Monday, July 18, 2011

The Passing of a Giant

You probably won't read the news of his passing in the Adventist Review, or on the Adventist News Network website. You probably won't read it in Spectrum or see it announced on 3ABN. And that's fine. But the Adventist Church just lost one of its biggest - yet maligned - giants last week. Elder Robert J. Wieland - missionary to Africa, author of over 25 books, and herald of our history - passed away on Wednesday morning, July 13. He was 95-years old and ready for the Lord to return. Sadly, he did not see this fulfilled.

Whether realized or not, it could be argued that his influence across Adventism over the last 60 years has been unsurpassed. After coming across a book by E.J Waggoner in 1939 entitled The Glad Tidings, he fell in love with the gospel and became startled that few within his own community of faith shared his enthusiasm. And he was even more startled to discover that Adventism's own messenger - Ellen White - proclaimed that the message E.J. Waggoner, along with A.T. Jones, was sharing would usher in the latter rain and bring about Christ's Second Coming if embraced by the church. But when he, along with fellow missionary Donald K. Short, called this truth to the attention of church leadership, the news was not received.

And so, for the next 60 years, until his passing, he served as "a voice crying in the wilderness," reacquainting the church with that "most precious message" and encouraging us to repent of rejecting what the Lord wanted to do among us.

It was this latter emphasis that met with the strongest reactions and most resistance. It was this emphasis that many simply could not bear.

I had the privilege of knowing Elder Wieland, either indirectly or directly, for essentially my whole life. He was a family friend and I remember him staying with us on at least one occasion when I was a kid. But not only was he a family friend, he was also a huge spiritual and theological influence. Much of my understanding of the gospel came as a result of reading his books, listening to his sermons, and, to a lesser extent, corresponding with him personally.

The last time I saw Elder Wieland was three years ago - almost to the day. I spent almost five hours with him at his home in Meadow Vista, California. He served me a "simple, simple meal," as he said, and we enjoyed great fellowship. He was alone, having laid to rest his wife just a short time before. As always, his heart was heavy with the burden of that "most precious message" and he reacquainted me with his experience. His grief seeped out as he recounted, not only the challenges he faced personally (threats of disfellowship; the emotional assault on he and his family throughout the years), but the pain that has been brought to His Savior because of His bride's refusal to prepare herself for the wedding.

Of course, he almost couldn't contain his excitement when he would ask me, in response to when I would mention the names of professors and pastors I encountered during my time in the seminary, "Is he with us?" Whenever I would start talking about a person who seemed to be sympathetic to that "most precious message," he would ask this question, with a twinkle in his eye. He was still holding out hope that pastors, professors, and other church leaders would lay hold of the message and proclaim it with power. He was still holding out hope that he could be a part of the group that saw the Lord's return.

And, to be honest, I was convinced that the Lord was preserving Elder Wieland for His Second Coming so that he might be translated, honoring his many years of faithful labor. After all, every time I saw him I was amazed at how his age didn't seem to match his health. He always seemed to look a lot younger than he actually was. But his passing before the Second Coming speaks to the precise point he made for so long: even the Lord's hands are tied when it comes to the timing of His return and whether the bride prepares herself.

Of course, a strong hope in that blessed hope was not realized by Elder Wieland; but his work has not been in vain. The influence of this Adventist Giant has rippled out to the ends of the earth and shall continue to do so, I trust, until the Lord's return.

Until then, Elder Wieland, "having obtained a good testimony through faith," will, like the great faith heroes of Hebrews 11, wait in his grave, not having "receive[d] the promise, God having provided something better for us, that [he and] they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40).

May we all, by God's grace, be that generation that is made perfect on their behalf - and on the Lord's behalf.

E'en so, Lord Jesus quickly come.

