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Roland and Berenice Loasby

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Loasby, Roland Eugene (1890–1974) and Berenice M. (1891–1984)

By Andrew Tompkins

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Andrew Tompkins is currently assistant professor of Mission and Intercultural Theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States. Tompkins has served as a teacher, pastor, and professor in India prior to his work at Andrews University.

 

First Published: January 15, 2021

Roland and Berenice Loasby devoted more than two decades to pioneering mission work in India. After their return to the United States, Roland Loasby became an influential scholar and professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.

Education, Early Career and Marriage

Roland Eugene Loasby was born on February 8, 1890 in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England. At the age of 15 he became a Seventh-day Adventist and then, at 18, moved to the United States.1

In 1910 Roland accepted a call to be a teacher on the island of Bermuda.2 During his two years there, he gained experience in both teaching and preaching.3

Roland married Berenice Manuel on August 14, 1913, in Washington, D.C.4 Berenice, born in 1891 in Kansas City, Missouri, attended Oak Park Academy in Iowa.5 She and Roland met in Takoma Park, Maryland, where she was taking the nursing course at Washington Missionary College (now Washington Adventist University).

Roland was part of the first graduating class of Washington Missionary College in 1915.6 Prior to his graduation, in May 1914, the Loasbys had received a call to go to the Bahamas where Roland would be employed as a teacher.7 This, however, was rescinded after Berenice contracted an illness.8 In 1915, calls to South America and Korea also fell through before the Loasbys accepted a call to India in August 1915.9 By early 1916 they had arrived to take up their work in the land that would be their home for the next 22 years.10

Educational Work in India

The Loasbys spent the bulk of their time in India working in different mission stations in the state of Maharashtra. Both of them would become fluent in Marathi, the local language.11 Roland Loasby became a linguist also proficient in Hindi, Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew.12 His primary duties in India involved teaching and overseeing a number of schools. The Loasbys did pioneering educational work in Manmad,13 Lasalgaon,14 and Kalyan,15 all in Maharashtra. At Kalyan they started from scratch, developing a school and medical dispensary where there had been no prior Adventist presence. In 1920 Roland was voted as the supervisor for the Bombay Presidency territory which included the present-day states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.16

Loasby believed that education was a priority for Adventist mission in India and wrote a number of articles articulating his philosophy of education, which included emphasizing vernacular training as opposed to conducting all education in English.17 He also believed strongly that many of the Adventist schools in India were of an inferior quality due to lack of qualified Adventist teachers.18 In 1927 he wrote an article advocating that a new position be created at the Union level for an education superintendent.19 About two years later, in 1929, he was appointed as the Northwest India Union educational secretary.20

Medical Ministry

Berenice Loasby developed a very good reputation as a nurse, filling her days with visiting patients, receiving patients at the station, and dispensing basic medicines. During the Loasbys time in Lasalgaon she kept track of monthly patient intake, with the total for 1919 reaching 1,608 patients.21 In many ways her medical work elevated the reputation of the whole mission and opened doors for outreach that would not have otherwise been opened.22

During a furlough in London in 1923-1924 Berenice earned a midwifery certification which increased her medical capabilities.23 On a later furlough in 1932-1933 she completed another level of training at Washington Sanitarium.24 Though details are lacking, Berenice would suffer from health challenges throughout her life that required multiple operations.25 Despite this she remained a faithful medical worker in whatever location the Loasbys found themselves.

Missiological Study of Hinduism

Roland Loasby was drawn to academic work and research. He studied Hindu sacred texts and observed Hindu activities. He also, at times, debated with Brahmin pundits on issues of philosophy and theology.26 In a number of popular level articles for various Adventist periodicals, he described and explained various Hindu practices and beliefs.27 Eventually he completed language courses at the School of Oriental Languages in London,28 a master’s degree at Columbia University in 1932 in which he studied aspects of the Bhagavad Gita,29 and finally in 1942 a doctorate from the American University with research focused on Lokmanya Tilak’s use of the Bhagavad Gita.30 It is also notable that Loasby is the only person to date to publish an article on Hindus in Andrews University Seminary Studies.31

It appeared that Loasby was going to become a leading Adventist expert on world religions, with a specialty in Hinduism.32 This, however, would change with a call he received to return to the United States to teach at the denomination’s theological seminary.

A Contextualized Approach

The Loasbys’ years in India had many ups and downs. Roland was bitten by a mad dog and contracted malaria.33 At one point the work that they had started in Lasalgaon had to be shut down, which was a disappointment.34 It would be revived later, and they would return there.

