Post 63: The Unpublished Writings of Ellen White: An Adventist “WikiLeak” Event?

A highly skilled pastoral friend of mine has received an e-mail, addressed to her personally, offering “Unpublished Writings” by Ellen Gould White (1827-1915), one of the three people recognised as co-founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The e-mail starts out this way: “Dear (then her first name). Blessings to you!

“We’re a relatively new ministry that was launched, consisting of Students and Laypeople of the SDA Church who are passionate about the writings of Ellen White. We’re reaching out to connect to others who have this same passion.

“We came together from a mutual interest in the unpublished writings of the Lord’s Messenger, which are now out of copyright. Between 30%-50% of what Ellen White wrote has never been published. We have been collecting these writings for some time and were recently blessed with help from within the White Estate to complete the collection. When we finished our collection we believed it was our duty to provide these to the world, and so we are releasing the letters and manuscripts, first as searchable ebook volumes (we need to compile them digitally first) and eventually on a searchable CD-Rom which will be compatible with the Complete Published CD-Rom. We are also working on translations into other major languages.”

Now for a bit of comment. This project is, of course, a huge one. It may be well-intentioned but it is also unethical. There is an enormous amount of data (including, for instance, one of Gilbert Valentine’s interesting books, the one about the 1930s “Struggle for the Prophetic Writings”) that detail how Ellen White established a group of Trustees to supervise her literary corpus, and how the church has dealt with this issue since 1915.

The e-mail continues:

“We have now released all the letters and manuscripts from the first 20 years after 1844 – right up to the time when the SDA Church became officially organized. We are only interested in covering the costs of web hosting, software and translation, for we believe there is a real need in these last days to know all that the Lord has revealed to His remnant Church. We have released over 800 pages of material at present, over 350 pages of which is published for the first time ever.

“The period covered by this bundle includes the following critical events in the life of Ellen White and the SDA Church:

-The Scattering and Gathering Time

-The Sabbath Bible Conferences

-The Age-to-Come Error

-The Early Apostasies

-The Laodicea Message

-The introduction of the Investigative Judgment Teaching

-The Great Controversy Vision

-The Civil War Period

-The Organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

-The Health Vision

-The Death of Henry White.

“Please check out our website for more information about our ministry and our writings – unpublishedellenwhite.com.

“And if you are interested in supporting our ministry, please check out our bundle of the 4 Volumes we have released so far. Our next 500 supporters will receive all future volumes at only $1.20 each. Here is our supporters pack on our Ministry Store – http://bit.ly/JC7RhJ

“God bless and we thank you for taking time to read this. If this is your interest area, we hope you can partner with us to bring this project closer to completion!

Ministry Store egwletters.webs.com.”

Now, I have quoted this email in full because, according to indications that I have received, this same message is going world-wide at present, and so my readers need to evaluate it as a whole in the language of its presenters. The claim that the group “were recently blessed with help from within the White Estate” is misleading: White Estate would never surrender its responsibilities to an anonymous group of this kind. I believe it may be true that a White Estate employee (remember there are several branch offices in addition to the headquarters office, plus many research centres serving the various geographical areas of the globe) may have acted in the something of the same way as the people who supported Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks initiative.

How about a little bit of history? The policies of White Estate on the care and sharing of Ellen White’s unpublished writings need to be clearly understood, especially how they have developed since the 1950s. I first began to work with these materials as a graduate student and a lecturer at Andrews University in the early 1970s. By 1976, I was appointed as the founding director of the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre serving the then-Australasian Division. By 1978, with permission, I scanned the most protected source in the headquarters office, the so-called Z File. I now live only three kilometres from a flourishing Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Centre where I am always given courteous assess to sources relating to my research.

