I got acquainted with Bert Haloviak when, in the early nineties, I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation and spent a few weeks in the archives of the Adventist Church in the basement of the denomination’s headquarters office in Silver Springs (MD, VS). At the time Bert was (and remained so for a long time) the director of the church’s Office of Archives and Statistics. Bert, who is now retired, is a very enjoyable person with a good sense of humor. He has a phenomenal knowledge of the history of Adventism and many related historical topics.
Bert lives with his wife Mary in Southern California, not far from the Adventist La Sierra University. At the time she worked as the administrative assistant of one of the associate secretaries of the General Conference, who, among other things, served as the liaison officer for the region of the world of which Northwestern Europe was an important part. Between 1995 and 2001 I was the general secretary of the church in that region (Trans-European Division) and Mary was of great help to me in finding and processing missionaries for the areas for which we had a special responsibility. She was far more efficient than her boss, and I got in a habit of dealing directly with her. At times I mailed or called her almost on a daily basis and I got to know her quite well.
It so happens that I also know the son-in-law of Bert and Mary reasonably well: Gillbert Valentine. He is connected with the La Sierra University. A recent book for which he unearthed much information that was not or little known, is: The Prophet and the Presidents (published by Pacific Press, 2012). The book describes in much detail the often quite complex and turbulent relationship of Ellen White with three of the presidents of the world church of her days.
Gill is married to Kendra Haloviak, the daughter of Bert and Mary. I first met her in 1995 when she was a member of the pastoral team of the Sligo Church in Washington, DC—one of the largest Adventist churches in the American capital. The church board of this 1.500 member church decided to ordain Kendra as pastor, together with two other female ministers. I had the privilege of attending the ordination service. The ordination was much against the wishes of the General Conference, but the Sligo church board ignored this, convinced that there should not be any status difference between Kendra and her male colleagues.
Since 1995 Kendra has earned a Ph.D. and now, twenty years later, she is an associate professor at the La Sierra University. She still defends equal rights for men and women in the Adventist Church as stridently as ever. In the past decade or so Kendra has developed into a prominent Adventist theologian. This is abundantly clear from her book that appeared just weeks ago: Worlds at War, Nations in Song, with the subtitle: Dialogic Imagination and Moral Vision in the Hymns in the Book of Revelation. This may sound quite complicated and it reflects that fact that people without some advanced theological training may find the reading rather heavy going.
In this book Kendra departs significantly from the road that most Adventist interpreters have travelled. She does not read the book of Revelation as a report of things that happened in the past and as a prediction of things yet to happen in the end of time. She rather wonders what reading this book of the Bible will do to you; how you react to this book in your inner being (hence the word ‘dialogic’ in the subtitle). She deals specifically in her book with the hymns that are found in the Revelation.
The book was not published by an Adventist publishing house, but by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, Oregon, VS, 2015). This is no coincidence. Unfortunately, the official denominational publishers continue to be extremely hesitant to publish books by Adventist writers who want to stimulate the discussion about theological and biblical topics that many consider sensitive. (I know this also from my own experience.) Opinions will differ about the question whether Kendra goes in the right direction with her book. Personally, I feel increasingly attracted to the kind of approach Kendra represents, and that has, no doubt, been quite clear in the seminars about Daniel and the Revelation that I have, from time to time, presented in recent years.
However, apart from the fact whether Kendra’s views are correct, interpretations (also of the books of Daniel and the Revelation) that differ from the traditional explanations must get a hearing. A denomination that lives in 2015 should not fear any open discussion. ‘Truth’ is not served by scrupulously sticking to traditional views and remaining silent about alternatives. A responsible, but free, discussion about a variety of views will help church members to form their opinion, also with regard to such (often puzzling) books as Daniel and the Revelation. Unfortunately, this is still not possible. But, in the meantime, I want to thank Kendra for a fascinating contribution to the discussion—even though it is still very difficult, and at times impossible, to have this exchange of views via the official Adventist media.
Finally, Bert and Mary and Gill can be proud of their gifted daughter and wife, respectively!