James P. Wesberry and the Lords Day Alliance of the United States

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Ececutive Director of the Lord's Day Alliance of the USA during his final years

James P. Wesberry and the Lord's Day Alliance
of the United States
(adapted from an article in Pilgrim's Rest, June, 2001)
In the 19th century, the National Reform Movement led out in the effort to recognize the Sabbath Day. In the 20th, it has been the Lord's Day Alliance, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. An article, entitled The Lord's Day Man: James Pickett Wesberry, appeared in the spring 1992 issue of Sunday, the magazine of the Lord's Day Alliance. It provided some interesting historical information, especially in light of the fact that the Lord's Day Alliance is the primary religious group in America urging Sunday sacredness. Here are several quotations from this article of praise. This article briefly summarizes outstanding events in the history of the LDA, and declares that its capstone achievement, to date, has been its "hands across the gulf" approach to friendship with major church leaders in several important denominations outside of its normal Evangelical base: Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Anglican, Canadian, Australian, and European church leaders, as well as Greek Orthodox. The article intimates that the Catholic and Adventist connections were especially important. Here are highlights from this article:
"The retirement of Lord's Day Alliance Executive Director, James P. Wesberry, in February 1992 marks the end of a second career for one of the great religious leaders of America and a lifetime accomplishment which staggers the imagination. Wesberry first retired at age 69 in March 1975 after pastoring Atlanta's Morningside Baptist Church for 31 years. He expected to spend the autumn years writing and preaching. Within seven months, however, he was seated in an office suit of the Atlanta Baptist Center as executive director of the Lord's Day Alliance of the United States. Now 16 years later at age 85, Wesberry plans to retire from a second career . He has given the Lord's Day Alliance more exposure than it has ever had, and he has brought it a wider base of support than any of his predecessors in the 103- year-old organization.
Dedicated to preserving Sunday as a day of rest and worship, the Lord's Day Alliance moved its headquarters from New York City to Atlanta in 1970 for the convenience of its board of managers and to attract wider support in the Bible Belt.
The 79-member board, representing 25 denominations, meets twice a year to plan strategy and make decisions affecting the organization's work and mission. It is made up of men and women, black and white, of all ages. During Wesberry's administration the board has been diversified to include ministers, missionaries, theologians, evangelists, preachers, teachers, educators, college presidents, a former seminary president, a former Miss America, an astronaut, business executives, owners of large businesses, builders, realtors, bankers, lawyers, former governors, former Congressmen, physicians, authors, judges, editors, a general, an admiral, bishops, archbishops, and homemakers.
Wesberry has not only broadened the support base and diversified the board membership, but he has also redirected the approach to winning public favor for preserving the Lord's day .
Wesberry, a forward-looking leader who never takes his eyes from the goal, has mapped out a new strategy for the nineties. "I am thoroughly persuaded that our best approach is an educational one," he said, "and more and more we must encourage denominational publications to emphasize the Fourth Commandment and teachings of Jesus concerning the Lord's day in their literature.
Part of the educational strategy to preserve a day of rest and worship involves an appeal based less on legalism and more on science and psychology. Alluding to the findings of a Task Force to suggest strategies for preserving the traditional Lord's day in America, Wesberry said: "We need basic facts to build strong and convincing arguments, physiological, psychological, and economic arguments in the movement of Sabbath reform. There are convincing arguments that all society needs a day of rest. Such a day is demanded for the physical, mental, industrial, political well-being of humankind." The alliance announced its strategy for the future during the centennial observance in 1988:"Blessing in the integrity of God's creative order and in the redemptive power of the risen Christ to which the Holy Scriptures bear faithful witness, the Lord's Day Alliance, upon entering its second century of service, renews its commitment to encourage, within the Christian community, celebration of Sunday as the Lord's day, and to communicate to all of society the unique benefits of a common day of rest."
The centennial celebration was held in the Fondry Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., where the alliance started [in 1888]. At the 100th anniversary the board of managers and friends of the alliance gathered on the steps of the United States Capitol for a service of prayer, thanksgiving and praise. Senator Wyche Fowler of Georgia greeted the group and commended them for their work. Later they heard Norman Vincent Peale at a banquet in the Church of the Pilgrims. Earlier in his administration, Wesberry expanded the alliance's office publication, Sunday magazine, and increased its circulation to a record high. He changed the format, added lively news articles relative to Sunday Observance, and printed photographs of celebrities and ordinary people engaged in supporting the aims of the alliance. Increased circulation won new friends and donors. The educational mission was further strengthened by an individual donation which made possible the production of a motion picture called The Lord's Day. It was shown worldwide.
