Post 20, A Spotlight on Ellen White: 1980-2004

For some readers this will be an ultimately boring blog, but several readers want a follow-up from yesterday’s post about how I drifted into Ellen White Studies. Therefore, this piece outlines some of what I wrote during the 25 years from 1980 to the end of 2004. All these documents may be accessed in the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre at Avondale College; some are available on sdanet.org/atissue, and more are available on the compact discs that the Research Centre at Avondale produces, usually each year. Another blog will cover the material written between 2005 and the present.

Various long-standing bulwarks of traditional Adventism, under increasing assault from 1970, seemed within a decade to be crumbling as the “Noonday of Certitude” gave way to open controversy. I have profiled some of this process insofar as it relates to the life and writings of Ellen White in a paper entitled “From Certitude Through Controversy Toward Consensus: An Historical Perspective on Ellen White Studies Since 1950” (2003). A companion paper, “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice” (2003) offers a wider chronological perspective, whereas a more fully documented account is entitled “Reflections on Unfinished Business: Ellen White Studies in Historical Perspective” (2003). A further paper, delivered at a theological conference in February 2003, is entitled “Learning from Ellen White’s Perception and Use of Scripture: Toward an Adventist Hermeneutic for the Twenty-first Century.” At the Ellen White Summit on 5 February 2004, with the help of physicist Lynden Rogers as reader, I presented a paper entitled “Ellen White in South Pacific Adventism: Retrospect and Prospect,” noting again that until about 1970 Ellen White’s writings were assigned “a unique and growing status as the all-encompassing, definitive encyclopaedia of Adventist thought and practice,” whereas thereafter the church entered a period of controversy and (since about 1990) an era of growing consensus. After a brief, explanatory bibliography on pages 16 to 19, that paper offered a chronological list of over fifty of the documents that I wrote between 1980 and 2004. Of these, perhaps seven of the earlier pieces have prime importance: a paper “Ellen White in the Eighties,” 1980; an M.Litt. thesis, 1984; a Journal of Religious History article, 1987; a Ministry article, 1991; a Lucas article, 1991; a Ph.D. dissertation, 1992; an Adventist Heritage article, 1993.

It bears mention that a new phase of my engagement with Ellen White Studies began in 1997. At the time, as a visiting associate professor at La Sierra University in California, I was acutely disturbed by the way trusted colleagues throughout the Adventist world were either misunderstood or misrepresented by forthright presenters like Samuel Koranteng-Pipim. It appeared to me that a realistic appreciation of Ellen White’s spiritual gift might be a way to draw the church into more trustful fellowship and toward a better fulfilment of its mission; hence I delivered in San Francisco to the annual conference of the Adventist Society of Religious Studies a paper entitled “Re-Visioning the Role of Ellen White for Seventh-day Adventists Beyond 2000.” Fortunately, many members of the Adventist Theological Society were also present. Input or assessments from scores of thought leaders in Ellen White Studies, including Herbert Douglass and Kenneth Wood, was most helpful for my understanding. This discussion widened from North America to other parts of the world when sdanet.org/atissue placed a cluster of my papers on its website. The major 1997 presentation was updated at the request of Gary Chartier for inclusion in a symposium he hoped to edit from the Great Disappointment, Greater Hope lecture series that Paul Landa organised.

The documents cited above, especially those completed since 2002, may be read fruitfully in association with other presentations that offer brief comment upon or a context for the ongoing discussion. A paper entitled “Ellen White Yesterday and Today: Understanding and Affirming the Ministry of the Most Creative Sabbatarian Adventist” (2002) suggested why Ellen White is the Adventist transformationist par excellence. In reviews of books or dissertations by Douglas Morgan, Philip Jenkins, Rolf Poehler, Gary Land/Calvin Edwards, Merlin Burt, Michael Chamberlain, Bruce Manners, Alden Thompson and others I tried to portray issues important for Ellen White Studies within the context of 21st century Adventism. With the Ellen White Summit of 2004, the publication of a book by Graeme Bradford and the lively discussion following four interviews published in Record during February 2004, I felt the substance of my writings during the previous quarter century was either sufficiently understood or the issues were being taken care of effectively by others, as sugegsted in my report, “The Summit, the Book and the Record: Ellen White in the Ongoing Adventist Conversation” (2004).

By 2005, I wanted to more consistently apply Ellen White’s writings to the great themes of Seventh-day Adventism like, for instance, Christian education. I had begun that process with several presentations: “Does Ellen White Have a Crucial Testimony for Avondale in 1995?”; the Murdoch Memorial Lecture “Visioning and Re-Visioning Seventh-day Adventist Tertiary Education in Australia: A Centennial Assessment of Avondale College” (1997); “The Essence of Avondale: ‘A View from the Ridge’” (2003). I had also attempted a similar process with reference to the Holy Spirit (see the summation of that endeavour in two articles in Record, 4 December 1999) and in relation to the Adventist health message in a presentation entitled “Ellen Gould White: Pioneer of Adventist Health Emphases” (2004). It seemed appropriate to devote more energy toward fostering an inclusive concept of Adventist Studies as the major rubric within which Ellen White’s life and writings could best be interpreted and applied.

Arthur Patrick, 9 November 2011

Post 19, How I Drifted Into Adventist Studies/Ellen White Studies

Adventist Studies crucially informs the ongoing life and global witness of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As an academic discipline, Adventist Studies has experienced remarkable maturation during the past forty years. My perceptions of this development, derived from personal experience and research, need to be checked against the understandings of many others. However, the following somewhat autobiographical account may stimulate the memories or illumine the research of individuals who wish to understand Adventist Studies in general and Ellen White Studies in particular.

From 1970-72 as a graduate student at Andrews University, I took a deep interest in the scintillating lectures of Dr Mervyn Maxwell and in due course eagerly purchased the essence of Maxwell’s classroom presentations in the form of a popular book. However, I was simultaneously aware of quite different discussions in the corridors of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, especially about issues raised in a newly established journal offering fresh research by Adventist biblical scholars, theologians, historians and others. Covert conversations of the 1960s became public debates in the 1970s and explosive controversies in the 1980s. As a deepening sense of crisis enveloped Adventism, a sorting process began to occur as many members, teachers, ministers and administrators adopted one of three options: reversion, rejection or transformation.

