Some of my Adventist readers will be familiar with the name of Charles W. Teel, Jr. He’s a professor at La Sierra University (which was the La Sierra Campus of Loma Linda University during my time there in ’84-’85).
I first got acquainted with Charles at midnight one night toward the end of my Freshman year at Atlantic Union College. He had called the History Department looking for someone who could assist him in a research project, and I was recommended. He called at midnight because he forgot which way the time difference went. The project he recruited me for was transcribing a scrapbook compiled in the early 1850s by abolitionist Theodore Parker, in the Rare Book collection of the Boston Public Library. He had come across the scrapbook when he was doing his doctoral dissertation some years before on the pastors who protested with Martin Luther King, Jr.
I assisted Charles for the rest of my college career, and had the pleasure of visiting various libraries with him, including the Boston Athenaeum, as we tracked down the source of some of the clippings contained in the scrapbook. During one of his trips to Massachusetts, he led at the AUC College Church a worship service he had created at Loma Linda, “The Apocalypse as Liturgy,” using just texts from the book of Revelation (with an eye on various modern “beasts”). When I told him I was leaving the Adventist Church he got tears in his eyes, and sent me a note that other Christians “hear God’s voice,” and “Don’t burn all bridges.”
I didn’t. I ended up going to Loma Linda for my first year of graduate study in church history. Our first week there we house sat for him, and at 2:00 a.m. one night I was awakened by a phone call from a neighbor complaining about the horse that had escaped. I chased it down with help from another neighbor and got it back in the corral (It had evidently been spooked by coyotes). One quarter I had him as a professor for a course in Christian Social Ethics. He introduced me to Liberation Theology and to the “Sanctuary Movement” giving refuge to Central American refugees.
When I transferred to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, his influence stayed with me, as I did my M.A. thesis on that abolitionist he introduced me to–“Race, Transcendentalism, and the American Dream: The Abolitionist Ideology of Theodore Parker.”
His influence was a long lasting one, and I’m grateful for the role he played.
I just realized this sounds like the beginning of a eulogy, but it isn’t. I just started thinking about him because of an invitation from Johnny Ramirez to join the Facebook cause, Adventist Peace Fellowship.