150th Anniversary Not Unmixed Joy
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
On May 21, 1863, the fledgling Seventh-day Adventist denomination organized its General Conference. One hundred and fifty years! Most organizations would have long ago begun planning a year-long party to celebrate such an event. We, on the other hand, are a little conflicted about our 150th anniversary. After all, we weren’t supposed to still be here.
On one of the church’s main websites, https://www.adventist.org/150/, the following is posted:
Our 150th anniversary is not a time for parties or celebration — those who founded the General Conference in May 1863 would have undoubtedly been deeply disappointed to know that their descendants would still be on earth in 2013. This important anniversary is rather a time for reflection; for repentance; for thanksgiving; and for renewed commitment to the purpose for which God called this movement into being.
The worldwide church has designated Sabbath May 18, 2013, as a day of prayer, remembrance, and recommitment to mission. Each local congregation is encouraged to find appropriate ways to mark the "sesquicentennial" of Seventh-day Adventists being united for mission, including a focus on their local church history. Throughout our 150th year, individual Seventh-day Adventists can also be inspired by our history.
This important anniversary should prompt us to reflect on how God has led His remnant church "and His teaching in our past history" (Life Sketches , 196). We should both thank Him for miraculous leading — and reflect on what we have done, and not done, that grieves our God, and repent. It is a good time to commit ourselves, both individually and corporately, not just to "a revival but [to] a reformation", as Ellen White urged (R&H, July 15, 1902, p. 7). It is time to pledge ourselves anew to preaching "the everlasting gospel … to every nation, tribe, tongue and people" (Rev. 14:6).
As we reflect on 150 years of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it is time to recommit ourselves to the prophetic destiny of the Great Second Advent Movement.
Some eyes outside our church have taken note of these mixed emotions. On www.religionnews.com, run by Religion News, LLC, which is based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, reporter Dan Burke (who now co-edits CNN’s Belief Blog) wrote an article entitled “As They Turn 150, Adventists Still Pray for the Apocalypse.”
Burke begins by citing the world-wide growth and prosperity of the church, and notes that we are not exactly celebrating this success on the occasion of our anniversary. “By Second-Coming standards,” Burke writes, “the church’s long life could be considered a dismal sign of failure.”
He goes on to quote some church authorities:
“If you took a time machine and visited our founders in May 1863, they’d be disconcerted, to say the least, that we’re still here,” said David Trim, the church’s director of archives and research. . . .
“It’s almost an embarrassment to be celebrating 150 years,” said Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, the church’s director of education. “But it’s also an affirmation of faith in Christ’s return.”
“In one kind of way it really is a sad event,” said Michael Ryan, a vice president at the church’s General Conference, its top governing body. “We’re a church that by its name believes in the Second Coming of Christ, and we have been hopeful that long ago Christ would have come and taken the righteous to heaven and this world would have ended.”
Burke’s article contains a concise history of the denomination and its present growth rate. He points out what may be one of our greatest strengths: “Jesus told Christians to occupy themselves until he returns – advice that Adventists take to heart.” And he goes on to speak of our ever-growing, global work in health and well-being. “Adventist growth is especially intense in Latin America and Africa, where people are attracted to the faith’s blend of ethereal optimism (Jesus is coming soon!) and earthly education (Eat your vegetables until he does.)”
Not a bad doctrine!
To read the full text of this interesting article, please visit