A Bit of Historical Background Since 1944

In 1944, celebrations in the Avondale Village Church marking the first century of Sabbatarian Adventism fired my childish imagination, as did narratives of the interactions three of my grandparents had with Ellen Gould White (1827-1915) during the founding years of the Australasian Missionary College, now known as Avondale College of Higher Education. As a Theology student at Avondale (1954-7) my youthful interest in the study of Adventist history and thought was nurtured; soon thereafter it was galvanised by the controversy surrounding Robert Brinsmead and his colleagues. As a young pastor in South New Zealand, I found my congregations were encouraged and stabilised by the study of “the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”

The greatest problem of those years was finding adequate resources for effective research. Two of my guides at the time were Francis D. Nichol and LeRoy Edwin Froom, editors and authors based in Washington, D.C., whose oral discourses riveted my attention during their visits to Australia. R. A. Anderson’s guest lectures and his memorable book, The Shepherd Evangelist (1950) impacted my ministerial endeavours; the preaching of E. Lennard Minchin was an important stimulus for my spiritual life. Two Seminary Extension Schools (1957-8, 1965-6) intensified my engagement with Adventist heritage as I soaked up the lectures of (amongst others) Pastor Arthur L. White (Prophetic Guidance), Dr Edward Heppenstall (Law, Grace and the Covenants; Doctrine of the Sanctuary), Dr Desmond Ford (Biblical Eschatology), Dr Siegfried Horn (Biblical Archaeolgy).

At last, at Andrews University from 1970 to 1972, I delighted in access to the primary sources relating to Adventism generally and Ellen White’s life and writings particularly. The completion there of an M.A. in Systematic Theology and a Master of Divinity (Pastoral Ministry), building on earlier Seminary Extension Schools and other events, such as classes offered in Chicago by Dr Gottfried Oosterwal, made me confident in the integrity of Adventism yet aware of its maturing status. Since Andrews was not then accredited to offer doctoral studies, with the sage advice of the Seminary Dean, Dr W.G.C. Murdoch, I undertook a D.Min. (Biblical Studies, but including Clinical Pastoral Education) in Indianapolis at Christian Theological Seminary. So, by late 1973, I was back in Australia with a passion to evangelise an area of Sydney that had only one small Adventist congregation amongst a million people. However, after five days of residence in Sydney, I was appointed to Avondale College, the geographical location for my endeavours during the next eighteen years.

After a couple of years as a lecturer in the Department of Theology at Avondale, I was concurrently appointed curator (later the job title was changed to director) of the newly established Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre located on the Avondale campus but serving the Australasian Division (now called the South Pacific Division). This was a time of comparative peace in Australasian Adventism, following the tumult of the 1960s, despite new and vigorous debates that were escalating within the church. The issues raised in Spectrum from 1970, like the shock waves emanating from the Ronald L. Numbers volume Prophetess of Health (1976), were little known or felt in Australasia at the time, even though the approaches of such groups as the Concerned Brethren were eliciting a vigorous response from the Biblical Research Committee of which I was a member. However, by 1980, the researches of Numbers, Don McAdams, Jon Butler, Walter Rea, Ron Graybill, Desmond Ford and many others were becoming better known. During the early 1980s, I formed and tested the impression that my ministry and teaching, illumined by attendance at study conferences in Washington during 1978 and 1982, might best focus on the life and writings of Ellen White in the context of the history and thought of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This focus persisted after my employment changed in 1984 to academic administration and later to chaplaincy and other roles.

Therefore, between 1980 and 2004, well over a hundred items that I wrote (brief reports, book reviews, occasional lectures, magazine and journal articles, book chapters, a thesis, a dissertation, a book and such) principally relate to Ellen White and her symbiotic relationship with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In another blog I will offer an overview of some of the documents I wrote between 1980 and 2004. Later, in yet another blog, I’ll address the period from 2005 to the present.

Arthur Patrick, 8 November 2011

Post 18, Poetry and Religion: Josef Greig, Henry Lawson, John Donne and More

Graeme Sharrock epitomises something that is so good about the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Oh yes, he is passionate about “religion” in the widest sense. Or should that be faith? Or the “Divinity” that is implied in the name of “his” part of the University of Chicago? Or all of the above and much, much more?

For over a quarter-century Graeme has been a “people-helper” in Chicago, listening to human beings in distress and journeying with them in their search for meaning. But he is as omnivorous as the Divinity School: he is “into” literature, social science, photography, as well as theology, history, and poetry. Why mention Graeme Sharrock in a blog about Adventist Studies?

Because Graeme is well along in writing a PhD dissertation about Ellen White and her “testimonies.” How does this genre of writing resonate with American culture in the mid-nineteenth century? What form does it adopt and develop? To whom are the testimonies addressed? When I read his draft of a chapter on this theme for “The Ellen White Project” (see the earlier blog about that subject) I was thrilled by its insights. Now I hope that Graeme will let me read and review his dissertation on the testimonies, when it is complete.

But the real reason why I am hurrying off this blog on a glorious Spring morning is that in an e-mail just received from Graeme, he has alerted me (and others) to a website (http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2011/11/04/day-break-jabbok-talking-myself) that makes available some of the poetry written by Dr A. Josef Greig, not long retired as a professor of Old Testament at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Some of my readers will remember Joe as an insightful member of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies, as a writer of articles (not least in Spectrum), and as a teacher capable of thinking outside the square. During all the years that I have known Joe and cherished his biblical exegesis, I was unaware of his skill with poetry.

Anyway, I have just read Greig’s fourteen verses entitled “Day Break on the Jabbock: Talking to Myself.” It starts this way:

I am an old man now, beyond three score years 
and ten, if that counts for anything. Have I not 
entered the circle of the wise? I can take my hand 
off my mouth and speak. I have a history with God.
 The journey was first paternal, then stormy, 
at last seismic. The model that I first took 
for God was my earthly father. He was loving,
 dependable, fair, faithful, self-sacrificing, 
though not a professed believer; a difficult 
act for God to follow. I would not have been
 so disappointed had the roles been reversed.

The poem speaks to me because its author is a highly-skilled biblical scholar so, like the Book of Revelation, his verses are a mosaic that presents Scripture in a new and arresting way. There is a starkness about the lines that reminds one of Psalm 22, or the poetry of Dr John Knight of “Post Pressed” and universities in Queensland, Australia. Yet there is more. “Day Break on the Jabbock” refers to “The Latter Rain, “The Time of Trouble,” and numerous other terms known only to Adventists, or at least narrowly-defined by us.

