A Summary of the History of The Christadelphian Advocate

It is our intention that the following review will prove an interesting and informative account of the history of the Advocate. We expect our senior readers will find it a welcome reminiscence while our younger readers will gain a broadened understanding and appreciation for the individuals, efforts and trials associated with maintaining the Truth in the face of opposition and indifference in the last century and one quarter. In this history you will find faithful commitment as well as the personal sacrifice exacted of those who worked to maintain the truth of our God who "changes not," for in it we recognize the trials and obstacles of our present day to be common to believers in previous generations, which hopefully will result in a more informed understanding and response on our part. What will be apparent is the consistency in attitude and principles upon which the Advocate was founded and maintained, for in its pages we see, often at great personal cost, strong "defense" of the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and the determined effort to assist in taking out a people for Yahweh's name.

First published in March 1885 in response to those who "desired a monthly periodical in America, for the purpose of advocating the truth 'concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ;' and also to be used as a medium of communication between the Christadelphian bodies scattered throughout this great continent," The Christadelphian Advocate has been published continuously since that time with the exception of a one year suspension in 1935 (establishing it as the second longest running Christadelphian publication in operation today). Since the division of the Household in 1898, the Advocate has been universally recognized as an Unamended magazine promoting and defending pre-amendment Christadelphian beliefs. The history of the publication over these 125 years reflects the beliefs, issues and personalities of that period, presenting in effect, a microcosm of Unamended Christadelphia. We here present a brief review of the past 125 years reflected in successive Advocate "eras" as defined through its successive editors / associate editors.

March 1885 - December 1913: THOMAS WILLIAMS

Having established himself as an able expounder and defender of the truth, Thomas Williams endeavored to edit and publish a periodical which he named The Christadelphian Advocate, explaining, "...because our object is to devote ourselves to the advocacy of Bible truths, which are essential to be believed in order to become brethren of Christ." For some the question arose as to which paper they should subscribe to, The Christadelphian or The Advocate. Brother Williams found himself having to publicly assert that the Advocate was not an "opposition paper," and it was not until August 1888 that Brother Roberts, after meeting with Brother Williams, announced "there is no longer any reason for the continuance of the reserve which I have felt...your manifest faithfulness to the truth as a whole, has removed obstacles to co-operation."

In the early years prior to his relocation from Waterloo, Iowa, the Advocate addressed many difficult passages as well as problems arising in those times, such as using the name "Christadelphian" as opposed to "Christian, " membership in fraternal organizations / labor unions, partial inspiration of the scriptures and "free life" beliefs. During this period "Questions Answered" and "The Advocate Sunday School Class" for youth were introduced into the (In 1891 Brother Williams started a second periodical aimed at the alien - The Truth Gleaner, which was discontinued five years later as it was published at "a financial loss.")

In the fall of 1892, Brother Williams relocated to Chicago, his stated reason, in part: "better facilities for carrying on the printing and publishing work...economy in traveling and freight expenses; railroad facilities for reaching the various places we often visit in the interest of the Truth, the probability of doing more good locally in a wider field in the way of public lectures..." In 1893, Chicago was the site of " The World's Columbian Exposition" in connection with which was held a "World's Congress of Religions." Brother Williams took upon himself the task of preparing a pamphlet to be distributed at the Exposition, "setting forth the first principles of truth as distinguished from the errors of Christendom," resulting in the distribution of 14,000 copies of The Great Salvation.

Tension over differing views on resurrectional responsibility increased after The Blood of the Covenant was published in 1894, and Brother Williams took issue with the harsh treatment of Brother Andrew in Britain. Brother Williams, lecturing and publishing extensively in the U.S., demonstrated how brethren in Britain, including Brother Roberts, had changed their position on resurrectional responsibility and other subjects over time. Relations became strained between Brothers Roberts and Williams; Brother Roberts eventually promoting division of the body in Britain while Brother Williams made it his object "to prevent the responsibility question from dividing the body in this country." From 1900 through 1913 Brother Williams made 4 trips to Britain seeking resolution to the controversy, recording his activities and judgments in the Advocate (producing and publishing such works as "A Rallying Point," "A Plea for Action in Furtherance of Justice - Looking Towards Union and Unity" and "Burning Questions"). During his fourth trip Brother Williams became ill and passed away on December 8, 1913 in Mumbles at 66 years of age.

