Wealth Divide: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Poor
Widespread popular opinion is that the millennarian movements of the mid-nineteenth century, working in conditions of intolerable discomfort and poverty, understood and interpreted sections of the Bible as the anticipation of the destruction of the present world and the early coming of Jesus Christ.1 However, contrary to this view, the Seventh-day Adventist church emerged in the mid-nineteenth century from a relatively affluent middle-class society of farmers and other independent artisans. A recent study of the socioeconomic status of early Adventist believers has shown that in the 1860s they were ‘generally white, occupationally independent, distributed in a wide spectrum of economic statuses, but favouring the upper side of that spectrum’.2 They were found to be ‘a lot more wealthy’ than was previously believed. Ronald Graybill, drawing on three essential studies of the economic status of Adventists,3 noted that members have been economically upwardly mobile ever since their modest beginnings in the 1850s. However, this upward economic mobility, Graybill concluded, did not prevent them from being concerned with improving the socio-economic status of others, as can be witnessed in a number of areas of church life and its ideology. We shall look at this through an historical sketch.
KeywordsDisaster Relief Church Member Mission School Wealthy Nation Welfare Activity
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