Earlier this year I presented a sermon on the religious verse of Henry Lawson (1867-1922), an Australian balladist much loved by common people. Lawson’s life was an unmitigated disaster, but he could look into the souls of his fellows in ways that most others found impossible. Often Lawson is totally wrong theologically, but so “true” biblically. (Ever read Dr Gottfried Oosterwal on the significance of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ?) In his poem, “Saint Peter” Lawson declares:

When I reach the great head-station⎯Which is somewhere “off the track”⎯
I won’t want to talk with angels Who have never been Out Back;
They might bother me with offers Of a banjo⎯meanin’ well⎯
And a pair of wings to fly with, When I only want a spell.

Lawson’s desire to be understood is a powerful application of the biblical doctrine of the Incarnation. I admit a far greater depth in the sublime poetry of John Donne. There is, for instance, majestic meaning in his expression, “in his purple wrapped receive me Lord.” Or in his “A Hymn to God the Father.” We Adventists define the theology of such works-of-art as “Righteousness by Faith.”

So, thank God for Graeme Sharrock, Josef Greig, John Knight, Henry Lawson and Alexander Carpenter (who facilitated the posting of Greig’s poetry).

Arthur Patrick, 6 November 2011

Post 17, The Ordination of Women: Toward an Historical Perspective

With Adventist Review, Adventist Today and other official and unofficial news services reporting the recent General Conference and North American Division discussions about the role of women, we may need a tidy historical perspective. Thus I am posting this presentation that I made last year, in hope that it may provide useful background for the contemporary conversation.

F.D. Nichol contends that Seventh-day Adventism, as “a distinct religious body,” was born on the morning of 23 October 1844. If so, in 2011 we celebrated our 167th birthday. That is a long time for the church to fail to fully engage the spiritual gifts of the majority of the its membership in its life and mission. Put bluntly, of our 16 million members, about nine million are blocked from full participation in the affairs and witness of the church. We Adventists say only ordained persons are eligible for certain roles and, in the same breath, we acknowledge we do not officially ordain women as ministers.

On 28 June 2010, our lack of gender inclusiveness was expressed clearly during the Seventh Business Meeting of the Fifty-ninth General Conference session, by delegate, Jurrien den Hollander:

Mr Chairman, I appreciate the work of the Nomination Committee because it is a huge task to get all the work done. Yet with regard to the names that have been presented to us as a body, I have noticed something that worries me greatly. In past division officer groups that have been elected and approved by the body, there were few women. And now again I hear 16 names being mentioned, and it appears to me that 14 of the 16 persons are men.

I believe that in a church where 60 percent of the members are women, there should be a better representation of women in the leadership. This means, Mr Chairman, that if I should consider only this list, with 16 names, nine of them should be women. Therefore, Mr Chairman, I move to refer this list back to the Nominating Committee.

Jurrien den Hollander’s motion was lost but his concern is shared by large numbers of Adventists, especially those in several world divisions who asked (in vain) for the ordination of women to be an agenda item at the 2010 world session of the General Conference. On 29 June 2010, at the said session, an Adventist Today reporter noted that three women activists concerned with the issue of the ordination of women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) briefly hung a banner over the wall of a lower level of the arena during a session designed for SDA clergy. Evidently the banner read “The Greatest Want of the World is the Want of Men Who Still Stand for Right and Equality in Adventist Ministry Even If Negatively Impacted.” It stayed up approximately eight minutes before it was taken down voluntarily when a delegate asked the group to “take it down.”

Those close to the group said the banner was intended to call attention to the refusal of the church’s leadership to permit the issue of women’s ordination to be brought up during the General Conference Session. They have also pointed out that while the denomination was cofounded by a woman, Ellen G. White in the 1840s, women are not acknowledged as eligible for the church’s formal authorisation for full ministerial service.

Elizabeth Lechleitner, reporting the world session for the Adventist News Network, stated:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church July 2 committed itself to further study the biblical theology behind the practice of ordination. The action followed a specific request for an official survey of the matter during the just-concluded General Conference session, the highest governing body of the denomination. Delegate Ray Hartwell, president of the Pennsylvania Conference, called for a church-conducted reexamination of ordination from the floor of the Georgia Dome during the session. In comments to session delegates July 2, world church general vice president Michael L. Ryan said the session Steering Committee is “committed” to bringing a comprehensive report on ordination to a church business meeting within the next five years. The report is expected to survey the biblical motivation behind the model of ordination. Ryan said adequate time is needed to deliver a thoughtful, well-researched report with input from each region.

Therefore, it is evident the church we love and serve has problems with the status and role of women that have plagued it for a very long time. Fifty-two years ago, at the marriage altar, my cherished wife revealed her attitude when she promised to “love and honour” me, but refused to permit inclusion of a promise to “obey” me. It is time for millions of women and men to similarly make public their convictions about the vexed issue of womens’ rightful place in our community of faith.

How May We Understand the History of the Problem?

Adventists started rather well, remembering as they did a contested but significant level of participation by women as heralds of “the Advent near” within Millerism, between 1831 and 1844. Their attitudes were helped by the ministry and witness of Ellen Gould Harmon White, best known as a writer, but also a prolific speaker in every form of Adventist gathering from 1844 until near the time of her death in 1915. Of countless events that deserve mention from those seventy years, we shall notice only three.

Uriah Smith, the longest-serving editor of the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, wrote a telling statement about womens’ place in the church as early as 30 July 1861. Smith was clearly of similar mind to other pioneers like James White and J.N. Andrews.

The 1881 General Conference in session discussed with energy the role of women before it Resolved, that females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.

Near the end of the nineteenth-century in Australia, ministers such as William Clarence White, Ellen White’s son and most important interpreter, ordained women as deaconesses in the Sydney church at Ashfield. These practices seemed to accord with the growing clarity of Ellen White’s insistence that the spiritual gifts of women should be recognised with just wages, prayer, and the laying on of hands.

It seems to me that we might profile 167 years of Adventism along the following lines:

1844-1915: cautious inclusion of women in the life and witness of the church.

1915-1970: progressive exclusion of women from the life and witness of the church. Perhaps the patterns of the period from Ellen White’s death until the 1970s are best explained by two powerful realities: Adventism’s retreat into Fundamentalism and Americas’s idealisation of female subservience.

