December 19, 2007

A Major Milestone

2007 1535 page6 capotable Adventist Church leader and former Adventist Review editor Kenneth H. Wood reached a significant milestone last month—his ninetieth birthday. I was one of many friends, family, and colleagues who attended an in-house celebration for him in the reception area of the Ellen G. White Estate here at the church’s world headquarters. And as I perused the memorabilia on display for the event—photos, artist sketches, and even neckties—and listened to the tributes recounting Wood’s contributions to the mission of the church, I was struck by the level of commitment and dedication this man has exhibited throughout his life. I was also reminded of the major role he played in the publishing of the church’s general paper.
Elder Wood was elected editor of the Review and Herald (today called the Adventist Review) in June 1966, following the sudden death of editor Francis D. Nichol. Nichol died at age 69 as a result of a tear in his aorta, thought to be caused by a fall some months before. Wood, who had served as an assistant editor and then associate editor of the publication for 10 years, was considered by the Review and Herald board and the General Conference Executive Committee to be the best qualified for the job. So began his work at the helm of the church’s flagship journal, a position he held for more than 16 years.
2007 1535 page6Fellow staff members and Review readers have depicted Wood as someone who “loves the distinctive truths of the Scriptures,” a “defender of the faith,” “a man of convictions,” and “forthright in his editorial writing.” One editor described Wood as being “his own man . . . jealous for the consecrated independence of the voice of the church paper.”
It would be difficult to dispute these sentiments if you look back at some of his copious Review articles and editorials. He wrote on basic doctrinal themes such as Sabbathkeeping, tithing, and the grace of God; he hit the lifestyle issues, including moviegoing, jewelry, and diet; he tackled complex and controversial subjects such as Black unions, race relations, sports, faith healing, education, and abortion. And he wrote with a candor seldom heard today.
During his watch the publication’s name was changed from the Review and Herald to the Adventist Review; the first women were appointed as assistant editors of the Review (Jocelyn Fay in 1977; Aileen Sox in 1980); and the paper was expanded internationally, growing from one edition in English to nine editions in four languages.
In his first editorial as editor-in-chief, Wood declared his aspiration to emphasize a global church. He wrote, “We shall ever be conscious that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not a North American church, not a European church, not an Asian church or an African church; it is a world church. The Review will do all it can to strengthen this concept.”
Wood’s legacy fits in well with other former Review editors.
And even at 90 he hasn’t fully retired. Three mornings a week you’ll find him in his office at the Ellen G. White Estate, where he continues to serve as chair of its board of trustees—a position he’s held since 1980.
The Adventist Review staff didn’t want the important occasion of Elder Wood’s ninetieth birthday to pass without noting it in print. After all, reflecting on the life and service of dedicated Christians such as Kenneth Wood can stir in hearts a desire to recommit their own lives to God’s work.*
So thank you to those who have gone before—and those who are currently blazing a trail. Your efforts make a difference.
*Look for a cover feature about Kenneth Wood coming next month.
Sandra Blackmer is an assistant editor of the Adventist Review.