Archive for October, 2006


Organizational Restructuring

October 31, 2006

At the moment there is quite a lot of discussion about restructuring the SDA church. Sherman Cox II has two posts on his Adventist Pulpit blog. The first points readers to two articles by Harold Lee on the Adventist Review website: Church Structure in 2025 and Proposals for Structural Change. (Lee’s first article is reprinted in edited–shortened–form on the Re-Inventing the Adventist Wheel blog here.) Cox’s second post points to the website of the GC Commission on Ministries, Services, and Structures. The commission was set up following an action of the GC Annual Council on October 11, 2005 and held its first meeting on April 11, 2006. The commission’s website has a number of interesting documents available, including one by George Knight entitled Organized for Mission: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Organizational Structures. Other good sources on the historical development of the SDA Church’s organizational structure include:

For a succinct overview of how the GC administration sees the SDA Church’s structure and governance, see this press-release created for the 2005 session.

For a radical reinvention of the Adventist Church (essentially a congregationalist approach) see Mission Catalyst’s website and blog. Blog the Future has a number of posts commenting on Mission Catalyst, church growth, and church organization and administration issues. Unfortunately it’s not currently being updated.

It will be interesting to see the outcomes of these meetings–will the SDA Church actually manage to make the necessary structural and organizational changes necessary if we are to efficiently work and survive in the 21st Century?

Change is never easy and likely to be quite painful. Even the SDA Church;’s early formation as a denomination faced serious opposition:

In 1844, the Millerite George Storrs expressed the position of many when he stated that “no church can be organized by man’s invention but that it becomes Babylon the moment it is organized.” (The Midnight Cry, February 15, 1844, 238.)


Richard Moko

October 30, 2006

Richard MokoRichard Moko was a Xhosa who was the first Black ordained SDA minister in South Africa. Unfortunately, very little is known about his life and work–and some of what little information there is–is conflcting. He may have been a minister in the Congregational Church previously. Moko was baptised in the Kimberley in 1895 and granted a licence to preach in 1897. He worked mainly in the Eastern Cape at King William Town, East London, and various rural areas. He wrote the first tract that the SDA church in South Africa published—in 1895—in an African language (Xhosa).

There is a good article by Keith Tankard about one of Moko’s experiences as an evangelist online: Richard Moko: The Very Strange Case of an African Missionary.

The only other online information that I’m aware of is a copy of Moko’s entry in the SDA Encyclopedia which has been made available through the online Dictionary of African Christian Biography project here.

I scanned the above picture from the June 15, 1971 edition of the Trans-Africa Divison Outlook –apologies for its poor quality–I have not been able to find an original copy of the photo. Strangely enough, the article itself: “Journey into Yesterday: Our History–8” by Jean Cripps, p5-8; contains no information on Moko at all–despite the presence of his picture! A group picture taken c. 1907 of SDA Church workers in South Africa includes Moko. The picture is published February 15, 1971 edition of the Trans-Africa Divison Outlook across pages 6&7 in the article: “Napoleonic Wars Enrich Africa: Our History–4” by Jean Cripps, p5-8; but again no mention is made of Moko in the text.

J. B. Cooks “Richard Moko—First Indigenous Minister of our Church in South Africa”; (A 2 page paper available from the Adventist Heritage Centre at Helderberg College.) contains some information, though I’m not convinced of the correctness of much of its content.


Bradford’s More Than A Prophet

October 27, 2006

Graeme Bradford’s latest book More Than A Prophet has caused quite a stir. The Ellen G. White Estate itself has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a notice about its “strong concerns” regarding the book.

Bradford has replied to their statement here. (I’m grateful to the Adventist History blog for the heads-up regarding Bradford’s reply.

I confess that I have not yet read Bradford’s book yet, though I appreciated his two previous books: Prophets are Human and People Are Human. (Prophets are Human was in fact, one of the assigned readings for the Ministry and Message of Ellen G. White class that I taught this year.)

In the area of Ellen White studies I’d also like to recommend:

Alden Thompson‘s book: Escape From the Flames: how Ellen White grew from fear to joy and helped me do it also. (Pacific Press, 2005)

David Hamstra has an interview with Thompson about his book on his now inactive blog apokalupto.

