Post 80: Michael Chamberlain, his PhD thesis, the “case,” and a new book by Ken Crispin

Considering the many accounts of the Chamberlain saga, my preferred newspaper reporter is Malcolm Brown, and my “top” book author is Norman Young (Innocence Regained). However, there are many other worthy analyses; one of the best in Ken Crispin’s “succinct, up-to-date overview of the inquests, court cases, appeals and Royal Commission” that compresses “a vast amount of evidence and event into a highly accessible account of a family tragedy and a travesty of justice on an almost mythic scale” (The Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum, 29-30 September 2012, 33).

Reading the Herald review reminded me of the “other” Michael Chamberlains that I know, beginning with the little lad I first met in Christchurch, New Zealand, the city where my ministry began. Michael’s mother was a diligent student of Scripture who soaked up the content of the Bible studies that we shared in  an enthusiastic group. Then there was Michael the innovative young minister in North Queensland who confided to me his exciting vision for his local and corporate church. He seemed a very different Michael who, in the latter part of 1980, sat with head bowed in my MA classes. However did he pass his examinations so well despite the sorrow and turmoil that followed Azaria’s death? More than two decades later, Dr Michael Chamberlain asked my to write a Foreword for the considerably re-written form of his doctoral thesis, as a major book published by the inimitable John Knight of Post Pressed and the University of Queensland. My Foreword runs like this, in a very-lightly-edited form; the original is, of course, printed in the memorable book.

Michael Leigh Chamberlain melds insights from his Methodist roots and Seventh-day Adventist affiliation in making and reporting this massive exploration. Although he cares deeply about the Gospel of Christ and Christian values, Chamberlain refuses to allow his believer-participant status to diminish the rigour of his quest. Raised in New Zealand, he is a man toughened by years of misunderstanding and vilification from his adopted country, Australia; a husband racked by a spectacular failure of our courts to deliver justice; a father tormented by years of unresolved grief; a clergyman divorced from his calling by violent circumstances. But he has also been a teacher in outback and coastal New South Wales and is a community-orientated human being who values the support that known and unknown people gave his family during the long struggle to regain innocence.

This book fits under the rubric of Adventist Studies, specifically, the history, thought and practice of Seventh-day Adventists. It ranges widely across the movement’s pilgrimage, from its millenarian, revivalist, reformist and Restorationist matrix in the nineteenth century to its present status as a worldwide movement with seventeen million members. More specifically, the book focuses upon the continuing legacy of Ellen Gould White (1827-1915), the longest survivor of three Adventist co-founders. White lived in Australia and New Zealand from 1891-1900, mothering the South Pacific church, helping to establish the Avondale School for Christian Workers in 1897 (re-named Avondale College in 1964; now Avondale College of Higher Education) and fostering the initiatives that created Sydney Adventist Hospital in Wahroonga from 1903 onwards.

Chamberlain’s book will be controversial. The reasons are several. First of all, it crosses the lines between competing academic disciplines: history, religion, education and sociology. Some specialists in each discipline will score it for perceived shortcomings in their preferred area of expertise. However, in the final analysis, studies that embrace several areas of human endeavour may offer enriching insights in that they can better approach the actuality of human existence and historical experience.

Second, religious movements are usually slow to welcome historians that are not under their control; they tend to be even more nervous about sociologists. The church marginalised one of the first and finest doctoral dissertations on Adventist origins (1930); however, its ‘acceptable’ scholars used Everett Dick’s work extensively without acknowledgement until in 1994 Andrews University Press published the whole of it (see endnote 1). In 1979, Gary Land wrote an incisive article in an independent journal heralding the maturation of Adventist historiography, but during the 1970s and beyond several Adventist historians were dismissed from employment amidst tensions of the type well described in a scintillating essay by Jonathan Butler (see endnote 2). Pioneering studies of Adventism by sociologists like John Knight (University of Queensland), Robert Wolfgramm (Monash University), Ronald Lawson (City University of New York) seldom receive official accolades from the church even though they convey serious research findings in potentially constructive ways. Bruce Manners in 2004 and Rick Ferret in 2006 completed doctoral dissertations with strong historical foundations and compelling sociological interpretations. These studies offer an academic context within which to interpret Chamberlain’s book, but Chamberlain takes greater risks of drawing hostile fire.

If Adventist Studies for historians has been a risky enterprise, Ellen White Studies as its major subset has been even more so. Yet Chamberlain enters that disputed arena boldly and in great detail documents a transition that has been in process for decades at Avondale College. The more conservative Adventists are, the less likely are they to be open to the concept of change. But how can a movement founded in nineteenth-century North America offer accredited higher education effectively in twenty-first-century Australia without significant updating? How can a sect (in sociological terms, “a separated minority”) reach religious adulthood, embracing the best of Christianity yet evidencing faithfulness to its distinctive mission without responding to searching analyses of its historical development? How can Adventism implement effectively the values of “true education” enjoined in Ellen White’s copious writings as it prepares professionals for viable careers in the third Christian millennium without extended cultural and educational awareness?

The proposed answers being given to these questions and a host of others like them are less than convergent. Some earnest believers view almost any change from the nineteenth century approach as apostasy. For instance, of some sixty books written by the Standish brothers, more than a score (like their periodical The Remnant Herald) charge the official church with apostasy from its founding mother or traditional teachings. The Standishes also developed a rival educational institution in country Victoria, modelling their Highland College considerably on what Avondale used to be. They adopted Ellen White’s voluminous writings as “inerrant in the autographs,” often advocating a reversionist stance when confronted by new information. Adopting a polar opposite position are those who criticise Avondale for too closely adhering to historic formulations regarding Scripture and Adventist doctrine.

Between the extremes of reversion to traditional Adventism and alienation from the movement altogether are those who are determined to transform Avondale constantly in the direction of what they believe to be essential Adventism. Taking the abiding principles and the enduring wisdom of the Bible and Ellen White and applying these in the challenging cultural context of the twenty-first-century, they are apt to claim that Adventism has no creed but the Bible and that Ellen White has continuing relevance as a lesser light that leads to the greater light of Scripture. Such Adventists are unashamed as they engage in what H. Richard Niebuhr calls “the double wrestle of the church with its Lord and with the cultural society with which it lives in symbiosis” (see endnote 3). Their philosophy and actions affirm a host of Ellen White aphorisms including “truth can afford to be fair” and “No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation” (see endnote 4).

Chamberlain will stir significant conflict with his historical and sociological analyses, but there is more. He deals respectfully with Desmond Ford and seeks to place the controversy surrounding the dismissal of Adventist ministers during the 1980s (now so well documented by Harry Ballis in a doctoral dissertation and major book, see endnote 5) in an understandable context. This, for some of Chamberlain’s critics, will constitute an unpardonable sin. It will also intensify within Adventist Studies the type of situation Germans, Japanese and Australians face over the interpretation of their national histories, a matter well introduced in the writings of Stuart Macintyre (see endnote 6). If Australian social historians Manning Clark and Geoffrey Blainey can be the focus of misunderstanding, Chamberlain should not be surprised if he suffers in similar fashion.

Chamberlain wisely observes that the experience of religious institutions of higher learning in the United States shouts warnings to Avondale’s decision makers, the same as it does for those administering a hundred other senior colleges and universities operated by Seventh-day Adventists in various parts of the world. His book demonstrates the need for the vibrant debates such as that which occurred over the research of medico Don McMahon as well as the research design advocated by Leonard Brand. Chamberlain’s findings make crucial the content of the Ellen White Summit convened at Avondale College during 2004 and they underline the significance of Graeme Bradford’s books Prophets Are Human (2004), People are Human (2006) and More Than a Prophet (2006) (see endnote 7). While I often feel the urge to disagree with specific applications that Chamberlain makes from particular words that he cites, his “big picture” conclusions are absolutely compelling. The process of scholarly debate thrives on this type of situation, for effective scholarship is self-correcting.

This book should be required reading for all persons—church members, pastors, administrators, sociologists, historians, and researchers—engaged in Adventist Studies or seriously interested in understanding the ethos of Adventism. If it spurs the church to more quickly and faithfully construct and implement a mature hermeneutic for the writings of Ellen White, Michael Leigh Chamberlain’s years of unremitting toil will be at least partly rewarded.

Arthur Patrick, written 12 December 2007, edited and posted 30 September 2012


1. Everett N. Dick, William Miller and the Advent Crisis 1831-1844 (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1994).

2. Gary Land, “From Apologetics to History: The Professionalization of Adventist Historians,” Spectrum: A Quarterly Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums 10, no. 4 (March 1980), 89-100; Jonathan M. Butler, “Introduction: The Historian as Heretic,” in Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health: Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-day Adventist Health Reform (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1992), xxv-lxviii. Remarkably, this book has since been published in a Third Edition (2008).

3. H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1951), xi. I apply Niebuhr’s insights to Adventism in “Christianity and Culture in Colonial Australia: Selected Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan and Adventist Perspectives, 1891-1900” (PhD dissertation: The University of Newcastle, 1992).

4. Ellen G. White, “Christ Our Hope,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 20 December 1892, 785. Access to Ellen White’s voluminous writings is facilitated for computer users via and the official White Estate website.

5. Peter H. Ballis, Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting(Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1999). The book is a title in the Religion in the Age of Transformation series with Anson Shupe as Series Adviser.

6. See Stuart Macintyre and Ann Clark, The History Wars(Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2003).

7. I review these matters in various sources, including “Prophets Are Human! Are Humans Prophets?” Spectrum 33, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 73-74.

