Ahead of his time

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Louis Were (29 April, 1896–2 April, 1967) pictured (above) with his first wife and his daughter, was a dynamic evangelist and author who worked for the Church for many years in Australia and New Zealand. 

Of analytic mind, he was not convinced that some traditional Adventist interpretations of prophecy were valid, particularly those dealing with end-time events such as Armageddon, which he saw as a spiritual rather than a literal conflict.

. . . he was a splendid example of grace under pressure, continuing to promote the cause of Christ and work for the mission of the Church as a layman while under continuing duress from his peers.

While working as an evangelist in Adelaide, South Australia, he shared some of his views at two public meetings. This led to considerable concern on the part of Church leaders. Conference president, Pastor W M R Scragg, while not necessarily agreeing with all of Mr Were’s views, staunchly supported his right to think independently. Even so, concern mounted and in the meetings called to assess Mr Were’s teachings, Pastor Scragg was the only person present who spoke in his favour. In spite of Pastor Scragg’s spirited defence, the Committee voted to support the traditional, Uriah Smith-based view, and soon after Mr Were was dropped from denominational employment.

Freed from any limitations on sharing his new beliefs, he soon began a long period of independent publishing—releasing a new tract or book almost every year. To the considerable concern of the Australian Church leadership, it soon became apparent that the North American Adventist theological community had similar views to Mr Were. It was clear the General Conference administration did not share the concerns of the Australian leaders, who were distressed by Mr Were attending denominationally sponsored conferences in America, including the 1950 Bible Teachers Council. While he did not speak at those meetings, he did have a number of private conversations and, with time, received many sympathetic letters from prominent Church teachers there. 

Mr Were continued to publish and he lived long enough to see the acceptance of many of his positions by the Church, and his views being taught at Avondale College and internationally. While presenting his views so publicly in Adelaide would seem in retrospect to have been unwise, one is led to conclude that Mr Were was a man ahead of his time. He remained fiercely loyal to the Church and continued as a local elder to win converts, unlike some of his contemporaries who also challenged some traditional teachings of the Church. 

Late in life Mr Were was offered a position back in ministry but declined the invitation. In his conduct, he was a splendid example of grace under pressure, continuing to promote the cause of Christ and work for the mission of the Church as a layman while under continuing duress from his peers, and thus a splendid example many years later for the rest of us. 

Source: Louis Were—a Dr Milton Hook paper on file at the Ellen G White Research Centre, Avondale College.

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