Loasby lamented that part of the struggle was a lack of trust in the local Indian leaders. He believed that the work would never progress as long as Europeans dominated leadership. On this he was unusually outspoken. In 1927 he wrote a scathing article bemoaning the terrible treatment many Indian workers received at the hands of their European and North American colleagues. The article was reprinted in the African Division Outlook with an introduction noting that the principles applied in that field as well.35

Loasby displayed an intimate knowledge of Indian ways of living and what was important to them that many of his European and North American colleagues failed to fully appreciate. This can be seen in his statements at a biennial conference of the Southern Asia Division in 1933 advocating a more contextualized approach to Indian practices and customs when sharing the gospel.36

Seminary Professor and New Testament Scholar

In 1938 the General Conference called the Loasbys back to the United States on permanent return. Roland was appointed to the faculty at the recently established (1937) Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.37 The seminary would be Loasby’s workplace for more than two decades. He primarily taught biblical languages and New Testament interpretation, and served as chair of the New Testament Department. There is evidence that for a time at least he also was involved in helping the seminary strengthen its mission courses by sponsoring Arabic and Islamic courses in the early 1940s.38 Roland would also travel to Europe to teach for the Seminary extension school.39

Loasby continued his practice of writing, contributing numerous articles to Adventist periodicals on a wide range of theological subjects. He was a strong advocate for the necessity of having a working knowledge of biblical languages and wrote several articles on why this was important.40 This resulted in his name being included on a committee that the General Conference tasked with studying and then publishing their findings on “problems in Bible translation.”41

Loasby was also heavily involved in the precursor to the current Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference. In its earliest stages this was a semi-formal group of Adventist scholars who would share their research for critique and discussion. Loasby contributed research he had done on Armageddon that would eventually be published posthumously in an updated form.42 He was also a leading author for some important documents that the church requested on issues of marriage and divorce in 1942. Eventually, in 1949, the General Conference appointed a full-scale committee to study the matter.43 This was a controversial subject and the findings were not made public at the time out of concern that the church was not ready to receive them.44

Berenice continued her nursing education and worked as a nurse at the Washington Sanitarium in Takoma Park, Maryland. She eventually became the assistant superintendent of nurses at the sanitarium.45

Roland’s teaching at the seminary meant that he had the opportunity to influence many of the Bible teachers, pastors, and future administrators of the church. A 1987 Spectrum magazine article listed Loasby among the “Most Influential Seventh-day Adventist Writers” as identified in a poll of Adventist religion professors.46 Further evidence of his influence can be seen in the fact that in 1956 Loasby was chosen to represent Adventists at a conference at the prestigious Union Theological Seminary in New York. His task was to give a presentation identifying doctrines that Adventists shared with other denominations and those considered distinctive to Adventism.47

Loasby continued as chair of the New Testament Department until 1960 when the seminary transitioned to Berrien Springs, Michigan. He retired from full-time service but continued teaching part-time at Washington Missionary College until 1969.48

Roland Loasby passed away on May 5, 1974 in Colton, California at the age of 84.49 Berenice Loasby went to her rest in 1984 at the age of 93 in Loma Linda, California.50

Contribution

Roland and Berenice Loasby were pioneer missionaries in the state of Maharashtra, India. They established schools and medical dispensaries in various locations in the state and some of these schools remain in operation today as a testament to their endeavors a century ago. Through his numerous articles and many years teaching at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Roland Loasby influenced the theological thinking of countless seminary students who would become pastors and leaders in the world church.

Sources

“A word received….” ARH, August 14, 1924.

“At the October language examinations….” Eastern Tidings, December 15, 1920.

Blue, I. F. “News Notes from North-west India.” Eastern Tidings, January 15, 1921.

“Berenice Loasby death notice.” ARH, December 20, 1984.

“Brother and Sister R.E. Loasby….” Eastern Tidings, January 1916.

Bull, Malcolm and Keith Lockhart. “The Intellectual World of Adventist Theologians.” Spectrum 18, no. 1 (October 1987): 32-37.

Cottrell, Raymond F. “The Bible Research Fellowship: A Pioneering Seventh-day Adventist Organization in Retrospect.” Adventist Heritage 5, no. 1 (July 1978): 39-52.

Fletcher, W. W. “Bombay Presidency General Meeting.” India Union Tidings, August 15, 1917.

General Conference Committee Minutes, General Conference Archives. Accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/Forms/AllFolders.aspx.

