Chapter 17

Organization, Unity, and Institutional Development

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Organization and Unity
Centralization of Power
“Get Out of Battle Creek!”
Warnings Against Consolidation of Institutions
Danger in Muting the Adventist Identification
Establishing Educational and Medical Institutions
Study Questions

“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”1

The ministry of Ellen White and the emergence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are inseparable. To try to understand one without the other would make each unintelligible and undiscoverable. Ellen White and the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in thought and structure, are as integrated as the union of Anglo-Saxon languages in the formation of English speech.2

Ellen and James White were the rallying center for those Millerites who later became the Sabbatarian (Saturday-sabbath) Adventists. James White, a remarkably resilient organizer, embraced simultaneously many aspects of a growing movement as few others could. By his side, emboldened with a holy candor and unwavering commitment, Ellen White encouraged the growing “little flock” with visions bold. This administrator/ prophet team within a few decades led a New England group into an international mission. Though they were the human center of a worldwide movement, neither claimed recognition, reward, or even earthly comforts.3

On one hand, the Whites fearlessly denounced the evils of the social order; on the other, they led tens of thousands in their day to catch a picture of how the gospel brings spiritual, social, and physical restoration in this life—all in fulfilling the divine command to prepare a people to meet the soon-coming Lord. Out of this twin emphasis, a turning from the distracting customs of worldly practices and the commitment to tell the world of the principles of the kingdom of God, emerged an international network of medical and educational institutions, supported by scores of publishing houses and a worldwide mission network.4

The indisputable guiding force behind this impulse was Ellen White. Her unifying, motivating “voice” continues to provide light and compelling dynamics long after her death in 1915.5 Yet, one of the unique factors that distinguishes her from others who claimed the prophetic gift in the nineteenth century6 is that she never perceived herself as a leader of a new movement. She never swerved from her simple self-perception that she was only God’s messenger to the Advent movement.

Mrs. White kept one eye on the divine commission as set forth in Revelation 14, an assignment that would ultimately unite all who seek truth, from every continent and from every ethnic, social, and economic background; her other eye was on the core group that was to make credible this good news of God’s last-day invitation to a judgment-bound world. She knew that without the gospel principles working in the lives of those who proclaimed the gospel, results would be minimal. For her, the church’s highest priority was to reflect the Christlike life that would make Christ’s gospel appealing and convincing.7

Organization and Unity

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Being the messenger, however, meant that she was often ahead of the church’s leaders, not only in theological insights and their practical applications, but also in her continual insistence on unity and organization. In comparing other contemporary millenarians such as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, historians and sociologists consider “remarkable” the rapid transition from the post-Millerite instability to the “largely stable, uniform organization” achieved by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Five reasons are suggested for this phenomenon in the development of Sabbatarian Adventists: (1) they separated themselves from other post-Millerite groups and millenarians “after the reformulation of ideas”; (2) they “not only preached the Advent but the conditions for it”; (3) “these conditions were validated by divine inspiration, whereby the group acquired an independent source of inspiration, apart from the Scriptures”; (4) they “established a professional ministry which opened the way to other specialized agencies”; and (5) they developed an “accretion of concerns for education, diet, medical care, religious liberty, and Sabbatarianism [that] further advanced its denominationalization both ideologically and institutionally.”8

None of these five components would have resulted in a worldwide religious movement without Ellen White’s presence and messages. Her messages to the church were far-reaching. On one hand, she covered the whole range of the salvation story; on the other, she dealt with civil government, the home, and questions of race relations, health, and education. The striking point is that all this instruction was creative: whenever followed faithfully, schools and hospitals, publishing houses and ministerial institutes, temperance and welfare societies sprang up worldwide. Even more striking is that this woman, without a church office and without formal training in any one of the many areas of her profound instruction, was the leading inspiration in molding all these various interests into a united organization.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church did not develop out of a crisis in some previous church wherein a charismatic leader arose to lead his/her followers into a new organization, such as John Wesley and the Methodists. Nor did it arise because of a doctrinal quarrel, similar to the beginnings of the various Lutheran or Presbyterian churches existing today.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was born in a profound spiritual awakening known as the Millerite movement. Fellowship created by belief in the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), one of the central New Testament themes, held the young group together. This fellowship, this sense of “family,” is the open secret of the church’s worldwide cohesiveness. With its leaders and members under conviction that the movement was raised up to prepare the way for the return of Jesus (Rev. 14), sinners were rescued, backsliders were reclaimed, and young and old were motivated to realize their potential as they joined in a worldwide evangelistic movement.

