Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America

0828023972.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most effective evangelists in Adventist history was totally forgotten for over a century, let alone that he was a black man who found an audience no matter skin color. Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan not only reveals the life of one of the first black pastors in denomination history, how Adventism navigated the rising segregation in the Southern U.S., and why Sheafe was forgotten until rediscovered by historians within the last quarter century.

Born to two former slaves in Maryland, Lewis C. Sheafe was raised in abolitionist dominated Massachusetts with a very spiritual-minded mother. After his conversion at 15, Sheafe began searching for a denomination to join but during his search he felt the call to become a preacher. Though not as well-schooled as his eventual classmates at Wayland Seminary, Sheafe worked hard at the Washington D.C. school to graduate with honors and along the way meet is future wife Anne. The newlyweds would first go to a Baptist church in Minneapolis where they healed the recently divided congregation as well as become a major part of Black community in the city, something that would happen everywhere Sheafe would go. Sheafe and his growing family would then pastor at several Ohio churches before his health brought him to Battle Creek Sanitarium where he learned about the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. Within months Sheafe and his family had joined the denomination, which found Sheafe to not only be only their second black preacher but obviously the best educated minister. For around five years, Sheafe worked in Ohio, Kentucky, and various cities in the Southern States before the denomination asked him to come to Washington D.C. to help found a black only congregation as they attempted to “accommodate” the segregation of the city so as to spread the word. However, Sheafe upset the plan from the beginning by bringing in both black and white converts to the church meant only for black members. Later Sheafe began a new church that only had black member which as time progressed would eventually be a thorn in the side of the denomination with and without Sheafe for the next two decades. It was while he was at this church that Sheafe left the denomination for the first time only to return with said church before taking a position in Los Angeles where he would eventually break with the denomination again to start the Free Seventh-day Adventist denomination. But eventually Sheafe would return to the Washington church he began and spend the rest of his ministry there before his death, but never turn away from Adventist beliefs even though he had left the denomination.

The sources on Sheafe’s life were few and far between but Morgan was able to find them to bring his life to the fore. Yet Morgan also examined how the General Conference handled spreading the messaged to African-Americans just as Segregation and Jim Crow began taking hold in the Southern United States, which resulted in causing friction between the GC officials and Sheafe that only grew when many black Adventists felt they weren’t being given equal treatment with educational and health institutions constructed for their use. In fact, Morgan gives an in-depth view of the early beginnings of the Negro Department which would eventually lead to Black/African-American Conferences within the structure of the North American Division. And Morgan brings in the controversy of John Harvey Kellogg and A.T. Jones’ criticism and break away to give greater context to how the General Conference viewed Sheafe’s first break and how the situation was completely different during his second break.

Lewis C. Sheafe was until recently not a well-known name in the greater Adventist community, however Douglas Morgan found his influence strong not only with prominent black Adventists but also in denominational history for the changes his breaks resulted in making. Mixing not only Adventist history with wider American history at the time, Morgan places Sheafe in context with his times and helps explain his actions. This is a highly recommended biographical and historical book that history-minded Adventists should read.

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E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to the Agent of Division

0828019827.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_E.J. Waggoner: From The Physician Of Good News To The Agent Of Division by Woodrow W. Whidden II
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the pivotal figures at the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference sessions, he did not plan to follow his father into ministry but when he did he tragically followed his example. Woodrow W. Whidden’s E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to Agent of Division follows not only the life of the Adventism’s most controversial figures, but also the developments of his theological thinking which both contributed to Seventh-day Adventist thinking and to his separation from Adventist doctrines.

Whidden brought the most out of limited sources available to detail Waggoner’s life beginning with the troubled family life of his troubled Adventist minister father and egotistical, uncaring mother. Waggoner’s family were encouraged and rebuked by Ellen White throughout the young E.J.’s childhood and his home life might have led to heartbreak later in his life. Not wanting to follow his father into the ministry, Waggoner studied medicine and became friends with John Harvey Kellogg as he began his career in medicine which came to an end after a “vision” at a campmeeting in which Waggoner was impressed by Christ on the cross and began his lifelong theological study of justification and sanctification. Upon entering the ministry, Waggoner became was prolific in preaching, lecturing, writing, and in editorial work for the next two decades in both the United States and Great Britain but that would later result in have no time to nurture his marriage resulting in a scandalous divorce after his family’s return to the United States. The lead up and aftermath of the 1888 Minneapolis is hinge of the biography and Whidden analyzes Waggoner’s role thoroughly. Yet the most interesting aspect of the biography was Whidden’s analysis of Waggoner’s theology on justification and sanctification throughout his life divided into four time frames by Whidden.