Post 79, The Summit, the Book and the RECORD: Ellen White in the Ongoing Adventist Conversation

Last week a computer expert kindly transferred the contents of an out-of-date disk on to a memory stick that my Apple can read. This piece, though focused on February 2004, seems relevant for the present.

A new phase of the Adventist conversation about Ellen White in the South Pacific Division began during February 2004. Three factors stimulated the process: the Ellen White Summit convened February 2-5; the book by Graeme Bradford entitled Prophets are Human launched at the Summit; an editorial and four interviews entitled “Ellen White for today” by editor Bruce Manners published in Record, February 7-28.

The Summit was reported in Record, the “official paper” of the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 21 February 2004; in Spectrum: The Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums 32, no. 2 (Spring 2004); and in Adventist Today 12, no. 2 (March-April 2004). Within a few months of its release, Dr Bradford’s slim volume is selling widely in the Southern Hemisphere and becoming well known in the Northern Hemisphere. Over twenty letters published in the Record reflect aspects of a much wider discussion amongst Adventists throughout Australia and beyond.It is useful for the Church to keep abreast of the ongoing conversation in order to offer effective pastoral care to its members as they seek to understand coherently and apply faithfully Ellen White’s writings.

Preliminary Observations

Any observations made so close to February 2004 can only be tentative at best; in other words, they are likely to require revision as historical perspectives become possible. However, it is appropriate to express preliminary assessments as well as to revise these in the light of the additional evidence that the passage of time will make available. Five observations appear useful at this point.

The response of ministers, teachers and members indicates that there is significant interest in the life and writings of Ellen Gould White (1827-1915). The Seventh-day Adventist Church is in its thirty-fifth year of sustained historical reflection on Ellen White as its co-founder and inspired “messenger.” Vitality, energy and passion are evident in the 2004 phase of this ongoing dialogue and dialectic.

The situation is vastly different than in 1970, in that Ellen White studies are now more fully democratised. This process was accelerated when duplicators became common; it was intensified with the invention of photocopiers; it is ubiquitous in the electronic era with its videos, websites and e-mail. Discordant responses from members indicate that, currently, not all are singing from the same sheet of music, but the Church has no option but to report honestly and interpret cogently all the known data.

Indeed, a range of responses to the data is still apparent amongst the faithful, with three stances most evident: reversion, rejection and transformation. Reversionists are still apt to deny evident facts; rejectionists are still tempted to flee Ellen White and even the Church itself; transformationists still need to ask constantly What is truth? and then explore how known truth should shape the beliefs of individuals and impact the entire community of faith.

It is evident that not all the Church’s pain is in the past. For instance, some Record correspondents demonstrate denial, shock, anxiety, fear and anger. From the opposite position, others express concern over the length of time it has taken for crucial evidence to be validated and given open discussion. In addition, some of these people are apt to claim significant data are still awaiting adequate recognition; in this they are correct.

Despite these opposing interpretations of the recent past, there are clear signs that the Church is well into a period of developing consensus with reference to the available data. Some studies of conflict (for example, see Ministry, November 2001)indicate that about twenty percent of a community is likely to be represented in each of the polar opposite positions, with perhaps sixty per cent adopting a median position. As a matter proceeds, coherent leadership is likely to reduce the numbers on the two edges, as accurate data is considered in a calmer context. Indicators are many that the Church has entered an era of fresh opportunity for a greater understanding and, consequently, a more effective implementation of both nurture and mission.

A Context for Action Steps

The present discussion regarding Ellen White implies that currently a valuable opportunity exists for the Church to more adequately understand and apply Ellen White’s writings. Amongst the contextual indicators, the following appear to be noteworthy.

The Summit demonstrated the importance of biblical, historical and theological studies as a way to further develop a coherent understanding of Ellen White and her writings. The Church is now equipped with mature scholars in these and related disciplines; therefore, the potential for a thoroughly informed and balanced approach appears promising indeed.

History demonstrates that ideas proposed by pioneer thinkers or researchers may take a century to become well understood in workplaces and homes. The data relating to Ellen White and its coherent interpretation have been considerably available for three decades, but it is evident that the Church still has a very considerable educative obligation to its members with reference to a cluster of related matters, not least the nature of biblical inspiration, the role of prophets in the Old Testament and the New, as well as the life and writings of Ellen White in relation to the history and thought of the Church. The 1999 Strategy document and the sheaf of responses from Summit attendees indicate directions that are potential and essential at the present time.

Graeme Bradford’s volume Prophets are Human has laid a substantial and effective foundation for part of the educative process needed within local congregations. But so brief a treatment in such a popular form cannot be expected to address the full range of issues that are crucial. Carefully prepared follow-up articles (in magazines, pamphlets and journals) and books are required.One the latter genre, Bradford’s sequel to Prophets are Human, is already in draft form and deserves supportive assessment, editing and publication.

Despite the level of democratisation of Ellen White Studies mentioned above, Adventists that are not computer literate (and even some that are highly skilled in using computers) demonstrate a naivety that will imperil the unity of the Church for a long time to come. The data from the National Church Life Survey (2001) currently being prepared for publication indicates that four out of every ten Adventists may hold a view of biblical inspiration that is not in accord with authentic Adventism. (Unrealistic, unsustainable, essentially fundamentalist views of biblical inspiration can lead to disillusionment when confronted by evidence that is apparent in both Scripture and Ellen White’s corpus.) It is from these folk that some of the most strident criticisms of the Summit, the book and the Record have come. The Church needs to love and respect these members even though their expectations and responses (so well identified by Dr Roger Coon in his 1982 lecture at the International Prophetic Guidance Workshop) place them in spiritual danger and often threaten Adventist unity and mission. This reality and a number of related others, indicate the providential existence and essential role of the Ellen White/Adventist Research Centre, offering a way to foster enhanced understanding of four issues that share a symbiotic relationship: the life and writings of Ellen White; the history and thought of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


The leadership of the South Pacific Division has taken wise and effective steps to implement the far-reaching intent of the 1999 Strategy document, with encouraging results and predictable expressions of dissent and even anger. Responses to the initiatives of the Summit, the book and the Record indicate constructive possibilities lie before the Church as it seeks to offer effective guidance and mature pastoral care to its constituency. Pastors and teachers are the front-line interpreters of Scripture, history and theology; they are also the on-the-ground nurturers of individual members. Ways are available and necessary for the ongoing support of such leaders. If theology is indeed “faith seeking understanding,” the corporate Church has a crucial role to facilitate a future that enhances its adherents’ perception of the identity and mission of the Second Advent Movement. The life and writings of Ellen White are essential matters for consideration if the Church is to envision effective unity and mission in the immediate future. The events of February 2004 indicate that the ongoing Adventist conversation relating to Ellen White is marked by health, passion and constructive possibility.

Note: This comment is limited to 1,500 words.  I am in the process of preparing an annotated edition of perhaps eighty documents I have written in the past quarter-century, summarising the data relating to Ellen White that has surfaced since 1970 and attempting its interpretation. This project was envisioned for completion by 30 June 2004, but has been delayed by 35 days of radiation therapy.  If it is accomplished and made available in CD form, it may in a small way support the quest of those who wish to understand this aspect of “the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”

Arthur Patrick, 24 June 2004, posted 13 September 2012




Post 78, Twenty-five Years After Glacier View: Using the Lantern of History, Anticipating a Brighter Future

This paper indicates my assessment of the Glacier View Sanctuary Review Committee 25 years after the event. Posts on this website dated 10 November 2011 and 10 March 2012 offer other interpretive attempts. Obviously there is some duplication in the three pieces but, because they are written for different audiences over a period of time, each piece (hopefully) adds useful features.  Footnotes in this paper are kept to a minimum because it is assumed that readers will use official archives where extensive documentation is available, employ online facilities, or e-mail me ( should specific references or data be needed. The stance of this presentation is influenced by one of my favourite authors, Morris West, A View from the Ridge: The Testimony of a Pilgrim (Sydney: Harper/Collins, 1996). Like West, my early life was characterised by “a heavy load of unexamined certainties.” I hope that, like West as he approached death, I am now less “dangerous” for other pilgrims. Incidentally, while this presentation was made initially to an Australian audience, I knew many North Americans would read it. Thus I explain some of the things that may be difficult for such readers and I adopt some conventions that will be familiar to them.

If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us! Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Table Talk, 18 December 1831 (1835).

For Seventh-day Adventists living in the South Pacific Division,[2] 1980[3] is important for at least two reasons: the General Conference session that convened in Dallas, Texas, and the Sanctuary Review Committee that met at Glacier View Ranch, Colorado. The earlier of these events (April 1980) gave birth to the first expression of Adventist fundamental beliefs voted by a General Conference in world session;[4] the later event (August 1980) provided the Church with its most comprehensive and potentially unifying statement regarding its twenty-third fundamental, “Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary.”

Sociologists comment on the past and the present, thereby seeking to illumine the human journey.[5] Usually, historians are coy when making reference to the recent past; for instance, few supervisors allow master-level or doctoral projects in history to interpret events younger than a decadeHowever, with the passing of two or three decades since the Adventist conflicts of the 1970s and the 1980s and their related employee and membership losses within the homelands of the SPD, it is not too early to map this historical period constructively and to explore options that the Church might evaluate with reference to its ongoing agenda. Specifically, 25 years after the Sanctuary Review Committee of 1980, it appears possible to assess that particular event in terms of its historical context and “the lessons it might teach us.”

