October 7, 2021

To Charles Edward Bradford: One Tribute More

Sunday, October 3, 2021, the Oakwood University Church hosted a memorial service in honor of the late, great Charles Edward Bradford, “Brad,” as we all referred to this awesome, beloved son of God. The occasion featured hordes of eloquent testimonies to the wit, brilliance, godliness, humility, and multiple other gifts and virtues of this tower of recent Adventist history. I tried to absorb all I could of the testimonies, the music—Wintley Phipps, Marshall Kelly, Danita Jones (“A Better Day!”), The Aeolians (twice!), the eulogy by Carlton Byrd . . .  I even thought that I might have loved to share my own reflections on behalf of Adventist Review Ministries. What might I have said?

Thankfully, there was enough and to spare of substance—five and a half hours of it. After all, Brad fell only four short of 100 years.

Not that you asked, or that I was missed, or that it would have enhanced the day in any way; but like you, and like the little drummer boy, I would have been glad to say to his family, “Thank you for Brad.” Maybe I might have said something like this:

To our beloved Mrs. Ethel Bradford, as to all the family, in your bereavement, ARMies, our church’s voice and documentation of record through more decades than the church itself, expresses our sincerest condolences and profoundest dismay at the loss of this man, Charles Edward Bradford. Condolence because we share your grief; dismay because we share your perplexity that the mighty must still be falling; that we have not yet come to the sea that looks like glass and fire, to stand together before the Son of man.

If I were to offer a single comment, it would be the word of the many, the people who were always Elder Bradford’s focus, those of whom he spoke on a richly memorable occasion four years ago: it was a moment of high and holy excitement, as his division, his division, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, was convening their Year-end Meetings, for the very first time, in their very own building. It was a moment for the world church—for Adventists everywhere—to celebrate the coming of age of the NAD, the mother of all our world divisions. It was a moment, I say—and you wholeheartedly concur—for the world church. And it was equally a moment for Charles Edward Bradford: for if the NAD is the mother of all our world divisions, just so surely is Charles Edward Bradford the father of the North American Division.

I invoke the memory to recall his words to us and to quote from the many who were the focus of his words. What were those words?

“Everything is contained in the small little egg of the [local] church. Love those people, respect them, know how to talk to them!”

And what did those people say whom he so valued and for whom he ever advocated? Multiple individuals with whom I shared Sabbath greetings, as I mentioned being present for the weekend and the memorial service, kept choosing the same word to reflect their memory of the man. The word was “giant.” He was a giant among us, a mighty man of holy valor.

Out of our regard for his awesome history and contributions to Adventism, and in accordance with the family’s request, ARMies personnel have made a contribution of $1,000 to the general school fund of Oakwood Adventist Academy.

The Lord IS coming, Sister Ethel, loved ones, the Lord IS coming. And Father Charles expects and intends to see you there—each one of you—and all of us too. We won’t disappoint him, will we?

Lael Caesar is an associate editor of the Adventist Review.