September 19, 2014

William Loveless, Trend-Setting Pastor With Lively Sermons, Dead at 86

, intern, Adventist Review

When William A. Loveless
preached, no one fell asleep.

Loveless, who died after an apparent
stroke at 86 on Sept. 15, served as pastor of two of the largest Adventist
churches in the U.S. and president of Columbia Union College, now Washington
Adventist University, in Takoma Park, Maryland.

But perhaps his sermons will
remain his most lasting legacy. Loveless, known to friends as “Bill,” was one
of the first Adventist pastors to stop preaching from the traditional spot
behind the pulpit, creating a worship experience that listeners called dynamic,
relevant and thought-provoking.

“His speaking style would be
conversational. He would take a biblical story, and he would talk you through
it as if it was just now occurring,” said William Coffman, a life-long friend and
racquetball partner who as a student at Columbia Union College heard Loveless
preach in the 1960s and a decade later served alongside him as a pastor at the
Loma Linda University Church.

William A. Loveless. Photo: WAU

“If he was speaking about
David, you could imagine reading it in today’s paper,” Coffman said by
telephone from Yucaipa, California. “No one ever heard Bill Loveless and said
they were bored.”

More than anything, Loveless
saw the 11 o’clock Sabbath worship service as the most vital aspect of
Adventist life, Coffman said.

Loveless, who graduated from
Walla Walla University in 1949 and obtained a master’s degree from the
Adventist Theological Seminary in 1953, first took the spotlight when he helped
start a student missionary program at the Takoma Park college in 1959.

Working as pastor of the college’s
Sligo Church, Loveless sent a student missionary to Mexico for three months at
a time when the Adventist Church considered students too immature to be

His influence helped paved
the way for the student mission programs that are now a staple of Adventist
education in North America and other parts of the world.

At Sligo, Loveless also organized
the Urban Service Corps, an organization where Adventist teens and college
students tutored struggling inner-city children, and hosted an award-winning
television show called “Concept” on the Washington affiliate of ABC television.
He discussed life events such as work stress and pursuing an education on the
faith-based show.

In 1964, he earned a doctorate
of education from the University of Maryland.

After serving at Loma Linda
University Church from 1970 to 1976, Loveless returned to the East Coast to
head the church’s Pennsylvania Conference and then take the helm at Columbia
Union College, a position he held from 1978 to 1990.

“William Loveless was an
extraordinary influence on this university,” Washington Adventist University
president Weymouth Spence said in a statement. “Under his leadership, this
university was among the first in the nation to launch an evening program
designed specifically to meet the needs of working adults.”

Sharon Conway, director of
the university’s student financial services, remembered Loveless as “a genuine

“You never felt that he was
putting on airs,” she said in the statement. “When he spoke, it was with
authenticity, and he had an amazing sense of humor. He loved a good clean

Loveless later returned to
Loma Linda University, where he served as pastor and taught in the school of
religion from 1990 to 2000. At the same time, he taught for four years at La
Sierra University. From 2000 until last year, he worked as a clinical professor
of social work at Loma Linda University’s school of dentistry.

Early in his career, Loveless
also worked as band director at Takoma Academy, where he taught a young Ted
N.C. Wilson, now president of the Adventist world church, how to play the

William A. Loveless was
born on Jan. 17, 1928, in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. The stroke that he suffered
this week was his second this year, and he died in his home in Loma Linda, California.

Loveless is survived by his
wife of 62 years, Edna Maye Alexander Loveless; a sister, Joan Harding; two
daughters, Marti Olson and Marilynn Howard; and a granddaughter, Laura Olson.

A memorial service will be
held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the Loma Linda University Church.

In lieu of flowers, the
family has requested that donations be made in his memory to Loma Linda
University School of Dentistry, the Calexico Mission School, or the Loma Linda
Broadcasting Network.