This short paper will explore in a preliminary way only the second of the Church’s two achievements of 1980: it will seek to define the Glacier View event, outlining its context, listing its primary documents and short-term outcomes before suggesting historical perspectives that may be useful for those seeking to understand this aspect of Adventist heritage.[6]My interpretation is offered here tentatively, with humble gratitude for Coleridge’s lantern and cautious optimism that a promising glow is visible on the Church’s contemporary horizon.

I. “Glacier View”: Definition and Documents

The name “Glacier View” has become Adventist shorthand and may, therefore, require explanation for the uninitiated.

A lecture delivered by Desmond Ford[7] on 27 October 1979 to a chapter of the Association of Adventist Forums at Pacific Union College evoked both interest and concern throughout the Adventist world. Within a short time, SPD members were reading that the Adventist sanctuary doctrine was not “negotiable”[8] and it was announced worldwide that a review committee would meet from 11-15 August 1980 at Glacier View Ranch, the Adventist youth convention site in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.[9] During July 1980, the Glacier View conferees received a long manuscript (some 990 pages in its original form, 694 pages in its later, single-spaced, printed form)[10] with instructions to read it prior to the official gathering. Sermons and articles projected possible outcomes even before some 115 of about 125 invitees assembled to engage in five days of discussion.[11] By the conclusion of the conference on 15 August 1980 the committee had produced and voted approval of two consensus statements each relating to a landmark doctrine within Adventism: sanctuary and spiritual gifts.[12] Meanwhile, six attendees were asked by the General Conference president to define major points of difference between Ford’s manuscript and traditional Adventist concepts; their individual attempts, screened by a 28-member committee, were read to but not discussed by the large committee.[13] The conference closed without further actions. Many of the delegates remained at Glacier View and were joined by others on the evening of August 15 for a further conference that would become known as Consultation I.[14]

However, by the beginning of Consultation I, rumours were already spreading that a small group of administrators (nine) had met with Ford and may have recommended decisive action be taken by the SPD regarding his status and employment.[15] The next month, the executive committee of the SPD and the board of Avondale College met jointly in Wahroonga, New South Wales, voting to withdraw Ford’s ministerial credentials and relieve him of “his responsibilities as a minister and teacher.”[16] Thus a decade of conflict was intensified and within the next eight years in Australasia, 182 ministers would be dismissed or resign (some, of course, for other reasons), a large number of teachers would lose their employment and an uncounted number of members would resign or be ejected from the Church.[17]

The principal document received by the Glacier View conferees had been written by Desmond Ford after his October 1979 Forum address and reproduced by early July 1980, the last date that would enable it to reach committee members in distant parts of the world and allow them three weeks to assess it. During this time the Ford family moved to Washington, D.C., to facilitate Desmond’s access to the archives at Adventist world headquarters. Ford’s six chapters embraced 425 pages of the printed version. Chapter 1 offered a history of the Adventist sanctuary doctrine, noting the way in which the Church’s writers have recognised certain interpretive problems. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 looked at the way in which the Day of Atonement is presented in the biblical books of Hebrews, Daniel and Revelation. Chapter 5, “Rehearsal and Resolution of the Problem,” prepared the reader for Chapter 6: “Ellen G. White, 1844, and the Day of Atonement.” Then followed 269 pages of appendices either written by Ford or collected by him as having relevance for the issues under discussion. Ford was aware of some repetition within his manuscript: he believed this was necessary in a document intended not for scholarly review alone but for the diverse people appointed to review it.

The conferees also received “study papers on key topics, prepared by Seventh-day Adventist scholars, sent to delegates before, and read prior to the conference.”[18] In all, therefore, each delegate had about two thousand pages of “homework” to assess in addition to meeting other demands upon their time, like employment (for most), family commitments and travel.

According to Richard Hammill, the General Conference vice president who formulated the Sanctuary Review Committee, the initial invitees included 55 Bible teachers, six editors, 10 pastors, three ministerial secretaries, 11 college and university presidents, four local conference presidents, 11 union conference presidents, 10 division presidents, eight members of an earlier committee appointed to study the Book of Daniel, 12 General Conference headquarters employees and nine retired General Conference officers. The longer of the two consensus statements developed and voted by the attendees related most directly to Ford’s first five chapters; the shorter consensus statement focused specifically on the content of his Chapter 6. Adventists were able to read the consensus documents in Adventist Review, the Church’s “General Organ,”(4 September 1980, 4-15); in Ministry, “A Magazine for Clergy,” October 1980; in Australasian Record and advent world survey (85, no. 26, 8 September1980) as an eight-page insert entitled “Overview of A Historic Meeting”; and in less widely known publications like the independent journal, Spectrum: A Quarterly Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums (11, no. 2, November 1980).[19] Soon after Glacier View, various participants began to offer interpretations of the event orally and in letters, articles and books; this process has engaged attention from some of the attendees and others up to the present.[20]

II. Warning: Complexity Here!

Due to its multi-faceted character, it may well be presumptuous for any one human being to interpret the Glacier View event.[21] Any such attempt might be informed by an impressive array of specialists as well as the diverse perceptions of a worldwide community of believers.[22] For an Old Testament scholar, at the heart of the matter is the interpretation of biblical apocalyptic in general and the Book of Daniel in particular. For a New Testament devotee, matters such as the relationship between the Old Testament and the New and the interpretation of Hebrews and Revelation are in sharp focus.[23] A psychologist might posit the idea that personality theory and group behaviour are crucial considerations. An administrator might suggest that managerial responsibilities and organisational leadership issues are of prime importance. A systematic theologian is apt to point out that Glacier View illustrates at once the volatility of eschatology within a believing community and the constant tension between continuity and change in Adventist hermeneutics and doctrinal expressions. A sociologist is likely to claim that the crux of the issue is where Adventism was located at that particular point in time on the continuum between sect and denomination.[24] A scientist may worry that 1980 provides a template illustrating how the Church may be tempted to exercise control ofresearch and researchers, especially during a time of crisis.[25] A pastor may observe that such an event is especially concerned with relationships in a community of believers. An historian of the Reformation may identify 1980 as the time when Australasian Adventism had an unprecedented opportunity to affirm the Reformation doctrines of Righteousness by Faith and the Priesthood of All Believers. Other historians[26] might declare that the situation can be understood only if a number of influential personalities or groupings are considered in the context of the time, beginning with Ellen White (1827-1915) and including such participants as Robert Brinsmead, the Concerned Brethren, John Clifford, Russell and Colin Standish,[27] Desmond Ford and a cluster of administrative leaders who were in office at the time. Some of the professionals listed above may also warn that historical perspectives are only possible after the passage of considerable time as they point to the thirty-year embargo on sensitive documents that is currently recommended by the SPD.

Each one of these important viewpoints has a measure of validity yet an identifiable limitation. Probably most of us perceive that all of the above considerations and many more must be considered if Adventists are to understand August/September 1980 in a comprehensive and thus sustainable and unifying way. In the ultimate, any conclusions offered by Church leaders or researchers must be validated by evidence, much of which (but not all) is already available in the public arena. Further, interpretations given must be understandable to rank-and-file believers if they are to win widespread support from members and congregations that currently nurture an array of opinions.

III. River or Torrent

During April and May this year (2005), I read Ford’s Glacier View manuscript in full while on a journey through Hawaii, New England and the maritime provinces of Canada, an experience that gave me some appreciation for the task of the Glacier View conferees. The writing style and argumentation of the manuscript indicate thorough research and the level of skill one might expect from an individual whose M.A. thesis and second doctoral dissertation were written in related areas, and whose extensive published writings at the time included a significant Adventist commentary on the Book of Daniel and a book about Ellen White for Sabbath School members. There are a relatively small number of minor typographical mistakes in the printed form of the manuscript that I would list for correction, were I examining it as a doctoral dissertation. I would also note instances of repetition (a matter already mentioned) and debate the inclusion of long appendices. But the historical substance deserves applause, as does the grasp of the problems that indicate the necessity of such studies. The marshalling of evidence is impressive. The document was researched and written in about six months; usually a dissertation on a subject of this type consumes several years. The manuscript received some benefit from “the fourteen-member guidance committee that met with Dr. Ford for nearly fifty hours of consultation,”[28] a process that is typical for dissertations written in the United States. The manuscript is clearly the work of a person writing within a particular religious community as a believer-participant; that is, its tone is probing and constructive, not iconoclastic or vindictive. In response, the consensus documents offer positive perspectives that invite ongoing communication and research in order to integrate conclusions and clarify a cluster of matters needing further consideration.

In short, any person who offers an overview, analysis and synthesis of this quality deserves gratitude, respect and an ongoing role in the constant dialogue and dialectic that helped to develop Adventism and is a healthy part of a religious community. Why, then, did Glacier View become Adventist shorthand for pain, dissension and division?

A principal reason derives from the context of the time. A symbol may help to suggest a useful perspective in this regard. Rain that nurtures the fertile Hunter River Valley created a devastating torrent for Maitland in 1955. As one of the many who tried to help as the floodwaters subsided, I saw silt up to the windows of buildings, the broken remains of houses that floated downstream and smashed against a long bridge, the stark ruin of a thriving city. The water was not evil; the problem was its excessive quantity arriving within a limited amount of time, thereby making a nourishing river into a destructive torrent.