I can say with confidence that there are no startling statements relating to the “last days” among Ellen White’s unpublished writings. Ellen White and her writings simply need to be understood in the light of all the available data; she needs no high-handed protection or indiscriminate exposure. So I will keep on with my research as I have been doing for many years, grateful for “the way the Lord has led us, and his teaching in our past history.”
Arthur Patrick, 30 May 2012

Post 62: The Proposal to Change Adventist Fundamental 6 (Creation)

The first 168 years of Adventist history offer cogent warnings that the current proposal to change the wording of Fundamental Belief 6 is unwise. While at least a substantial paper needs to be written in support of the following observations, many observers are already aware of the substantive data that relate to each point.

First, since “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed” (Preamble, “Fundamental Beliefs”), it is particularly desirable that sensitive matters be expressed, insofar as is possible, in the language of Scripture. Research by historian and General Conference archivist, Dr David Trim, indicates the present wording of Fundamental 6 was carefully considered during the 1976 to 1980 discussions, and adopted as a considered attempt to include responsible believers who were struggling to understand and faithfully apply the biblical text.

Second, the interpretation of Genesis has been given extended attention in living memory, and there is no indication that any one of the 2012 Adventist formulations is ready to be canonised. Specifically, the stances that I was taught as a BA (Theology) student at the Australasian Missionary College from 1954 to 1957 were radically revised by my lecturers at the SDA Theological Seminary between 1970 and 1972. Since the latter experience, vast new perspectives have been tacitly or specifically approved by the church’s Biblical Research entities and its Geoscience Research Institute. Hence any tight creedal statement written in the 1950s, the 1970s, or now, would inevitably draw painful and unnecessary lines of exclusion. Often Adventists handle such realities by observing that their history offers powerful support for the concept that Ellen White repeatedly describes as “present truth.” What is important at one point of the Adventist journey may require adjustment or even replacement at another phase of the journey. The current situation of Fundamental 6 resonates with this concept.

Third, creeds have been useful descriptors in the life of Christian movements; for instance, the misnamed Apostles Creed seeks to express the essence of Christian thought in 111 words (according to one translation) and has endured from the Second Century to the present. However, Christian and Adventist history show the wisdom of avoiding the pitfalls of creedal misuse. It was with careful consideration of the context within which Adventism developed that our pioneers were deeply impressed by John N. Loughborough’s cogent warning in this regard:

The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth is to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And fifth, to commence persecution against such (“Organisation of the Michigan Conference,” Review and Herald, 21 October 1861, 176. During his many fruitful years as a White Estate researcher, Ron Graybill wrote the best-ever historical treatment of this subject as “Adventism’s Historic Witness Against Creeds.” The article was first published in 1977 and updated in Spectrum 38:3 (Summer 2010), 31-35, 54-55.)

Fourth, the discipline of Adventist Studies and its subset, Ellen White Studies, has received enormous attention during the last four decades. There is no evidence that Ellen White was told in vision that the earth is six thousand years old; there is every reason to believe that as an earnest nineteenth-century Christian she derived this view by looking in the margins of the Bibles that were available to her. Hence faithfulness to Ellen White requires us to interpret her statements about the age of the earth in the same way as we interpret her statements about a large number of scientific concepts like amalgamation, vital force, volcanoes, medicine and related issues.

Conclusion

Careful listening to presentations by the members of the Geoscience Research Institute indicates there are huge bodies of evidence that these researchers are as yet only beginning to consider. Until a responsible jury can give its verdict regarding these significant matters, we should point to Scripture itself rather than human interpretations of the Bible that are likely to be temporal at best. In short, Adventist history indicates the pastoral wisdom of retaining, for the present, the 1980 expression of Fundamental 6.

Arthur Patrick, posted 24 May 2012


Post 61: Exploring 1888, its context, content and aftermath

Here are some background notes for three class presentations that I made on May 15 and 16, 2012.

In order to understand the epochal General Conference session held during 1888 at Minneapolis, Minnesota, it is essential to survey the background and context of the event within Millerism and during the first forty-four years of Sabbatarian Adventism.

Some of that background is sketched in items that are available on this website, adventiststudies.com:

“Adventism as an Apocalyptic/Millenarian Movement,” posted 20 April 2012.