1970 to 2010: commendable study about the status and role of women but the continued partial exclusion of women from the life and witness of the church. We noted above some of the instances that highlighted this reality at the 2010 General Conference session.

Our understanding will potentially be enriched by the proposed study of ordination that is now under way, not least by evidence that may bring a deepened conviction that ordination is the church’s recognition of God’s spiritual gifts poured upon his children. The initiative is Divine, the recognition is human. If we could disentangle our Adventist thinking and doing from twenty centuries during which apostolic succession and sacramentalism were so much cherished by the Christian church, perhaps we would better perceive our sacred responsibility to recognise that when God pours out spiritual gifts upon His people, they are not gender specific.

Conclusion

It is my humble but considered opinion that since the 1970s, Adventists have well explored almost every biblical, historical, theological and sociological fact about the ordination of women. One of the finest of these explorations is reported in the volume Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives. Our church remains essentially at the same point as it was when Jennifer Knight and Gwen Wilkinson edited “Perspectives of Women in the Church: All We’re Meant to Be,” reporting the Namaroo Conference Centre discussion of 20 April 1986. Seventh-day Adventism has well maintained many aspects of its reformist stance, to do with slavery, health and education, for instance. One of its pressing duties is to fulfil the promise of its heritage and the implications of Scripture by the full inclusion of women in its life and witness–by ordination.

Arthur Patrick, summary of a presentation at the College Church Educational Event on the ordination of women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, co-sponsored by Sydney Adventist Forum, Ladies Chapel, Avondale College of Higher Education, 14 August 2010, edited and posted 5 November 2011

Post 16, The Adventist Concept of Mission: A Preliminary Overview

Adventists are a pilgrim people, journeying from the counterpart of Egypt to the real Canaan. On such a journey through a vast landscape, landmarks are essential. The Bible gives us the significant truths that meet this need.

Some years ago, I was one of a party of four that hiked in the Warrumbungle National Park where volcanoes and time have shaped fantastic mountains. Colourful names for various peaks reflect human perceptions and experience: Crater Bluff, Split Rock, Needle Mountain. And Mount Exmouth, reaching 1206 metres into the clear sky of New South Wales, beyond the Great Dividing Range.

Let’s press Mount Exmouth into service as a symbol of an Adventist teaching, the message of the First Angel. See Revelation, chapter 14, especially verses 6 and 7.

Even though it towers over other impressive tors like the Breadknife and Bluff Mountain, Exmouth cannot be seen from Blackman’s Camp. From that angle, other peaks hide Exmouth.

From part of the walking track Exmouth looks like a single, rounded mass of rock.

When at last we reached its crest, we found Exmouth is a small range with a number of rocky outcrops.

How similar is the “range” we call the First Angel’s message: proclaiming the everlasting gospel for earth-dwellers, announcing judgment in the present tense, calling for worship of the Creator. Each of these “outcrops” is an important truth; our spiritual journey is orientated by all of them.

But each aspect of this teaching has been viewed very differently from various vantage points during the sixteen decades of the Adventist journey. Let’s test that statement with respect to just one feature: the gospel, for everyone.

In 1845 when William Miller read in his King James Version about preaching “the everlasting gospel unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” he wrote: “We have done our work in warning sinners, and in trying to awake a formal church. God in his providence has shut the door; we can only stir one another up to be patient, and to be diligent in making our calling and election sure.”

No sense of continuing mission there!

When Uriah Smith read those same words in 1859, he wrote that the United States “is composed of people from almost every nation.” He mused that it may not be necessary, then, for Adventists to go everywhere preaching the gospel; and probably there wasn’t time for them to do so, anyway, because Jesus was coming so soon.

That was an improved but short-sighted concept of mission! Jesus declares in Matthew 24:14 (NIV) that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

The concept of mission that we cherish from Revelation 14:6-7 propelled earnest folk from North America to every continent, beginning with John Andrews and his two motherless children who went to Europe in 1874. By 1885, that message was moving Stephen Haskell and his ten companions past Samoa and Auckland to Melbourne, to begin their Australian mission.

By the 1950s some Adventists were beginning to ask whether our mission should target non-Christians more effectively. Rather than a main emphasis on re-converting believers, shouldn’t we go more intentionally to those who had never heard the name of Jesus? That line of thinking would help to develop research centres focused on how best to present Adventism to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and so on.

Late in the 1960s a fresh concept of mission was forming in the minds of people like Gottfried Oosterwal of Andrews University, formerly a pioneer missionary in what was called Dutch New Guinea. By the 1980s for Oosterwal and the church the necessity was clear, Adventists must consciously plan what is now named “Global Mission,” a way of reaching every people group within every nation. For instance, it will never do to tell the story of salvation to just Anglo-Saxon Australians: our Aborigines must hear the Good News, as must immigrants from India, China, Cambodia and everywhere else. God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.

The New International Version expresses the task of Adventist mission in unmistakable terms: the gospel must go to “every nation, tribe, language and people.” Currently Adventists are working over 200 of the geographical divisions of the world. The other countries are in their minds, as is every people group in every nation under heaven.

So much for a brief account of 160-plus years of Adventist mission. Of course, like Exmouth, the vital truths of the First Angel’s Message were there even when we failed to see them at all, or when we peered at some of them as through a dark glass. And as our vantage point changed, so did the substance of what we saw.

All of us need to take responsibility for understanding the truths of the Bible in the light of history. Ellen White’s memorable words reassure us: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history,” Life Sketches, page 196. One of the deepest problems Adventists face is that we can so easily forget what God has taught us so clearly in the past. That’s like paying for experience but failing to keep the receipt.

To summarise: the concept of world mission was crucial in Millerite Adventism. It was put on hold in the era of transition when Millerites were becoming Sabbatarian Adventists. After the theological foundation of the new movement was laid effectively, Seventh-day Adventists developed an understanding of their mission in several stages, matching the capacity of the movement to engage with an ever-enlarging task. Thus believers were challenged progressively to better perceive and implement the biblical ideal: God’s Good News is for everyone.

Undergraduate students study such conceptual change in classes focused on Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) history and the life and writings of Ellen White. Seminary or graduate students go into it all, in far greater depth, when they study the development of SDA theology. But all of us need to benefit from understanding how God has led Adventists during their pilgrimage. Not all of us can sit in college or seminary classrooms. But all of us can learn a lot about the essentials with the help of books, journals and magazines, plus valuable information we can access at the push of a computer button.