The volume of new information that swept over the Church during the second half of the twentieth century was, by 1980, overwhelming for many believers.[29] At the end of the Second World War, the long struggle between Fundamentalism and Modernism was ongoing for Adventism. For a movement that belonged in neither camp, many issues were potentially volatile. Some of these surfaced in the early phases of the movement spearheaded by Robert Brinsmead and his colleagues. The conversations between Adventists and Evangelicals during the 1950s signalled the ending of an era and the beginning of another phase of Adventist development, as did a sequence of events at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. By 1970, in Western cultures, the quantity of new information that required coherent incorporation into Adventist belief systems was rising toward flood levels. From 1972, the establishment of effective headquarters archives and regional research centres offered the Church fresh resources to assist it in the task of assessing and interpreting new data coherently, but few busy administrators and only some members used these facilities. If the surging water is used to symbolise the Church’s inundation with new information, by the end of the 1970s Adventism was like Maitland in 1955.[30] The Forum address on 27 October 1979 and the subsequent Glacier View manuscript provided another tributary to the swelling torrent of new information that characterised the era.[31] The over-arching question of the time may be stated simply: How should evidence function in the process of shaping and sustaining faith? The Church’s complex task was to develop a coherent response and communicate that effectively to its diverse, worldwide constituency.

IV. The Division President and the Crisis: A Subjective Interpretation

Within this dynamic context, the process and outcome of Glacier View depended on one person more than any other, Pastor Keith Parmenter, president of the SPD.[32]  Parmenter’s role as the hard-pressed leader of the Church during this era must be assessed carefully if there is to be any hope of interpreting Glacier View effectively. Obviously my perspective summarised here is merely one of many in a discussion that needs to be facilitated by numerous interpretive attempts.[33] Any individual or even group endeavour will be subjective, of course; however, taken together, the fruitage of a number of investigations should help the Church arrive at accurate assessments.

My perspective is influenced by my experience from February 1976 until the end of 1983 with Parmenter as the person to whom I reported while director (the first title, curator, was changed to director) of the (then) Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre serving the Division. In the early years of that relationship our conversations were frequent and cordial, as demonstrated by written communications that are readily available. However, it slowly became apparent that my attempt to implement a 22-point job description adopted at a meeting chaired by Parmenter was leading me on a collision course with the chairperson. In hindsight, the problems seem painfully apparent; they may be illustrated succinctly along the following lines.

Parmenter, a competent, gracious chairperson, did not have the time to assess the constant stream of new information or to utilise the facilities of the Research Centre as a way of separating rumour from reality. On no occasion between the setting up of the Centre early in 1976 and his retirement late in 1983 do I recall his using the Centre’s facilities for even one hour. The escalation of tensions in the Church due to a range of controversies, not least those relating to Righteousness by Faith and the life and writings of Ellen White, led Parmenter to adopt a position that he maintained consistently against both accepted policy and direct suggestion: he decided to handle the issues “administratively” rather than with counsel from such advisory bodies as the Biblical Research Committee. As I perceived a drift toward escalating misunderstanding about Ellen White and what appeared to be needless controversy with reference to her life and writings, I proposed the setting up of a “Spirit of Prophecy Resource Committee” to help the Church evaluate and apply coherently the new evidence that was accumulating at a rapid pace. However, the Resource Committee transmitted only minimal information to the field.[34] A sphincter-like role also characterised another specially appointed “Reading Committee” chaired by the Division secretary. During its lifespan in a volatile context, the Reading Committee released only one item of information: a short list of selected documents held by the Research Centre.

Parmenter did not attend an illuminating series of meetings offered throughout Australasia by White Estate representatives, Robert Olson and Ronald Graybill. Further, he chose not to acquaint himself with the 940 pages of documents made available at the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop in Washington, the high water mark of the intense discussion relating to Ellen White that began to escalate in 1970. Furthermore, he directed that these Workshop materials and the tape recordings of Workshop discussions not be shared with the Church at large. Additionally, he wrote a letter directing that my reports of the Workshop, written for the Division paper, were to be kept in “a personal file.” His administration allowed no effective avenue for the correction of disinformation, as when a Record article suggested Ellen White’s writings demonstrated “about 0.002 per cent ‘literary dependence’ over a writing lifetime of nearly seventy years,” or when Walton’s Omega was dividing congregations.[35]

I list these observations not to denigrate my friend, the (then) president of the Division, but simply to illustrate Parmenter’s resolute determination to control information relating to the life and writings of Ellen White, his commitment to protect her from what he perceived may be the effects of investigation in the light of newly available data. The biblical question aired in the Forum meeting on 27 October 1979 elicited from the leadership of the SPD an Ellen White answer;[36] it became clear to me that Parmenter’s stance indicated that, in his mind, the real issue of the era was the authority of Ellen White.[37] But the status of Parmenter’s understanding of Ellen White’s life and writings by the time of Glacier View, almost two years before the flood-peak of information on these subjects was reached during the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop, meant he could hardly be expected to handle the complex issues other than the way he chose to do. Essentially, to save Ellen White and the Church from what he feared may be chaos, he believed that the Glacier View consensus statement had to be marginalised in favour of the ten-point summary as the basis for administrative action.[38] Next, Ford and then all those employees that Parmenter perceived as questioning the doctrinal authority of Ellen White must be dismissed. In this regard, Parmenter’s conviction was so strong that he took the lead in the process of disregarding the essential adequacy of two letters Ford wrote and even requiring more than a vow of discreet silence: Ford was expected to renounce his convictions if he was to remain an employee of the Church.[39]

In short order, the same scenario obtained for scores of other ministers, many of them accused of heresy by local Church members or others who had a minimal grasp of the issues. During the years of conflict, some ministers chose to share their anguish with me in copious detail. In their perception, the Church they loved and served was requiring them to violate their consciences if they were to keep their job. Men for whom truth was dearer and more precious than life, trained to respect the spirit of the martyrs and the reformers (cf. The Great Controversy, chapter 14), were being required to make compromises that their keen consciences could not approve.[40] An issue in the minds of a substantial number was, in essence: How can our Church be the Remnant Church when it is requiring its apologists to tell manifest untruths or face dismissal? This reality lies at the core of the attitudinal dilemmas described in such research as the doctoral dissertation by Harry Ballis.[41] Central to the Church’s turmoil was the volume of new information (noted earlier) that was inundating its members and congregations, but was ignored, denied or misunderstood by so many, including dedicated “Concerned Brethren” (as they named themselves in a plea to Church leaders) and conscientious, over-worked administrators.

V. Three Options for Adventism: Reversion, Rejection, Transformation

I returned to Australia during September 1973 after a decade of pastoral-evangelism in New Zealand (1958-1967) and almost six years of pastoral ministry and study in the United States. Within a few months it became apparent to me that a significant pressure group including former pastors, evangelists and administrators was committed above all else to achieving the dismissal of Desmond Ford, considerably due to the fact that his role at the time required him to understand and interpret the increasing volume of new information that was arriving on the Church’s corporate desk. From 1974, I participated in the discussions that led to effervescent (at times, stormy!) meetings of the Biblical Research Committee convened while Pastor Robert Frame was the Church’s Division president. I attempted to assess the outcome of events like the Palmdale Conference of 1976 and the much larger Righteousness by Faith Consultation of 1979. The effective interpretation of this period is now more possible due to the passage of time and the consequent clarification of issues.

It may be necessary at this point to repeat certain matters already stated in order to clarify the total picture. Following the conflicts that gained intensity in the 1950s, during the 1970s the Adventist Church in Australasia made significant progress in better understanding and presenting “the everlasting gospel” but it failed to win the support of certain older members to whom, in hindsight, it needed to deliver more effective pastoral nurture. In addition, viewpoints similar to those of the Concerned Brethren were promulgated by a variety of independent groups: some clustered around individuals like John Clifford, Russell Standish, ministers and laity who tacitly or openly supported emphases or fostered mindsets that would become known in Australia through such publications as Anchor, Alma Torch, The Protestant and The Remnant Herald. As a widely known advocate of the gospel emphasis, Ford attempted to offer suggestions – for what he was assured (incorrectly, as it turned out) would be a select audience on 27 October 1979 – whereby the Church might resolve certain important conflicts with reference to the interpretation of Daniel and Hebrews in particular.[42] However, in the ensuing months, a vigorous rejectionist impulse further inflamed the already powerful reversionist impulse, in part due to the worldwide distribution of Ford’s oral suggestions via tape recordings. A more thoughtful attitude was also identifiable at the time, well illustrated in Ford’s Glacier View manuscript and the work of the Sanctuary Review Committee that met during August 1980.[43] Twenty-five years after the central year of the crisis it seems imperative for the Church to understand and nurture the demanding median stance, a transformationist response.[44]

Intense conflict overshadowed the constructive achievements of the Church in the late 1970s and early 1980s and continued with powerful momentum. While a change of climate began with the appointment of a new Division president in 1984, it took years to nurture new attitudes and actions. Since various analyses of this period are offered elsewhere, their content will not be repeated here.[45] However, it is important to observe initial perceptions of Glacier View as a backdrop for understanding factors that make the present era so different from the situation of the Church at its nadir during the early 1980s.