Beneath all this motivation and the sense of belonging to a worldwide “family” has been the inspiring challenge and clear direction of Ellen White. She and her husband knew early that motivation and fellowship had to be unified and organized. Without a unifying organization, the warmest feelings soon fray out into frustration and tangled relationships. Throughout her writings, Ellen White made clear that personal religion and organized religion are the two sides of a coin that we call “the church.”9

In the early years of the Adventist experience, the lack of organization led to various problems and disillusionment. Self-appointed ministers preached what they pleased; even the “appointed” traveled without salary or paid expenses. Divisions arose in the scattered groups of believers, and no method for dealing with divisive heresies existed.10 Whatever church properties they used were held in the name of some individual member; when the member died, the property passed to relatives, some of whom were not church members. By 1853, James and Ellen White were urging church organization to eliminate “uncredentialed” ministers and to establish a stable basis for owning church property.

But this plea for organization was met with strong resistance. Organization for many was a “return to Babylon.”11 Opposers to organization still felt the sting of the organized churches that refused the Millerite call. The religious freedom that Adventists had been enjoying for a few years, they did not want to exchange for the cold blanket of an organized church. Organization, for them, was inconsistent with the freedom of the gospel.12

In 1853, James White, the “father of our present church order,”13 wrote five editorials in the Review and Herald14 on organization, with little or no positive response. But Ellen White’s quiet, firm, counsel eventually caught the attention of church leaders and they were led to see the common sense and urgency of her husband’s call for organization.15

Many meetings were held as leaders studied the need and method of organization. One of the first considerations was a name for this new body of Adventist believers. On October 1, 1860, the name finally chosen was, “Seventh-day Adventists.”16

But that act appeared to be the most that could be decided on at the time. Now that they had a name, the leaders found it easier to incorporate the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association on May 3, 1861, than to organize churches! However, the manner in which local churches would organize and unite in some kind of federation was finally settled on October 4 and 5, 1861, at least for Battle Creek and the newly formed Michigan Conference, the first conference to be organized. In 1862 six other state conferences followed. One year later the General Conference was organized, on May 20-23, 1863.17

Centralization of Power

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In 1892 plans were being formulated that would foster a greater centralization of power in Battle Creek leadership. On December 19 Ellen White wrote a fifteen-page message from Australia to the leadership in Battle Creek. She reviewed the blessings of organization “that God gave us special light upon. . . . The system of organization proved a grand success.” But she also pointed out the dangers of bureaucratic machinery—that some of the present procedures that seemed burdensome were not caused by organization, but by its abuse. She further noted: “In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, ‘Praise God!’ As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment and with confidence in Christ our Leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”18

Ellen White’s warnings and suggestions from Australia were neglected, setting the stage for the General Conference Session in 1901. The 1901 reorganization of denominational structure was radical and explosive, but practical. The formation of union territories between the General Conference Committee and the local conferences decentralized much of the denomination’s decision making. The enlargement of the General Conference Committee from a few to twenty-five, with all union presidents members ex officio, broadened the base of decision making. Policies were established that would guarantee the flow of funds from prosperous conferences to those with limited resources. Departmental organization, such as the Sabbath School Department, would function not only at the General Conference but on the union and local conference levels. Perhaps the greatest disappointment in 1901 was the inability to bring into the church structure the International Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association headed by Dr. J. H. Kellogg—a problem that would become the denomination’s most critical crisis up to that time.

Without the counsel and perseverance of Ellen White the much needed reorganization might not have been accomplished. The dramatics of the event cannot be overstated. As soon as the General Conference president had concluded his opening address on April 2, Mrs. White, absent in Australia for nine years, moved quickly to the platform and came at once to her point. After describing briefly how the Lord had signally led through the years, she told church leaders: “You have no right to manage unless you manage in God’s order. . . . What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build upon a different principle. . . . There are to be more than one or two or three men to consider the whole vast field. The work is great, and there is no one human mind that can plan for the work which needs to be done. . . . According to the light that has been given me—and just how it is to be accomplished I cannot say—greater strength must be brought into the managing force of the Conference. . . . There must be a renovation, a reorganization; a power and strength must be brought into the committees that are necessary.”19