Haloviak, Bert. “Law or Compassion: SDA Approaches to Divorce, Remarriage and Church Fellowship.” Unpublished Paper, September 1997. Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.

“Here and There.” India Union Tidings, November 1, 1918.

“Iowa Notes.” Northern Union Reaper, June 16, 1931.

Kern, M. E. “Southern Asia Division Round Table Discussions.” ARH, June 15, 1933.

Loasby, Berenice M. “Brother and Sister R. E. Loasby Now in England.” Eastern Tidings, November 1923.

Loasby, Berenice M. “Lasalgaon Station Medical Work.” Eastern Tidings, March 15, 1920.

Loasby, Berenice M. “Medical Work at Lasalgaon.” Eastern Tidings, March 15, 1927).

Loasby, R. E. “Bermuda.” ARH, August 17, 1911, 14.

Loasby, R. E. “Curriculum and Examinations.” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1929.

Loasby, R. E. “High Points of the Convention – No. 3.” Home and School 15, no. 3 (November 1923): 10-12.

Loasby, R. E. “Lasalgaon.” India Union Tidings, December 1, 1919.

Loasby R. E. “Meditations on Schools and Teachers.” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1927.

Loasby, R. E. “Meditations Suggested by a Summer School.” Eastern Tidings, June 1, 1927.

Loasby, R. E. “Missionaries and Their Work.” Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1927.

Loasby, R. E. “Missionaries and Their Work.” African Division Outlook, January 15, 1928.

Loasby, R. E. “The Challenge of the Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna and the Bhakti-Marga.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 2, no. 1 (1964): 79-96.

Loasby, R. E. “The Manmad Mission Station.” India Union Tidings, January 1, 1918.

Loasby, Roland E. “An Ordinary Day in a Jungle Dispensary.” Mission Quarterly 15, no. 2 (April 1926): 23-25.

Loasby, Roland E. “Buddhism and Christianity in Contrast.” Signs of the Times, March 12, 1935.

Loasby, Roland E. “Greek Temporal Elements in Revelation 9:15.” Ministry, October 1944.

Loasby, Roland E. ““Har-Magedon” According to the Hebrew in the Setting of the Seven Last Plagues of Revelation 16.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 27, no. 2 (1989): 129-132.

Loasby, Roland E. “Idol Worship in India.” Signs of the Times, March 26, 1935.

Loasby, Roland E. “Islam Under the X Ray.” Signs of the Times, April 2, 1935.

Loasby, Roland E. “Lokamanya Bala Gangadhara Tilak (1856-1920). His Reorientation of the Gita Tradition: A Factor in the Rise of Indian Nationalism.” PhD dissertation, American University, 1942.

Loasby, Roland E. “Salvation is Sure—What does the assurance rest upon?” Signs of the Times, May 29, 1934.

Loasby, Roland E. “Some Gita Teachings Compared with Orthodox Hinduism and Modern Tendencies.” MA thesis, Columbia University, 1932.

Loasby, Roland E. “Strange Gods.” Signs of the Times, April 24, 1934.

Loasby, Roland, E. “The Bible Scientifically Accurate.” Signs of the Times, May 22, 1934.

Loasby, Roland E. “The Challenge of the Science of Theology.” Ministry, April 1957.

Loasby, Roland E. “The Importance of New Testament Greek.” Ministry, May 1952.

Loasby, Roland E. “The Marathi Training School.” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1920.

Loasby, Roland E. “The Old Testament Usage of the Hebrew Word Sur, “‘Rock.’” Ministry, December 1956.

“News Notes.” Eastern Tidings, February 15, 1925.

“News Notes.” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1925.

Pettit, G. W. “Bombay Presidency Mission.” India Union Tidings, January 1917.

Roland E. Loasby Lecture Notes. Collection 011. Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

“Roland E. Loasby obituary.” Southern Asia Tidings, June 1974.

“Roland E. Loasby obituary.” ARH, June 27, 1974.

“Roland Eugene Loasby obituary.” Focus, January-February 1975.

Salisbury, H. R. “Christian Education.” ARH, May 18, 1911.

Salisbury, H. R. “Christian Education.” ARH, October 19, 1911.

“Senior Close-ups.” Sligonian, May 15, 1940.

“Significant Contacts by Seminary Faculty Members.” Ministry, August 1958.

“This Time.” These Times, January 1957.

Tompkins, Andrew. “Seventh-day Adventist Approaches to Other Religions: Preliminary Findings from 1930-1950, Part 1.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 54, no. 2 (2016): 333-348.

