February 4, 2011

03CN: Roger W. Coon, 83, Adventist Scholar and Apologist, Dies

Roger W. Coon, 83, Adventist
Scholar and Apologist, Dies
Retired White Estate associate director also co-founded what became Babcock University
Roger W. Coon, one of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s leading apologists and exponents, passed to his rest on February 2, 2011. He was 83 years old and resided in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

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ADVENTIST SCHOLAR: Roger W. Coon, who passed away on February 2, 2011 at age 83, was a noted scholar of Adventism and an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate. [General Conference Archives photo]

“Roger was a dear friend, much admired and appreciated mentor, and for years an extremely effective member of the White Estate team.  Roger's zest for life, his legendary work ethic, his captivating speaking and teaching style, his love for God and His church, and his attempt to share that enthusiasm with others were contagious among all who came within his orbit,” said pastor Jim Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate.

During 45 years of denominational service, culminating in 12 years, from 1981 to 1993, as an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, Coon was an exponent and defender of Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, especially in terms of the gift of prophecy, which Adventists believe is “an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White,”1 a pioneering co-founder of the movement.

Coon’s 1983 book, A Gift of Light, intended as an introduction to White’s writings, also offered evidence for the oft-cited claim that White was one of the most widely translated authors of modern times. Based on his research at the Library of Congress, Coon determined that, up to that point, having her books in 117 languages (now, more than 165) made her the fourth-most translated author.

But along with unearthing historical data, Coon put White’s ministry into perspective: A Gift of Light takes readers through both biblical history and the Millerite era to establish a basis for her having exercised the gift of prophecy. It was his first book, but far from his first writing: Adventist Review, Ministry and the Journal of Adventist Education all published articles from his pen.


LIBERTY ADVOCATE: In retirement, Coon was “a grassroots activist for religious freedom,” as Liberty magazine said in honoring him with an award in 2005. [Photo: Reger C. Smith, Jr.]

“We often hear from pastors around the globe who express their indebtedness to Roger for the thorough instruction on the gift of prophecy they received in his classes,” added Tim Poirier, vice director of the White Estate.

Before coming to the General Conference, Coon had served as senior pastor of the Takoma Park, Maryland, Seventh-day Adventist Church, and as a professor of religion at church-owned Pacific Union College in Angwin, California.  He earned his undergraduate degree in religion and history at Loma Linda University; a master of arts in religion at Andrews University; and a doctorate in speech from Michigan State University.

Earlier in his career, he served 12 years as an educational missionary in West Africa, where he was a co-founder of the Adventist College of West Africa, which today is Babcock University, one of the larger Seventh-day Adventist tertiary schools in the world.
In retirement, Coon was a frequent speaker on behalf of the Church’s religious liberty work; in 2005 he was honored by church-owned Liberty magazine as “a grassroots activist for religious freedom” with an award at the publication’s annual Capitol Hill dinner.

His wife, Irene, a former assistant director of the General Conference Auditing Service; a son, Donald, and a daughter, Susan McDaniel, survive. Funeral details are pending.

1 As stated in item 17, Seventh-day Adventist “Fundamental Beliefs,”
www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html, accessed online February 3, 2011.