The response was immediate. During the deliberations when impasses occurred, Ellen White would perceive the issues involved and make suggestions; in turn, the delegates would move forward with added insights and unanimous votes. Within three weeks, the breathtaking reorganization was accomplished, except for the meshing of the medical work with that of the General Conference.20

Those who compare Mrs. White’s candid directions at the beginning of the conference with the organization that was adopted and then followed can fully appreciate the new life and benefits felt the world over almost immediately—all because of the Lord’s messenger. These changes were intricate, fundamental, and far-reaching; in some respects, novel and untested. For a person who never studied ecclesiastical structure or who had never held a high-level office, her contribution to the Adventist Church in church government remains astounding.

L. H. Christian, long-time General Conference officer, wrote: “Many have asked whether the Adventist worldwide church organization is congregational, presbyterian, or episcopal. . . . While it has similarities with other churches, it is really different, and an organism by itself. It came as a fruitage of the creative ideas of the advent message guided by God through the Spirit of prophecy. The Adventist Church is a church with a task, and the Lord gave it a body to fit the task.”21

“Get Out of Battle Creek!”

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Ellen White referred to the move from Rochester, New York, to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1855, as the time when “the Lord began to turn our captivity.”22 Soon, along with the growth of the publishing house, the Health Reform Institute was established, and eventually Battle Creek College. The three institutions were largely the result of Mrs. White’s visions and James White’s organizational skills.23

However, as time passed and the need for people to operate these institutions grew, all the problems associated with an Adventist ghetto emerged. With worldly success came the human traits of jealousy, gossip, and complacency. Many of the members came from poor communities in New England and the Midwest, hoping to place their children in church schools; the dissension regarding the policies of these early schools contributed to the general unrest. Through the years Mrs. White had written and spoken much regarding the declining spiritual condition of the Battle Creek church members.

The year 1902 was anchored on both ends with stunning disasters. On February 18 the internationally famous Battle Creek Sanitarium burned to the ground. During the night of December 30, the Review and Herald Publishing Association also was reduced to ashes.

At the General Conference Session, on April 3, 1903, the unpopular motion before the delegates was: “That the General Conference offices or headquarters be moved from Battle Creek, Mich., to some place favorable for its work on the Atlantic Coast.” Ellen White arose and said: “Some seemed to think that when they reached Battle Creek, they would be near heaven, that in Battle Creek they would not have many temptations.” They didn’t realize that “in Battle Creek . . . the enemy was working the hardest.”24

She reminded the church leaders that God had been warning for years to “Get out of Battle Creek.” She reviewed her reply to two young educators (P. T. Magan and E. A. Sutherland) who had asked for counsel regarding the future of Battle Creek College: “Take the school out of Battle Creek, if you can possibly do so.” The move, she said, was a “success.”

Then she turned to the future of the publishing house: “The very worst thing that could now be done would be for the Review and Herald office to be once more built up in Battle Creek.”

But she wasn’t finished. She included the church leadership: “Let the General Conference offices and the publishing work be moved from Battle Creek. I know not where the place will be, whether on the Atlantic Coast or elsewhere.”

Without doubt, her direction at this meeting stopped the hesitation. Search committees were formed and properties from Connecticut to New Jersey were investigated. The hope was to find something near New York City.

Then letters began to come from Ellen White in response to fervent urging from the president of the General Conference. From the light she had, she was not in favor of New York. Rather, Washington, D. C., seemed to have special advantages. The formula still worked: God will not remove the task of decision-making from human beings. Men and women must do their part, while God does His. God encourages people with sufficient light to make right choices, always providing, when asked, the wisdom to make the right choice and the power to act. When correct decisions are made, God has His special way of endorsing those decisions.

This was not an easy time for church leaders. Constituents of the publishing house corporation were promising a legal battle. The publishing house employees and other church members had invested heavily in their Battle Creek properties and now feared they would suffer personal financial disaster.

