Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Jonathan Scriven, Nicholas P. Miller, Michael W. Campbell, Kathy Hecht, and Bradford Haas take a photo of the document with historical ties to the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [Photo: courtesy of Michael Campbell]

Rare and Important Millerite Periodical in Washington Adventist University's Library Sheds Light on Early Adventism

Story by Everett Wiles

As Washington Adventist University (WAU) celebrates its 120th anniversary this year, a historic publication from 1844 reminds the community of the rich Adventist heritage that is found in Takoma Park, Md.

Michael Campbell, director of the North American Division (NAD) Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, has identified the copy of the inaugural issue of The Hope of Israel in the Washington Adventist University Heritage Collection as the only copy of this important Millerite publication known to exist.

Dating from July 19, 1844, The Hope of Israel was edited by Joseph Turner and John Pearson, Jr. As Campbell explained in a recent podcast, the Millerites were a group of believers who thought the second coming of Christ would occur sometime in 1843–1844, thus the name of the periodical reflected the hope they had of God returning to His people. Some of those who were “disappointed” when Christ did not return went on to form the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This copy of The Hope of Israel, then, helps to provide more details about early Adventism.

The Hope of Israel was on public display at WAU in
the Weis Library in 2015 as part of an Honors Program exhibition on the 170th anniversary of the Great Disappointment, along with other Millerite and early Seventh-day Adventist items from the Heritage Collection. It took a scholar with Campbell’s expertise, however, to recognize the rarity, importance and possible uniqueness of the periodical.

Campbell has already discovered key insights into The Hope of Israel’s publication history, including confirmation of its initial launch date. It also provides information about an early Millerite conference held in Maine in 1844, as well as an article on the abolitionist movement, showing that early Adventists during the Millerite period were concerned with social issues, even as they were expecting the world to end with Christ’s return.

“It was an exciting moment when Dr. Campbell saw the periodical and immediately recognized its importance,” says Professor Bradford Haas, director of the WAU Honors College. “Seeing that WAU is in Takoma Park, which was an epicenter of Adventist culture and leadership for many decades, it isn't surprising that historically significan material was deposited in our library. We are proud of the archival material in the Heritae Collection, especially when many colleges and universities are jettisoning hard copies in favor of digital resources. I hope this brings more scholars to our campus to use the collection."

The Honors College has encouraged scholars to explore Adventist heritage through archival materials in its annual Adventist Archives Lectureship, a partnership with the General Conference’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR). David Trim, director of ASTR, also sits on the Honors College advisory board.

This past October, Campbell was the featured speaker for the Adventist Archives Lectureship, during which he spoke about the history of the NAD. He also partnered with the Honors College and Sligo church in October to host a major NAD conference on the History of Women in Adventism. Not only did this bring scholars from across North America and beyond, this occasion allowed WAU Honors College students the chance to take a course from Campbell and to be informed participants in the conference.

The Honors College and the General Conference ASTR Department plan to mark the 180th anniversary of the Millerite movement’s Great Disappointment on October 22, 2024, with the Adventist Archives Lectureship featuring Merlin Burt, Founding Director of the Integrated Center for Adventist Research at Andrews University.

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