February 1914 - May 1917: A. H. ZILMER

Prior to 1914, Brother Williams and several concerned brethren had discussed plans for the future of the Advocate in the event of Brother William's death. They reached an agreement allowing ownership and control of the Advocate to pass to a committee of six brethren named by Brother Williams, who also suggested that Brother Zilmer from Waterloo, Iowa be appointed as editor succeeding him. After his death, Brother Williams' plans, intended to effect an orderly continuation of the Advocate, were duly implemented; assets and right of publication transferred. The committee met together for the first time at the Washington Gathering in May 1914, electing a chairman and secretary and unanimously appointing Brother Zilmer as Editor of the Advocate.

However, an orderly transfer was not to be! Three years later Brother Zilmer was removed from his position as editor, notice given in the May 1917 Advocate, "The Advocate Committee...wishes to make the statement to our readers that through the stress of circumstances it feels compelled to take the editorial management of the Advocate into its own hands." The sole reason stated was the "decreasing circulation" with subscriptions "inadequate to pay the editor $50 per month" while fulfilling other obligations and costs.

It is unclear as to all the factors which contributed to the Advocate's decreasing circulation and financial crisis as we see addressed in the notice "To Subscribers and Friends of the Advocate" eight months earlier in the October 1916 issue; "the question of the future management of The Advocate was seriously considered in view of the fact that during the past year there has been a considerable falling off in the number of subscribers..." The reason there stated was a report of "dissatisfaction on the part of many of the brethren with the present Committee, their appointment and their management..." (the committee acknowledging in the December issue, "it is much to be deplored that cooperation could not be obtained between editor and committee"). Ballots were enclosed with the October issue asking subscribers to "express their preferences" with results acknowledged in February 1917. Subscriber responses were sparse; the results generally confirming the existing committee which at that point consisted of seven brethren, four from the U.S. and three from Canada.

The particulars of committee members' dissatisfaction with Brother Zilmer is not clearly addressed in the Advocate leading up to his dismissal, and we note in the June 1917 issue, the Secretary, on behalf of the committee, indicates Brother Zilmer 's work "has in the main been so acceptably done..." We are aware that several years later Brother Zilmer began contending for "clean flesh" understanding, and that later yet, the Advocate took notice of publications from him asserting "clean flesh" doctrines. It would appear, however, that up to this date Brother Zilmer was sound in his understanding of the nature of man and of Christ as reflected in his forceful response to a "clean flesh" challenge appearing in the October 1916 Advocate under the title, "Did Christ Need Cleansing?" No specific doctrinal objections regarding the editor or the Committee were publically aired in the Advocate, the prominent topic addressed during this period being attention to and prophetic exposition on World War 1 (1914 - 1919).

June 1917 - February 1925: JOHN OWLER / JAMES LEASK

The committee initially performed editing responsibilities, informing readers in June that selection of a new editor was in process, and in July, announcing that the Advocate was to be "united" with The Fellow Laborer - an unamended publication in England struggling with the scarcity of supplies and printers due to the war. Brother John Owler - Editor of The Fellow Laborer, was to become editor of the united publication to be known as The Christadelphian Advocate and Fellow Laborer (first appearing under that title in August, 1917 with Brother James Leask as "associate editor "). Brother Owler's first editorial for the united publication arrived too late to appear in the August issue and was published in the September issue, announcing (in part): "Circumstances having arisen on both sides of the Atlantic in connection with the continued publication of the Advocate and of the Fellow Labourer calling for prompt action by the respective committees ... the fusion has been decided upon and has taken effect ... in the first issue of the CHRISTADELPHIAN ADVOCATE and FELLOW LABOURER. At the invitation of the Advocate committee, the writer has undertaken the position of editor, and is happy to have in association with him Bro. James Leask of Chicago, Ill..."