The difficulty of finding sources to chronicle Waggoner’s life did not deflect from Whidden’s achievement in revealing the numerous facets of his subject’s life especially in the lead up to the “biggest” scandal in Adventism at the time with Waggoner’s divorce. The most important aspect of the book was Whidden’s in-depth discussing of Waggoner’s evolving theological beliefs, especially justification and sanctification, and how his bent towards mysticism as well as his slow moving away from distinct Adventist doctrines. Another important aspect is Whidden’s analysis of Ellen White’s interactions with Waggoner both in encouragement and concerned rebuke as well as if Waggoner’s later theological beliefs takeaway his emphasis on his Christ-centered message before, during, and after 1888. If there is on serious drawback is that Whidden’s study of Waggoner’s theology is very deep and can be a tad mindboggling.

E.J. Waggoner is an insightful look into the life of one of the most important second generation figures in Adventism. Woodrow Whidden’s expert work on getting out the most from the few primary sources available as well as his theological analysis is a great asset for any reader in Seventh-day Adventist biography and history.

John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer

4d3bf9809b64e4c596758336d67444341587343John Harvey Kellogg, M.D.: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A pioneer of the Adventist health message and controversial figure that had a very public break from the Church, yet his life was whole lot more. John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz details the long life of a man who wanted to teach and not become a doctor, but who became both in advocating healthy living.

Schwarz begins the biography in the standard way in relating the background of Kellogg family just before John Harvey birth then proceeded to follow the young Kellogg’s life until he became a doctor. The biography then shifts into various facets of Kellogg’s life ranging from his appointment to head Battle Creek Sanitarium and developing it, his development of various health foods and later his efforts commercially, his family life with 42 adopted children and cool relationships with his siblings, his humanitarian efforts, his work and later break with the Seventh-day Adventist Church including his relationship with Ellen White, and many more. The final chapter chronicles the latter events of his 91 year long life including the struggle to keep Battle Creek Sanitarium open.

In around 240 pages, Schwarz gives a thorough look into everything that John Harvey Kellogg did throughout his life but in a non-chronological manner save for his early and late life. Given the start length of the book and the long life of its subject, this non-chronological look was for the best as Schwarz covered topics in a straightforward manner and avoiding attempting to cover all of them in a on and off if the biography was written in a chronological fashion. This format also allowed Schwarz to reference big events that effected all topics and foreshadowing there importance for when he covered them later in the book.

John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer is a well-organized and informative biography of a notable pioneer in the Adventist health system that also influenced the larger American health landscape. Richard W. Schwarz work is outstanding and his prose presents a very easy read which makes this book a highly recommended one for anyone interested in Adventist health history.

W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation

a781e964a3fef9e59736a647267444341587343W. W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation by Gilbert M. Valentine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The work of reform and those that spearhead them are never easy, especially when religious belief is thrown into the mix. Gilbert M. Valentine’s biography of administrator, educator, preacher, and theologian W.W. Prescott, lives up to its subtitle Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation, and shows his impact on the denomination over the course of 52 years and influence beyond.

Prescott’s life before beginning his denominational work in 1885 was first as a son of a hardworking New Hampshire business man and Millerite, who would not become a Seventh-day believer until his son was 3 years old. The success of his father’s business allowed Prescott to get a very thorough education resulting in attending and graduating from Dartmouth. He began his career as a principal at several schools before going into publishing until the call to become president of Battle Creek College began his career in denominational service. From the outset, Prescott’s task to reform the College was went up against some faculty and their connections in the larger Adventist community, yet he slowly changed the institution to be more in-line to the thoughts of Ellen White on education. Besides college president, Prescott became the denomination’s head of education and helped found two more colleges that he became titular president of at the same time he was in charge of Battle Creek. Eventually Prescott would find himself playing peacekeeper between those in support and opposed to the 1888 message of E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones joins, but still upset people which eventually forced him to take refuge in Australia where his preaching and evangelism grew in leaps and bounds. After an “exile” in England, Prescott was called to be the right-hand man to new General Conference President Arthur Daniells, which would begin a partnership of almost two decades in various forms. Yet Prescott became the fount of controversy first as editor of the Review and Herald especially during the crisis with John Harvey Kellogg and then with his new theological understanding of “the daily” in Daniel 8 that was integrated into his Christocentric approach to Adventist doctrine and preaching, which would touch off numerous personal attacks for the rest of his life and overshadow the rest of his career especially as he attempted to help the denomination with problems that would later cause consternation nearly half a century later.

