December 20, 2006

Finally, Brethren (and Sisters)

2006 1535 page5 caps I worked on editorials and articles over the years, I used to tell my friends I would know when it was time to quit—when the Lord no longer gave me something to write about. What I didn’t foresee was that it would be time, not ideas, that would run out first.
I took over the editorship on December 1, 1982, when Kenneth H. Wood retired. Now, 24 years later, and after more than 1,200 issues of the Adventist Review and Adventist World and five General Conference sessions, it is time to move on. Time for younger hands to take the wheel. Time for fresh ideas to meet new challenges facing the church and its paper.
It’s been a wonderful ride. Not an easy one and certainly not light, but one that has brought me enormous satisfaction and fulfillment. If I had not been happy—yes, very happy—in this work, I would have laid it aside long ago. I thank the Lord and the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the high privilege afforded me, for the love and trust over so many years.
This was a position I neither foresaw nor aspired to. I was settled into a ministry of teaching at the seminary at Andrews University when the Lord upset the course of my life. Through leaders of the church He revealed that He had other plans for me. Long before, Noelene and I had learned to say yes when He calls, and so we said yes again.
2006 1535 page5The transition was difficult; the round of weekly deadlines and magazine production is vastly different from the world of academia. But always there was the sense of divine calling, the inner certainty that this was where the Lord wanted me to be. And that He would be with me and supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
And He did. Throughout these 24 years the Lord always came through. As the job description grew to encompass publishing functions as well as editorial, as a new magazine was added to the load, through challenges and searchings of heart, through the night watches and through the valleys of decision the Lord was always there. Always! I slowly came to realize that, no matter how seemingly intractable a problem, the solution was already waiting in His wisdom.
The Lord has blessed me in so many ways: the staff, a superb group of men and women, professional and dedicated; excellent designers; the trust and support of my three bosses, all General Conference presidents. But above all, His grace overshadowing and enabling, tender and kind, has made possible everything worthwhile that has happened on my watch.
I leave with you three burdens on my heart:
1. Racial diversity: This family flung into earth’s far corners, this amazingly diverse Adventist movement—it’s wonderful, a creation of God. But unity is fragile. We must never take it for granted, or we may lose it.
I am convinced that we have a long way to go to achieve the harmony the Lord intends for us. Pride of race needs to be crucified. We must learn to value our diversity, to treat one another with respect and dignity. We must spend a lot of time talking to each other, face to face. Not about each other, but with each other, listening, seeking to understand, praying silently as we converse.
2. Theological polarization: Sound theology is vital; it must never be compromised. But the Fundamental Beliefs draw the boundaries, and so long as any Adventist assents to them, he or she deserves respect and fellowship. Points of doctrine not spelled out in the Fundamentals must not be allowed to divide us.
We know in part; we understand in part. A little humility can work wonders. And, as Paul says, knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).
3. The Scriptures our safeguard: One of my first editorials called Adventists back to the Bible (“The Bible—Our Heritage,” October 30, 1980). Let that be my last word also. Let the Book be the man of our counsel, our constant companion. For in it we find the Man altogether lovely, our Savior and Lord.
Thank you, dear readers, for your patience with and love for this very human editor. Kindly extend to Pastor Knott the same encouragement and support. I will be cheering him on. And thank you for the ride.
Finally, dear ones, keep the words of our Lord ever before you: “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev. 22:12, KJV).

William G. Johnsson is editor of the Adventist Review.