More later, when this website focuses further on the fascinating theme of mission.

Arthur Patrick, posted 3 November 2011

Post 13, “The Ellen White Project”

In a blog on this website dated 25 October 2011, I mentioned that “The Ellen White Project” editors intend to pass a book manuscript to a major academic publisher this month. This brief comment evoked questions from as far away as Russia, so in response I will seek to answer some of the main questions that are in my readers’ minds.

The manuscript hopes to provide a scholarly introduction to Ellen White in the context of American religious history. I feel deeply privileged to have been chosen as one of 21 chapter authors, in that I am an Australian. Oh yes, Joan and I have lived for almost eight years in such states as Illinois, Michigan and California, and I know many of the other authors personally. But the project looks at Ellen White as “an American prophet”; my special interests are illustrated by the content of my MLitt and PhD theses completed for Australian universities. In other words, Ellen White spent the years 1891-1900 in New Zealand and Australia; I am interested in her entire life (1827-1915), but I want to explore the 87 years with special reference to her nine years “Down Under.”

This American project is an exciting one in both conception and execution. The most controversial book ever published by our church came from the press in 1957, and a group of brave scholars decided that after almost fifty years it may be appropriate to try to understand the book and its reception. The result: a landmark conference at Andrews University marking the first fifty years of Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. I had long wanted to say what was in my paper; now my perspectives can be interpreted within the balancing opinions of the other presenters. All the papers are conveniently available on the Andrews University site: qod.andrews.edu. Why mention this project here? Because it encouraged the editors of The Ellen White Project to plan an exploration of Ellen White’s life and thought in a similarly open manner.

The way the editors followed through with their objective is impressive, to say the least. One of their early tasks was to define the project and select 21 authors to draft chapters. Then they selected two respondents to read each chapter: one an Adventist, the other a competent scholar in North American religious history from beyond the borders of our church. At the conference in Portland, Maine, held during October 2009, each author was given several minutes to profile their chapter (it was already in the hands of all the attendees) before the respondents delivered their assessment. Then the chapter and the responses were discussed in an open forum. After that, the editors and authors had almost two years of dialogue to refine the text ready for presentation to a major academic publisher.

I don’t need to go into more detail about all this, since blogs by both Adventist and non-Adventist participants are freely available on the Internet (Google “The Ellen White Project”). I sincerely believe that the book will meet its primary purpose, to introduce Ellen White to intelligent, non-Adventist readers.

During the turmoil of 1980, our Adventist co-founder was in the eye of a violent storm. I decided to enroll in a public university to write a thesis about her. I already had a couple of master degrees and a doctorate, but they were in areas like Systematic Theology, Ministry and Biblical Studies. Now I was starting again, in another discipline, history. So I had to attend undergraduate lectures and write papers in historical studies before I could even start graduate research. Then, one of the requirements at the time for the course I chose (MLitt) was for each student to present their project to a combined gathering of history lecturers and graduate students. That day stands out clearly in my memory. I was amazed at the level of interest that hard-nosed historians and graduate students had in Ellen Gould White.

I was under pressure in that first post-graduate degree in historical studies, in that a Distinction was required in order to gain entry into the PhD research that I wanted to undertake. Yesterday I had occasion to review my papers and articles that Bille Burdick has so efficiently placed on sdanet.org/atissue, between 1998 and 2009. It is obvious that in those pieces of writing I am trying to function as a believer who is also an historian.

That is why some readers are deeply upset with what I write. On one side, some want only expressions of faith. On the other side, some want only the perspectives of history. I have tried to offer both. I will, in due course review The Ellen White Project through both those lenses. That, I know, is unacceptable to some friends that I cherish, but I must be true to my convictions. Ellen White assures us that “we have nothing to fear” with reference to the future, except as we forget how the Lord has led and taught us in the past.

Arthur Patrick, 26 October 2011

Post 12, Understanding Daniel 8:14 and the Judgment

Click on these links to view the articles on “assumptions” relating to 1844 and the interpretation of Daniel 8:14:

Assumptions re 1844 AT version

Assumptions re 1844 Full Text

However did we keep abreast of the thinking of the worldwide Adventist family before the miracle of e-mail was invented? In my lifetime, there has been dynamic change from the mimeograph, ham radio and the photocopier to the wonders of the computer.

A friend from Africa wrote to me on 23 October 2011 (167 years after the dramatic morning of the Great Disappointment), in part: “I also meant to ask you about the response to your questions around the key assumptions on 44 and the IJ. I think you mentioned that you had several constructive responses?”

This friend, a scientist skilled in research, is a thorough and deeply committed Bible student. We have exchanged a lot of e-mails. In fact, one reason why I launched this modest website on 22 October 2011 is that I no longer have the time and health to engage in depth with the valid and interesting questions that are in the minds of “thinking believers” all over the world. A blog can offer responses to questions, posed by one friend, that are in the minds of thousands.

In his e-mail, my friend is reflecting on an earlier discussion about an article published by Adventist Today, in its Summer 2011 issue, entitled “The Assumptions of the Daniel and Revelation Committee in Defending 1844.” Here are a few facts that may help my readers assess the article.

First, the magazine Adventist Today (AT) is, in my view, acting responsibly in publishing this piece by a pastor who has long served the church⎯in parishes that include believers who hold a diversity of opinions about 1844 and the Investigative Judgment. The editor of AT is also an experienced pastor in full time employment; he edits the independent magazine AT as a volunteer. Incidentally, J. David Newman was for many years an esteemed editor of Ministry, the worldwide journal for pastors, founded in the 1920s by LeRoy Edwin Froom. To protect the identity of the “Assumptions” author, Newman assigned him the name “Roy Ingram”; hence the content of the piece can be evaluated without praise or blame being attached to the person who wrote it.

Second, since the early 1990s when it began publication, AT has constructively grasped quite a few Adventist nettles. It aims to bring “contemporary issues of importance to Adventist church members,” and to follow “the basic principles of ethics and canons of journalism,” as a publication that “strives for fairness, candor, and good taste.” I will on occasion refer to AT in the same respectful way I will refer to polar-opposite publications. In fact, I applaud the way in which AT includes authors that represent perspectives quite other than those held by the generous people who are on the Adventist Today Foundation. These dedicated Adventists make available to us all, free electronic access to a wealth of data, and access to the magazine itself at a price that almost anyone can afford. Check out the website: atoday.com.