VI. Using the Lantern: Interpreting Glacier View

Bulging files in the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre that serves the Church and its members in Australasia offer rich insights into both immediate and longer-term interpretations given to the Glacier View event. Sabbatarian Adventism was born within a millenarian awakening, deeply informed by such apocalyptic writings as Daniel and Revelation. This matrix generated language and metaphors used to describe and symbolise events such as Glacier View, like the Great Controversy theme with its series of vivid contrasts: Christ/Satan, light/darkness, good/evil, righteousness/sin, truth/error, orthodoxy/heresy, loyalty/apostasy, Jerusalem/Babylon, Remnant Church/fallen church, Christ/Antichrist. Typically, Ellen White’s writings were mined for her application of these and a plethora of related descriptors: the omega of apostasy; stars admired for their brilliance going out; last day deceptions; the shaking; signs of the end and more. Such terminology was employed most of all by those who would find a city of refuge in reversionism, but the same lexicon was used and adapted to some extent by both extremes in the continuing warfare. Ford was, for his opponents, the omega of apostasy, functioning like a praying mantis that conceals intentions and character in order to deceive and destroy. For others, the Church was the villain, victimising a knight in shining armour. Between the extremes was a more nuanced interpretation: Glacier View provided an instructive example of Adventist theological development. In the words of a prominent General Conference participant (W. Duncan Eva), Ford was a “sacrifice” as the Church moved forward from “stilted” positions to a better understanding; Ford needed to understand that the speed of a convoy is that of the slowest ship.[46]   

It is important to assess all such immediate interpretations in the light of serious reflection by competent persons writing as historical perspectives became possible. Land’s insightful overview written early in the 1980s has already been cited. The first history of Adventism to be written by a trained historian (1979) was revised by Floyd Greenleaf (2000) and offers a useful overview of Glacier View in the context of the “Twentieth-Century Debate Over Fundamentals.”[47] For Richard Hammill, the General Conference vice president appointed to supervise the process leading up to Glacier View, the conference and its aftermath involved constructive elements but also a list of problematic features: “a serious mistake in tactics”; official reporting that was at times “the opposite of the discussion on the committee”; the ignoring of crucial pieces of evidence; the perception by the Church’s Bible teachers that they had been “betrayed”; “hasty” action “due to the ineptitude of the Australasian Division officers” and more.[48]

The core theological issue of the 1970s was that of salvation in Jesus Christ as viewed in the light of a discussion within Adventism that began to gather intensity two decades earlier. A new interest in understanding the General Conference of 1888 was flagged at the General Conference of 1950, spawning a major Bible conference, providing part of the context for the Adventist/Evangelical discussions, stoking the furnace of the Brinsmead Awakening and stimulating a plethora of publications.[49] By the onset of the 1970s, a better exposition of the pervasive biblical theme of Righteousness by Faith brought the Australasian Church to the edge of a significant revival, with unprecedented numbers of young people rejoicing in the Good News and openly sharing their faith even on city streets. The General Conference presidency of Pastor Neal Wilson (1979-1990) included significant attempts to meet Adventist crises with large-scale councils; located at the top of an impressive list is the Righteousness by Faith Consultation that reported its findings worldwide in Adventist Review, 31 July 1980.[50] Anyone who listened carefully during the meetings between the SPD Biblical Research Committee and numerous complainants during the mid-1970s should marvel and thank God for the clarity and inclusiveness of “The Dynamics of Salvation” statement.

The relaxing of tensions relating to the Church’s understanding of Righteousness by Faith carried a potential for resolving other issues, particularly those relating to the doctrine of the sanctuary and the prophetic ministry of Ellen White. Again, a personal note may suggest a helpful perspective on the longer sequence of events. At the first Seminary Extension School held in Australasia, December 1957/January 1958, the lectures given by Pastor Arthur White and Dr Edward Heppenstall ignited my youthful imagination (and I think others had a similar response). White’s presentations enlarged my understanding of Ellen White’s life and writings; years later he would be my mentor when I became Research Centre director. Heppenstall pushed back the horizons of my limited understanding of the doctrine of the sanctuary, readying my mind to see the significance of the primary sources of early Adventism during my student years at Andrews University (1970-72). Also, during 1972, Dr Raoul Dederen added a crucial element to my understanding, a fuller appreciation of the doctrine of revelation/inspiration. Taken together, I thank God for the way these witnesses helped to fortify my personal faith to withstand the turbulent crisis years. There was much to unlearn and a great deal more to learn, but the foundations were, in the main, effectively laid with the help of Seminary classes over a period of fifteen years (1957-1972).[51]

Immediately after the Glacier View conference, during a retreat in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I read The Letter to the Hebrews in my Revised Standard Version with the Glacier View consensus statement open before me as a point of reference. “Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary” echoed and extended Heppenstall’s teaching and led me to muse that, for the first time in such a document, my Church was actually helping me in a significant way to hear the heartbeat of Hebrews.[52] It only remained for the fuller documentation and discussions of the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop in Washington, D.C., to place a capstone on the edifice of faith that had been, for me, in dynamic process since 1957.[53] Thereafter my perception of the essential profile and mission of Adventism would be more sustainable even though many smaller modifications would be necessary.[54]

The principal Glacier View consensus statement can now be read effectively in the light of “The Dynamics of Salvation” statement, allowing cheer and hope to permeate the Church.[55] There was no time for this connection to be explored effectively between the release of the latter document on 31 July 1980 and the event that was, for many observers, a professional martyrdom, set in place on 15 August 1980. In hindsight, it is apparent that the Church at that time was being pressed with new intensity by exterior circumstances to ask frankly and openly how evidence should function in support of faith. The Glacier View consensus statement went a long way toward offering effective answers with reference to the Church’s understanding of the Sanctuary. Did the small cluster of administrators who met on 15 August 1980 perceive their decision meant that tradition would increasingly take precedence over the quest for the truth of Scripture? Were they aware that informed convictions of the Church’s scholars were being sacrificed[56] and that their administrative attempt to uphold one fundamental would deny the truth of several other fundamentals, such as those dealing with “The Church” and “Unity in the Body of Christ”? In any case, their decision was a major factor in thrusting the Church into an era of unprecedented controversy and tragic loss. Fortunately, it is now possible to better define the Church’s teaching on Righteousness by Faith and to highlight this understanding as one of the promising signs of a brighter day.

More than that, there is now a more realistic perception that Adventist doctrine is not static; indeed, teachings develop in scope and clarity as God’s people walk with Him and search the Scriptures in the light of new circumstances.[57] Fritz Guy expressed this reality succinctly in 1980.[58] Since that time, Rolf Poehler has written a magisterial dissertation that offers a roadmap through this doctrinal development from Millerite times to the 1980s.[59] Others have continued this mapping process closer to the present, a task that must be ongoing. Such research needs to be expressed in language that engages the attention and commitment of the entire Church; probably George Knight has achieved more in this regard than any other person.[60]

VII: Gleams of a Golden Morning?

Adventism is, in essence, a quest for “the truth as is in Jesus” presented in the Scriptures (John 5:39, 2 Peter 3:18); indeed, of all professing Christians we are called to be “foremost in uplifting Christ.” The Church must be open to every avenue for understanding the Bible, religion and human beings. By 1980 an almost bewildering array of new evidence needed systematic incorporation into Adventist belief and practice. Twenty-five years later this demand continues. However, the Church must now meet an additional imperative: post-modern society includes many people who will only listen to the Church if they perceive that significant meaning is being communicated.[61] These twin demands, for evidence that sustains faith and for existential meaning, profoundly challenge Adventism and its mission within Western culture. In the lantern-light of history, how do the issues of 1980 appear in 2005 and what sort of report card does Adventism merit after 25 years?

First of all, the issues of 1980 have an historical source.[62] Only from 1973 has Adventism had widely available the broad sweep of primary documentation relating to its early history; the microform edition of these precious records took several additional years to become available and still more time to become well known.[63] (The most illuminating early dissertation on Millerism was destined to wait six decades to be appreciated and published[64] but, by the 1970s, a faster pace was becoming apparent.) Insights from a cluster of studies now give the Church a far better appreciation of its Millerite foundations, prophetic interpretation and doctrinal development.[65] Significant in this regard are doctoral dissertations by Kai Arasola, Reinder Bruinsma and Merlin Burt.[66] The maturation of Adventist historiography means that the Church in 2005 is in a far stronger position to bridge what has too often been a chasm between the present faith of its adherents, their understanding of the Church’s heritage and the actualities of historical processes. Not insignificant is the fruitage of doctoral studies undertaken by such South Pacific Division researchers as Milton Hook, Allan Lindsay, Arnold Reye, Gilbert Valentine, Barry Oliver and others, including those who link history with its partner discipline, sociology.[67]

Secondly, the debate over method in Bible study that created tensions in 1980 and at the time of Consultation II can now be viewed in a much calmer context and clearer light. The spiritual gifts of those men and women who have devoted their lives to the various aspects of Biblical Studies, taken together, help the Church to hone and extend its appreciation of the Bible as its sole rule of faith and practice. The long years of study the Church has devoted to Daniel and Revelation since 1980 have helped to clarify major facets of the issues. The writings of a cluster of scholars move through and beyond the issues constructively; for instance, note the writings of Alden Thompson on Daniel, William Johnsson on Hebrews and Jon Paulien on Revelation. However, to mention the names of such trustworthy researchers in this context has a certain peril: their analyses must be viewed always as initiatives within a community of believers.

Thirdly, the entire agenda of 1980 was permeated with theological content. The way in which the Church has understood and defined its doctrine since 1844 is brilliantly illumined in the scholarly dissertation (as already mentioned) by Seminary student Rolf Poehler and within the copious writings of one of his principal mentors at Andrews University, George Knight. The Church also has available better guides on how to do theology well; for one comprehensive manual, see Fritz Guy’s volume published in 1999.[68] But in making such remarks we must be aware that enormous progress has been made in specific theological areas, such as that of Revelation/Inspiration, wherein the dissertation by Ray Roennfeldt offers a useful orientation. Clearly, in 1980, there was a great nervousness in Adventism that recognising particular problems in its investigative judgment teaching may move it toward an inadequate conception of the biblical theme of judgment or at least put it out of step with Ellen White’s position.[69] For many, this concern has now been put to rest by several authors, not least in the winsome writings of Norman Young.[70] Available are studies offering, with cogent clarity, portrayals of the faithful Judge who is Himself on trial in the cosmic struggle with “the accuser of the brethren.” Christ as Substitute and Surety is now portrayed with a biblical precision much lacking in the early experience of older Adventists.