“Mount Exmouth and Adventist Teaching,” posted 2 March 2012.

“Salvation: Courage to Face the Tough Stuff,” posted 10 March 2012.

In my PhD thesis entitled “Christianity and Culture in Colonial Australia: Selected Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan and Adventist Perspectives, 1891-1900” (pages 78-94), I suggest that early Adventism may be profiled with the help of these eleven descriptors.

First, Millerism, the millenarian precursor of Seventh-day Adventism, arose amongst the heirs of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

Second, and even more importantly for the distinctive ethos which they developed, Millerism and Sabbatarian Adventism were nourished by the apocalyptic literature of the Old and New Testaments.

Third, the sense of immediacy in Millerism and Sabbatarian Adventism was cast in a decidedly pre-millennialist mould.

Fourth, to these formative ideas, Sabbatarian Adventists added a passion for doctrinal reconstruction.

Fifth, the disappointed Millerites who became Seventh-day Adventists were not afraid to break fresh ground if they believed that the Scriptures held what they called “new light.” (Cf. the website item, “Defending and Seeking the Truth,” posted 1 February 2012.)

Sixth, particular portions of Scripture came to have unique meanings for the Sabbatarian Adventists.

Seventh, Seventh-day Adventism developed a concept of world mission destined to disperse it, within the nineteenth century, to most continents of the earth.

Eighth, Seventh-day Adventists exemplified a further characteristic, a self-designation as reformers who would adopt no limiting creeds.

Ninth, Seventh-day Adventists increasingly attempted to develop a theology of history.

Tenth, Seventh-day Adventists accepted the concept that the spiritual gift of a prophetic role was manifested within their midst by the ministry of Ellen G. White.

Eleventh, the Adventists developed institutions (health, education) that gave expression to some of their key ideas.

The Minneapolis event and its aftermath are further discussed in the following articles on adventiststudies.com:

“Landmarks, the Message of the Third Angel, and Salvation,” posted 10 March 2012.

“Perennial Crisis: The Aftermath of 1888,” posted 16 March 2012.

“Interpreting 1888, 1950 to 1980: Thirty Years of Adventist War,” 16 March 2012.

Now that my six May 2012 lectures are over, I may be a bit more consistent with this blog!

Arthur Patrick, posted 25 May 2012

Post 60: Church Planting and the “How to” of Mission

I quote the following from Peter Roennfeldt’s 24 May 2012 newsletter. If you want more stimulation of this kind, here are Peter’s contact details:

CHURCH PLANTING NEWS p +(03) 8361 8641 m +0423 333 614 e [email protected] b www.newchurchlife.com

SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE/CHANGE ADDRESS: advise Peter Roennfeldt in writing [email protected] with details of name and email address.

And now for what Peter wrote.

Every existing church was at one time a church plant. I am not sure for how long they can be called a new plant (maybe for 2 to 3 years!) – but what I do know is, every plant institutionalises and the freshness to reach new people for Jesus diminishes. This is true of all – house churches, simple churches, cafe churches, community churches, etc. From his New Testament letters we get the impression Paul faced this reality. The household (oikos) churches that he cultivated quickly institutionalised and his later letters addressed in-house issues.

What are some indicators of institutionalisation? Here are some not usually mentioned:

  • We are not reaching our friends as we were in the first year or so.
  • We have lost contact with a lot of our friends and neighbors.
  • People sometimes ‘come’ but usually only once or twice.
  • Our kids and teens have moved on!
  • People sometimes come to a one-off event, but don’t usually come back to worship.
  • We really enjoy the support and encouragement that we get from each other, and are very comfortable. It is good!
  • We are so busy with what we do that we have no time to relax and share with the friends in the community.

Over the last month I have met with some amazing groups and creative churches in Australia and Europe. Some have existed for a year or two – and others for a decade. Some have inspired church planters from all over the world – churches like CafeKirken and FaceOut in Denmark. Others are made up of 4 or 5 families – inviting friends to meet with them to share life and follow Jesus. But a common concern has been: we can quickly lose contact with lost people!