Third, what should I do about the article that interests my friend in Africa? He is clearly interested in “constructive responses.” Yes, I have some significant ones already. A very well-informed scholar, before he read the article, cautioned that readers of “Assumptions” needed to be aware of the frank way in which competent scholars may express tentativeness. Often the people who know least about a given subject are loudest in proclaiming their certainties. God’s people walk by faith and, as we do so, we need to be humble in the way we express the church’s teachings. Another scholar who is known worldwide for his studies in the fields of systematic theology and ethics, carefully read Ingram’s article and commended the way it presented the evidence that supports its contentions. I would like to see an irenic, worldwide consideration of the basic idea that Ingram propounds. AT was not able to publish the long study on which Ingram spent years, so I have placed Ingram’s full text along with the shortened version above, so AT readers can click on either or both.

If Ingram’s basic thesis is sustained, we Adventists need to be gentler than some of us have been in our dealings with each other. We all need to thoroughly explore the long history of the interpretation of Daniel 8:14 in both Millerism and Sabbatarian Adventism. (Yes, I plan to post my short, documented history of that matter in the foreseeable future, to offer a bit of help to those who may not have ready access to all the crucial sources.) Ingram’s articles can alert us to the need to nurture those in the church who find it difficult to make all the leaps of faith that some us seem to find so easy to make.

That raises the important question of how evidence should be used to form and sustain faith. After the 1919 Bible Conference, the church pretty much decided that with reference to Ellen White, it could lay important pieces of evidence to one side. A magnificent tome, Ellen G. White and Her Critics (1951) illustrated the high point of that process. This month the editors of “The Ellen White Project” pass to an academic publisher the manuscript of a volume that offers the first scholarly introduction to the life and writings of Ellen White. If our lives are hid with Christ in God we will not fear fuller understandings of aspects of Adventist history and thought. “Present truth” was a vivid term that Ellen White cherished; we need to understand it and value it as we press forward with our contemporary mission.

Oops, I try to keep a blog like this around 750 words; this one is well over 900! So, more clarity in due course.

Arthur Patrick, 24 October 2011; edited 1 November 2011

Post 11, Primary Sources and Completed Research on the Internet

I received an e-mail yesterday from a hard-working teacher/administrator in an Australian high school. Garry frequently amazes me with the depth and the quality of his research into the context of early Sabbatarian Adventism.

Back in 1972, as a student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Michigan, I strained our fragile family budget to travel and stay close for just a few days to what was then Aurora College in Illinois (USA). It was thrilling, in my view, to be able to undertake research in the Jenks Collection there and read, for instance, the 800 letters that William Miller wrote or received. Not many years after that, the Advent Christians graciously allowed their marvelous collection of original sources to be given to the world in microform (see Gaustad, editor, The Rise of Adventism, 1974, and Hoornstra, editor, The Millerites and Early Adventists: An Index to the Microfilm Collections of Rare Books and Manuscripts, 1978). So anyone can now read these priceless documents in the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centres (and similar research entities) conveniently located in the various geographical regions of the world. What I am saying is that, in the past forty years, effective research is so much more possible for so many more people.

Of course, many people want research done for them and served up in convenient form on the Internet. Such people find it helpful to go to sdanet.org/atissue, the website expertly maintained for many years by Mrs Billie Burdick and her colleagues. Bille Burdick placed on that site the paper that I delivered in San Francisco at the 1987 annual meeting of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies. That gave me the benefit of comments from people in many different parts of the world. Subsequently, Bille added more of my articles and papers, as well as other studies about Elllen White by Bert Haloviak, Graeme Bradford, Robert Wolfgramm, Alden Thompson and others. Sometimes it is quicker for me to access one of my articles from sdanet than it is to walk three paces from my computer to a filing cabinet to access a printed copy. I deeply value the atissue site because it carries an array of research about Ellen White that is satisfying for enquiring minds. So the Internet is helpful for those who want to read completed research, and for those who want the primary source materials that are essential for effective research.

The value of the Internet is well illustrated by Garry, mentioned above. He has neither the funds nor the time to travel to the other side of the world to the seventeen archives that Merlin D. Burt visited, while researching his doctoral dissertation on early Adventism (completed 2002). Garry wants to do original research; he does not want the hard work in the area of his specialty to be done by someone else. Merlin Burt is now one of the valuable people who make original source materials available to diligent folks like Garry. Dr Burt and his staff do this at the Center for Adventist Research located on the campus of Andrews University and, increasingly, via the Internet.

But there is more. Last month Dr David Trim (introduced elsewhere on this website as Director of the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research at the church’s world headquarters) included a paragraph in an e-mail showing how the Information Age facilitates effective research:

The Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research maintains two websites that can help scholars of Adventist Studies: the AdventistArchives.org and AdventistStatistics.org. The former hosts historical documents, books, periodicals and some scholarly papers; the latter hosts historical (and current) statistics. The Archives of the General Conference house over 20,000 linear feet of records covering the entire history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Holdings include legal instruments, minutes, reference files, reports, correspondence, publications, recordings, films, video and audio tapes, and photographs. At present, minutes of several important committees are available online at www.adventistarchives.org/DocArchives.asp – but currently, most of the over 1.6 million pages of contents are drawn from periodicals. It makes available all the major SDA periodicals, at world, division and union level, in fully searchable form, downloadable in .djvu and/or .pdf. Other resources available include a number of books, all the SDA Yearbooks and Annual Statistical Reports, some early Millerite periodicals, several hundred photographs, and a range of Archives, Statistics, and Research research papers.

Arthur Patrick, 23 October 2011

Post 10, So it is October 22, again!

One of my cherished documents is a photocopy of Hiram Edson’s handwritten account of his experience in Millerism and early Sabbatarian Adventism. Edson’s narrative underlines the pervasive impact of his dark experience on 22 October 1844. When Dr Richard B. Ferret speaks, tomorrow, at Avondale College of Higher Education on “Doctrine or Deed: Ongoing Tensions in Adventism,” his stimulating message will be deliberately timed for the 167th anniversary of the Great Disappointment.

Rick’s doctoral thesis on the development of Adventism won a prestigious award from the Sydney College of Divinity in 2006; he now lectures in Avondale’s Faculty of Theology. Incidentally, his address will be available on a CD from the College Church Office, so that anyone, anywhere, can share the last of the six Educational Events planned for College Church members and their friends during 2011. Some of the readers of this website may like to scan an earlier report that I prepared at the time Rick finished his doctoral study, before he turned it into a scintillating book that was published in England (2008).

