From the Editor's Pen
The record says that there were only 20 of them on that Thursday morning 150 years ago—all men, and all Americans. Almost all the delegates were ministers: just two were identified as laypersons.
Among the 20 were three who would apostatize and depart the church within a decade. Three others would go on to serve at least a single one-year term as president of the organization they created. Two would serve as editors of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (now the Adventist Review), the sister journal of Adventist World. Virtually all of them would struggle with finances, both personally and in the church they founded.
While the church structure they established not only survived but thrived, almost every other fact of its existence has changed. Men are now a minority, accounting for less than 40 percent of the church’s membership, and Americans, just 6 percent. Ministers and all other employees taken together amount to less than 2 percent of members. The annual value of tithes and offerings contributed by church members exceeds US$1 billion, with multiples of that value in church buildings, hospitals, schools, and mission equipment.
Though several “state conferences” had existed before the May 21, 1863 meeting, Seventh-day Adventists both at the time and in succeeding generations have pointed to that Thursday as the birthday of the church that now circles the globe. It operates in more than 200 countries, counts more than 17 million baptized believers, and supports the world’s largest Protestant educational, medical, and publishing systems. Millions of others count themselves as part of that worldwide movement as family or friends of those holding membership.
“The influence of this meeting cannot fail to be good,” wrote 31-year old Uriah Smith, elected secretary (second officer) of the General Conference, just five days after the meeting. His careful prediction now seems too modest: God has so blessed the Seventh-day Adventist Church that more persons are now joining the Church each day than were baptized on the Biblical day of Pentecost.
As you read the stories of God’s leading in this month’s special edition of Advent-ist World, be reminded of how God can take small things—a widow’s jar of meal; five smooth stones from a brook; or five loaves and two fish—and do unimaginably great things.