George Knight’s four books: Reading Ellen White; Meeting Ellen White; Walking With Ellen White, & Ellen White’s World.

There was a conference held in the US last year: the Ellen White Summit 2005 & the audio & video recordings are available for download. Particularly worth listening too is the final Q&A session.


Sources for Adventist History #1

October 26, 2006

Thought I’d post some of my favourite sources for Adventist History that are available on the web. Some are well known, some are more obscure. I’d appreciate any suggestions from readers.

Adventist Archives: Contains online issues of Adventist Heritage magazine (no longer being published unfortunately; note too that 16:3 is not available, 16:2 is incorrectly linked in its place); Isaac Wellcome’s History of the Second Advent Message; and the Millerite periodcal The Midnight Cry (Vol. 1–1842); and other sources. Some files are in .pdf, others as Deja Vu files.

The Jenks Memorial Collection at Aurora University (Aurora was started by the Advent Christian Church, also a denomination arising out of the Millerites.) is the premier repository for information on William Miller. However, it does not (unfortunately) have a lot of material available online. They do however have pictures of some of their collection of Prophecy Charts which make interesting viewing.

A short illustrated article on Millerite art can be found here. It is hosted by Cornerstone Magazine.

Historical Documents on Command (H-DOC) is a great collection of documents hosted by Oakwood College. It is particularly focussed on Black Adventist History.

The Willard Library has a large online collection of historical photos of that Adventist stronghold–Battle Creek.

The GC Archives has a magnificent & ever-expanding collection of materials available online. It is fantastic that they have lead the way in this area, making historical documents available to researchers like myself in the more far-flung parts of the globe!

The Journal of Pacific Adventist History has some of its issues available online here. The quality of articles in quite variable, but it is a valuable resource on the history of the SDA Church in the South Pacific.

A brief survey article by Kathy Mandusic McDonnell on the Medicine of Jacksonian America makes interesting reading.


The Israel Dammon Trial

October 24, 2006

Recently Wayne commented:
“I have been scratching around and have come across references to the Israel Dammon trial, and his connection to Ellen Harmon and James White. We did not cover this in the class I did in EG White some years ago, and am wondering what to make of it?”

Well I confess that I didn’t cover this topic in either of the classes I taught in this area this year: (SDA History & Heritage & Ministry & Message of Ellen G. White). I certainly don’t feel that I glossed over any difficult areas–I covered everything from racism in the SDA Church to Ellen White & masturbation–but you simply can’t fit every single thing in a course & the Israel Dammon trial was one thing that I did leave out.

For those who haven’t heard, information about this incident was uncovered by an ex-Adventist–Bruce Weaver, & was ultimately published in the now defunct Adventist Currents, 3:1, 1988. (If anyone has access to a complete set of these magazines , let me know, I’d love to turn them into .pdfs and make them available online, they were a response to a very important period of SDA history: the Glacier View meeting & aftermath, & have some interesting information not available elesewhere.) Weaver’s story is available on the web in a number of places, including (a non-official website).

A parallel account–and apparently an earlier one (though Weaver says that he wrote his in 1986-87)–was published in Spectrum 17:5 (1987). Spectrum published two articles: a reprint of the original account from the Piscataquis Farmer (Dover, Maine) March 7, 1845, (See here for information on the paper’s history & publication.) and a commentary and discussion by 5 SDA historians: Jonathan Butler, Ronald Graybill, Frederick Hoyt, and Rennie Schoepflin. According to Spectrum’s account, the document (the Piscataquis Farmer article) was discovered by Frederick Hoyt in about 1984, however he did not share his find until 1987.

The SDA Church’s official response (via the EGW Estate) can be found here. They make the very valid point that “none of the witnesses in the record of Israel Dammon’s trial allege any fanatical activity by 17-year-old Ellen Harmon.”

It should also be noted that Ellen White does make brief mention of some of the events in Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, pp. 40-42. (Available online here.) Much has been made by some concerning differences between White’s account & the Piscataquis Farmer article. See here. Judge for yourself how important many of these “contradictions” are. (Such accounts always seem to assume that the Piscataquis Farmer‘s account is 100% accurate.)

