Why this website?
When I entered graduate school I set out to do a Ph.D. in history, discovered sociology, and ultimately completed the degree in both disciplines. I found the course on the sociology of religion especially eye-opening, for the introduction to Church-Sect theory (which I prefer to call “Sect-to-Denomination theory”) gave me a new understanding of my church. I determined to research Adventism when I had the opportunity in order to understand it even better, and to make those understandings available to fellow-members and others interested.
In 1984 I had a sabbatical leave, and since I was now a tenured full-professor, I realized the time had come, and set out to travel North America interviewing church members. That research trip included the 1985 General Conference Session in New Orleans. I realized there that understanding Adventism, which was becoming so global in its distribution of members, required a global approach.
So I set out to accomplish that, using each sabbatical leave and research grant I received to explore Adventism further, eventually interviewing about 4,000 members in a total of 60 countries. I visited several countries multiple times, especially those that were changing very rapidly, such as Russia and Eastern Europe during and after Communism, South Africa during and after Apartheid, and other countries as different as England, Germany, and Papua New Guinea, that I realized were especially significant to understanding the dynamics of the church.
As the research proceeded I wrote many papers, presenting them at conferences and submitting them to journals for publication. I also planned books—initially one, but eventually a total of four. While I found it relatively easy to write papers while teaching classes, this was not true of books. Consequently, when I retired I had not written any of those I had planned. I have been working hard on them since retiring, but have found that the huge data base that I have assembled makes this a slow process. I am now approaching the age of 78, and cannot know how much time God will give me, or how much of what I hope to complete will actually get written.
Consequently, I have chosen to write a long paper, which summarizes briefly what I hope to write in detail in the books, so that if my time is cut short, at least that will be available. I have gone to a lot of trouble to find 100 photos, to illustrate the paper. These are each embedded near the point in the paper where each is referred to. I release this paper, “The Evolution and Current Issues of Seventh-day Adventism“, here now. PDF versions are provided for each paper.
This paper reflects all four of the planned volumes (the titles are all tentative):
Volume 1: APOCALYPSE POSTPONED: Seventh-day Adventism Journeys from American Sect to Global Denomination.
Volume 1 will summarize the history of Adventism and the development and impact of its many institutions, its relationship with governments and other churches, the development of its behavioral norms, and of its concern for its image; and it will explore the extent and significance of Adventism’s evolution from sect to denomination.
Volume 2: THE CARING CHURCH? Seventh-day Adventism and Issues of Social Justice.
Book 2 will show that sect to denomination theory is also relevant to Adventism’s approach to its social issues. I will explore Adventism and gender discrimination; race relations; sex, marriage, irregular marriage, cohabitation, singles, births out of wedlock, and abortion; Adventists and polygamous marriages in Africa and Papua-New Guinea; Adventists and physical and sexual abuse of both spouses and children; Adventists and its homosexual members; Adventism and HIV/AIDS; to what extent is Adventism a caring, welcoming church?
Volume 3: FROM AMERICAN SECT TO GLOBAL DENOMINATION: The Growth and Spread of Seventh-day Adventism
Volume 3 will consider the process and impact of Adventism’s globalization and growth, including its outreach strategies and their effectiveness, the role of natural increase, the role of the emigration/immigration of Adventists, and the reliability of Adventist statistics. It will consider what social groups are prominent among Adventist members, how the global church is governed, and the dynamics of its congregations. The growth and spread of Adventism, and what kinds of people join it, and the reliability of its statistics will be compared with the experience of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, two other religious groups that were also born in the USA during the nineteenth century and then globalized.
Volume 4: APOCALYPSE POSTPONED: The Future of Seventh-day Adventism.
Volume 4 will consider the issues facing Adventism currently—though these could of course change considerably by the time this volume is actually written.
I will also, over time, make available copies of my published papers concerning Adventists and Adventism, as well as those comparing the growth and spread of Mormons, Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I will also add my papers that were written for presentation at meetings but have never before been published.
My CV, with an account of my education and careers, and a list of my publications and papers presented at academic meetings, appears on an ABOUT page on this site. I decided to list there both my academic career and my subsidiary career as a church musician. When I finished high school I won a scholarship for tertiary education, and had to choose between taking it at the university or the music conservatory, for I had been admitted to both. I resented having to choose, for I wanted to attend both, and ultimately that is what I did: I took the scholarship to the university, but also studied piano, organ, voice, and clarinet at the conservatory over the same period. I had earned a reputation as a musician by that time mostly because for four years, from the age or 13 through 16, I had each year won first, second, or third prize in a national competition sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for young composers. While I entered a variety of pieces, the prizes were always awarded to one of my songs, which had to feature words written by an Australian. A few years ago I made videos of me singing all the songs I wrote during that period and put them on You-Tube under the title of “Australian Songs.” I plan now to put them on this web-site also. I will probably also place other musical videos of my work here.
Ron Lawson in Algonquin Park, Ontario, July 2014