A. G. Daniells, president of the General Conference, wrote in July, 1903: “We are in a dreadful place. God must help us. We are helpless. . . . I want to tell you that I realize as I never have in all my life the need, and the value to the church, of the Spirit of Prophecy. The working of Satan at this present time is surely with all power, and signs, and lying wonders. And it is so intense and cunning that only God can meet it successfully. We who accept the high and sacred responsibilities of this work must let God teach us, and we must listen to His voice.”25

After preliminary investigation church leaders were satisfied that Takoma Park, on the northern edge of Washington, D.C., should be the new home for the Review and Herald Publishing Association and the headquarters for the General Conference. Then a letter came from Ellen White: “The Lord has opened this matter to me decidedly. The publishing work that has been carried on in Battle Creek should for the present be carried on near Washington. If after a time the Lord says, Move away from Washington, we are to move.”26

In reflecting on this moment, Daniells wrote: “No one but those who passed through this very trying experience can appreciate the relief brought to us by that word of certainty.”27

Warnings Against Consolidation of Institutions

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For many in business, “consolidation” suggests cost-savings and greater efficiency. Yet, many in business have discovered that bigger is not always better. Great international corporations have learned to their dismay by lost sales that consolidation can also mean the inefficiency of centralization and loss of touch with the potential buyer.

In the church, the plea for unity must be understood in terms of the church’s purpose. Decision-making must never be far from the people who must implement decisions and live with the consequences. Unity in goals, as history has demonstrated, need not be defined in terms of decision-making by the few.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has learned through experience the perversion of unity when overcentralization, without appropriate checks and balances, produces “kingly power” and the ominous potential of error overwhelming the church body. The early Adventists, fearful of “Babylonian” power in church organization, kept their institutions legally separate from each other and from the General Conference. For example, in the late 1890s the Health Institute founded in the mid-1860s had grown into a chain of twenty-seven sanitariums—all administered by the International Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association, an entity independent from the General Conference. At the beginning of the twentieth century, other more integral departments of the church, such as the International Sabbath School Association, the International Religious Liberty Association, and the International Tract and Missionary Society, also were administered by boards distinct from the General Conference.

Was this decentralization good or bad? Not good, when the various departments of the church were spending unnecessary funds to operate their programs, often in competition with one another. Yet, there was something positive in that each organization was pursuing its goals without another level of decision-makers above them that would possibly slow progress and thwart the plans that were devised by people closer to the problem or challenge.

But all of the major associations and departments had their own problem of overcentralization. Most were headquartered at Battle Creek, some later in Philadelphia and New York. Decisions were made at these head offices with very little freedom by local conferences or churches to meet their immediate needs. The problem with the Adventist Church in the 1890s and early 1900s can be understood in terms of rapid growth and of long-time leaders who were not used to a multiplicity of challenges, not only in numbers but in variety. The charges of “kingly power” and sluggish decision-making were all too accurate.28

Throughout this period Ellen White sounded the alarm regarding the problems caused by the consolidation of top decision-makers in Battle Creek. She had reason to be even more alarmed when the publishing leaders planned to merge the Pacific Press Publishing Association with the Review and Herald Publishing Association, as well as all other publishing houses of the future.29

Her clear voice against consolidation of publishing houses, medical institutions, and educational institutions rested on the principle, enunciated in 1896, that consolidation “shows that men are seeking to grasp the scepter of power, and hold control over human minds.”30 In the consolidation of the church’s work in one place and in the hands of a few men, she wrote, “Mistakes have been made in this line. Individuality and personal responsibility are thus repressed and weakened.”31 Further, she foresaw the danger in terms of bad policy that would diffuse everywhere under consolidated management: “When so great power is placed in the hands of a few persons, Satan will make determined efforts to pervert the judgment, to insinuate wrong principles of action, to bring in a wrong policy; in so doing he cannot only pervert one institution, but through this can gain control of others and give a wrong mold to the work in distant parts.”32

Counsel from Ellen White eventually quelled the surge for consolidation. Publishing houses and schools remained sovereign with their own boards.33 Only the medical work resisted the messages, and this led eventually to the separation of the Battle Creek Sanitarium from denominational control.34 The radical and innovative reorganizing of the church structure in the 1901 General Conference session further decentralized decision-making; union conferences worldwide could now make many decisions that hitherto had to wait for Battle Creek permission.