Tompkins, Andrew. “Seventh-day Adventist Approaches to Other Religions: Preliminary Findings from 1930-1950, Part 2.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 55, no. 1 (2017): 107-126.

Weniger, Charles E. “The Seminary Comes of Age.” Journal of True Education 16, no. 5 (June 1954): 36-37.

Williams, A. H. “N. W. India Union.” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1929.

Williams, A. H. “News Items.” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1932.

Wood, L. G. “A Word from Nagpur.” Eastern Tidings, September 15, 1934.

Notes

  1. “Roland Eugene Loasby obituary,” Focus, January-February 1975, 43.

  2. H. R. Salisbury, “Christian Education,” ARH, May 18, 1911, 18.

  3. R. E. Loasby, “Bermuda,” ARH, August 17, 1911, 14; H. R. Salisbury, “Christian Education,” ARH, October 19, 1911, 19.

  4. “Roland Eugene Loasby obituary.”

  5. “Senior Close-ups,” Sligonian, May 15, 1940, 3.

  6. “Roland Eugene Loasby obituary.” The school initially was named Washington Training College (1904-1907), then Washington Foreign Missionary Seminary (1907-1914) before taking the name Washington Missionary College in 1914.

  7. General Conference Committee, May 12, 1914, 151, General Conference Archives (GCA), accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1914.pdf.

  8. General Conference Committee, July 5, 1914, 163, 165, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1914.pdf.

  9. For these calls see General Conference Committee, May 10, 1915, 279; August 2, 1915, 300-301; August 22, 1915, 302, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1915.pdf.

  10. “Brother and Sister R.E. Loasby…,” Eastern Tidings, January 1916, 12.

  11. G. W. Pettit, “Bombay Presidency Mission,” India Union Tidings, January 1917, 11; W. W. Fletcher, “Bombay Presidency General Meeting,” India Union Tidings, August 15, 1917, 3.

  12. “At the October language examinations…,” Eastern Tidings, December 15, 1920, 8; “This Time,” These Times, January 1957, 3.

  13. R. E. Loasby, “The Manmad Mission Station,” India Union Tidings, January 1, 1918, 4.

  14. R. E. Loasby, “Lasalgaon,” India Union Tidings, December 1, 1919, 5-6.

  15. Roland E. Loasby, “The Marathi Training School,” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 6-7.

  16. I. F. Blue, “News Notes from North-west India,” Eastern Tidings, January 15, 1921, 2.

  17. R. E. Loasby, “High Points of the Convention – No. 3,” Home and School 15, no. 3 (November 1923): 8-10; R. E. Loasby, “Meditations on Schools and Teachers,” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1927, 7. R. E. Loasby, “Curriculum and Examinations,” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1929, 3-5.

  18. R. E. Loasby, “Meditations Suggested by a Summer School,” Eastern Tidings, June 1, 1927, 4.

  19. Loasby, “Meditations Suggested by a Summer School,” 4.

  20. A. H. Williams, “N. W. India Union,” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1929, 18.

  21. Berenice W. Loasby, “Lasalgaon Station Medical Work,” Eastern Tidings, 4.

  22. For a sample of articles describing Berenice’s medical work see R. E. Loasby, “Lasalgaon”; “News Notes,” Eastern Tidings, February 15, 1925, 6; Roland E. Loasby, “An Ordinary Day in a Jungle Dispensary,” Mission Quarterly, April 1926, 23-25; Berenice M. Loasby, “Medical Work at Lasalgaon,” Eastern Tidings, March 15, 1927, 5; L. G. Wood, “A Word from Nagpur,” Eastern Tidings, September 15, 1934, 4.

  23. “A word received…,” ARH, August 14, 1924, 16.

  24. A. H. Williams, “News Items,” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1932, 6; “Senior Close-ups.”

  25. The following sources give evidence that Berenice had ongoing health challenges. General Conference Committee, July 5, 1914, 163, 165; General Conference Committee, May 14, 1931, 336, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1931-05.pdf; “Iowa Notes,” Northern Union Reaper, June 16, 1931, 5.

  26. R. E. Loasby, “Lasalgaon.”

  27. Roland E. Loasby, “Strange Gods,” Signs of the Times, April 24, 1934, 7. Roland E. Loasby, “The Bible Scientifically Accurate,” Signs of the Times, May 22, 1934, 1, 14, compares the Bible with Hindu sacred texts; Roland E. Loasby, “Salvation is Sure—What does the assurance rest upon?” Signs of the Times, May 29, 1934, 3, compares Christian views of salvation with Hindu views; Roland E. Loasby, “Idol Worship in India,” Signs of the Times, March 26, 1935, 6-7.

