellen White. In fact, they were derived from Scripture independently from Ellen White’s visions. They had been worked out by Joseph Bates before she had much influence.

Marcus said at one point, “It sounds like Adventists don’t look forward to the second coming.” “Right,” she responded. What? The key point of Adventism is in fact its joyful expectation of the second coming!

She said that Adventists don’t eat pork or shellfish because of Leviticus—and then added, as an additional point, that they also have a health message. That’s getting the cart before the horse. Adventists have a health message, and it is because of the health message that they see that the Levitical laws may have had a practical side to them (see the very good chapter on this point in Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine). Marcus suggested that this makes it sound as if Adventists pick and choose what they want from the Old Testament—take tithing, Sabbath, diet, but not the rest. Well, the New Testament does affirm that some of the Old Testament laws have relevance to Christians and some do not; all Christians acknowledge this, though they differ in identifying those things that remain relevant.

“It all comes down to Ellen White, the prophetess. They claim to be Biblical based … but they see it through the lens of Ellen White.” That wasn’t her position, but it has been a perspective adopted by some Adventists.

“Hiram Edson quote, had a vision.” He never claimed that. He had an insight, based on the Scriptures they had been studying.

Millerites weren’t Sabbatarian—that was “Ellen White’s slant.” No, she was one of those who came to see that the Sabbath was still binding from study of Scripture.

Adventists have an educational system that is “slanted to indoctrinate children into what they believe.” Can’t that be said about the Catholic educational system? Or the Lutheran? Isn’t that why any church establishes schools?

Marcus asked “Is it true you have to go to their universities?” “Yes,” she quickly replied. Perhaps she just didn’t hear the question. Adventists don’t have to go to Adventist schools at any level (though once upon a time Catholics had to go to Catholic schools). For some reason Marcus said, of Adventist colleges, “I don’t want to name them.” Why not?

“A lot of Adventists are just cultural Adventists. They haven’t really been out in the world to have any of what they believe challenged. They just accept it as true.” Few Adventists, if any, live in Adventist communities, and even those are challenged by non-Adventists and fellow Adventists.

What made her decide to leave? Ultimately, it seems to come down to this: “I saw some hypocrisy through the years.” Guess what? She’ll find it in Catholicism, too!

She said, “I got involved in the pro-life movement, and I was told I was a rebel, because the SDA church is, at is core, pro-choice.” She seems genuinely confused on this point (despite being head of Adventists for Life at one point), because she then says Adventists “are on the fence,” and even that “most Adventists are pro-life.” So which is it?

The core of her frustration seems to come from the fact that she was invited to be on a committee that drafted abortion guidelines for the church, and, under pressure from some institutions, the final document was wishy-washy. That says more about a church’s bureaucracy than its core commitments, I think. She said Adventist hospitals don’t have to follow the guidelines, and so do abortions. She may be surprised when she learns that Catholic hospitals and colleges don’t always follow Catholic guidelines, either. Still, I grieve with her regarding this experience, and that her passion and compassion for the unborn ran into the brick wall of denominational politics and institutional inertia.

She suggested that Adventists believe that as long as you go to church on Saturday, nothing else matters. I’ve never met Adventists who believed that.

Following her disillusionment resulting from her committee experience, she and her husband came to the conclusion, “This is just so wrong, we have to leave.” They started visiting other churches through her husband’s travels.

Looking back at Adventism, she expresses surprise that Adventists see the church as quickly falling into apostasy. “Somehow in that one generation they got it all messed up.” It wasn’t just one generation, but Paul saw the spirit of antichrist at work in his day, and confronted many false teachers.

She said Adventists are Trinitarian. Marcus responded that the “Trinity isn’t Biblical,” and wondered what they based it on. Marcus must have misspoken. Surely he was taught the Biblical basis for the Trinity as a Presbyterian!

She muddled things a  bit when she said Adventists teach that Michael the archangel is Jesus, comparing Adventists to Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Big difference. These latter denominations believe that Jesus had a beginning, and thus is not eternal. Adventists understand that angel comes from the word for messenger, and that it is the eternally preexistent Son of God who is the commander of the heavenly hosts. Again, see QOD.

