Roy Elwyn Branson (1938–2015)

Editor’s Note: This profile of Roy Branson, a longtime leader and editor of Spectrum, was written by Spectrum's Alita Byrd for the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA). It is reprinted here with permission.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11683
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One of the blessings I received in my life was to have been a friend and a colleague of Roy Branson. I was most honored and happy when he asked me to be the one who officiated at his wedding to Viveka at the Garden of Villa Aurora, the Adventist College near Florence, Italy in the Summer of 1975. As this profile demonstrates, his life was a powerful demonstration of what committed faith and serious scholarship can accomplish for the good of Christian communities.

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Thank you, Alita, for this fascinating account of Roy’s life. I was privileged to work with Roy on the transition of Spectrum from “cut-and-paste” to electronic design and layout. Spectrum was my first client when I launched my publishing business in a small office one floor above Roy’s office in the Sligo Church Office building. Dealing with the first real page layout software was a challenge and Roy and I spent many hours working through that first design in the issues of Spectrum that we produced together. Later, as colleagues at Columbia Union College, I watched with awe as he continued to inspire and mentor new generations of his students, many of whom still regard him as the intellectual kickstarter they needed.

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What a fascinating story! Thank you for publishing it.

An aside -
While Roy was attending Harvard, he became a familiar sight at AUC on the weekends, and taught a SS class periodically. The Sabbaths he wasn’t there, students from the English department would rotate through, teaching in his absence. The problem was that you knew when it was your turn to teach the class, there would be corporate moan, because we all missed his teaching.

It’s not often you remember a specific sermon, but Roy gave it one Friday evening. His topic was in the form of a question - “Is Christ our example or our savior?” That kind of set the course for where my Bible studies would take me. I have found the answer to that question is fundamental to how we read the Bible. I’m glad our “ships passed” that Friday night.

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Yes. And in Stoneham, too, but what I better remember is the mostly just-under-the-surface tension between the old guard Adventists and the Harvard teachers and students who felt free to question. As a mildly rebellious teenager I found it mildly amusing to see them not seem cowed by the White-bound religion espoused by my parents and teachers. Some Adventist kids found the writing of theologians such as Joseph Fletcher and Harvey Cox and others (whose ideas were at that time popularized by Time and Newsweek) compelling and reasonable. Their teachers, not so much.

You may remember the Davies family. Evelyn is my husband’s aunt, which gave me (living at the dorm at AUC) opportunity to visit the Stoneham church often. There, Alvin Kwiram taught a SS class as well. As you say, there was more than an undercurrent of suspicion about this group of “egg heads” as some called them.

Thank you so much to the commenters here for sharing additional memories of Roy. I didn’t know, Herold, that you officiated at his wedding! (In turn, Roy officiated at mine, in 2003!) I learned many things I had not previously known while researching this profile, which made me more impressed than ever at the things Roy accomplished in his life. He really did have an outsized influence on so many. Thanks also to many Spectrum supporters who helped inordinately in putting this piece together.

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