The "fusion" of these magazines was deemed appropriate at this time due to circumstances affecting continued publication on both continents. The Fellow Labourer was in its ninth year of publication representing a readership reflecting 30+ ecclesias retaining the 1877 / 1883 unamended Statement of Faith and in sympathy with AdvocateThe united publication with shared "Intelligence" served to inform and strengthen the bond between like minded brethren during this period. Of note: in November of that year the subscription price dropped from $2 to $1.50; explained in the December issue ... "this reduction in price in the United States and Canada is made possible by the fact that the editorial work is done free of cost."

In the February 1925 Advocate "A Valedictory Notice" appeared announcing the retirement of both Brother Owler and Brother Leask from their editorship, citing business obligations and increasing ecclesial duties (along with Brother Owler's indication of the difficulties of performing his duties from England). Selected to assume their responsibilities was Brother Albert Hall from Vancouver, B.C., described as "...well and favorably known to a large number of our brethren as a staunch defender of the faith..."

March 1925 - December 1934: ALBERT HALL

In his maiden editorial, Brother Hall states, "Almost unexpectedly, and unprepared, I find myself called upon to fill this position...In accepting this responsibility I am not called upon to formulate a basis, to make a platform, or to introduce any new thing. If I were not in full sympathy with the attitude and principle of the magazine when founded, I could not conscientiously accept the invitation of The Advocate Committee..." A new front cover featuring the walled city of Old Jerusalem appeared on the March Advocate and remained throughout Brother Hall's editorship. On the back cover of the March and April issues was placed a "Publisher's Note" instead of the listing of "Christadelphian Meeting Places" which before and after occupied that space. From this "Note" we may form a mental picture of the attitude and determination of Brother Hall, which reads in part:

"Are you a subscriber to THE ADVOCATE? ... If you are not a subscriber - why not? For forty years THE ADVOCATE has been the recognized representative magazine for the Ecclesias of America and Canada. It should be in the home of every Christadelphian family in these countries, and also a welcome visitor to homes across the seas. Today it goes forth under new conditions, with renewed vigor; with hope and determination strong. It is self supporting, but there is room for greater cooperation. Two Hundred new subscribers would make all the difference! The price - only 4 cents a week - is within reach of all. Will our Secretaries give their cooperation, and find these Two Hundred?

Subscription and financial problems would plague the Advocate throughout this period. Brother Hall continued to encourage readers, emphasizing the need "to defend the gospel against present day environments." The pressures on Brother Hall were apparent when in December 1933, under the title of "Troubles of an Editor," he referred to "the harassing conditions of the past few years in addition to physical disabilities. " 1934 saw only 6 printed copies of the Advocate (4 were for two months each while one covered a three month period...March being the only single month issue). In addition to the financial strain made worse by the Great Depression (which began with the Stock Market crash in 1929), in these latter issues we read of unrest within the ecclesias, problems from without, doctrines denied, exclusiveness challenged / a broader way demanded and difficulties between the editor and the committee (the committee was reduced to one individual by the end 1934). The November - December 1934 issue would be Brother Hall's last; following it, Advocate publication was suspended.


After a nine month suspension, "A Preliminary Issue" of 16 pages was published in October 1935, "for the purpose of obtaining the mind of the brotherhood in again making possible its monthly visits." The issue was addressed "To the Friends of the Advocate" encouraging them to make known their wishes for the Advocate quickly. Also included (perhaps as a reminder of what was at stake) were comments and foundation principles, an article by Berton Little, copies of letters of encouragement, "Times and Signs" and Ecclesial News.

January 1936 - March 1942: H. ERNEST HARDY

Commitments received resulted in issuance of the January 1936 Advocate with an opening article titled, "The Advocate for 1936," stating,

"Encouraging letters have been received in response to the appeal of the "Preliminary Advocate" issued in October, and the brethren who have sponsored this effort to again start the magazine on its monthly visits feel encouraged to go ahead and continue publication through 1936."

Brethren James Dozier of Norfolk, VA, Allen H. Mowry of East Orange, NJ and H. Ernest Hardy of Orlando, FL were designated the committee with Brother Hardy serving as editor. Brother Hardy wrote in the opening article,

"The Advocate goes forth upon the foundations recognized fifty years ago, when it was first published. Our confidence in these foundation truths have increased as the years have gone by...To enter into controversy upon these foundation principles with those who claim the same faith, is not our object. That can only cause confusion and disruption. We have accepted these foundations as fixed and eternal, and to build upon them is the part of wisdom. To maintain and hold them is a divine injunction, and the object of the Advocate will be to this end, that God's word may be glorified."

