The President’s Pen
Updated: Feb 9
A Centennial Ebenezer
The organized work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Carolinas was established in 1901 with our first president, J.O. Johnston. With the encouragement of Ellen G. White, it was organized in Hickory, North Carolina.
In 1904 the North Carolina Conference was organized separately with T.H. Jeys as its first president. Three years later in 1907, the South Carolina Conference was organized with R.T. Nash as its first president.
A little over a decade later in 1918, these two territories began merging under the leadership of J.W. McNeil, the first president of the organized and incorporated Carolina Conference. One hundred years ago in 1920, the merger was completed and signed as an official incorporation of the two separate conferences into one.
The publishing ministry was instrumental in advancing God’s work throughout the Carolinas. While the two conferences were in the process of being merged, an English colporteur by the name of Walter Brightman went to Charleston. It was the last year of World War I, and as Brightman went about his work, he caught the attention of a law enforcement officer who then arrested him under suspicion of being a German spy. When Brightman was brought before the judge, he gave the judge his canvass of the book he was selling. The judge ended up buying the book and dismissing all the charges against him. In the first 10 months of 1920, $102,718.95 worth of truth-filled literature had been sold in the newly merged Carolina Conference. In today’s dollars that would be equivalent to nearly $1.4 million!
Just over a century ago a strain of influenza known as the Spanish flu crossed from birds to humans in 1918 and claimed an estimated 50 million lives during its deadly march around the globe. Many of the cities in the Carolinas were under quarantine, and all public meetings, including Sabbath services, were stopped.
Thirty-six presidents have been elected as God’s leaders in the Carolina Conference since J.W. McNeil finished his post of duty in 1920 after serving for only two years. One hundred years have come and gone. We’ve faced our past and present challenges with faith and courage as we proclaim the message of the everlasting gospel from the shores to the mountains of our beautiful Carolinas.
Millennia ago on a battlefield where years prior they had suffered defeat, Israel pled with God for help, and He granted them a miraculous victory. Their priest and leader, Samuel, set up a monument to remind them of God's strong hand in their triumph, and Samuel named the pillar “Ebenezer,” saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us," 1 Samuel 7:12. This stone pillar was to cause God's people to recall often the time when God turned things from bad to blessed. Each time an Israelite saw the Ebenezer stone, they remembered God's help in the past, God's help available in the present, and God's help assured for every tomorrow. The Ebenezer was a "picture" of the Lord's readiness to hear their cries and save them, and it served to remind them not only where to turn for their strength and power but also Whom to thank for their deliverance.
Despite the challenges of this past year and the uncertainties of what tomorrow may bring, may this centennial year for the Carolina Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church be our Ebenezer to remind us that
· God has guided our church in the past and continues to do so in the present;
· Adventism is a movement of prophetic destiny rather than just another Protestant denomination; and
· the greatest danger we face going forward is forgetting our identity and thereby losing our purpose and reason for being.
Your servant leader for the Lord,
Leslie D. Louis
NOTE: The historical information presented in this article was derived from the book Taking the Gospel Beyond the Mountains: The history of the Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists by Herman Eugene Davis Sr., published by Mountain Church in Alexander, NC. © 2005.