AFTER RICHARD FERRET: SHOULD ADVENTISTS BAPTIZE SOCIOLOGY, NOW?

The Millerites who embraced the practice of baptism by immersion did so with deep conviction and a sense of intense urgency, as when Charles Fitch immersed successive groups of believers on a single day shortly before 22 October 1844. For Adventists now, baptism not only recapitulates the death, burial and resurrection of Christ: it also incorporates the believer into a remnant community that cherishes boundaries completely unknown to Fitch. Baptism is an act of acceptance that usually follows an extended period of instruction and requires formal approval from a congregation, typically through its elders and church board. North American evangelists like Fordyce Detamore pioneered ways to prepare candidates for baptism during three-week campaigns; however, in some mission fields, converts have at times spent years in a “class ready” (to employ a term from Papua New Guinea) prior to immersion.

Historical studies, in a sense, began “instruction for baptism” into Adventism eight decades ago when Everett Dick enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. The quality of Dick’s research and the maturity of his conclusions indicate his dissertation was worthy of incorporatation without delay into the thought and life of the Adventist community. Eminent authors like Francis D. Nichol (1944) and LeRoy Edwin Froom (1954) used Dick’s dissertation but declined to mention it in their Review and Herald publications. After six decades, historian Gary Land wrote a Foreword and an extended Bibliographical Essay for Dick’s dissertation when Andrews University Press decided to publish it (1994). However, during the long wait for recognition, the church lost much of Dick’s potential—instead of Adventist history, he focused his historical skills on the American frontier.

Painful terminations and covert marginalisations of Adventist historians for alleged heresy marred the church’s record for more than a decade after 1975. However, even by 1978, constructive initiatives were evident, when Gary Land contended that the professionalisation of Adventist historiography was in process and when, in 1979, the first textbook for the study of Adventist history to be written by a trained historian came from Pacific Press. During 1983, Adventism in America: A History was edited by Land and published by Eerdmans, the only volume of a projected Studies in Adventist History series to see the light of day. By then the indefatiguable George Knight was getting equipped to write books at about the rate some scholars produce articles. Slowly and painfully, the discipline of Adventist history reached a level of acceptance that indicated its Adventist “baptism” was a recognized reality.

Sociology’s Turn for Instruction

Two early initiatives highlighting the value of sociology for Adventism came in the writings of North American Charles Teel (1980) and Fijian/Australian Robert Wolfgramm (1983). Ronald Lawson, trained in history and sociology, patiently conducted interviews with Adventists worldwide; some of the finest journals of their genre published his perspectives. Gregory Schneider’s sociological study of Methodism and his Spectrum articles on Adventism caused us to wish Schneider would apply his toolkit to the study of Adventism more fully. In Australia, building to some extent on pioneering research by John Knight at the University of Queensland, Harry Ballis and others employed sociology in their studies of Adventist ministry, education and publishing. Such master and doctoral studies indicate that sociological insights may at times be uncomfortable for the Adventist church but they may also be particularly instructive.

Enter Rick Ferret

For the past seven years Rick Ferret has juggled the demands of employment while undertaking a doctoral program with the Sydney College of Divinity (SCD). Early this year when Ferret completed his dissertation, the SCD appointed three examiners to assess it and provided them with fifteen criteria to apply in the process of evaluation. On Friday, 4 August 2006, the SCD advised Ferret that the reports were in hand: all three examiners rated Ferret’s work in Category A, accepting it as meeting the requirements for a PhD degree without change of argument or content. The comments of one typify the general tone of all: “the research is particularly thorough, academically responsible, historically accurate and complete, balanced, its conclusions credible, and expressed with a suitable academic precision.”

The two examiners in the United States and the one in Australia share long experience in higher education with particular expertise in history, theology and sociology; they were chosen by the SCD as matching well the historical substance of the dissertation, its theological content and its sociological orientation. Ferret’s title, “Charisma, Sectarianism and Institutionalisation: Identity Issues in Seventh-day Adventism,” developed from long years of struggle with the history of his church since 1844, including its teachings and its controversies. His bibliography (pages 384-416) indicates a thorough grasp of the diverse literature.

Ferret claims that “Seventh-day Adventism has proved immensely successful in terms of both evangelism and institutionalisation.” He also states:”The proliferation of SDA institutions throughout the world suggests, however, that Adventism remains embroiled in tensions between imminence and occupancy; between apocalyptic ideals and modern realities, between what it teaches and what it actually does (361-2).”

Light on the Dilemma

Ferret retains some of the patience and active listening skills fostered by his initial training as a nurse, to which he has added the insights of tertiary teacher, chaplain and pastor. To read his dissertation is to note the effective way that he incorporates published studies of Adventism like those of Rolf Pöhler (1999, 2001) and Douglas Morgan (2001). Pöhler’s dissertation at Andrews University investigated the nature, extent and direction of Adventist doctrinal developments in the light of the religious background of the church and the sociological forces at work in it, analysing the Adventist response to doctrinal adjustments and discussing Ellen White’s involvement in and conception of doctrinal change. Based on Pöhler’s work, Ferret argues that Adventist teachings have been significantly affected by theological and hermeneutical developments under the impact of sociological forces that have tended to move the denomination closer towards evangelical Protestantism. Ferret also finds Morgan’s dissertation written at the University of Chicago particularly illuminating in the way it traces continuity and change in Adventist apocalypticism within American society.

However, Ferret also draws upon the insights of many other major researchers. He cites Michael Chamberlains’ trans-disciplinary study (2001, later published by Post Pressed) of Adventist education at Avondale College with its special interest in socio-cultural change and the associated need to develop a thoroughly informed hermeneutic for Ellen White’s writings. Ferret is clearly appreciative of Bruce Manners’ dissertation (2004) and its implication that Adventist publishing is at its finest when it is frank. However, although Ferret drinks from many deep wells, he provides his own cup: an interpretive model that (he claims) fits the church’s need.