Fourthly, the issues of 1980 had numerous pastoral implications. Those who lead the Church administratively are pastors to field ministers and members, the front line foot soldiers who deliver pastoral care and nurture are the Church’s evangelists and local pastors. There has been dynamic growth in the Church’s perception of what effective pastoral care includes and how it is best delivered. There is now a stronger sense of the value of relationships in the Church and a better appreciation that believers can respect, value and even learn from a variety of perspectives.[71] “This quinquennium must be the quinquennium of the local pastor and the local church,” in the thinking of the newly re-elected SPD leader.[72] Such a perception augurs well for the process of building a community that is nurturing and focused on its daunting mission to offer the Good News “to every nation, tribe, language and people,” (Revelation 14:6, NIV).

Finally, the crisis of 1980 was in a considerable measure fed by misunderstandings[73] over the content and implications of what is now a maturing discipline, Adventist Studies. Herein, Scripture is the foundation and Ellen White has special significance due to the way she leads to “the greater light.”[74] The Church has moved from an unthinking certitude about Ellen White through an era of painful conflict about her life and ministry toward a time of more effective consensus about how to understand and apply her writings faithfully.[75] Painful experience underlines the fact that the Church cannot control information in the computer age; rather, its role is to honestly interpret the entire body of evidence.[76] The writings of the Church’s reversionist and rejectionist critics are increasingly being exposed as inadequate or irrelevant in the light of the primary documents that illumine the way the Lord has led and taught the Church in the past.[77]

Such considerations could be extended readily, of course, but their essential implications are unmistakable: while there is absolutely no room for triumphalism, there is a realistic glow on the Adventist horizon that presages a brighter day as with greater understanding we walk by faith into the future. VIII.

Summary: An Analogy for Mediation and Application[78]

There are a number of ways whereby students from the south of Australia or overseas can travel from the Sydney region to Avondale College. The Great North Walk (an Australian equivalent of the Appalachian Trail) passes through terrain that offers days of challenge for experienced bushwalkers. Another, circuitous route was crucial during the earlier years of Australian settlement: the old convict road that leads from Richmond to the Hunter Valley and doubles back to Cooranbong. The former Pacific Highway, loved by those motorbike riders who delight in curves, meanders from Berowra to Doyalson, connecting with a two-lane road that passes through Morisset. And there is the F3 Freeway that took decades to construct but can be travelled in an hour, from the SPD headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga to the College campus.

On 27 October 1979 and in his Glacier View manuscript Desmond Ford suggested that to better fulfil its mission, Adventism needed a freeway through the historical, biblical, theological and pastoral landscape it must traverse on its pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. It was no dishonour to the pioneers of Adventism that for most travellers the North Walk and the convict road had been superseded by the Pacific Highway, or that a freeway seemed a necessity by 1980. After a quarter of a century we should see clearly that the Church needed to assess, with the help of every available source of knowledge, whether a road could be constructed that was more efficient in fulfilling God’s purpose for the Advent Movement.

Twenty-five years later, some Adventists still prefer to persevere along the Great North Walk; others opt for the circuitous route through the Hunter Valley; yet others risk the dangerous curves of the Pacific Highway. But in the light of detailed surveys and careful assessments of all the available data, with the support of a host of specialists, it is clear that a freeway was both needed and could be constructed. That some of Ford’s recommendations needed further consideration, adjustment and change does not mean his contribution lacked profound significance for the Church. Indeed, some of the freeway sections he proposed (and other sections he did not envision) have already been partially completed as people of goodwill have patiently invested their spiritual gifts to enhance biblical understanding within their community of faith.[79]

Perhaps we can ponder and apply this analogy as we seek to travel more efficiently and directly in pursuit of Adventism’s twin goals: mission (the everlasting gospel to everyone on planet earth) and readiness for the consummation (Christ’s glorious return). In this process, a paragraph from Richard Hammill’s final chapter, entitled “Reflections on My Own Spiritual Pilgrimage,” offers fitting guidance:

Throughout the history of the Christian Church, believers have found it hard to accept this double-edged principle – that true religion clings to the old that proves to be truth but reaches out also for new, more appropriate understandings, even as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tried to explain.[80]

However, even more valuable are principles enunciated often by Ellen White, one of which she expressed pointedly in 1862:

 Greater light shines upon us than shone upon our fathers. We cannot be accepted or honoured of God in rendering the same service, or doing the same works, that our fathers did. In order to be accepted and blessed of God as they were, we must imitate their faithfulness and zeal, – improve our light as they improved theirs – and do as they would have done had they lived in our day. We must walk in the light that shines upon us, otherwise that light will become darkness.[81]

Author’s Note: 20 October 2005 

I gratefully acknowledge comments on successive drafts of this paper, offered in generous support of its basic outline or in a sincere attempt to correct it by pointing out minor and major errors. These comments are, in the main, from persons who are well informed on one or more of the perspectives relating to the matters under discussion; they include laity, administrators now in active service or retired, scholars who are specialists in the range of disciplines mentioned in the text and footnotes, participants at Glacier View, ministers, teachers and others.

 Thirty minutes are allocated on 22 October 2005 to make the essence of this script clear to a general audience, before questions/discussion. I am acutely aware of inadequacies in the above text: other papers could better illumine the “big picture” such as the 39 related topics that I listed for reference last Sabbath. Some of these subject areas are already developed into papers but others wait for the time when the relevant primary sources will be available to researchers.

In the interim, I hope and pray readers will sift the ideas expressed by these 13,380 words carefully, keeping such grains as are worth keeping and with a breath of Christian kindness blowing the husks away. Fortunately, effective scholarship is self-correcting, a matter demonstrated well in such disciplines as history, science and theology.

This draft is the one to be photocopied today for presentation on 22 October 2005 at the Sydney Adventist Forum. I hold open the option that I will revise these ideas and their expression in the future, in the light of further documentation or by reason of input from individuals who care enough to share their perspectives with me.

Therefore, I invite further critical analyses of this document.

Arthur Patrick, e-mail

Snail-mail: 49 Martinsville Road, Cooranbong, NSW 2265, Australia

Posted 7 September 2012



[3] Cf. Julius Nam, “The Big Five: General Conference sessions that have changed the direction of the church,” Record, 13 August 2005, 5-7, reprinted from Adventist Review. Adventists, perhaps more than most other Christian groups, find it is fruitful to understand themselves in terms of a number of dates: for instance, 1844, 1863, 1888, 1901, 1907, 1919, 1950, 1957 and 1980 are some of the years that may be cited as possessing special significance. Recently (2003) at La Sierra University I offered a month-long graduate seminar focused on four of the important Adventist dates: 1844, 1888, 1957 and 1980; the course outline offers bibliographical data.  My M.Litt. thesis (1984) and Ph.D. dissertation (1992) were designed to help me interpret Adventism and Ellen White in terms of what H. Richard Niebuhr calls “the double wrestle of the church with its Lord and with the cultural society with which it lives in symbiosis.” Since that time I have nurtured an interest in the history of ideas approach to historical study, noting in particular the way in which doctrine motivates and restrains the deeds of believers.[4]See the ten issues of “The General Conference Bulletin,” Adventist Review, 17 April 1980 to 8-15 May 1980. The relevant articles are indexed in the tenth bulletin, pages 30-32.

[5] For Adventists, the benefit of sociology in partnership with history is well illustrated by the writings of observers from without and believers within, such as Bryan Wilson, William Sims Bainbridge, John Knight (University of Queensland), Robert Wolfgramm (Monash University), Peter Harry Ballis (Monash University), Gregory Schneider (Pacific Union College) and Ronald Lawson (City University of New York). More recently, Michael Chamberlain, Bruce Manners and Rick Ferret have enriched this genre of literature with doctoral dissertations written within the context of South Pacific Adventism.

[6] The 2000-2005 quinquennium marked three decades since I was first appointed to the Biblical Research Committee serving Australasia. Since 1998 in retirement (that mythical period of inactivity beyond paid employment), I have valued continued engagement with several things. First, the opportunity to learn more about and attempt to alleviate some of the pervasive trauma in the Church, due to a range of causes, among them organisational and doctrinal matters and the issue of sexual abuse and misconduct, the latter now so constructively addressed by Adventist Support. Secondly, the privilege of assessing graduate-level studies and dissertations-in-progress that illumine the Adventist experience. Thirdly, from October 2001 to early 2002, I devoted perhaps 500 hours to exploring whether or not it may be possible for the Church to normalise a number of quite varied relationships that became tense during the 1970s and thereafter. Obviously, there is some cross-fertilisation between these three areas.

[7] A minister, evangelist, Bible teacher, departmental chairperson, frequent speaker at Adventist gatherings, Ford held a B.A. degree from Avondale College, an M.A. from the SDA Theological Seminary and Ph.D. degrees from Michigan State University and Manchester University. According to a list I wrote down on 15 October 2005, comprehensive biographies of Ford and 21 other persons would offer a more effective platform for looking at Glacier View. As one example, note my paper on Adventism’s “Great Dane,” M. L. Andreasen.

