Adventists: Let’s Party Like It’s 1901

Until recently (after I started this blog) I hadn’t realized that EGW wasn’t satisfied with the structure of the Adventist organization she had helped to pioneer back in 1901. It’s a thought that has been consuming my mind because so many young people I know—myself included—aren’t satisfied with the Adventist church structure in 2015. This inspires me that real change is not only possible—but more necessary than ever.

Most young Adventists today probably don’t realize that the Adventist church hasn’t always “been this way.” Back in 1861 the Adventist church “got structured” (with the formation of the Michigan Conference). In 1863 the “General Conference” was formed. Fast-forward a bit and you find that Ellen White was already pushing for a reorganization (she also referred to it as a renovation) in 1901.

Why?

My thoughts exactly.

As you’re about to witness, I love the fact that EGW wasn’t prepared to settle or to allow room for ridiculous excuses. When she saw things that weren’t okay, she said something. She didn’t want to be a slave to a first impression. Did the fact that she wanted the very best for this body of believers make her anti-Adventist? No.

Here are some interesting paragraphs from Seventh-day Adventist Polity: It’s Historical Development (an interesting document to scan through if you are interested in how the Adventist denominational framework got to where it is now) I bolded what I found to be the most pertinent info in relation to this article and added some commentary of my own in-between (in italics):


In her address to the leaders of the church on the day before the opening of the 1901 session, she said, “What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build upon a different principle.” A hint was given later in the same address as to what that “different principle” might include. “Greater strength must be brought into the managing force of the Conference,” she asserted; but “just how it [the reorganization] is to be accomplished I can not say.

How interesting to me that EGW was prepared to blow everything up and start over at the foundation. If she was willing to do that then, what is stopping us from doing that now? The kingly powers, for one (aka the Adventist careerists and professional committee attenders). I also find it very interesting that she didn’t even know exactly how the re-org should happen… I think if she had spelled out anything specific regarding what would have worked in that time there would be people in the here and now that would never deviate.

Thus, the leaders of the church grappled with its structures and administrative policies in response to immediate needs and practical concerns, as the church sought to carry out its mission. That is not to say that there were no underlying biblical, theological, and missiological principles. However, “the sheer necessity of the case” is what invariably led to organizational development. Barry Oliver expresses a similar viewpoint: “Time and place were the conditioning factors which were to determine how the principles were to be implemented.

The author of this paper points out that immediate needs and practical concerns were the catalyst to organizational change. As I continue to point out, the world has changed drastically while the church has not. There are very immediate needs and practical concerns that exist in 2015 that no one could have imagined back in 1901-1903. I think the sheer necessity of a reorganization far outweighs the sheer necessity of a reorganization back then. This blog and the countless hours I have spent writing for it are proof of the sheer necessity of the times. This time and place is like no other in the history of the world. So a denominational framework from 1903 is showing it’s age; leaving it’s members (and potential members) by way of not catching up with them.

Structure and polity were not handed to our pioneers on a silver platter, but were hammered out on the anvil of the day-to-day experiences of the church. [We shouldn’t be astonished to find that] practical concerns were invariably the occasion for organizational developments.

The author points out that the structure of the Adventist institution was not handed down by God on a silver platter. Again, as I have said over and over and over, my experiences day-to-day (and the experiences of other Adventist youth) are FAR different than what they would have been 100+ years ago… much less 2 years ago. I have expressed practical concerns and am ready for new organizational developments.

We would suggest that God worked through the cut and thrust of contrasting ideas and personalities. He guided, but did not override, the discussions and decisions of those who sought to be true to the principles of Scripture and of the gospel in organizing the church.

Ya. The church today wants everything homogenized like a giant smoothie. Everyone needs to look and act and think exactly the same for “unity” (more like outward uniformity than heartfelt unity). It’s high time for new discussions. The same old same old has become the lame old lame old.


The author of the above document certainly let’s his opinion shine through. For instance, he included EGW’s statement: “What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build
upon a different principle.” But he left out the sentence that came just before: “That these men should stand in a sacred place, to be as the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be, that is past.”

He also included: “…and just how it is to be accomplished I can not
say—greater strength must be brought into the managing force of the conference.” But he left out: “But this will not be done by entrusting responsibilities to men who have had light poured upon them year after year for ten or fifteen years, and yet have not heeded the light that God has given them.”

If you want to read more of EGW’s quotes from the 1901 reorg, check them out here.

Did you know that there was a time when James White (EGW’s husband) was at odds with church leadership for having said Christ was the only leader of the church and that ministers were “shepherds of the flock and leaders of the people in a subordinate sense.”

Do some digging, if you care to. You’ll find what I have: the state of the denomination is basically always in flux. God’s commandments may be written in stone, but that has never, and will never, be the case regarding the operating principles of the Adventist denominational framework.

To tell you the honest truth, I think EGW would be devastated at how today’s Adventist institution functions. She wanted to get the hell out of the church in 1901 and I want to get the hell out of the church in 2015. The bad stuff/staff had to go then and it has to go now.

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