Pioneer missionary Peni (Benny) Tavodi and popular evangelist George Burnside are among the many individuals from the South Pacific Division (SPD) whose biographies feature in the new Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA), which launches this week.
ESDA is an exciting global project several years in the making. Of the 8500 entries documenting the history and life of the Adventist Church around the world, 611 are from the SPD, with a further 19 currently being edited. The benefit of the digital format is that ESDA can be continually updated and expanded.
Scholars, teachers and authors from every division have contributed to the project, including 140 writers from the SPD. It is the first time some of the stories have been told.
In his role as ESDA regional editor, former Division president Dr Barry Oliver has been busy coordinating local writers and entries for the project. There are articles on each union, conference, mission and institution, as well as on significant people and events from the South Pacific.
“No project ever attempted by the Church has had this breadth of input,” Dr Oliver said. “We are a global Church and it is entirely appropriate that our encyclopedia should be produced by the contributions of writers from right around the globe. Some authors live in remote locations such as Choiseul Island in the Solomon Islands. Some live at Avondale University College. They come from every continent except Antarctica as far as I know.”
Some of the stories have left a lasting impression on Dr Oliver. “The amazing courage, commitment and dare I say it, intestinal fortitude of people I had not heard of blew me away,” he said.
“It is not a coincidence that our Church is the global, growing Church that it is today. And when one realises that it all is within the providence and blessing of God, it is moving to say the least. The stories of people and places are so good that they can be used for serious research or enjoyable reading. Like me, I am sure you will be amazed at what you learn.”
Importantly, Dr Oliver hasn’t shied away from including some of the more colourful and controversial characters and events from our past. “It’s not all sanitised history,” he said.
"The stories of people and places are so good that they can be used for serious research or enjoyable reading."
And this is just the beginning—much of the story is still to be told. “We have made a good start but more needs to be done,” Dr Oliver said. “And it can be done because for the first time we have a resource that is online. Not only can each article be expanded, supplemented and if necessary corrected, but we can add articles on people and places that have been important in our Church.”
According to Dr Oliver, there are three things we can take away from the encyclopedia.
“The first is information,” he said. “Every effort has been made to thoroughly research each topic and the facts are supported with endnotes and sources of information. The second is identity. Where did the Seventh-day Adventist Church come from and how did we get to be the Church that we are? Why are we here? And what does our past say about our future? Then there is inspiration. The stories of people and places and an understanding of the scope and purpose of our operations are inspiring, heart-warming and in some cases challenging.”
(Watch #RecordLive’s conversation with Dr Barry Oliver below.)
SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend said ESDA will be an incredibly valuable resource for those interested in the history and development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Reading the encyclopedia will not only inform with researched history, but it will also inspire you to continue to serve in the footsteps of those who have sacrificed much to create the dynamic Church that we have today in the South Pacific,” Pastor Townend said. “There is much interesting history for sermons, study papers, talks and more.”
ESDA was originally due to be launched at the now postponed 2020 General Conference Session. Instead the launch will take place on the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/ghb55gmz2ts) at 3pm on July 1 at the General Conference. Members around the world are invited to tune into the launch (Note: the difference in time zones will mean that the launch will be at 5am, July 2 AEST).
For more information and to access the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia go to encyclopedia.adventist.org.