All during the 1960s unprecedented waves of turbulent social change had washed over North America and rippled around the world. The waves surged through Adventism, too.
New theological ideas such as the new views on the heavenly sanctuary taught by Edward Heppenstall and the new approach to teaching the New Testament that included exposure of students to “the Synoptic problem” deeply unsettled GC President Robert H. Pierson and his colleagues in leadership. The idea that the age of the earth might be more than 6,000 years or that some other apostle or New Testament writer may have authored the letter to the Hebrews sounded like undisguised heresy. Had not Ellen White spoken and made all that clear? Wasn’t her authority final and sufficient?
All this troubled Elder Pierson. Could it not be stopped? The fundamentalist church that he knew from childhood and to which he had recommitted himself in his late teens needed to be preserved—not only its lifestyle standards but also its theology. Church leaders needed to step on the brakes. He did. Elder Pierson set about battening down the hatches against the fierce winds of “liberalism” threatening to swamp the church. He secured control of the Bible Research Committee, reappointed staff at the GeoScience Research Institute, and pressured Hammill to clean out problem teachers from the Seminary. It was an unsettled period, to say the least.
Gilbert M Valentine, PhD., recently retired, continues as an adjunct professor in the H. M. S. Richards Divinity School at La Sierra University, California, USA. His most recent work, Ostriches and Canaries: Coping with Change in Adventism 1966-1979, has been applauded as astonishing in its detail and comprehensiveness and as “a gift to the Advent Movement for all time.”