Institutionalised churches try to get people to join them – and seem to want to get bigger. Missional groups go out to share faith in fresh ways in their relational streams – with new faith groups constantly multiplying in their social networks.

Jesus explained and modeled how to do it: go out and eat with people, heal them, and share the news of God’s upside down kingdom. (Luke 10:8, 9) We have learnt that every new church (and existing church, however small) benefits from planting a second within a year – at the most, two years. Multiplication is natural if cultivated as an attitude from the beginning.

Be courageous – and multiply into new relational networks.

Amen, Peter. May God continue to grow communities of living faith and effective witness through your ministry!

Arthur Patrick, posted 24 May 2012

Post 59: John Harvey Kellogg: Innovator and crisis-maker

This post summarises some of the reading that students are assigned prior to three lectures that I will deliver on 22 and 23 May 2012.

The Kellogg surname is famous in Adventist history. John Preston Kellogg (1807-1881) fathered sixteen children, including Dr Merritt Gardner (1832-1922) and Dr John Harvey (1852-1943). Will Keith (1860-1951), another and younger son, is more than any other individual the founder of the worldwide Kellogg enterprise that still feeds multitudes and, in Australia, challenges the market share of Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing.

The patriarch John Preston Kellogg joined the Sabbath-keeping Adventists in 1852 and immediately became (according to the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia) “a strong pillar in the young movement and a liberal contributor to its growing needs.” During 1855 he helped to finance the establishment of Adventist publishing in Battle Creek; in subsequent years he supported tent ministry in Michigan, fostered publishing initiatives as well the Health Reform Institute (founded 1866).

Merritt Gardner Kellogg, after 1859, probably became the first Seventh-day Adventist to reach California; certainly he helped to establish Adventist work in the West. Later he sailed on a voyage of the Pitcairn to the islands of the South Pacific, and later still he designed and superintended the building of the Sydney Sanitarium in Wahroonga (opened 1903, see my book on the first hundred years of “The San”).

Will Keith Kellogg was the seventh son of John Preston; in 1880 he changed from working in broom manufacturing and sales to a role in the Battle Creek Sanitarium. During the next 25 years Will rose from janitor to business manager. One of his tasks was to make the cereal flakes (invented by John Harvey) into palatable and wholesome food for patients. Little by little the Sanitas Food Company fed far more than just patients; it became an enterprise that stimulated the development of a competitor, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. Intense rivalry erupted between siblings John and Will. Years of legal conflict between the two brothers ensued; when he won, Will waived all claims for damages and John Harvey paid him a king’s ransom in legal expenses, $225,000.00. By 1950, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation had given away $50,000,000.00 to various charities.

The Life of John Harvey Kellogg

We mentioned John Preston, Merritt and Will simply to create a setting within which to understand John Harvey. His working life started at age 10, in his father’s Battle Creek broom factory; by 12 he was learning the printing business and soon setting the type for Ellen White’s How to Live series; at 14 he was a proofreader; at 16 a public school teacher. He did attend high school in his seventeenth year, and graduated. By 1873, with the encouragement of James and Ellen White, John was a student at Bellevue Medical College in New York, where he probably spent more money for the additional expertise of tutors than for regular tuition. Student John also edited the Health Reformer, and in 1876 the still-young doctor was appointed superintendent of the somewhat ailing Western Health Reform Institute.

In due course new buildings and new wings were necessary for the institution that was initiated in 1866 as “a home for the sick, where they could be treated for their diseases, and also learn how to take care of themselves so as to prevent sickness.” The Western Health Reform Institute morphed into the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Eventually, ongoing nursing and medical instruction spawned the American Medical Missionary College in 1895. At various times Kellogg studied surgery under famous practitioners in London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna, becoming known in his home country and overseas as one of ablest surgeon of his era. Famous people were drawn to Battle Creek where superb surgery was available, plus a “proper” diet, natural remedies and simple treatments, all delivered with loving care.