World War 2 began in 1939 in Europe with the U.S. entering in 1941, and the war, the state of the Jewish people and prophetic interpretation occupied a prominent place in the pages of the Advocate during these years. Brother Hardy died suddenly in March 1942 as was announced in the April issue,

"It is our sorrowful and heavy duty to report the sudden death on March 24 of our beloved brother and editor...The truth has produced few men his equal in careful, conscientious living and in thoughtful, painstaking consideration for the welfare and purity of our Faith. Outside of those who worked closely with him, few knew or realized the love which he had for the Advocate, and for the principles on which the magazine had been founded. Hours and hours of thought and labor went into the production of each issue...

May 1942 - December 1946: BERTON LITTLE

Brother Berton Little of Ontario, CA assumed the editorship in May 1942. He would begin and end his editorial work without personal statements. World War 2 was still in process for most of his tenure and remained a focus of attention. Brother Little displayed spiritual insight and an expressive manner of writing. Failing health forced him to relinquish his duties as editor at the end of 1946, although he continued to write for the Advocate. (The Preface to the third edition of The World's Redemption, published in 1951, was prepared by him as were some biographical notes on Brother Thomas Williams).

January 1947 - December 1979: LAWRENCE DODL

Commencing with shared responsibility for the combined November - December 1946 issue, editorship of the Advocate was undertaken by Brother Lawrence Dodl of Richmond, VA in January 1947 (his name then first appearing as a committee member on the front cover of the Advocate... with a further reflection of this succession through a change in the cover's color and border design. Brother Dodl would continue as editor for 33 years, longer than any other editor (Brother Williams edited for 28 years). Brother Dodl had contributed articles to the Advocate as early as 1924, and played a prominent role in opposing "clean flesh" error in the late 1920's and 1930's. One notable remembrance from Brother Dodl's editorship began with his June 1954 Editorial titled "Nigh By God," opening with, "It seems quite clear than our nearness to God, or our distance from God, is largely a matter of our own choosing;" followed by another 291 numbered editorials by that same title dealing with man's relationship and responsibility to God (through March 1979 - 25 years!) Characteristically, in the initial issue for which he was responsible - as well as in the last, he made no personal statements and he took no vacations during the 33 years he labored as editor of the Advocate (retiring at age 80). Readers will find an informative tribute to Brother Dodl in the January 1980 issue under the title "In Appreciation" (which recognizes the difficulties encountered as well as Brother Dodl's devotion and tireless efforts on behalf of the Advocate).

It was during this period that great expectations grew within the brotherhood as the State of Israel became a nation born in a day in its own land upon the mountains of Israel. Brethren were witnessing the events that proclaimed that these were indeed the final days leading to the establishment of the Kingdom of God. With the hope of Israel manifested and events closely followed in the Advocate (particularly Israel's declaration of independence in May 1948 and the 1967 War), there was a renewed interest in proclamation of the gospel and many were encouraged to commit their way to the Lord.

January 1980 - December 2008: Within this most recent 28 year period there were 5 editors of the Advocate as well associate editors and committee members. The names and activities associated with this period are familiar to many Advocate subscribers today and individual Advocate issues from these years generally remain available for reference within ecclesias and individual believer households. Briefly, during this period the Advocate was edited by:

January 1980 - December 1982: KEN McPHEE, Guelph, ON

Beginning in January 1980, Advocates appeared with colored covers denoting the four quarters of the calendar year. Brother McPhee's editorials stressed believer responsibilities and righteous walk...while the PLO, Israel and the Middle East were the focus of prophetic attention (the PLO was being expelled from Lebanon in the Fall of 1982). In the March 1980 issue it was announced that Brother Lawrence Dodl was retiring from the Committee with Brother James Stanton appointed in his stead.

January 1983 - June 1983: L. E. PARKER, Pasadena, CA

Brother Parker had been a member of the Committee for a number of years before accepting the editorship - only to be thwarted by ill health after only 5 months.