An Overview of Adventism

Ferret’s exploration begins with Millerism and the painful transition that birthed Sabbatarian Adventism. A long introduction (pages 9-51) introduces Weberian methodology, defines charisma, legitimation, and its routinization. Chapter 2, “American Revivalism, Millennial Dreams, Crisis and Charismatic Inauguration” prepares the way for two chapters on how Ellen White’s charisma was legitimized and Adventist identity was formulated. Chapters 4 and 5 (“The Routinisation of Charisma in Adventist Experience,” “Imminence and Delay: A Constant Impasse”) prepare the reader for two chapters that tour the sectarian controversies within Adventism from 1844 to the present. Chapter 8, “Doctrine and/or Deed: Dilemmas of Institutionalisation” summarises the main issue of the dissertation in readiness for ten pages of conclusions.

I finished reading a compelling PhD study by Paul McGraw of Pacific Union College on the day that Ferret received notice of his examiners’ approvals. McGraw intimated the nature of his research at the Triennial Session of the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Historians in Portland, Oregon, on 11 April 1998; now his 315 pages fulfil the high expectations that seemed latent in his project eight years ago.2 I almost held my breath as I re-read Ferret’s final copy in the light of McGraw’s dissertation: both plough some of the same ground. The two studies are vastly different in methodology: McGraw uses well copious and often new primary sources; Ferret offers fresh syntheses and applications of existing literature. Both dissertations are greatly needed by the church, not least because they demonstrate why two scholars working in total isolation from each other arrived at congruent conclusions.

Adventism in the Information Age

Ferret observes that the student of SDA theology “can easily recognise the themes of restorationism, perfectionism, Arminianism and revivalism that were common” in the society that birthed Adventism as one of 279 utopian communities established in the United States between 1787 and 1919. While he displays a deep commitment to the Adventist pioneers who transformed a Great Disappointment into a dynamic new movement, he wants contemporary Adventists to better implement Scripture as the church’s authority. He deems that in the controversies of the past generally, and particularly in those occurring since the Evangelical Conferences of the 1950s, too many of his fellow believers have polarised around rival extremes that may be described as reversionist or rejectionist. Ferret’s advocacy of a transformationist response to new data will resonate with those who seriously accept Ellen White as “the Lord’s messenger,” given to us as a lesser light to lead us to the greater light.

A Subjective Interpretation

What potential is evident in Ferret’s work? It will stand the test of time and scrutiny as well as prove to have outstanding significance for the lively, ongoing discussion relating to Adventist identity. How might we compare it with other explorations of Adventism?

I write merely as an historian. My passion during the Adventist crisis of the 1980s was to interpret Ellen White’s nine years in the lands Down Under faithfully, in terms of the cultural and religious context in which she ministered between 1891 and 1900 and in the light of newly-available primary sources. For me, that task required a stimulating decade of research in order to understand something of Australian history, via a PhD program at the University of Newcastle. One by-product of the process was the opportunity to note the contribution of Australia’s pioneer explorers as they traversed this vast, dry continent, seeing it with European eyes for the first time. Some of my United States friends equate a journey of similar rigor undertaken by Lewis and Clark as highly important within their culture. Before Lewis and Clark, Americans knew there was a West Coast with its Pacific Ocean. But was there a way from the Mississippi River via the Missouri and the Columbia to the Pacific? The courage, skill and effort of Lewis and Clark demonstrated that there was.

A major reason why Adventism lost so many ministers, teachers and members during the 1980s lay in our inadequate understanding of continuity and change with reference to Adventist teaching. Rolf Pöhler fills for Adventism a Lewis and Clark role, demonstrating with his Andrews University dissertation of 1995 that change was a reality and that it could be constructive if we related to it coherently. There was a way through the Rocky Mountains of Adventist controversies; equipped with the grace and the graciousness of God the rivers could be forded and the dangerous passes negotiated.

Rick Ferret cannot redo the more pioneering explorations already undertaken by Rolf Pöhler and others; he is a mapmaker for some of the road construction that is needed for the Adventist journey toward the Kingdom of God. Ferret adds to the growing evidence that historical and theological studies are crucial for our self-understanding and mission. More than that, his dissertation offers convincing evidence that it is time for the Adventist church to plan another baptismal service. Sociology has been in a “class ready” long enough; it has now proved itself as a constructive discipline that can reliably assist the Adventist quest to understand the way the Lord has led and taught us since 1844.

Let’s baptize this illuminating social science. Now. Without further delay!

Written by Arthur Patrick in 2006, slightly edited and then posted 21 and 23 October 2011

Post 9, Rolf J. Pöhler is Coming to Australia in 2012!

My readers may appreciate a short biography of Rolf Pöhler, since he has lived mainly in Europe and the United States, and has not yet visited Australia.

Rolf J. Pöhler (1949) was born and raised in Germany, the heartland of the Protestant Reformation. After his pastoral training at Seminar Marienhöhe in Darmstadt and some work experience in Berlin, he attended Andrews University (Michigan, USA), where he earned MA and PhD degrees in theology in 1975 and 1995, respectively. His doctoral dissertation is entitled “Change in Seventh-day Adventist Theology.” It was published in two volumes by Peter Lang (1999 and 2000) and deals with the dynamics of doctrinal continuity and change from a historical and hermeneutical perspective.

For 16 years, Pöhler has served the Adventist Church as church pastor, departmental director, and union president. For the last 20 years, he has been Lecturer of Systematic Theology at Friedensau Adventist University in Germany. He is the Director of the newly founded Institute of Adventist Studies at Friedensau. Pöhler has edited and published several books in German, including an introduction to Adventism for the general public (Christsein heute – Gelebter Glaube) and a contemporary presentation of the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists (Hoffnung, die uns trägt). In addition, he has published well over 200 articles in scholarly and popular journals.

Pöhler is an internationally acclaimed preacher, speaker, author and lecturer; he has been teaching at several European Adventist seminaries. He is married to Regine and has two children.

Why is Dr Pöhler’s visit likely to be significant? First of all, his doctoral dissertation is (in my opinion) the most thorough study yet undertaken on continuity and change in Adventist teaching. Back in the late 1970s, I read a major paper that he had written at Andrews University and made a mental note that we would hear more of this student in the coming years. My hunch was not only fulfilled but greatly enhanced when his doctoral dissertation, completed in 1995, at last reached Australia. I reviewed it for the South Pacific Division paper and, since then, have watched as many others have come to appreciate its depth and clarity.

Second, Dr Pöhler’s publications demonstrate his deep commitment to the church we love.

Third, although English is not his first language, Dr Pöhler has long demonstrated his ability to communicate with English-speaking audiences, especially “thinking believers,” the type of people that this website is designed to serve.