John Harvey Kellogg was both experimenter and inventor: of dry cereal breakfast foods, meat substitutes, electric appliances, machines for the treatment of human ailments and devices to assist exercise initiatives. His writing graced many magazines and filled over fifty books; he lectured on health and temperance, preached in churches and was often a featured speaker at camp meetings.

By 1927 Kellogg was building a mammoth addition to the Battle Creek Sanitarium that was soon confronted by the stresses of the Great Depression and, in 1942, was sold to the United States government. However, Kellogg’s passion for healthcare simply caused him to relocate across the street. With no children of his own he and his wife had reared forty children and adopted many. John Harvey Kellogg’s long life ended on 14 December 1943.

The Conflict Between Kellogg and the Church

Richard Schwarz’s denominational history was published in 1979 as the first such textbook written by an Adventist historian. The fact that Schwarz wrote a PhD dissertation (1964) and a major book (1970) about Kellogg means that his Light Bearers to the Remnant offers perceptive analysis in the chapter entitled “The Kellogg Crisis.” The conflict between the doctor and his church included a number of different parameters.

First, Kellogg was apt to complain of a “general backsliding” amongst Adventists in the matter of health reform, and that “ministers discouraged the people by their example.” Contrasted with his medical training and wide reading, Kellogg deemed ministers to be “of very meager ability.” He also charged that they wasted money and were dictatorial, “in the habit of managing everything.” When at last Kellogg’s cereal and vegetable creations seemed economically profitable, he perceived that ministers demonstrated “a most greedy disposition … to take possession of our Food Business and utilize it for building up Conference enterprises.”

Second, the success of Kellogg’s medical and welfare work made some leaders worry that evangelism was being eclipsed, especially in view of the “undenominational and unsectarian” nature of his initiatives. Kellogg created the Michigan Sanitarium and  Benevolent Association (1897) and wanted his Battle Creek Sanitarium to enjoy recognition as a charitable organisation with tax-exempt status. Association members signed an agreement that the sanitarium’s work would be “of an undenominational, unsectarian, humanitarian, and philanthropic nature.” Despite Kellogg’s assurances designed to quiet the fears of church leaders, he declared that the institution could not be used “for the purpose of presenting anything that is peculiarly Seventh-day Adventist in doctrine.” Long years before, Ellen White had stated that “It was in the purpose of God that a health institution should be organized and controlled exclusively by S. D. Adventists.” This ideal was being compromised, and the funds generated by the mammoth enterprise in Battle Creek were no longer available to help Adventist mission initiatives in other states or lands.

Third, it became increasingly clear that Kellogg’s concept of the Sanitarium as a “private, distinct, independent corporation” was of a piece with his desire to separate it from church control. It seemed to Ellen White that Kellogg had gathered enormous power without the wisdom he needed to use it wisely. Her letters to him were at times circulated to others making Kellogg feel she viewed him (he said) as “a plotter and a schemer and a selfish, covetous, ambitious wire puller.”

Fourth, given these attitudes, it was almost inevitable that Kellogg would resent and finally reject Ellen White’s testimonies of reproof. He suggested that Ellen White was misinformed, or that the General Conference president had “poisoned” her mind against him, or that her son Willie was “tampering” with her messages. After nine years sojourn in Australia, Ellen White accepted Kellogg’s invitation to stay in his home during the momentous General Conference session of 1901. Kellogg was unpleased when she questioned the contracts that he required employees and other health food manufacturing plants to sign, and unaccepting of her concept that the Battle Creek institution “should be moved into the country and not be so large.” The antipathy escalated when Kellogg planned to rebuild on a grand scale after the disastrous fire of 18 February 1902. As a boy John Harvey Kellogg was nurtured by James and Ellen White during Adventism’s formative years; early in the new century Kellogg the famous surgeon set a trajectory that would create an increasing gulf between him and the Adventist prophet.