Danger in Muting the Adventist Identification

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One of the chief concerns addressed in the Salamanca vision, November 4, 1890,35 and visions in the weeks to follow was the pending danger of muting Adventist distinctiveness, especially in denominational periodicals. The immediate focus evoking Ellen White’s admonition was the plan put forth by “influential men to the effect that if The American Sentinel would drop the words ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ from its columns, and would say nothing about the Sabbath, the great men of the world would patronize it. . . . This policy is the first step in a succession of wrong steps.”36

As reported by Uriah Smith, Ellen White spoke at the General Conference session in Battle Creek, Michigan, March 7, 1891, on “the danger of covering up, and keeping in the background, the distinctive features of our faith, under the impression that prejudice will thereby be avoided. If there is committed to us a special message, as we believe, that message must go, without reference to the customs or prejudices of the world, not governed by a policy of fear or favor. . . . The discourse was a timely one, and made a profound impression upon the large congregation.”37

The argument set forth by the National Religious Liberty Association (not yet under the umbrella of the General Conference) seemed plausible: (1) religious liberty was a vital part of the third angel’s message; (2) current religious liberty issues opened many doors before large audiences; (3) these principles would get a much broader and more favorable response if they were not associated with such doctrines as the Sabbath and the Second Coming; (4) if the Sentinel’s policies could not be changed, another journal would be established to further their interests.38

After Ellen White’s early Sunday morning exposé of their late Saturday night deliberations, the Association leaders, including A. F. Ballenger, freely acknowledged the error of their thinking. That Sunday morning saw the reversal of a strong course of action, voted only hours before.39

However, those committed to a nonsectarian religious liberty magazine eventually had their way. In “seeking ‘a wider sphere of influence,’ the Sentinel lost . . . its vitality, its circulation, and at last, its life. It ceased publication . . . in 1904.”40

But the need for a religious liberty journal remained, a magazine committed to the full-orbed message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1906, the Sentinel was reincarnated as Liberty. But strange as it may seem, the same philosophy that energized the Sentinel eventually molded the new Liberty! By the 1950s, the editors of Liberty were working under the policy that the journal “has only one basic teaching, that of soul liberty. . . . It is nonsectarian in scope and subject matter.”41

With the change of editors in 1959, a decided shift was eventually made so that the principles advocated by Ellen White in 1891 would again distinguish the church’s journal of religious liberty. The wisdom of divine counsel and the courage of its new editor were validated in that the subscription list jumped from 160,000 in 1959 as a quarterly to more than half a million as a bi-monthly! “The Salamanca vision has now become part of the preamble to the editorial policy.”42

Establishing Educational and Medical Institutions

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Health Reform Institute. Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, the denomination’s first health institution, was a direct response to Ellen White’s urging as she communicated the light given her. Reporting the Rochester, New York, vision, December 25, 1865, among many other health principles and admonitions, she advocated a health institution with two objectives: (1) for the benefit of the diseased and suffering among Adventists who needed the added advantages that could not be found “in a popular water cure”; and (2) for “the means of bringing our views before many whom it would be impossible for us to reach by the common course of advocating the truth.”43

The prospect of establishing a medical institution in the mid-1860s seemed daunting, perhaps impossible, from a human point of view. But J. N. Loughborough, president of the Michigan Conference, gathered together his committee leaders and said: “We will pledge to the enterprise, venturing out on what is said in the testimony, though it looks to us like a heavy load for us to hold up.”44

Four months later, Uriah Smith, editor of the Review and Herald, wrote about this struggling infant: “We have only to look back . . . four short months. Now we behold an elegant site secured, buildings ready for operation . . . and operations actually commenced. In no enterprise ever undertaken by this people has the hand of the Lord been more evidently manifested than in this thing.”45

Other medical institutions owe their existence to Ellen White’s visionary insight, courage, and personal sacrifice. In 1902 she wrote to the General Conference president: “Constantly the Lord is keeping southern California before me as a place where we must establish medical institutions. . . . Sanitariums must be established in this section of the State.” A few days later she said: “For months the Lord has given me instruction that He is preparing the way for our people to obtain possession, at little cost, of properties on which there are buildings that can be utilized in our work.”46

Paradise Valley Sanitarium. Ellen White borrowed $2,000 from a bank (in 1904) and encouraged Mrs. Josephine Gotzian to donate $2,000 so that the Paradise Valley Sanitarium property could be bought—in spite of understandable reluctance on the part of conference leadership—on property that had cost the original owners $25,000.47

Glendale Sanitarium. As soon as Paradise Valley Sanitarium had been secured, Mrs. White urged leadership to find property for a sanitarium “near Los Angeles.” Under her prodding a search was made in the Los Angeles suburbs. In Glendale a desirable property worth $60,000 was bought for $12,500.48