  28. General Conference Committee, June 15, 1923, 374, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1923.pdf; Berenice M. Loasby, “Brother and Sister R. E. Loasby Now in England,” Eastern Tidings, November 15, 1923, 6; “A word received….”

  29. Roland E. Loasby, “Some Gita Teachings Compared with Orthodox Hinduism and Modern Tendencies” (M.A. thesis, Columbia University, 1932).

  30. Roland E. Loasby, “Lokamanya Bala Gangadhara Tilak (1856-1920). His Reorientation of the Gita Tradition: A Factor in the Rise of Indian Nationalism,” (Ph.D. dissertation, American University, 1942).

  31. R. E. Loasby, “The Challenge of the Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna and the Bhakti-Marga,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 2, no. 1 (1964): 79-96.

  32. He wrote on Buddhism and Islam as well as Hinduism. For Buddhism see, Roland E. Loasby, “Buddhism and Christianity in Contrast,” Signs of the Times, March 12, 1935, 7, 11. For Islam see, Roland E. Loasby, “Islam Under the X Ray,” Signs of the Times, April 2, 1935, 6-7.

  33. For a brief note on being bitten by a mad dog see “News Notes,” Eastern Tidings, May 1, 1925, 5. On the bout with malaria see “Here and There,” India Union Tidings, November 1, 1918, 8.

  34. Roland E. Loasby, “The Marathi Training School,” 7.

  35. R. E. Loasby, “Missionaries and Their Work,” Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1927, 3-4; R. E. Loasby, “Missionaries and Their Work,” African Division Outlook, January 15, 1928, 8-9.

  36. M. E. Kern, “Southern Asia Division Round Table Discussions,” ARH, June 15, 1933, 10.

  37. General Conference Committee, June 30, 1938, 805, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1938-06.pdf.

  38. General Conference Committee, July 9, 1942, 507, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1938-06.pdf.

  39. Charles E. Weniger, “The Seminary Comes of Age,” Journal of True Education 16, no. 5 (June 1954): 37.

  40. For a sample of these articles see, Roland E. Loasby, “Greek Temporal Elements in Revelation 9:15,” Ministry, October 1944, 7-8; Roland E. Loasby, “The Importance of New Testament Greek,” Ministry, May 1952, 11-13; Roland E. Loasby, “Old Testament Usage of the Hebrew Word Sur, ‘Rock’,” Ministry, December 1956, 30-34; Roland E. Loasby, “The Challenge of the Science of Theology,” Ministry 30, no. 4 (April 1957): 22-23.

  41. General Conference Committee, December 17, 1953, 1400, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1953-12.pdf.

  42. Raymond F. Cottrell, “The Bible Research Fellowship: A Pioneering Seventh-day Adventist Organization in Retrospect,” Adventist Heritage 5, no. 1 (July 1978): 43; Roland E. Loasby, “‘Har-Magedon’ According to the Hebrew in the Setting of the Seven Last Plagues of Revelation 16,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 27, no. 2 (1989): 129-132. Leona G. Running abstracted the article and thus is probably to be credited with getting the article published.

  43. General Conference Committee, July 25, 1949, 1543, GCA, accessed October 9, 2020, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1949-07.pdf.

  44. Bert Haloviak, “Law or Compassion: SDA Approaches to Divorce, Remarriage, and Church Fellowship,” Unpublished Paper, September 1997, 18-19.

  45. “Senior Close-ups,” 3.

  46. Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, “The Intellectual World of Adventist Theologians,” Spectrum 18, no. 1 (October 1987): 34.

  47. “Significant Contacts by Seminary Faculty Members,” Ministry, August 1956, 44.

  48. “Roland E. Loasby obituary,” ARH, December 20, 1984, 23

  49. “Roland E. Loasby obituary,” Southern Asia Tidings, 10.

  50. “Berenice Loasby death notice,” ARH, December 20, 1984, 23.

×

Tompkins, Andrew. "Loasby, Roland Eugene (1890–1974) and Berenice M. (1891–1984)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 15, 2021. Accessed June 27, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BCKU.

Tompkins, Andrew. "Loasby, Roland Eugene (1890–1974) and Berenice M. (1891–1984)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 15, 2021. Date of access June 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BCKU.

Tompkins, Andrew (2021, January 15). Loasby, Roland Eugene (1890–1974) and Berenice M. (1891–1984). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BCKU.