[8] A. N. Duffy, “The Heavenly Sanctuary … Not One Pillar to be Moved,” Record, 10December 1979, 6-7.

[9] An early announcement was entitled “Teacher given leave to prepare doctrinal paper,” Adventist Review, 20 December 1979, 23. The six months “leave” was on full pay.

[10] Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment (Casselbury, Florida: Euangelion Press, 1980).

[11] In a mere five days of discussion, the Church may have made as much progress (while examining the material under study) as it has usually made on such topics in fifty years. Cf. the slow progress in clarifying “the daily” (Daniel 8) during Adventist history.

[12] The titles of the consensus statements were as follows: “Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary” and “The Role of Ellen G. White in Doctrinal Matters.”

[13] This widely known statement is variously titled; for example, as “Statement on Desmond Ford,” Adventist Review, 4 September 1980, 8-11; “The Ten Point Critique,” Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 72-76.  Its genesis is well described by Norman Young, “A Reluctant Participant Looks Back at Glacier View,” a paper prepared for oral delivery on 22 October 2005.

[14] Cf. Lawrence T. Geraty, “First Adventist theological consultation between administrators and scholars,” Adventist Review, 16 October 1980, 15-17; Warren C. Trenchard, “In the Shadow of the Sanctuary: The 1980 Theological Consultation,” Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 26-30.

[15] See “Postscript by the editor,” Adventist Review, 4 September 1980, 7.

[16] R.W. Taylor to Desmond Ford, 19 September 1980.

[17] Precise statistics relating to this matter are somewhat elusive: “Theology has consistently featured in exits, although it would be both incorrect and simplistic to attribute fallout exclusively to one set of theological issues or to assume that the conflicts occurred in a social vacuum,” Peter H. Ballis, Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999), 13-14. Therefore, Ballis uses a range of descriptors (“complex,” “subtle” and “difficult” are amongst them) and suggests that “social factors and organizational processes interacted with sectarian beliefs to generate loss of confidence in Adventist bureaucracy, disillusionment with sect ideology, and loss of commitment in ministry, which have contributed to the most rapid and massive exit of Adventist pastors in the movement’s 150-year history,” 22, 27. All these factors deeply impacted people who remained as employees as well as the ongoing fellowship and mission of the Church. Cf. other presentations by Ballis: “‘Wounded Healers’—Adventist pastors and expastors,” Adventist Professional 4, no. 3, 28-32; “Adventist X-Files: ‘The Truth is Out There’,” Adventist Professional 9, no. 1 (Autumn 1997), 19-23.

[18] William Johnsson, Adventist Review, 4 September 1980, 4-7; see also, Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 75-76.

[19] Indices in the June and December issues of Adventist Review (1980) facilitate access to many other relevant articles. For a more comprehensive coverage of the wider period, see the Seventh-day Adventist Periodical Index in its printed or on-line forms. Note “Ford document studied; variant views rejected,” Adventist Review, 28 August 1980, cf. the letter by F.E.J. Harder suggesting that Raymond Cottrell’s reporting gave the Church “the normative description” of the “ unprecedented and historic session” at Glacier View, Spectrum 12, no. 2 (December 1981), 64. Observe, however, the sensitivity of Cottrell’s task, a matter well illustrated by the exchange of perspectives between Ford and William Shea, Kenneth Strand and Cottrell, Spectrum 11, no. 4 (June 1981), 54-63.

[20] Note the studies intimated during meetings of the San Diego Chapter of the Association of Adventist Forums, all of which addresses are available on cassette from SDAF, PO Box 3148, La Mesa, CA 91944-3148, United States of America, or (via e-mail) Observe also wistful memories after a quarter century by Gregory Schneider, “Twenty-Five Years after Glacier View and Who Cares?” Spectrum 33, no. 1 (Winter 2005), 5-8, and the later reflections of an unnamed correspondent, Spectrum  33, no. 3(Summer 2005), 78.

[21] For convenience, the climactic year 1980 may be used as a way of signifying the period of related conflict, particularly that occurring in Australasia from 1974 to 1983. For a succinct introduction to the North American context, see Gary Land, “Coping with Change, 1961-1980,” in Land (ed.), Adventism in America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 208-230. It should be observed that the Australian situation had important variations from that of the United States. Ford has been blamed for attempting too much, in that no human being can be competent in all the areas his manuscript covered. The same might be said of some of his sharpest critics. Thus it is fruitful to acknowledge the wide range of disciplines that are crucial for the task in hand, such as the recovery of the authentic text of Scripture, its translation and exegesis; the formation of biblical, systematic and historical theology; the discipline of Church history in general and that of Adventist history in particular; Adventist Studies and its subset, Ellen White Studies, plus a cluster of other areas of investigation.

[22] Non-specialists founded the Advent Movement, including two farmers (William Miller, Hiram Edson), a teenage girl (Ellen Harmon), a retired mariner (Joseph Bates) and a schoolteacher with 29 weeks of formal education/training (James White).  Profound respect is indicated for these pioneers in that the five biblical landmarks they perceived remain crucial after sixteen decades: Second Coming, Sabbath, Sanctuary, State of the Dead, Spiritual Gifts. We do not detract from the role of such sterling leaders when we consult specialists in a range of relevant disciplines any more than we denigrate the Adventist health message by consulting a heart specialist. Cf. the stimulating insights of Jonathan Biggins , “Breathtakingly, awesomely average,” Good Weekend: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine, 13 August 2005, 36-7, with Arthur Patrick, “Mount Exmouth and the Adventist Journey,” Record, 27 October 2001, 2.

[23] The vibrant discussion of Consultation II (1981) and its outcomes provides a partial Adventist context for such biblical exploration. See Alden Thompson, “Theological Consultation II,” Spectrum 12, no. 2 (December 1981), 40-52.

[24] Each of the observations in this paragraph is intended as a doorway into a library of information. For instance, Ronald Lawson (one of many sociologists whose writings illumine Adventism) has given more than forty major presentations (such as conference addresses, many subsequently published as journal articles) that are important for understanding this particular sentence.

[25] A physicist, Lynden Rogers, wrote two papers during 2001/2002 that merit consideration, one offering perspectives on the effects of the conflict on the Church and the other suggesting reconciliatory options. They are entitled “The Cost of Glacier View” and “Some Perspectives on Dr Ford, Glacier View and the Current Reconciliation Initiative.”

[26] A reader of a draft of this document asks which perspective I adopt for this presentation. My focus is not one of those listed in this paragraph but I do offer an historian’s view in the context of the quote from Coleridge.

[27] The Standish brothers have documented their assessment of Adventism in some forty co-authored volumes as well as in periodicals such as The Remnant Herald.

[28] “Why this special issue,” Ministry, October 1980, 2.

[29] Some data came to notice from Francis Nichol’s defence of Ellen White (1951) and during the writing of the SDA Bible Commentary series (see, for instance, the volume Problems in Bible Translation). Also in sharp focus was the interpretation of last-day prophecies (including Armageddon); the relationship of Adventism to Evangelical Christianity; the human nature of Christ in relation to the 1888 General Conference and soteriology; how to understand the Book of Genesis in terms of creation and chronology. Specific data is offered by Raymond Cottrell,  “Architects of Crisis: A Decade of Obscurantism”  (see Research Centre DF599-1-a) for a copy of  one of some 400 papers (Cottrell once told me) that he had retained in his files. Cottrell’s papers that I have read and checked against primary historical sources have a high level of integrity. I usually devote a few lectures to the period from 1950 to 1980 in Adventist heritage classes at baccalaureate level, but the data is better explored with graduate students undertaking “Development of SDA Theology.”

 [30] To understand the era and the intense pressure under which Church administrators functioned, it is necessary to assess a range of other conflicts relating to doctrine (evidenced in the experience of Ronald Numbers, Walter Rea and others); the employment and ministry of women (demonstrated in events at Pacific Press and elsewhere); financial malfeasance (involving Donald Davenport and Church employees), as well as other dilemmas like the Chamberlain trial in Australia. The lies told about the Chamberlains outside the Church were somewhat matched within the Church by untruths relating to Ford and others who came under suspicion.  Within two months of 15 August 1980 the Church was aware of “rumours, falsehoods and exaggerated reports in circulation,” “Why this special issue,” Ministry, October 1980, 2.

[31] Note the roles of key leaders such as Robert Pierson and Willis Hackett within the North American Church from the 1960s onward; cf. Land, “Coping with Change,” 208-230, and Cottrell’s  “Architects of Crisis: A Decade of Obscurantism.”

[32] In this presentation, Parmenter is in focus rather than his colleagues. However, consideration of the roles of perhaps seven other Church leaders in Australasia facilitates a more balanced understanding of the time. See also Arnold Reye’s report, “The Nineteen Eighties from the Perspective of the Conference Presidents,” Adventist Professional 9, no. 1 (Autumn 1997), 5-15.

[33] To this end, I value three pages written by Pastor Ronald W. Taylor and e-mailed to me 18 October 2005, now filed with the archival copy of this paper. Taylor is an important witness in that as Division secretary he was Parmenter’s closest associate. Taylor compliments my “literary style and impressive collection of footnotes” but not the content of the paper due to what he identifies as “ bias.”  “Usually one expects from an historian more than one side of an issue,” he says. I also appreciate Taylor’s attitude in remarks such as the following: “The church owes a great deal to Keith Parmenter. He was a very loyal and committed Adventist. He had the difficult task of steering the Adventist ship through very stormy waters. On one side the academics of the church with personal stinging venom attacked him strongly. Your paper still reflects this personal attack upon a man who was genuinely trying to lead the church through a difficult period.”