Fifth, in the minds of most Adventists, Kellogg’s best-remembered problem has a damning name, pantheism. He encountered ideas in the 1880s that Ellen White was able to parry until he proclaimed the immanence of God in all living creatures, as at the 1897 General Conference session. A smoldering fire became an inferno in 1902, when Kellogg wanted the church to sell half a million copies of his book The Living Temple. The initiative seemed a perfect way to finance the rebuilding of the Sanitarium and eliminate other debts; the contents of the book confirmed Arthur G. Daniells’ concern that the doctor was “grazing about very close to pantheism.” William W. Prescott (Gilbert Valentine’s two-volume PhD dissertation and two books offer an illuminating context for Prescott’s engagement with Kellogg) noted Kellogg’s claims that “there is a tree-maker in the tree, a flower-maker in the flower,” and “God himself enters into our bodies in the taking of food.”

Sixth, the use of money became an increasing problem. One instance: Kellogg’s determination to develop a sanitarium in England was confronted by Daniells’ commitment to avoid the kind of debt that had crippled the church during the 1890s.

Seventh, all these sources of conflict seemed to coalesce by 1902 in such a way that relationships between Kellogg, church leaders and church entities disintegrated beyond repair. In Kellogg’s eyes, tithe was being “squandered” in a way that was a “burning disgrace.” When his book The Living Temple was rejected Kellogg ordered an initial printing of 5,000 copies, but a disastrous fire leveled the Review and Herald plant on 30 December 1902. Kellogg’s 1903 bid to oust Daniells from the General Conference presidency failed, along with his further attempt to rally support for his fundraising book. The fact that Battle Creek College had moved to Berrien Springs and become Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) caused Kellogg to dream of a replacement, another educational institution in Battle Creek. The thought was anathema in the minds of the church’s elected leaders. While in the early years of the new century the General Conference was consolidating church departments under its umbrella, Kellogg was skillfully laying plans to take the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium out of church control. Schwarz cites the frustration of Daniells in 1905, who said of Kellogg:

He had not had an opportunity to tell us what he thought of us for at least a year, and so he pulled out the stopper and let it run. In our first interview he talked for most of the time from 8:30 to 12:30 at night. In the next interview he must have talked three solid hours…. When we would attempt to explain any point or protest against false statements of facts, he would appear to get very angry, and claim to be very much injured by our statements. At last we became so weary and disgusted that we decided that it was useless for us to meet him any more.

Richard Schwarz’s chapter “The Perils of Growth 1885-1905” (in Adventism in America, Gary Land, editor, 1986) offers a succinct, expertly contextualised account of “Kellogg and Pantheism” and “The Kellogg Problem.” Gilbert Valentine in The Prophet and the Presidents (2011) ably sketches the difficult issues that confronted Olsen, Irwin and Daniells as General Conference presidents during this challenging era. Two articles (one by Alonzo L. Baker entitled “My Years with John Harvey Kellogg,” and one by Richard W. Schwarz entitled “The Kellogg Schism: The Hidden Issues”) were published in Spectrum 4:4 (Autumn 1974) and remain relevant as treatments of this important subject.

The Sad Finale

Veteran leaders A.C. Bourdeau and G.W. Amadon visited John Harvey Kellogg for seven hours early in November 1907. A transcript of their interview with him may be read in the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre files. It is a sad document indeed. On 10 November 1907, 350 Battle Creek church members present at a business meeting voted unanimously to drop Kellogg’s name from their church roll. Fourteen months later, 28 members of the Michigan Sanitarium and Benevolent Association dropped Daniells, William White and many other Adventist ministers from amongst the Association’s membership that was, at the time, over 700 strong.

John Harvey Kellogg, one of the most creative Adventists ever, had decimated the church by taking from it a workforce larger than that which remained. Kellogg more-or-less maintained his Adventist beliefs and practices for another thirty-six years, outside the fellowship of the spiritual community he had done so much to foster.

Arthur Patrick, posted 19 May 2012.

Note: the lectures will aim to suggest that we as a church can learn a lot from the Kelloggs’ engagement with us and John Harvey’s disengagement from our movement!