Due to my own reading of Adventist history, I had come across the name of Prescott but had not known the extent of his involvement with the denomination in so many areas, locations around the world, and controversies. There is a lot packed into the 327 pages of text that Valentine expertly wove together to create an enthralling biography of man he grew to know well due to his years of research for his doctoral dissertation. If there is critique I could l give this book, it would be that it was too short because it felt like Valentine did not go as in-depth as he would like in this presentation of his much longer dissertation.

W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation lives up to its name, giving the spotlight to an influential man in the history of the denomination that is unknown to a majority of Seventh-day Adventists today. Gilbert M. Valentine’s work in writing a comprehensive and readable biography of a man who was involved in so many matters is excellent and just makes this book highly recommended for those interested in Seventh-day Adventist history.

James White: Innovator and Overcomer

2cdb53c0442e9ea596d67307267444341587343James White: Innovator and Overcomer by Gerald Wheeler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The primary force behind the organizational formation of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination himself came from a denomination that resisted organization, but today’s Seventh-day Adventist church has his fingerprints even today. James White: Innovator and Overcomer by Gerald Wheeler, examines the life and times of one of the three main founders of the church whose drive was both a blessing and a curse.

Beginning and ending this biography at the funeral of James White, Wheeler highlights an important theme throughout White’s life, his seemingly paradoxical personality that drove him to everything he could for the church he helped to found but that could also cause friction with others from coworkers, friends, and family. Wheeler then shifts to White’s early life in Maine, a tough place that made tough people who endured the harsh climate of the area. Though encouraged to just become a farmer though he yearned for education, White became convinced the message of William Miller and soon felt the call to preacher the 1844 message while becoming accredited with the Christian Connection, whose views would influence him for years and decades to come. After the Great Disappointment, White was among those who believed something occurred on October 22 but shied away from the fanaticism of others through he was drawn to the encouraging visions of Ellen Harmon and began escorting her to various groups of Millerites before social conventions led the two to wed. The couple along with others, most notably Joseph Bates and Hiram Edson, began development the theological underpinnings of the future Seventh-day Adventist church and Ellen’s encouragement lead to White beginning ‘Review and Herald’ which would eventually place White at the forefront of the movement and eventually the main proponent of organization for almost a decade before it became a reality. Once organized, White wanted others to lead the church with him—famously refusing to become the denomination’s first president—but given his drive for its creation and want of its success he wasn’t the easiest to work with and would butt heads with many in the final 20 years of his life that grew worse as his many strokes would magnify his personality’s positive and negative traits. Throughout his endeavors with the church, Wheeler described White’s personally frugal nature that would make him squeeze out all he could with his money for himself and his family while at the same time being generous to less fortunate believes and church institutions. Though busy running two to three periodicals and a newly formed church, White was a business man and real estate investor so as to provide himself and family economic security but this led to accusations that he enriched himself with church funds that dogged him even after his passing.

In almost 250 pages of text and references, Wheeler provided an eye-opening look into the life of James White through the use of White’s own autobiography but also letters written by himself and others as well as other sources from individuals who knew him throughout his life. Wheeler fleshes out James White into a real person that like us today had strengths and flaws that he used and dealt with his entire life while getting closer and closer to Christ, something every Adventist—or any Christian—should identify with today. Though information and use of primary sources is excellent, the structure Wheeler used in the book was sometimes questionable. While the not so strictly chronological layout of the chapters was fine, some of the content of the chapters resulted in several short chapters that could have been merged into other chapters to make the book flow better to the reader.

James White: Innovator and Overcomer is a very good book for those Adventists looking to learn about one of the three founders of the church. Gerald Wheeler helps take White from being a picture on the wall, or book cover, and make him flesh-and-bone man who struggled just like us today with strengths and flaws. I highly recommend this for those interested in SDA church history.

Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

081631795x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwarz & Floyd Greenleaf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The history of the Seventh-day Adventist church is the emergence of a small band of disappointed Millerites to that of a worldwide church of more than 10 million members by the end of the 20th Century, but not without struggles of all kinds along the way. Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwarz with revisions and updates by Floyd Greenleaf is comprehensive look into the development the denomination over the course of over 170 years by professional historians balancing their own religious beliefs and professionalism.