As he prepares to end his tenure with the alliance, Wesberry senses more support and enthusiasm for the future than ever. "The Lord's Day Alliance has renewed vision, a new dream. The alliance has never been more alive. I don't think there has ever been a time of more intense concern among us than now."
He has been an adviser to Presidents of the United States, Congressmen, and individual members of the Georgia General Assembly. In addition to pastoring an Atlanta church and fulfilling numerous ministerial responsibilities, he traveled around the world on preaching missions for the United States Air Force. He was instrumental in founding Atlanta Baptist College.
"We are rediscovering new and better ways of handling our problems, Wesberry said."Our new ways are old ways. We are turning once again to the Bible and to the church for our answers." Part of the new approach of turning back to the church led him to find ways for major religious bodies to agree rather than remain polarized because of theological differences. In the sincere ecumenical spirit that has characterized his ministry, Wesberry singled out prominent church leaders [in denominations not in the LDA] for recognition by the Lord's Day Alliance, recognizing them for their leadership in preserving Sunday as a day of rest and worship.
At the annual meeting in Atlanta in 1978, Wesberry made history by joining hands for the first time with the Roman Catholic clergy, in a mutual goal to preserve the Lord's day. The board of managers were entertained in a Catholic church because of Wesberry's friendship with the Monsignor.
He also made history for the alliance when he spoke at Andrews University and Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and led in exploration of ways the Lord's Day Alliance and the Seventh-day Adventists could work together. "In spite of differences of opinion in reference to the Sabbath question," Wesberry explained, "we had clasped hands across these differences and denominational lines and felt the warm, sincere grip and gracious friendship among brothers and sisters in Christ." Together with the heads of the New England Lord's Day League, Wesberry visited the governor of New Hampshire and presented a plaque in appreciation of his dedication to preserving the Lord's day. On a visit to London, he conferred with the director of the Lord's Day Observance Society and invited him to America for consultation and finding ways to work towards a mutual goal.
"We are doing our best to keep contact with other similar bodies throughout the world and give them all the encouragement we can," Wesberry said. The effort led him to an association with the People-For-Sunday Association of Canada, as well as Lord's Day societies of Holland, Australia, and Nigeria. "The Lord's Day Alliance had helped me cross all denominational lines and to become an intimate friend of a Roman Catholic archbishop," Wesberry said. The archbishop had been a good friend of the alliance and twice had helped entertain the board of managers in Atlanta. When the man became terminally ill, Wesberry visited him in the hospital, knelt beside his wheelchair, took his hand, and prayed for him. "My life and the Lord's Day Alliance had been richly blessed through him," Wesberry said.
He went to New York and presented a plaque to the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America, and in turn welcomed a representative of the Orthodox Church to the alliance's board of managers. He went to Lambeth Palace in London to present a plaque to the Archbishop of Canterbury. And he went to Rome and presented a plaque to the Pope.
Collecting the messages of various leaders on preservation of the Sabbath, Wesberry brought out a book, entitled The Lord's Day, and presented it as a gift to all theological seminary and Bible school libraries in the United States and to several leading pastors and church leaders. Wesberry's influence on the Lord's Day Alliance has been indelible. But what about the future? According to Wesberry, the prospects for a bright future have never been better. "The Lord's Day Alliance and its affiliates are being revitalized," Wesberry said."They seem to be having a new birth. We are being revived again. It is happening in our national organization and all our affiliates. We believe that the Lord's Day is the keystone of civilization and determines the future power and glory of our nation."

James C. Bryant wrote in an article "The Lord's Day Man: James Pickett Wesberry," Spring 1992 issue of Sunday, the journal of the Lord's Day Alliance.
In the late 1970s a large interdenominational Protestant meeting was held within in Marion, Illinois. The announcement called for all Christians to gather to a special meeting, sponsored by the Lord's Day Alliance. The featured speaker would be Samuele Bacchiocchi. Said to be a Seventh-day Adventist Bible teacher at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Bacchiocchi was especially lauded in the flyer for two facts: First, he had graduated with a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, the oldest Jesuit Roman Catholic higher educational institution in the world. Second, he wanted all churches to enter the blessing of the Sabbath rest, whatever day it might be on. It is possible that it was through Bacchiocchi and Wesberry's mutual Vatican contacts that they were brought together, making it possible for Wesberry to meet with our leaders at Andrews and for Bacchiocchi to be launched on a tour of a number of cities, where he spoke on behalf of the Lord's Day Alliance.

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Atlanta skyline viewed from Morningside Baptist

James Pickett Wesberry