Loma Linda Sanitarium. The church leadership thought that surely they had fulfilled their responsibilities as they struggled to develop the Paradise Valley and Glendale sanitariums. But Ellen White was not finished. She had been instructed that the Redlands-Riverside area was pointed out as a place where the next sanitarium should be located—and soon. She told the conference leadership that they “could find it if they wanted to.”49

When the description of the Loma Linda resort hotel was presented to her while she was attending the 1905 General Conference session in Washington, D. C., she replied that the place answered in every particular to the instruction seen in vision. Great was the tension regarding the necessary finances; the local conference was heavily in debt, chiefly because of the recent acquisitions urged by Ellen White! But time was of the essence. Mrs. White sent a telegram to faithful John Burden: “Secure the property!” The events of the next few months in finding the necessary funds to complete the sale and the rapid development of the medical educational center at Loma Linda provide reason for amazement and gratitude. The final purchase price was $38,900 on an initial investment of more than $150,000 by the original owners. Except for divine guidance through His messenger from Elmshaven, Loma Linda University would not exist today.50

Avondale College. The establishment of Avondale College by fewer than 1,000 believers in the 1890s, during one of Australia’s worst economic depressions, is one more awesome example of the success that comes by following the counsel of God’s messenger. Less than four months after Ellen White arrived in Australia, and with her urging, church leadership voted in December 1891 “that it is our duty to take immediate steps toward the establishment of a school in Australia.”51

In 1893 the search committee located a 1,450-acre site seventy-five miles north of Sydney, near Cooranbong. Though the land was very cheap, church leadership felt that it would not support a farm, a conviction endorsed by the state agricultural service. Ellen White remained unmoved while others vacillated. To show her faith in the Lord’s guidance, she borrowed $5,000 so that building materials could be bought.

For years, Avondale College was considered by many to be closer to the educational principles set forth by Ellen White than any other denominational school. It became a showcase for the benefits of a work-study program; the value of school industries as a source for student labor as well as for cash-flow to help the budget; the benefit to student, school, and community of student-sponsored community welfare activities, projects that reduced the need for extensive sports programs; the long-term investment in young people who would become denominational workers, and, above all else, a demonstration school for the common sense practicality of Ellen White’s counsels on education.

Avondale College, after several other colleges had been established in America, was actually a new start in Adventist education. It developed relatively free from the conventional educational wisdom that influenced the American colleges. In 1897, Ellen White reflected on Avondale as “the best school in every respect that we have ever seen, outside our people, or among Seventh-day Adventists.”52


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1.Life Sketches, p. 196.

2.“During a long life span, she exerted the most powerful single influence on Seventh-day Adventist believers.”—Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. XX, p. 99. “Mrs. White was the acknowledged inspiration of the movement. . . . Her ideas established the world of Adventism in its medical, educational, and missionary work around the world.”—Hartzell Spence, “The Story of Religions in America—Seventh-day Adventists,” Look, XXII (June 24, 1958), p. 79.

3.In the Bible Conference of 1919, A. G. Daniells, president of the General Conference, reflected on how he would teach young people about the relationship of Ellen White to the thought and structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: “I would want to begin with the beginning of this movement. At that time here was a gift given to this person; and with that gift to that individual, at the same time, came this movement of the three-fold message. They came right together in the same year. That gift was exercised steadily and powerfully in the development of this movement. The two were inseparably connected, and there was instruction given regarding this movement in all its phases through this gift, clear through for seventy years.”—“The Use of the Spirit of Prophecy in Our Teaching of Bible and History,” Spectrum, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 29.

4.See VandeVere, in Adventism in America, pp. 66, 67.

5.“Since her death in [1915] there has been constant recourse to EGW’s thoughts and positions on each and every issue which faced the Seventh-day Adventist Church . . . so that in every discussion her approval was either assumed or subsumed. Still today her voluminous writings are read, quoted and discussed by both ministry and laity of the SDA church to a much greater degree than are the writings of John Wesley in Methodism, and perhaps more than the works of Martin Luther in the various Lutheran churches.”—Roy Graham, Ellen G. White, Co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (New York: Peter Lang, 1985), p. 1.

6.Joseph Smith of the Mormons, Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Scientists, etc., see p. 37.

7.“The gospel is to be presented not as a lifeless theory, but as a living force to change the life. God would have His servants bear testimony to the fact that through His grace men may possess Christlikeness of character and may rejoice in the assurance of His great love. . . . We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. . . . These precious acknowledgments to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christlike life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls.”—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 99, 100; see p. 470. See also The Desire of Ages, p. 826.

