General Assembly of Free Seventh Day Adventists

Galatians 5:1   Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                        

 

 

                                                                  John W. Manns

                                                Founder of the Organization formed in 1912

 

Historical Background:

John W. Manns was a well-known and powerful evangelist. He was influential in organizing an establishing churches for the General Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist.

 

John Manns pioneered the Seventh-day Adventist work among African-Americans in Florida and Georgia.  Anna Knight felt that he was the most effective preacher among African-American ministers.  Others said he possessed extraordinary natural leadership gifts.[1]

 

The History of the Atlanta Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church goes back to 1903 when a small company of believers, led by Sis. Anna Knight, was organized into a church.

Services were held in the home of one of the believers until a building was purchased on Greensferry Avenue and named Second Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Elder G.E. Peters organized the First Mission School in 1906 and Sis. Anna Knight was the first teacher.

Elder W.H. Sebastian served as the first pastor, assisted by Elder M.C. Strachan.  Elder
John Manns became the new pastor when Elder Sebastian was reassigned. [2]

 

The History of  Mt. Calvary Seventh Day Adventist Church

 

Although the records of that period are sketchy, we have established that Elder John Manns came to Tampa in 1906 and conducted a tent crusade. 

Elder Manns was assisted by Brother Thomas Furman, an African American who had become a Seventh-day Adventist in 1896 through the effort of a white brother in Bartow.  Elder Mann and members of the Furman family organized the first Sabbath School in the Furman’s living room.
 
Elder Manns served as Superintendent and Carrie Furman was the secretary. [3]

 

The History of  Mt. Sinai Seventh Day Adventist Church

It was July 29, 1899, at 10:00 AM that the small company of believers here in Orlando was organized as a Seventh-day Adventist Church. The place of worship was a small house located on the corner of Bryant and South Streets. It was the first Adventist Church for people of color. For 4 years and 9 months this congregation remained as an organized church body. On April 3, 1904, this assemblage was disbanded and it was a year and 3 months before they were organized again. Very little is known about the “whys” of this disbanding. Old minutes from that era simply reflect that this action did indeed take place.

For whatever the reason, God in His infinite wisdom, did not allow the story to end here. On Friday, July 14, 1905, at 3:00 PM, this company of believers, 32 members strong, was again organized as the Second Seventh-day Adventist Church of Orlando, FL. In this same year, the church was relocated to the 200 block of Robinson Street between Hughey and Garland Avenues. It was on this property, and at the great sacrifice of this congregation, that the first Seventh-day Adventist Church for people of color was erected. Interstate 4 now occupies this location.

During the formative years of this congregation, 1899 to 1920, there was no salaried Pastor. Despite this fact, this congregation prospered under the successful lay efforts of Elder Frederick Russell Lester, (father of the late Fred Lester). Others who served this congregation included dedicated laymen like Anna Thomas, Lura Simmons, Ramos Little, Agnes Harris, John & Mary Horton, Helen Maynor, (mother of Louise Maynor-Teamer), Joseph & Ruby McAllister, Jesse Warnock, and I.T. Winston, just to name a few.

Pastors from the Caucasian conference as well as retired ministers who lived in the area worked with the lay leaders to assist this newly organized company. Persons like Elder
John Manns, Elder Wetsell, Elder Critchelow, Elder F.H. Stevens, Elder M.C. Strachan, Elder L.R. Hastings, Elder Charles Boyd, Elder A.J. Bailey and Elder W.H. Maynor (father of Louise Maynor-Teamer); all made significant contributions to this church during the early years of its development. During Elder Boyd’s leadership, Evelyn Mann was baptized. At the time of her baptism, she was a very young child. Today, she is the last remaining member of the original Mt. Sinai fellowship before it became an organized company with a salaried minister. [4]

Why did John W. Manns separate from the General Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist,  and organize  the General Assembly of Free Seventh Day Adventist?

 

John Manns often quoted the following statement of Mrs. E.G. White as pinpointing the underlying cause for why his organization began: 

"Laws and rules are being made at the centers of the work that will soon be broken into atoms. Men are not to dictate.. It is not for those in places of authority to employ all their powers to sustain some while others are cast down, ignored, forsaken, and left to perish. None are to exercise their human authority to bind the mind and souls of their fellow men...If the cords are drawn much tighter, if the rules are made much finer, if men continue to bind their fellow laborers closer and closer to the commandments of men, many will be stirred by the Spirit of God (not the spirit of apostasy) to break every shackle and assert their liberty in Christ Jesus" Church Order and Discipline page 154
 
It all began with one of the greatest "colored" evangelists in Seventh-day Adventism-Evangelist John Manns, who decided to assert his "liberty in Christ Jesus". Thousands were baptized, and nearly 120 churches formed under the name of  "Free Seventh-day Adventists".  These churches were raised up in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. 

