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Invitation to November Asheville Adventist Forum Meeting


Greetings, Forum Community,

I write to invite you to attend November’s Zoom meeting of the Asheville Adventist Forum. I announced at our previous meeting that I had agreed to swap with the speaker I had originally lined up for that date, but whom I then found had double-booked herself.

Please note that the meeting is not the usual last Sabbath of the month because that is Thanksgiving weekend: Our meeting this month will be on November 18, which is the Sabbath after next. It will begin, as usual, at 3.00pm Eastern Time.

My topic will be “Adventism and the HIV-AIDS Epidemic.” Alternatively, you could think of it as “When Adventism had HIV-AIDS.”

I will examine how the Church responded to Church members who became sick with the disease with what was then an absolute death sentence, first in the United States and then in Africa. I will share with you what is planned to be chapter 22 of Volume Two of my sociological study of global Adventism, a volume addresses Adventism and social issues. I have found it very thought-provoking to ponder how the Church has responded to these social issues among its members, and I expect that you will, too. The issues that that volume will cover include the Adventist Church and women, race, sex and marriage, marriage to “outsiders,” divorce and remarriage, irregular marriages, polygamy and traditional marriage, Adventist churches and their single members, “out of wedlock” births, cohabitation or living together without marriage, abortion, spousal abuse, physical abuse of children by parents, sexual abuse of women, children and youth by church authority figures, the Adventist Church and its LGBTQ members, and the Church and its members with HIV-AIDS.

Just in case you don’t know enough about me, here is some more. I was born in what was then known as the Sydney San in Australia in 1940, grew up in the Northeastern state of Queensland where my father grew tropical fruit, mainly pineapples. My sister and I were home-schooled, which was my Mother’s way of giving us an Adventist education. I won a government tertiary scholarship, and had to decide between the university and the conservatory, which I resented greatly. Rather than pick one over the other, I studied at both institutions, my degrees coming from the University of Queensland (a BA with honors in history, and a Ph.D. in both sociology and history.)

I was heavily involved in church. I served as a choir director of a sanctuary choir in my home church from age 15, which continued in my new church in Brisbane when I attended university. I served as a Sabbath School teacher, Director of the Youth Sabbath School, and as a founder and president of the Queensland University SDA Society.

I realized that I could help my finances by taking music positions at other churches: in Brisbane I sang in the choir of the Anglican Cathedral and played the organ for week-night vespers services at the Presbyterian Seminary, each for 7 years. Later, in New York, I was the organist and choir director for four churches in turn, one Baptist, three Episcopal. After completing my doctorate I won a Fullbright Travel Grant that would bring me to Columbia University in New York City for a two-year “post-doc,” but I insisted on spending a year first on a long-planned trip through Southeast and Southern Asia, then through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Israel to Eastern Europe where the people were getting restive towards their Communist governments, and on to Scandinavia, where I ran out of time and flew to North America.

In New York I found a congregation of Adventist graduate students worshipping in the chapel of Columbia University, which was in fact a Forum chapter that met weekly. Four years later I was elected president, a position I held for forty years. While at Columbia University, I became very interested in tenant-landlord conflict there. I was persuaded to apply for a government grant to study further, which led me to New York City.

I made my whole teaching career at the City University of New York (CUNY), first at Hunter College but for most of my years at Queens College. I also became one of the founders of SDA Kinship, an organization of LGBTQ Adventists whose main concern then was whether God loved and accepted them.

I had long wanted to study global Adventism from a sociological point of view, and in 1983, having just been granted tenure and promoted to Full Professor, I figured the time had arrived and launched my study the next year, when I had a year’s sabbatical leave. I had to wait for such opportunities to take off from teaching, but in total I have conducted interviews with over 4,500 Adventists in 60 countries in all divisions of the world church. I discovered I had really bitten off a large mouthful! There is no sociological study of any religious group that is anything like it in size. I now have three colleagues who are determined that my books will be published, and we are making good progress. They are committed to completing the four volumes if something happens to me, and meanwhile are working with me. I call them my “dream team.” You can see a lot of what I have written on my web page,

Our meeting will be, as usual, a Zoom meeting. Here is the log-in information you will need:

Join Zoom Meeting.

Ronald Lawson is many things, among them co-founder of SDA Kinship International, co-founder of QUSDAS (the Queensland University Seventh-day Adventist Society) and its president from 1963-65. He served as New York Adventist Forum president for 41 years and formed the Asheville Adventist Forum in 2016. He continues to organize its monthly meetings. He also helped to establish other Forum chapters including those in Sydney, San Diego, Toronto, and Orlando. He now lives in Loma Linda, California, where he is working towards completing his planned books on global Adventism.

Title Image: Spectrum file photo.

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