Most Adventist believers are aware that 2013 is the 150th anniversaryof the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The first General Conference session occurred, and the formation of the Adventist Church started, on May 21, 1863.
It’s a bit of a misnomer to use the word “started,” because the golden thread of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are Bible-based and can be traced from Genesis to Revelation (see Isa. 61:4; Rev. 14:
6-12). To the thoughtful believer this period is a time to reflect on why we are still here, and ask what we can do to help finish the work that will lead to Christ’s return.
We can profit from counsel Ellen White gave to Arthur Grosvenor Daniells (1858-1935), president of the General Conference at the end of the first 50 years of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. In a personal letter she wrote: “Again and again I have been shown that the past experiences of God’s people are not to be counted as dead facts. We are not to treat the record of these experiences as we would treat a last year’s almanac. The record is to be kept in mind, for history will repeat itself.”*
Last year’s calendar and facts have become dated, thereby having little value; so we discard it. Ellen White’s advice to Daniells was perceptive. Don’t treat the history of the early days of the Adventist movement as old, irrelevant, and discardable information. Instead, review, study, and learn from them. We should be enlightened by the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of our movement’s early days.
Recently the leadership of the Adventist Church was enriched as it followed Ellen White’s “almanac advice” and reviewed the history of the first 50 years of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Church leaders met in Battle Creek, Michigan, where the church started, at a commemorative sesquicentennial event. For two days leaders prayed and studied, listened, and discussed engaging historic presentations on a wide range of topics that highlighted many lessons learned.
After the commemorative sessions, and after doing the business of the GC Spring Meeting, leaders headed home inspired and refocused to forward the movement where they have responsibilities. Ironically, as they traveled around the globe they were confronted with the glaring realities of a suffering world.
As the 150th commemorative events ended, national and international reports repeatedly broadcast news of the Boston Marathon bombing (April 15, 2013), citing those killed and wounded in the explosions. This event and multiple other news stories provided an unsettling reminder of the impact of sin and our inhumanity toward each other. The month of April also reminds us of other historic events that speak to the great controversy and demonstrate the weight of sin and strife in the world.
In United States history a number of devastating wars and heinous acts of violence have begun in April: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish-American War. The Branch Davidian fiasco occurred in Waco, Texas, and the Oklahoma City bombing shocked the nation in April. It’s the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, the Virginia Tech shootings, the race riots in Los Angeles, and the ecologically disastrous British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
As Adventists were commemorating, these and many other anniversaries cause us to realize that our work and witness are badly needed in a hurting world. While we learn from our history, we also long for the Second Advent, when Jesus will establish His eternal kingdom and end the reign of sin, suffering, and strife.
* Ellen G. White letter 238, 1903, in The Publishing Ministry (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1983), p. 175.