“Beginning” in 1839, though not without highlighting Advent strains across the Christian spectrum leading up to that point, and finishing at the year 2000 with the need to focus on the doctrinal, organizational, institutional, and missionary facets of the denomination’s history was a challenge needing an organized and methodical approach for the reader. Dividing the history into three parts Greenleaf used Schwarz’s formula of advancing all the facets of the denomination’s development at the same space—though some overlap from one part to another was unavoidable—in different chapters but linking them to past or future characters when required. These three parts, “Origins and Formative Years 1839-1888”, “Years of Growth and Reorganization 1888-1945”, and “The Globalization of the Church 1945-2000” give the reader, while not a step-by-step look at the denomination’s history, at least a lens to view the events that shaped the denomination as its history developed. A fourth part, “Maintaining a Biblical Message”, relates the challenges that 20th Century members had keeping the unique doctrines of the Church based Biblically as well as answering challenges from not only without but within as well.

Given the multifaceted aspect of history that a book on the Seventh-day Adventist Church entails as well as revising and updating a previous history, Greenleaf did a professional job. Yet as the first 15 chapters of the book are the original work of Schwarz with scant revisions, it is also a testament to his own professionalism that they hold up just as much as the final third when Greenleaf’s own work is solely on display. With numerous historical actors and events throughout the over 170 years, both authors delicately balanced the need to be informative enough without slowing down the pace of the book unless the covered topic was doctrinal and thus needed a thorough explanation to better understand the controversy being covered.

Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church might look like a daunting book at nearly 700 pages, but for those interested in the development of the denomination that they are either apart of or wanting to understand this is the book for them. Longtime Adventist historians Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf both balance their religious beliefs with their professionalism to give the reader an accurate—warts and all—look at a now global church that developed from only a few hundred disappointed Millerites.

Joseph Bates: The Real Found of Seventh-day Adventism

41s96pjypgl-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism by George R. Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While those who would eventually form the Seventh-day Adventist Church were Millerites, only one was influential in both that his work after the Great Disappointment would standout and provide the underpinnings of the eventual largest Adventist denomination. Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism by George R. Knight is a comprehensive look at one of the most important men in the Adventism movement before and after October 1844.

Beginning with a young boy looking for adventure as a sailor, Knight fully covers the life of Joseph Bates until his death as a senior statesman of the Church he helped to found still looking to serve Christ. In covering Bates career at sea, Knight pulls out traits—both potentially benefital and harmful—that would serve him as he preached the soon coming of Christ as part of the Millerite movement and later his development of Sabbatarian Adventism. After retiring, Bates who had already shown a keen interest in reform, firstly himself and then his own ship’s crew, launched himself into numerous reform movements until he heard Advent message of William Miller and seeing it as the ultimate reform movement wholeheartedly went to spread the good news. Though not a primary leader, he was a major secondary leader within the Millerites that both chaired conferences and went out preaching. After the Great Disappointment of October 1844, Bates began studying and joined those Adventists that believed something did occur though not the fanatics that tainted this group of post-Disappointment Millerites. It is at this point in which Knight carefully covers Bates life over a decade, though focused on a four year span in particular, in which Bates became both the first theologian and then first historian of Sabbatarian Adventism and would lay the foundations of essentially all major doctrines that set the Seventh-day Adventist Church apart from other denominations. Knight covers Bates relationship with both James and Ellen White in full during this period and after as the trio would guide the “little flock” over the next two decades until his death.

In approximately 220 pages of text and reference, Knight use Bates’ own autobiography as well as research first discovered others including two of his own students to give the reader a full sense of the life of Joseph Bate as can be expected. Though the book is not strictly chronological, Knight structures the book in such a way as to give an overview in a certain period of Bates life in one chapter and in the subsequent one focus on a particular aspect during that period with it most typically being theological in nature. This keeps the book engaging for the general reader and not getting them bogged down or overwhelmed with detail of having a strictly chronological book from beginning to end. Yet while these choices by Knight create a very good and readable book, there just seemed to be something off with his writing that made me feel that it was up to other books that he had authored.

Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism is a very good book for those, whether Seventh-day Adventists or not, looking to understand the history of denomination that Bates helped to found. As the preeminent Seventh-day Adventist historian, George R. Knight presents the Bates the man of both virtues and flaws and how he shaped the Advent movement. I highly recommend this book for those interested in SDA Church history.

William Miller and the Rise of Adventism