At one point Marcus said he had a former guest on the program who was an Adventist, became a Catholic, and eventually went back. I wasn’t on the program (but was in the book), but it seemed pretty clear he was alluding to me. He was gracious about it. He suggested I was “Discouraged by what he found in the church.” “He saw all the flaws in Adventism.” Why did I go back? He thinks it had more to do with fellowship, and the pull of friends and family still mourning for me. Certainly those things were all pulls, though there were doctrinal issues as well. But I thank Marcus for his continued graciousness and kindness.

8 thoughts on “Teresa Beem on “Journeys Home”

  1. Thanks for your review. It was excellent and fair. Teresa’s enthusiaism seems to exceed her grasp of the issues, or at least the concern to fairly and accurately present what Adventism thinks.
    That said, it makes me more conscious of how Adventists often fail in this regard when speaking of other faiths.
    I can understand it when a non-scholar or lay person mistates or misunderstands another faith (even their previous one) but it is more concerning when Evangelists do so.
    Not sure how this can be fixed.
    In Teresa’s case, the distortions of Adventism that she presents are probably based in some actual experiences with Adventists, but what strikes me is that everything about Adventism seems to now need to have a negative spin.
    Reminds me of Adventists who cannot see the good (along with the bad) in Christian tradition and history.
    I think you need to write a book Bill about your journey, with a view to set forth more accurately the Adventist-Protestant-Catholic connection. I say this because you can write sympathetically to the Lutheran and Catholic perspectives and as an ‘insider.’

  2. Exceptional insight, Bill. You write with grace, sympathy, and clarity. Teresa seems to have never understood the core theme of the Great Controversy that not only explains why churches are theologically muddled and how God plans to end the cosmic struggle. Help her out, Bill. Cheers, Herb

  3. Bill,

    You wrote, “once upon a time Catholics had to go to Catholic schools.”

    Actually, Catholics are still obligated under Canon Law to send their children to Catholic schools, if possible.

    Canon 798 states, “Parents are to send their children to those schools which will provide for their catholic education. If they cannot do this, they are bound to ensure the proper catholic education of their children outside the school.”

    In the past most Catholic pastors frequently let their flocks know of this obligation. Today hardly any mention it.

  4. Although Teresa was raised as an Adventist, sounds like she only knew about Adventism from the surface… and with a distorted understanding of it.

    Sad to say, many Adventist Christians are like that. We’re just in the surface. That’s a calling to us all, to search within the very depths of our hearts and with study and prayer ask ourselves: “Why am I a Seventh-day Adventist Christian?”

  5. Though I might drop a note and let you know that I am very happy to answer any questions you might have about my exiting Adventism and entering the Catholic faith.

    I would like to add a comment about some of the posts. I actually know Adventist doctrines extremely well. I studied them for sixteen years in school and then in taught in Sabbath schools and was well acquainted with White’s writings. I was even studying to do a series of books on the Adventist pioneers in the 1980’s and did a tremendous amount of research.

    I think if you’ll purchase our book on Amazon.com you will discover just how thoroughly I know SDA doctrine and why I left. I have no bad feelings though, 95% of my family and friends are still SDA and we are close and I love them to death!

    God bless you all,
    Teresa Beem

  6. I want to thank the owner of this website for his blog on Teresa Beem’s interview on TV. I did not see it, however, I was given her book “It’s OK Not To Be an SDA” by a dear friend who was trying to lure me away from the SDA church. I am amazed at the Beems’ lack of knowledge and understanding of Scripture. I hope to write a brief review of that book on Amazon.com soon as well. I have a difficult time believing they studied the SDA doctrines for 16 years given the tripe they wrote.

    A bitter tone permeates the book and helps lend to the lack of credibility. The first part is devoted to painting Ellen White as fraud – no problem for me since I don’t need her writings to support what I believe as a Christian and SDA. The second part attempts to explain away the Sabbath. One of her theories is that the 10 commandments were done away with at the cross. Interesting that, according to her post, they have joined the Catholic church. I’m no expert on Catholic beliefs, but I think even the Catholics believe the 10 commandments are still “in force”. They just have the authority to change them. I wonder how that fits with their “theology” along with idolatry and other issues with Catholicism.

    If you’re looking for substance and a fair look at the SDA church, don’t waste your money and time on this book.

    I really feel sorry for these people. It seems they were focused more on the rules and people in the SDA church than on God and His word.

    God bless

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