Contemporary historians generally recognize that at least part of the early Adventist Church was heavily involved in what we could call “enthusiastic religion”, and that the Dammon incident should be seen in that light.

Arthur Patrick has a helpful article: “Early Adventist Worship, Ellen White and the Holy Spirit: Preliminary Historical Perspectives” published online on the At Issue website.

Spectrum has published a review entitled “The Shouting Ellen White“, a review by A. Gregory Schneider of Ann Taves’ book: Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); which is helpful if you don’t have access to Taves’ book itself.

Spectrum also published an article by Frederick Hoyt: “‘We Lifted Up Our Voices Like a Trumpet’: Millerites in Portland, Maine” 17:5 (1987), p15-22; which gives some helpful background.

Another useful article–though only available online through JSTOR (most colleges & universities will have access) is Jonathan M. Butler, “Prophecy, Gender, and Culture: Ellen Gould Harmon (White) and the Roots of Seventh-Day Adventism.” Religion and American Culture 1:1 (1991): 3-29.

A final interesting reference on enthusiastic religion generally (focussing on Western New York) is Saints, Sinners and Reformers: The Burned-Over District Re-Visited by John H. Martin.

Gregory A. Schneider concludes his aforementioned review with the following words:
“Adventists informed by critical historical study of their community are as much a part of the making of Adventism as those who would demonize such study. They may use their broader, deeper knowledge of the Adventist story to help form a spirit in self and community that is in turn broader, deeper, and, we may hope, less defensive. Less defensive because our critical knowledge, if acquired and used in faith, lets us understand that our Adventist community is but one of those “earthen vessels” into which our Savior is pouring grace and favor for the world’s salvation.”

To Schneider’s statement I’d add two more quotes:
“When studying certain phases of history, particularly with reference to our movement, some fear that our faith might be weakened. Some fear that an intensive study of certain records and documents might change our viewpoint of the truth. Some are being discouraged to study too closely certain chapters of history lest they discover disquieting facts. But if truth cannot stand the test of historical research, then it is not truth. Our cause has nothing to hide, and nothing ought to be hidden from our cause. There must be a loyal and complete study of all available material.” Daniel Walther, “How Shall We Study History?” Ministry August 1939, 12.

and finally:
“In reviewing our past history…I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as our leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has lead us and his teaching in our past history.” Ellen G. White, Life Sketches, 196.

History IS important!


Adventism in Africa: Varieties in a Religious Movement

October 23, 2006

I am excited to be a part of a book project on Adventism in Africa. The book is to be co-edited by Stefan Hoschele of Friedensau Adventist University and Nehemiah Nyaundi of the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. It will be part of the Adventistica series published by the Archives of Adventist History, Friedensau, with Peter Lang Publishers. The project has a homepage with more information. We are also collaborating to assemble a comprehensive database on Adventism in Africa which will be available online. If you are aware of significant works–particularly unpublished theses and other papers–that could be included, please let me know.

Stefan Hoschele has a book available on the historical development of Adventist missions: From the End of the World to the Ends of the Earth: The Development of Seventh-Day Adventist Missiology,
(Nurnberg: Verlag fur Theologie und Religionswissenschaft, 2004).

I have not seen a copy yet, but I hope to get my hands on one soon. You can order a copy from Stefan:


Speed Dating?

October 20, 2006

It’s a little off the main thrust of this blog but I was intrigued by the concept & figured it merited a mention.

A group called SoulConnexion in the UK is offering “speed dating” for prospective members:

“SoulConnexion is a new and wonderful opportunity to meet with people from ten differing Christian churches in the Swindon area to explore whether a relationship with one of them might suit you.
Ten different church communities each express their Christianity in ten different ways.
Why not give all of them the once over?
Their differences can make a difference to your life!”

I have no idea if there’s an SDA church in Swindon, but I’m pretty sure that even if there was, they wouldn’t be participating. After all, we’re the remnant–not just an alternative!

The whole idea raises the issue of what would induce someone to visit a church in the first place–Exactly how great a role does the pastor play in the first place?

If you were a pastor involved in a similar event, what would you say or do in your five minutes?

The event takes place today; it will be interesting to see what the outcome is–and if SoulConnexion lets us know!
Thank to the Religion Blog Digest for the heads-up.