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Eric Syme

From Adventist Heritage, Vol. 04, No. 1.

Syme, Eric Douglas (1912–1995)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 11, 2022

Eric Syme engaged in evangelism during the early years of his ministry in England, then moved to the United States where he taught religion and history for more than 25 years, first at Southwestern Junior College, then Pacific Union College.

Evangelist and World War II Medic

Eric Douglas Syme was the youngest child of David James Andrew Syme and his wife Margaret Annie (Whebell). He was born in Edmonton, London, on September 9, 1912. His older siblings were Margaret Joan (b. 1905), Mary Elizabeth (b. 1907) and Richard Creswick (b. 1910).1 The family joined the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1931 as the result of attending evangelistic meetings conducted by Roy Anderson in Wood Green, a northerly suburb of London not far from Eric’s birthplace.2

Eric attended Newbold College in England, graduating in 1938 with a Ministerial Diploma.3 During his training he participated in open-air preaching in Coventry and conducted an evangelistic campaign in Enfield.4 He followed with another series at Wood Green where he himself had accepted Seventh-day Adventism.5

When the Second World War broke out Syme’s evangelistic efforts were curtailed. He served his country as a medic during the German air blitz on London and in 1941 began service in the Royal Navy as a medic, an assignment that took him to the Philippines and Australian waters. While stationed in Western Australia he used his off-duty time to conduct an evangelistic campaign.6 He also courted Cecily Katheena Kent, the daughter of the president of the West Australian Conference, James Kent. Eric and Cecily married on August 28, 1945, in the Parramatta Church, New South Wales, in a ceremony conducted by Charles Watson, former General Conference president.7

The Symes returned to the South England Conference where they were both assigned to a team assisting S. G. Hyde with evangelism at Walthamstow. Later, Eric conducted his own campaigns in Gloucester and Stroud.8

In 1951 Syme was called to the United States to assist the man who had introduced him to Adventism, Roy Anderson, then Ministerial Association secretary at the General Conference. Eric and Cecily departed Southampton aboard the “Neptunia,” arriving on October 12, 1951 in New York City, where Anderson was conducting an evangelistic campaign.9 Following his evangelistic work, Syme pursued further studies, first at Washington Missionary College in Takoma Park, Maryland, and then at American University, Washington, D.C. During the course of his studies he found some work at the General Conference headquarters office to provide living expenses.10

College Professor

Syme was appointed to the religion department of Southwestern Junior College, Keene, Texas, in 1957.11 During the first summer break he used the time to earn some credits at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.12 In the academic year of 1960-1961 he was granted leave of absence to complete his course work for his doctor of philosophy degree at American University.13 His dissertation, “Seventh-day Adventist Concepts on Church and State” (1969), was revised and published by Pacific Press in 1973 under the title A History of Seventh-day Adventist Church-State Relations in the United States.

The 1962-1963 academic year marked the beginning of Syme’s long association with the undergraduate school at Pacific Union College. He lectured in the Religion and Biblical Languages Department until 1969 and thereafter held a joint faculty appointment in that department and the History Department. He retired in 1983.14

Final Years

In retirement Eric and Cecily chose to divide their time between America and Powys County in the Cambrian uplands of central Wales. It was there in Powys that they helped to establish a new church. It was there, too, that Eric passed away in the Powys Hospital on June 15, 1995, at age 82.15 Cecily wished to return to Australia so she arranged for Eric’s remains to be flown to her homeland and he was interred in Avondale Memorial Cemetery, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Cecily was 97 when she passed away on June 15, 2018. She was laid to rest alongside Eric.16

Sources

Armstrong, W. W. “President’s Notes.” British Advent Messenger, November 7, 1947; November 4, 1949; June 2, 1950.

“Eric D. Syme.” FamilySearch. Accessed June 23, 2021. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LRKM-9P6.

“Eric D. Syme obituary.” ARH, October 19, 1995.

“Eric Douglas Syme.” FamilySearch. Accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/collaborate/LJKY-ZQY.

“Eric Douglas Syme.” Find A Grave. Memorial ID No. 209017828, April 13, 2020. Accessed June 25, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/209017828/eric-douglas-syme.

“Graduation Day at Newbold Missionary College.” British Advent Messenger, June 24, 1938.

Hayes, Altus. “Watch SWJC!” Southwestern Union Record, December 12, 1956; June 5, 1957.

Joyce, R. S. “You Will be Interested to Know.” British Advent Messenger, November 25, 1938.

Meek, F. “Newbold Open-Air Evangelism.” British Advent Messenger, February 18, 1938.

Rogers, Viola. “Further Jottings From the Session.” Australasian Record, October 15, 1945.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks. 1958-1983. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Syme, Eric D. A History of Seventh-day Adventist Church-State Relations in the United States. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1973.

Taylor, W.H. “Eric Syme Joins Religion Department at SWJC.” Southwestern Union Record, February 6, 1957.

“Watch SWJC!” Southwestern Union Record, April 20, 1960.

Watson, C. H. “Syme-Kent.” Australasian Record, September 17, 1945.

Notes

  1. “Eric D. Syme,” FamilySearch, accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LRKM-9P6.

  2. “Eric Douglas Syme,” FamilySearch, accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/collaborate/LJKY-ZQY.

  3. “Graduation Day at Newbold Missionary College,” British Advent Messenger, June 24, 1938, 4-6.

  4. F. Meek, “Newbold Open-Air Evangelism,” British Advent Messenger, February 18, 1938, 2.

  5. R. S. Joyce, “You Will be Interested to Know,” British Advent Messenger, November 25, 1938, 4.

  6. “Eric Douglas Syme,” FamilySearch, accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/collaborate/LJKY-ZQY; Viola M. Rogers, “Further Jottings From the Session,” Australasian Record, October 15, 1945, 10.

  7. C. H. Watson, “Syme-Kent,” Australasian Record, September 17, 1945, 7.

  8. W. W. Armstrong, “President’s Notes,” British Advent Messenger, November 7, 1947, 2; November 4, 1949; and June 2, 1950, 5-6.

  9. “Eric D. Syme,” FamilySearch, accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LRKM-9P6; W. H. Taylor, “Eric Syme Joins Religion Department at SWJC,” Southwestern Union Record, February 6, 1957, 2.

  10. Altus Hayes, “Watch SWJC!” Southwestern Union Record, December 12, 1956, 2,7.

  11. W. H. Taylor, “Eric Syme Joins Religion Department at SWJC.”.

  12. Altus Hayes, Watch SWJC!” Southwestern Union Record, June 5, 1957, 2.

  13. “Watch SWJC!” Southwestern Union Record, April 20, 1960, 5.

  14. “Pacific Union College,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1963-1983, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

  15. “Eric Douglas Syme,” FamilySearch, accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/collaborate/LJKY-ZQY

  16. “Eric Douglas Syme,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID No. 209017828, April 13, 2020, accessed June 25, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/209017828/eric-douglas-syme.

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Hook, Milton. "Syme, Eric Douglas (1912–1995)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 11, 2022. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6J94.

Hook, Milton. "Syme, Eric Douglas (1912–1995)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 11, 2022. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6J94.

Hook, Milton (2022, January 11). Syme, Eric Douglas (1912–1995). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6J94.