Standing On The Shoulders Of Pygmies

A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine and fellow Church of God intellectual, Craig White, posted a timeline to go along with a paper he had previously written about the pioneers of the Church of God, which I happened to find on Academia.edu under my most popular papers of the week:

WCG_Pioneers_Timeline

In looking at this particular timeline I was hit fairly rapidly with a variety of thoughts and questions.  Is this list arbitrary or is there a logic behind it?  How is it that I know so many of the people on this list, that someone as obscure as myself would be not that far from the greatness that these men represent to so many?  Why do I feel such a strong degree of ambivalence about this list and the way that certain people are considered to be experts here?  Although my own perceptions about these pioneers of the Worldwide Church of God are likely to be somewhat different than the perceptions that the timeline’s maker has, and likely that the majority of my readers will have, I thought it worthwhile at least to share my own reflections, as conflicted as they may be.

The timing of the posting of the timeline was itself highly significant in my estimation, coming as it did at or around Father’s Day.  It seems likely to me, at least, that Craig White was making a statement that the men on this timeline were in many ways the father of the faith that I hold to and that is held to by many of this blog’s readers–though by no means all or even most.  A still larger portion, perhaps, of people will be somewhat familiar with at least a few of the names on this list for one reason or another, either because of a prior background with the Church of God themselves or because of a fondness for the terrifying art of Basil Wolverton, a man responsible for a few of my childhood’s many nightmares, though fewer than my father, alas.  Most of the people on this list have died although a few remain alive, including one of the gentlemen I know personally, although I must admit he is not particularly fond of me.  For all of my considerable ambivalence towards many of the names on this list, there is certainly a debt to which I and those of my generation owe to these people for having worked out and researched and blazed a trail for a faith which I and many still hold in our hearts and follow to the best of our modest abilities in our conduct.  If that debt cannot be paid, it should at least be recognized honestly and as graciously as possible.

Besides paying a debt in a general sense, there are at least a few people on this list to which my debt is more personal in nature.  Despite the disappointment of his refusal to stand up to the corruption of the 1990’s Worldwide Church of God, I met Herman Hoeh near the end of his life when we sat near each other while watching Mendelssohn’s Elijah.  We had a friendly talk during the intermission and I have found his compendium to be a worthwhile read [1] as well as an inspiration for some of the titles of my blog entries [2].  Anyone who teaches me a useful word and opens up my mind to an obscure genre of literature that I enjoy writing is worthy of having that debt recognized.  After the death of Dean Blackwell, I ended up with some of his books in my own personal library, and anyone who enriches my library, however unintentionally, deserves my praise and respect.  Leroy Neff has a connection to me through Pittsburgh, Gerald Waterhouse through his own epic sermons as well as through his brother [3], and Dibar Apartian through his descendants.  My father attended Roderick Meredith’s Global and then Living Church of God for many years and viewed him with a great deal of respect. As I alluded to earlier, I know Leon Walker and some members of his family personally, even if our memories of each other are not uniformly positive.  These are men whose lives have touched my own personally.  My life would certainly have been different without those personal encounters or indirect influence, and would likely be at least somewhat poorer.

Yet even I feel compelled to give honor to these people in recognition of the debt I owe them, and that are owed by those who like me were born and have grown up under the influence of the papers and books written and doctrines expounded by these men, I feel as if there is a great deal left to do.  When I look back on the generations before me in the Church of God, I am struck by a great deal of sadness at so much ground has yet to be covered, how many truths have yet to fully sink into our practices, how many implications have yet to catch our attention and our interest.  There has been a great deal of effort spent to preserving what these men (and others) uncovered in their own research of the Bible and what they said and wrote during the course of mostly long and productive lives, but their efforts were a beginning, and there is much that these men did not even begin to accomplish that remains for us to do.  Will the efforts of our generation be viewed with timelines and with calls to honor us for our contributions?  Whether we feel like we are standing on the shoulders of giants or pygmies, the record of those who came before us lays down a challenge for us to accept, a standard for us to surpass, and a foundation on which to stand.  Let us hope that the foundation is a sound one, and that we leave our institutions in better hands than we found them, that we recover the best of what we have lost, retain the best of what we have been given, and reach for the best of what we have yet to attain.  Much work remains to be done.  Much work has not even begun.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/08/07/a-church-of-god-bibliography/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/06/18/a-church-of-god-academic-journal/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/11/15/a-compendium-of-sabbath-observance-in-the-book-of-acts/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/10/14/a-compendium-of-passages-regarding-the-high-holy-days-in-the-new-testament/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/05/12/eulogy-for-a-former-pastor-mr-don-waterhouse/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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