"John Manns pioneered the Seventh-day Adventist work among African-Americans in Florida and Georgia. Anna Knight felt that he was the most effective preacher among African-American ministers. Others said he possessed extraordinary natural leadership gifts. By 1917 Manns had left the Seventh-day Adventist Church to establish the Free Seventh-day Adventist Denomination. At the second biennial session of the church, held at the Bethel Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Savannah, Georgia, January 2 l-23, 1921, Manns published, in strident language, his reasons for the founding of a new denomination, all of which seemed to be racial. He stood firm in his assertion that it was “because bigoted White leaders among Seventh-day Adventists have failed to consider the necessity of such vital changes, but have fixed a permanent bar against the Negro leadership of the organization.” Manns’s dispute was social and organizational." [5]

"Adventist workers, especially those who passed through Oakwood College, began to disperse all across this country and the world. Black preachers, blessed with the gifts of eloquence and imagery and substance, clearly defined the Adventist message with simplicity and power. Thank God, the message He has given us to preach comes interwoven throughout with power. It just needs “preaching” and “living,” and God’s Black Adventist servants were qualified by the Holy Spirit to do both. Across the land a host of Christian soldiers preached with power: P. G. Rodgers, Benjamin Abney, Napoleon Smith, W. H. Green,
John and Charles Manns, George E. Peters, F. L. Peterson, M. C. Strachan, L. C. Sheafe, J. K. Humphrey, R. L. Bradford, C. F. Phipps, Louis Bland, J. E. Cox, Sr., J. H. Laurence, U. S. Willis, T. M. Rowe, A. E. Webb, H. W. Kibble, R. E. Warnick, H. R. Murphy,

W. W. Fordham, and others."  [6] 

Former South Central Conference President and trailblazer, Elder Charles Dudley refers to the Manns brothers, in his widely acclaimed volume,
"Thou Who Has Brought us Thus Far On Our Way".

Elder Dudley quotes in his book a testimony by a southern pioneer Pastor N. B. Smith Sr.

"John W. Manns was from Savannah Georgia, who had been a baptist minister when the truth came to him. He accepted the teachings of Adventism and brought his congregation along with him. Among those families who are still with the church are the Lewises, Lesters and Phipps who are strong members and some of whom serve in the organized work today."

"The Manns brothers-John, Charles and Lewis-worked very hard to build up the work in that part of the Southland, but when the work began to grow and needs for help and housing began to multiply, requests were made to the leaders of the organization only to be ignored. John W. Manns showed a great concern that all of the presidents were all White and no opportunities were granted to the Colored to lead even their own people in a wider experience in the building of the work. All of the funds were being sent to the conference but little if any was being returned to strengthen the work in the Black community. Manns was a very strong influential man who sought better relationship between the races. At that time Manns had the largest congregations in the South in Savannah. After making many appeals to the leaders for help with caring for the needs of his people, he became discouraged and severed himself from the Seventh-day Adventist body, although he still held to the biblical teachings of the church"

"Elder Manns' organization existed side by side with the regular adventist organization and used Adventist literature and established a paper on his own...after his death the group disintegrated. They called themselves

“Free Seventh-day Adventists". [7]  Says Dudley,"In 1970 there were still remnants of the Manns movement in New York, Chicago, and Omaha." ibid.

 

At the turn of the century, Elder John Manns and his brother, Charles, outstanding evangelists whom the Lord used to bring hundreds into the faith, questioned why so much money was being given by Black people and very little returned to help the work among them.  He was reprimanded by the leaders. Subsequently, he withdrew from the organized work and began setting up his own churches in South Georgia and Northern Florida.  He named his group the “Free Seventh-day Adventist Church.” He carried hundred of members with him when he withdrew, and scorned those who did not join with him by accusing them of still being in slavery. [8]


“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

 

"We stand upon the principle advocated by our Father Abraham. When he saw that other methods had failed, he said: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen, for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee: Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right, then I will go on the left." Gen. 13:8-9 Thus, for what seemed to Abraham to be good for the two, he and Lot, though brethren separated.

 

Paul and Barnabas, not withstanding they were both chosen of God, they separated, Barnabas taking Mark and sailed unto Cyprus, and Paul the great and Chief Apostle chose Silas and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God Acts 15:36-41 and in order to safeguard the interest of all concerned, at times, separations are of a necessity."  [9]

 

 

Sources:

1. Perspectives: Black Seventh Day Adventist and Church Loyalty, Elder Charles E. Bradford D. D., p. 16

2. www.atlantabereansda.org, About Us, Atlanta Church History

3. www.mtcalvarysda.org, Church History

4. www.mtsinaisda.net, Our History

5. Perspectives: Black Seventh Day Adventist and Church Loyalty, Elder Charles E. Bradford D.D., p. 16

6. Perspectives: Black Seventh Day Adventists and Public Evangelism, Elder Charles Brooks, p. 32

7. Dudley, Charles Edward Sr. "Thou Who Has Brought Us Thus Far On Our Way"-The Development of the Seventh day Adventist Denomination among African Americans. Book Three Volume Three. Edited by Tama Henley Curry. Dudley Publications, 2000 pp. 38-39

8. Dudley, Charles Edward Sr. “Thou Who Has Brought Us Thus Far On Our Way”-The Development of the Seventh day Adventist Denomination Among African-Americans. Book One Volume One, p. 135 

9. Why Free Seventh-day Adventists? p. 1, J. W. Manns.