8.Jonathan Butler, “The Making of a New Order,” in The Disappointed, pp. 199, 200.

9.“In all this period the testimonies to the church which came through Mrs. White deal often, very understandably, with this unstable state in men and movements. Without this gift of the Holy Spirit, as was proved over and over, the ties of brotherhood would not have sufficed to bind the movement together. . . . The fact stands out to us now, that in that early time, when there was no church organization and no ecclesiastical authority among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists, the Spirit of prophecy in Ellen G. White and the faith of the believers in her divine commission constituted the sole disciplinary agent of the body, the one rallying point of the faithful, the final court of appeal. Yet how modestly, with what godly fear, in what travail of soul, did she bear her testimony! No other agency could have so united while purifying. The outcome was a nuclear body comparatively clean, disciplined, and directed, for which later generations have every reason to be grateful.”—Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 1, p. 293.

10. Errors included time-setting for the return of Jesus, perfectionism (fully sanctified and could not sin), spiritual union (violators of the seventh commandment), saints have yet to go to old Jerusalem before Jesus returned, etc.—See James White, Review and Herald Extra, July 21, 1851, Aug. 19, 1851, Nov. 25, 1851; Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 101; Bio., vol. 1, pp. 216, 217.

11. George Storrs wrote in 1844: “Take care that you do not seek to manufacture another church. No church can be organized by man’s invention but what it becomes Babylon the moment it is organized.”—The Midnight Cry, Feb. 15, 1844, cited in David Arthur, “Millerism,” in Gaustad, Rise of Adventism, p. 168.

12. Godfrey T. Anderson, “Sectarianism and Organization, 1846-1864,” in Land, Adventism in America, pp. 36, 46, 47; Jonathan Butler, “Adventism and the American Experience,” in Gaustad, Rise of Adventism, pp. 177, 179.

13. Christian, Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts, p. 119.

14. Review and Herald, Dec. 6, 13, 20, and 27, 1853.

15. In Sept., 1852, Ellen White had a vision that prompted an article that was published in late 1853, in which she said, “The Lord has shown that gospel order has been too much feared and neglected. Formality should be shunned; but, in so doing, order should not be neglected. . . . Men whose lives are not holy and who are unqualified to teach the present truth enter the field without being acknowledged by the church or the brethren generally, and confusion and disunion are the result. . . . These self-sent messengers are a curse to the cause. . . . I saw that this door at which the enemy comes in to perplex and trouble the flock can be shut. I inquired of the angel how it could be closed. He said, ‘The church must flee to God’s Word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected.’ This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith.”—Early Writings, pp. 97-100; “As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable.”—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 26; see Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 210-216.

16. Throughout the meetings Ellen White stayed in the background, but as soon as the name was chosen she sent out the following endorsement: “No name which we can take will be appropriate but that which accords with our profession and expresses our faith and marks us a peculiar people. The name Seventh-day Adventist is a standing rebuke to the Protestant world. . . . The name Seventh-day Adventist carries the true features of our faith in front, and will convict the inquiring mind. Like an arrow from the Lord’s quiver, it will wound the transgressors of God’s law, and will lead to repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 223, 224. Another name considered was “The Church of God.”—See Damsteegt, Foundations, pp. 254, 255.

17. Godfrey T. Anderson, “Make Us a Name,” Adventist Heritage, July, 1974, pp. 28-34. C. Mervyn Maxwell, Tell It to the World, pp. 125- 146; Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 1, pp. 291-311; Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 86-103; Bio., vol. 1, pp. 420-431, 445-461; SDAE, vol. 10, pp. 880, 1046.

18. Life Sketches, p. 196.

19. General Conference Bulletin, April 3, 1901, pp. 23-26.

20. Maxwell, Tell It to the World, pp. 254-258; R. W. Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 267-281; R. W. Schwarz, “The Perils of Growth, 1886- 1905,” in Land, Adventism in America, pp. 128, 129; A. W. Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962), pp. 19-46; Bio., vol. 5, pp. 70-96.