July 1983 - June 1993: "Associate Editors" Alex T. Kay / K. G. McPhee / L.E. Parker / James S. Stanton

Notice appeared in the July 1983 Advocate that, "It has become necessary to consider a different arrangement for the editing of The Christadelphian Advocate. Brother L. E. Parker has found that limitations of health will prevent him from carrying the full load of editorial responsibility...It is fortuitous that proofreading and printing had been established in Richmond with Brother James S. Stanton as the Coordinator. This will continue as already established. The editing of the magazine will be handled by Associate Editors who are..." (see names listed Editorial responsibilities were shared, and significant during this period was the emergence of the 2nd national reunion effort which came to be known as Christadelphians for Unity (CFU). The Committee members addressed this process and their objections to it in detail in September 1986 and December 1986, commenting in March 1987, "...We believe also that these doctrinal differences are of a fundamental nature...Given the existing situation, with the manifest differences between Unamended and Amended understanding, we believe that the CFU organization should not continue to promote a reunion effort." The Bible Apologetics section was introduced in January 1984 to defend against "the teachings and practices of men." During this period changes in the Committee included: Brother James Stanton resigned effective September 1985 and Brother L. E. Parker's resignation was announced in February 1990; while Brother Edward Farrar was appointed January 1984 and Brother Calvin Dodl was appointed February 1990.

July 1993 - January 2002: EDWARD W. FARRAR, Hamilton, ON

Brother Farrar 's assumption of the position of editor occurred without fan-fare or formal notice; the inside front cover instructions on the July 1993 issue advising, " Send articles submitted for publication to the Editor: Edward W. Farrar" (from July 1983 through June 1993 Associate editors were assigned to separately receive submissions from the States and from Canada). Brother Farrar is perhaps best remembered through his editorials, typically addressing personal responsibility and the dangers involved in popular media / entertainment, higher education and lack of attention to the things of God - 54 of which have since been published in a book titled, "A Time to Speak." Advocate subjects and sections associated with his editorship include " Apologetics" which typically defended the truth against evolutionary theory, "Observations on Religion from Other Writers" and frequent "Letters to the Editor." Brother Farrar instigated the "Read Yourself Rich" program, calling attention to the many writings available through Advocate publications, and it was during this period that the Internet came into prominence. Recognizing the potential available through this new communication medium, the first Advocate web page was developed and put on line (and has been through a constant process of development since that time).

A Special Issue on Brother John Thomas was published in January 2000. During this period changes in the Committee included: Brother Ken McPhee's resignation in December 1993 as announced in June 1994 and Brother Alex Kay's death in December 1998 as announced in February 1999; while Brother James Millay was appointed to the committee in June 1994.

February 2002 - December 2008: JAMES I. MILLAY, Springfield, VT

An announcement in the January 2002 Advocate informed readers that Brother Edward Farrar "requested to be relieved of some of his responsibilities...Brother James Millay, Sr., has agreed to act as the new editor beginning with the February 2002 issue. Brother Ted will continue as a member of the committee..." For several years Brother Millay prepared and published an Advocate insert titled Things Concerning addressing fundamental Bible teachings ...58 of which were published in a book by that same title in 2005. Also, beginning in October 2002, the Committee sponsored a "young people's Advocate supplement" titled Keeping the Faith, which continued as a free quarterly supplement to all subscribers through June 2007. Color printing was introduced to the front and back covers of the Advocate in October 2002.

It was during this period that a number of brethren, recognizing difficulties troubling the community, formed an ad hoc committee and began to sponsor a series of "Conferences on Communication" (Lightstand Initiative). Their intention was to bring brethren together to talk about problems and potential solutions. A number of principle cards and Bible Study lessons were developed, with the Advocate (considering this to be a positive development), supporting the initiative through printing and distribution.

During this period changes in the Committee included: Brother Ted Farrar passed away in August 2002 and Brother Calvin Dodl resigned in January 2007; while Brother James Washeck was appointed in August 2002, Brother James Farrar was appointed in December 2002, Brother Robert Miller was appointed in August 2007. A "Letter from the Publishing Committee" in August 2008 announced Brother Millay's intent to pass the editorship on to Brother James Washeck at the end of the year.