Dr. Michael W. Campbell, professor of religion at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU), has been instrumental in creating the upcoming Oxford Handbook for Adventism, published by Oxford University Press and set to hit the market later this year.
“The goal was to produce a definitive resource on Adventism,” Campbell explains. “This is the first time such a project has been taken on by a major publishing company, and we’re hopeful that as a result there will be a copy of this reference book in every academic library in the world.”
The Oxford Handbook series consists of around 200 volumes already, on a variety of topics from science to humanities, including various other major religions. When Campbell met the head book editor from Oxford University Press at a paper session with the American Society of Church History, they discussed the idea for a handbook on Adventism, and Campbell was invited to submit a proposal.
After some revisions, the proposal was accepted and put under contract. For the last two and a half years they have had various authors working on specific chapters and the publication is now in the final stages of peer review.
“I recruited a diverse editorial team that met Oxford’s requirements for having done significant publishing outside of Adventist media, and together we found a robust group of Adventist and non-Adventist scholars to contribute,” Campbell says.
The editorial team consists of Christie Chui-Shan Chow, instructor at City Seminary of New York; David Holland, John A. Bartlett Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School; Denis Kaiser, assistant professor of church history at Andrews University; Nicholas P. Miller, professor of church history at Andrews University; and Campbell himself. Authors include more than two dozen representatives of various Adventist and non-Adventist colleges and universities around the world, as well as established independent scholars.
“No one has ever published a reference work on Adventism by a major publisher before, so it was new to all of us,” says Campbell. “We took a very intentional approach to this publication; a lot of Adventist publications are written by Adventists for Adventists, but this book needs to be different. We needed to communicate the best of Adventist scholarship in a way that anyone, especially those unfamiliar with the Adventist tradition, can easily understand.”
Campbell points out that like with any research topic there is a lot of misinformation available about the Adventist Church, and to create something that goes through the rigors of scholarship in the peer review process to become a definitive work on Adventist ideas, beliefs, practices, and more, provides a reliable resource for those outside the church to learn the truth about Adventism.
“I also really hope this work contextualizes Adventism,” Campbell says, adding that as a church we tend to focus on our uniqueness, rather than placing Adventist history and theology within the bigger picture of American and global religious and social movements. He feels this publication will change that. “I hope anyone can open this book and learn what is truly important about Adventists, and why.”