By Eileen Maddocks
Meanwhile, “back at the ranch” (American slang from old cowboy movies), more specifically back to the northeast United States after the apparent nonevents of 1844, many Millerites faded away. The Millerite movement was splintering into sects, mostly radical fringe groups, because every person had the freedom to interpret the Bible as he saw fit. Adventism was in chaos. “Disorientation and disarray are two words that help us capture the mood and structure of Millerite Adventism after October 22, 1844. Whereas once the movement knew exactly where it was going and had fair ideas of how to reach its goals, after the passing of the date, the Adventists had neither of those comforting convictions of certainty. The months and years after October 1844 catapulted the Adventists into a search for identity, and one for which, in many ways, they were ill-equipped.”
Joshua Himes called for a conference to be held in April 1845 for mainstream Adventists (also now known as Second Adventists). The purpose was to strengthen each other in the truth of Adventism, to consider the best way of carrying forth Adventist work, to continue preparing Adventists for the coming of their Lord, and to convert and save sinners.
The Albany conference was attended by 61 delegates, including William Miller. A middle ground was sought as the delegates searched for the meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary and the time when the Second Coming would occur. The conference drew up a ten-point doctrinal platform related to the Second Coming and salvation. A plan of action was drawn up to convert people to Adventism that included preaching services, literature, Sunday schools, and Bible classes. It was resolved that Adventists have no fellowship with anyone who created theological obstacles to the condition of salvation, which was the acceptance of Jesus. Behaviors that were considered aberrant were prohibited, such as communal foot washing, sitting on the floor or shaving one’s head to achieve humility, or deliberately acting like children in understanding.
Five ministers were ordained at the Albany conference and a statement was approved for independent church congregations. The delegates had arrived in Albany looking for unity in what had been an ecumenical movement across most Protestant denominations. They left with an established Adventist church structure.
Despite the efforts of the Albany conference, by 1855 there were about twenty-five Adventist sects. Most of them disappeared between the 1860s and the early twentieth century. Only two have survived to the present day—the Advent Christian Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The Advent Christian Church was formed in 1860 and it initially prospered, despite suffering some breakaway groups. Advent Christians put their doctrinal emphasis on the anticipated Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment. However, Advent Christians added two other doctrines—conditionalism and annihilationism. At death conditional immortality kicks in when the soul enters a state of unconsciousness called soul slumber until the Resurrection at the Second Coming. At the Resurrection the souls of the wicked are utterly destroyed, or annihilated, for all eternity and the saved are resurrected to live in a kingdom of God on earth.
The 1890 census showed the membership of Advent Christian adherents to be 25,816. In 2007 the membership was 23,629. This decline reflects that the Advent Christians have never aggressively proselytized as have other evangelical churches. The Advent Christian Church lacked a strong central organization that might have enabled effective mobilization and support for teaching efforts.
1 George R. Knight, Millennial Fever, p. 245.
2 Quoted in “Adventism at 150” in Ministry Magazine, October 1994, from Kenneth Bedell and Alice M. Jones, eds., Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (Nashville: Abingdon, 1992), pp. 270-277.
3 Summarized from the website The Association of Religion Data Archives, www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1101.asp.
4 For more information on the Advent Christian Church today, go to its website, Advent Christian General Conference, http://acgc.us/