May 28, 2008

1515 Church News - Kenneth Wood 2

capKenneth H. Wood, for 16 years editor-in-chief of Adventist Review and 28-year chairman of the board of the Ellen G. White Estate, died Sunday, May 25, 2008 in Potomac, Maryland. He was 90 years old and had been ill in recent months.

 His wife of 69 years, Miriam Wood, a longtime Review columnist, died March 16, 2008.

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Until his recent illness, Wood was a regular presence at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Even at age 90, Wood could be found three mornings a week at his White Estate office.

In his last interview, with Adventist Review assistant editor Sandra Blackmer, Wood said, “I’m a little bit like Cal Ripken, the baseball shortstop who set a record for consecutive games played. He never had any thought of setting a record. [Ripken] said, ‘I just went to work every day.’ Going to work has just always been a part of my life and my work ethic.”

Wood added, “From the moment I joined the White Estate staff, they handed me work to do, and ever since there has been work to do editing the White Estate publications.”

Bill Knott, Adventist Review editor, said Wood “opened his heart in his writing and preaching to an uncommon degree. We knew how seriously he took the call to discipleship by what he shared with us. His was a rare combination of godly passion, literary skill, and the good judgment to know how to pastor the people of God through print.”

“As a friend, I will deeply miss his warmth and wit,” Knott added. “Elder Wood’s kind and generous spirit brightened many days, and his unfailing modesty about his significant achievements caused all of his colleagues to appreciate him even more.”

The Review editor who followed Wood, William G. Johnsson, said he was “shocked and grieved at the sad news.”  Johnsson noted that Wood followed longtime Review editor F.D. Nichol, and added, “Kenneth Wood quickly put his stamp on the paper. Under his leadership, the Review became a more open forum in the church, which is what the times demanded.”

It was Wood’s “second career” as head of the Ellen G. White Estate board of trustees that featured “the same sort of openness” about Mrs. White’s writings, Johnsson said.

2008 1515 page33Wood “pushed and prodded the board until everything Ellen G. White wrote was made accessible to the church,” Johnsson said, a task that required “determination.”

Pastor Jan Paulsen, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, commented on Wood’s ministry and life.  “With the passing of Elder Kenneth Wood one of the influential and significant thinkers and writers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been laid to rest. His ministry as [an] editor of the Adventist Review and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the White Estate spanned more than half a century,” Paulsen said.

“Elder Wood was a man of strong convictions and absolute loyalty to historic Adventism; never reluctant to express his convictions, whether shared or not,” Paulsen added. “Elder Wood was widely and highly respected. He will be missed by many to whom he was both a colleague and friend, but the loss will be felt particularly acutely by his family. They will be in our prayers as we offer our heartfelt condolences. We look forward to the morning when our Lord will do away with losses such as this.”

James Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate, knew Wood for approximately 30 years, and worked closely with him for much of that time. Wood “was one of the most thoroughly Christian people that I have ever met in my life,” Nix said. “He certainly loved the Lord and believed in this Church and its mission and its ultimate success, without question.”

Of Wood, Nix added, “he could articulate what he believed. He was forward thinking. He said, ‘I’ll never live to see it happen, but that’s what the White Estate needs to do, so get working on it.’ Everybody in the White Estate loved him.”

Nix said Wood also was a historical link to the earliest days of the White Estate, which exists to safeguard and promote the writings of Ellen G. White, a pioneering co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  “He had seen or known virtually everybody, except for Ellen White herself, that had worked with the White Estate.”

That knowledge, Nix said, was also combined with a sharp – and helpful – editorial pen.  “I don’t think there was a better editor in the building. He just had that gift to take a word here or there and give life to stuff that was just half a life there,” Nix said. “I could not ask for anybody that was more supportive. [He was] an incredible person. I have never met anybody quite like him.”

2008 1515 page33Kenneth H. Wood was born in Shanghai, China, November 5, 1917, to lifetime American missionary parents. Until he was 15 he attended Far Eastern Academy in Shanghai, then moved to the United States to continue his education. He graduated from the academy of Southern California Junior College in 1934 and from Pacific Union College (PUC) in 1938 with a major in Bible and minors in speech and French. In 1979 Andrews University conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Wood served the Adventist Church first as a ministerial intern in the Fresno district of the Central California Conference. That same summer he married Miriam Brown, also a 1938 PUC graduate. The couple spent four years assisting in evangelistic meetings—some held in churches, some in tents, and others in Quonset huts.

In January 1942 Wood studied for a term at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, then located in Takoma Park, Maryland. He later served as a church pastor in Charleston, West Virginia, and Cleveland, Ohio. In 1947 the New Jersey Conference called him to serve as Sabbath School and Lay Activities director, and in 1951 he was elected Sabbath School and Lay Activities director of the Columbia Union Conference. By this time he and Miriam had two young daughters, Janet Faye and Carole.

Wood, however, never lost interest in the publishing work. He contributed numerous articles to various Adventist magazines and journals, which may have caught the attention of Francis D. Nichol, editor in chief of the Review. In 1955 Nichol invited Wood to join the staff of the Review as one of the editors.

Soon after accepting this position, Wood earned his master’s degree in systematic theology and Greek from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Then in 1966, after Nichol’s unexpected death, the Review board elected Wood as editor-in-chief of the church’s general paper—a position he held until he “retired” in 1982.

Along with the hundreds of editorials and articles he wrote for the Review and other journals, Wood also authored the books Meditations for Moderns and Short Essays on Relevant Religion, and with his wife, Miriam, coauthored His Initials Were F.D.N., a biography of Nichol, his predecessor. Wood traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific, the Far East, Russia, Southern Asia, Africa, and South America.

As well as being the parents of two grown daughters, the couple had seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. A sister, Janet Chalmers, who is 92 and lives in California, also survives.

Arrangements for a memorial service honoring both Kenneth and Miriam Wood are pending.