by Ervin Taylor

On June 9, 2011, Bill Knott, the Adventist Review editor, wrote that Adventists who pronounce the word “Adventist” in a manner different from the way most Anglo Adventists pronounce it, do not have “a full understanding” of their church.

When I first read this, my reaction was simply that this was an absurd thing to say.  How one pronounces a word in a given language can reflect a number of things, running all the way from geographic location to socio-economic status.  However, to say that the way a member pronounces the name of their church has something to do with how well they “understand” their church strikes me as nonsensical.

I submit that this nonsensical statement should be taken much more seriously because Dr. Knott is the editor of the “flagship journal” of the Adventist Church.  For the editor to make such an arrogant and condescending statement is truly astonishing.  What is being said is that there is one “right” way to pronounce Adventist and that right way is the Anglo Adventist way of saying it, and anyone who does not say it the Anglo way does not “understand.”

Upon further reflection in conversation with a colleague, an even more disturbing issue was raised by Dr. Knott in his editorial.  He seems to be reaching back into the sectarian history of our group longing to return to a time when we were all White Anglos.  Maintaining sectarian boundaries as a “particular people” was high on our collective agenda. Within that context, making sure that we pronounced a word in our name in the “correct” manner was important since we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the “them,” those who were “outside the truth.”  And who, at that time, was an entire body of people totally “outside the truth?”  

I call on Dr. Knott to realize that his editorial was an embarrassment to him and his church, apologize for what, let us hope, was a quickly-drafted editorial written when he under a deadline, or was tired, or perhaps not feeling well.  We can all forgive him under those circumstances.

However, if he is really serious and stands by what he wrote, I would suggest that Dr. Knott be asked to resign since having the editor of the Adventist Review in the 21st Century espousing what is, at best, linguistic imperialism, and at worse, linguistic racism, is simply inexcusable.  If there is no recanting on his part and if he remains the editor of the Adventist Review, a dark stigma will attach itself to the institutional Adventist Church.