21. Christian, Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts, p. 125.

22. Life Sketches, p. 159.

23. See pp. 52, 53.

24. Review and Herald, April 14, 1903, p. 17.

25. A. G. Daniells to Ellen G. White, July 6, 1903, cited in Bio., vol. 5, pp. 275, 276.

26. Letter 140, 1903, cited in Daniells, Abiding Gift, p. 349.

27. Ibid. For additional background, see A. G. Daniells, Abiding Gift, pp. 343-352; Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 299-313; Schwarz, “The Perils of Growth, 1886-1905,” in Land, Adventism in America., pp. 131-133; A. W. Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 3, pp. 66-81; Bio., vol. 5, pp. 271-279.

28. Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 233; Schwarz, “The Perils of Growth, 1886-1905,” in Land, Adventism in America, pp. 123-125.

29. “Notwithstanding frequent counsels to the contrary, men continued to plan for centralization of power, for the binding of many interests under one control. This work was first started in the Review and Herald office. Things were swayed first one way and then another. It was the enemy of our work who prompted the call for the consolidation of the publishing work under one controlling power in Battle Creek.”—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 216, 217.

30. Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 291.

31. The Publishing Ministry, p. 157.

32. Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 173; Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 217, 218; The Publishing Ministry, pp. 131-158; Schwarz, Light Bearers, p. 272; Bio., vol. 3, pp. 449-452.

33. In the mid-1870s, Mrs. White had been shown that the west-coast publishing house “was ever to remain independent of all other institutions; that it was to be controlled by no other institution.”—Letter 81, 1896, cited in The Publishing Ministry, p. 141.

34. See pp. 200-204 regarding the Battle Creek Sanitarium crisis.

35. See pp. 149, 188.

36. Manuscript 29a, 1890, cited in Bio., vol. 3, p. 469.

37. Review and Herald, March 10, 1891, p. 160.

38. Life Sketches, pp. 312, 313.

39. A. T. Robinson reported that “men of strong iron wills, who the night before manifested a spirit of unyielding stubbornness, confessed with tears and brokenness of voice. Elder Dan Jones said, ‘Sister White, I thought I was right. Now I know I was wrong.’”—Bio., vol. 3, p. 482.

40. Roland R. Hegstad, “Liberty Learns a Lesson,” Adventist Review, May 15, 1986.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid. Present Liberty policy reflects Ellen White’s counsel regarding denominational publications: Adventists do not have a message “that men need to cringe to declare. They are not to seek to cover it, to conceal its origin and purpose. . . . We are not to make less prominent the special truths that have separated us from the world and made us what we are. . . . We are to proclaim the truth to the world, not in a tame, spiritless way, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.”—Life Sketches, p. 329.

43. Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 485-495.

44. “Sketches of the Past,” No. 133 in Pacific Union Recorder, January 2, 1913, as cited in Dores Eugene Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Publishing Association, 1965), p. 150.

45. Review and Herald, Sept. 11, 1866, p. 116.

46. Letters 138, 153, 1902, cited in Robinson, Health Message, p. 335.

47. Robinson, Health Message, pp. 337-339; Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 314, 315; Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 2, pp. 145-167; Bio., vol. 5, pp. 361-371.

48. Robinson, Health Message, pp. 340, 341; Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 315, 316; Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 2, pp. 145-167; Bio., vol. 5, pp. 372-376; SDAE, vol. 10, p. 613.

49. Bio., vol. 6, p. 11.

50. Robinson, Health Message, pp. 343-402; Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 316, 317; Spalding, Origin and History, vol. 3, pp. 145-167; Bio., vol. 6, pp. 11-32.

51. Bio., vol. 4, pp. 24, 25.

52. Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 202, 203; Bio., vol. 4, pp. 24, 25; 146-161; 287-322.

Study Questions

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1. Why did many prominent Seventh-day Adventists resist church organization?

2. What conditions prevailed in church organization prior to 1901 that caused Ellen White to plead for a radical reorganization of how the Adventist Church conducted its world mission?

3. Why was Ellen White so insistent that the publishing house and the General Conference headquarters leave Battle Creek?

4. What were some of the negative aspects of consolidation of denominational enterprises at the turn of the century?

5. What was the real issue in the debate over the publishing policies of the National Religious Liberty Association in 1891?

6. How might Ellen White’s counsel regarding the principles of consolidation apply today? Are there occasions when consolidation (of conferences, publishing houses, departments within organizations, etc.) would be appropriate?

7. Review Ellen White’s contribution to the establishment of health institutions in California and show how these particular institutions would probably not exist today without her dramatic insistence and perseverance.

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