(Update: Elder Wieland's obituary - which I have not yet read - is available here)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some day the maligned prophets among us will be brought in out of the cold. We will restore them, many posthumously, to their rightful place in the work they have done for Jesus and His Bride. Thank you, Elder Wieland. You have truly been a unappreciated giant. May we rededicate ourelves to the One you directed us to. We look forward to reunion soon.
BB

T Calvert said...

I didn't know Elder Wieland, but had heard his name associated with other champions of the gospel. It is somewhat disheartening to hear past and current reactions to this precious truth. I pray the truth will be more readily accepted and preached for all to hear, so I can one day meet Elder Wieland around the great white throne.

Andrew said...

I do sometimes have a bit of trouble understanding what went down in 1888, as everybody (often opposing camps) claims to be carrying the legacy of Jones and Waggoner's messages.

I am familiar with the names Wieland and Short as well, but little else.

I do wish to take the emphasis off of the church's readiness onto the readiness of the world. The world will be ready when everyone has had a chance to make up their minds about God. They can only do so if they hear the message of Christ from us--which we need to accept fully. Just saying the same thing as you in a different way (I think).

Lastly, does anyone suppose that God is also using other churches to get this message across?

GC said...

Exactly my sentiments, BB.

Elders Wieland and Short have been used by God to uphold the third angel's message in adventism. I can name 1888 Reexamined as the main published work upon witch adventism still stands in the SDA Church. Really unperceived and unappreciated giants, these two modest men of God.

GC

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Thanks Shawn for this tribute!

My wife and I had the privilege of knowing Pastor Wieland and Grace for several years after we finished college in 1994. We were always blessed tremendously whenever we had opportunity to hear Pastor Wieland speak on his favorite subject, "the matchless charms of Jesus". Just thinking about those wonderful messages brings tears to my eyes.

Even though Elder Wieland didn’t get to enjoy his fondest hope of living to see Jesus return, I feel certain that he will sleep only a short time. I believe that his hope will not be disappointed! A special resurrection is promised especially for faithful servants like Elder Wieland.

Graves are opened, and “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth” “awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” [Daniel 12:2.] All who have died in faith under the third angel’s message come forth from the tomb glorified, to hear God’s covenant of peace with those who have kept his law. {4SP 454.1}

I would like to invite the readers of this blog to watch to a sermon video by Elder Wieland which I have just completed and uploaded. You can access it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRNgHr18gTU

I know you will be blessed by hearing Elder Wieland like I have been!

Shawn Brace said...

Thanks for sharing, GC! I think you are entirely correct in your assessment.

And Steve: thanks for sharing the stories and video. We need more videos, though! Keep 'em coming if you have them.

N. Ryan said...

It was Elder Wieland who said that to be an Adventist was to not just believe Jesus is coming soon, but to absolutely love the thought of it.

When righteousness by faith is understood, this becomes oh so true. Every time I doubt my salvation or I get tired of Adventism's luggage, I think of this.

Sharon said...

Without a doubt, Elder Wieland was the most godly man I have ever known. He was the one I could always point to as a faithful and true minister in the SDA church. His message of corporate repentance is so greatly needed. Elder Wieland understood the gospel like no other pastor. His book, In Search of the Cross, is a masterpiece which blessed my life abundantly. It was a privilege to meet him at the first 1888 Message Study Committee Conferences. By far, it was Elder Wieland's ministry that had the greatest impact on my life for which I will be forever grateful. I totally agree that he was a giant and that he was a messenger sent by the Lord to the SDA Church. It was not in vain, for truly the message lives on in the lives of those of us who heard and rejoiced in its light. The seeds of Elder Weiland's ministry are many, and they have reached very wide to bless, to exault the true gospel message, to glorify God and to lay the glory of man in the dust. I praise the Lord for the life and ministry of His faithful servant Elder Wieland. He has now passed the torch on to us--may we carry it as faithfully and fervantly as he--all the way through to the Second Coming.

Les said...

Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a wonderful human being. I spent many wonderful hours with him at his church in San Diego, and he was one of the truest representatives of Jesus Christ in this world that I have ever known.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints..."