[34] After months devoted first to the recognition and then the discussion of a particular document, the committee finally acknowledged that the data cited and the analyses made were accurate. It then voted that all the documentation studied and the conclusions drawn should be confidential to members of the committee.

[35] Robert J. Wieland, “Ellen White’s Inspiration: Authentic and Profound,” Record, 31 May 1982, 9.Within seven years it was evident that Wieland’s figure needed multiplication by 15,000 to accord with the findings of the Veltman study that selected fifteen chapters from The Desire of Ages for detailed consideration. See Arthur Patrick, “The Desire of Ages Under the Microscope,” Record, 15 April 1989, 6-7, as well as reviews of Lewis Walton’s Omega including those in Spectrum 12, no. 2 (December 1981), 53-62.

[36] This observation can be assessed by reading Record from December 1979 (note the Duffy article referred to above) to 8 September 1980 in the light of correspondence from the period. The files of the Research Centre offer a diary-like account of the years of conflict. See also R.W. Taylor, e-mail to Patrick, 18 October 2005.

[37] A core problem noted in 1980 was Ford’s “criteria that exclude the writings of Ellen G. White as being doctrinally authoritative,”  “Parmenter-Ford Correspondence,” “Appraisal of the Parmenter-Ford Correspondence,” and “Events Since Glacier View,” Ministry, October 1980, 10-15. However, observe that by 1982 the Church was giving extended consideration to ten “Affirmation and Denials” that clarified how it understood such matters.  See “The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings: A Statement of Present Understanding,” Adventist Review, 23 December 1982, 9; Australasian Record, 22 January 1983, 6; Ministry, February 1983, 24. Note Jonathan Butler’s “Historian as Heretic” narrative in the context of my paper, “Historians of Adventism,” in the At Issue section.

[38] This stance tended to elevate tradition as normative above Scripture. Cf. comments (“excessive concern for denominational tradition” and “guardians of the tradition”) in Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 63, 65.

[39] Early in the first phase of the Robert Brinsmead agitation (1961) a minister in New Zealand faced the threat of dismissal because he could not, in good conscience, state six words, “Robert Brinsmead is of the devil.” A large factor in Ford’s later dismissal (1980) derived from his unwillingness to make a categorical declamation against Brinsmead. That Ford did not have an unhealthy or improper theological (or conspiratorial) relationship with Brinsmead (as alleged) is evident after 25 years. That the alleged Ford/Brinsmead “nexus” was a crucial factor in the Church’s decision re Ford is explicit in the documents of the time. See, for instance, Ministry, October 1980, 4, 5, 15. After Glacier View, Ford declined all offers to link with dissidents who wanted him to develop an alternative church organisation; such offers (if accepted) may have had a dramatic impact on Adventism.

[40] After reading the 14 October 2005 draft of this paper, a scholar/administrator of long experience e-mailed his comments that (in part) are as follows. “What was the difference between those of us, on the one hand, who recognised the issues and stayed and, on the other hand, those of us who were terminated or chose to leave? I sometimes feel almost guilty that I did not share the fate of some of my colleagues. Is it valid to ask whether those who remained had less sensitive consciences, a lesser need to confront ‘hot’ topics, kinder administrators, or a view of the church that saw the church as larger than the views of a sub-set of members and saw the work of transformation from within as a legitimate activity?” I believe that it is essential to ask why forty per cent of ministers in Australasia became ex-pastors but also why sixty per cent remained. For me, as for many of my colleagues, the four considerations offered are relevant but the final one embraces a stabilising vision of the Church.

[41] Cf. the review of Ballis’s published volume by Robert Wolfgramm, Adventist Professional 10, no. 4 (Summer 1998), 25-6.

[42] To understand the Forum address of October 1979, it is necessary to examine the nature and content of the related discussion of the time in California and other parts of the Adventist world. Unless this specific context is understood, the remarks made by Ford cannot be evaluated objectively. If industrial noise impairs hearing, one also needs to ask how Ford’s “hearing” may have been affected by the noisy criticism directed at him during the previous decade.

[43] Cf. William Johnsson, “Looking beyond Glacier View,” Adventist Review, 16 October 1980, 14.

[44] My use of these three terms derives from a presentation (entitled “Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Biblical Period: Some Reflections on an Elusive Category”) made by Robert M. Johnston of Andrews University to a meeting of the (then) Andrews Society for Religious Research circa December 1981. Johnston drew on cogent sociological insights (as expressed by T.M. Ludwig) that suggest when new information inundates a group, “three typical kinds of response” are apt to occur: “alienation, reversion to the old tradition (as a sort of nostalgic backlash), or transformation of the tradition.”Johnston adds: “Only the last option tries to bridge the gulf between the new situation and the religious tradition, to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Normally the third process is continuously happening, but in times of drastic disjunction it cannot keep up with events, and there is danger that one of the other two responses, which are basically destructive, may come into play.” These are instructive insights. Johnston should not, however, be held accountable for the verbal adjustment or the application that I make of this schema.

[45] I have documented perspectives on this topic and sources that help to illumine it in a paper delivered at the Ellen White Summit, entitled “Ellen White in South Pacific Adventism: Retrospect and Prospect,” February 2004. See also other papers prepared for United States and Australian audiences/readers: “Reflections on Unfinished Business: Ellen White Studies in Historical Perspective,” January 2003; “Learning from Ellen White’s Perception and Use of Scripture: Toward an Adventist Hermeneutic for the Twenty-first Century,” February 2003; “From Certitude Through Controversy Toward Consensus: An Historical Perspective on Ellen White Studies Since 1950,” May 2003; “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice,” July 2003; “Being Christian, Being Adventist: Why I Thank God for Ellen White,” January 2004.

[46] President Wilson stated: “We do not believe it is Christian nor morally just to condemn or assign guilt by association.” He also declared: “The church is not embarking on a hunting expedition to find pastors who teach variant doctrines.”  See Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 66, 67. If these comments are valid, data in the Ballis dissertation seem to indicate that the Church did engage in a “hunting expedition” in the 1980s and that its actions were both unchristian and immoral.  Further, even the dismissal of Ford may have so contravened Australian law that the Church could have been open to costly legal redress. However, Ford refused to pursue what a substantial number of persons (at the time) saw as his right.

[47] Richard Schwarz’s Light Bearers to the Remnant (1979) was revised as Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2000). See pages 627-647.

[48] Richard Hammill, “The Sanctuary Review Committee and Desmond Ford,” Pilgrimage: Memoirs of an Adventist Administrator (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1992), 183-198. This chapter may be read fruitfully in tandem with Hammill’s unpublished appraisal of the major biblical/theological issue involved. Hammill was well aware of the perspectives of his scholarly colleagues: see, for instance, “Ford Dismissal: Reactions and Response,” Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 61-67.

[49] The stimulus given by Robert Brinsmead to the Adventist understanding of Righteousness by Faith needs to be better understood than it is at present. However, to do the subject justice, an entire paper of this length would be necessary.

[50] “The Dynamics of Salvation,” Adventist Review, 31 July 1980, 3-8. This document was reported in Record, 8 and 15 December 1980.

[51] C. Mervyn Maxwell aided my attempt to break into the field of Church History. In his classes and with reference to his doctoral dissertation, I first became aware that Adventist historicism (despite its value for interpreting biblical apocalyptic literature) required extensive re-working in the light of cogent historical evidence.

[52] Hebrews had often been portrayed since 1844 as an Adventist tract. It is a New Testament tract with profound meaning for Adventists. Note the RSV and NKJV renderings of Hebrews 9 and the Sabbath School lesson pamphlet “The Book of Hebrews: Sanctuary Themes,” July-September 2003. This pamphlet, in association with William Johnsson’s lectures at the 2003 conference (entitled Hebrews for Aussies) sponsored by the Avondale College Church, convinced me there is no reason for Adventists to continue destroying each other over the content of Hebrews. The same can be said of the 2004 lectures on Daniel by Alden Thompson compared with Daniel: Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, October-December, 2004.

[53] My reviews of five volumes published during 2004 and 2005 (see, for instance, “Prophets Are Human! Are Humans Prophets? Spectrum 33, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 73-74) claim a new tipping point has been reached in Adventist Studies if McMahon’s findings are interpreted in the light of Brand’s research design.

[54] Concepts that were judged as dangerous heresy in 1982-1983 were deemed adequate for sharing with ministerseight years later; see Arthur Patrick, “Does Our Past Embarrass Us?” Ministry, April 1991, 7-10. Note the pro and con correspondence that the article evoked. Such presentations are now more standard within mainstream Adventism.

[55]The exploration of this reality was part of the endeavour of the Being Adventist in 21st Century Australia conference convened by the Avondale College Church during September 2002. See Arthur Patrick, “The ‘Being Adventist’ Initiative and the Future,” Adventist Today 10, no. 6 (November-December 2002), 6. Three other annual conferences (2003, 2004, 2005) have sought to build on this foundation through explorations of Hebrews, Daniel and John.

[56] Typical of many letters written at the time is “An Open Letter to President Wilson,” dated 10 September 1980, bearing 39 signatures. For this and a few of the many others, see Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 61-67.

[57] Note the way Ellen White and early Adventists cherished the concept of “present truth.” As a case study of this phenomenon, see Alden Thompson, Escape from the Flames and note my review of Thompson’s volume, Record, 21 May2005, 8.

[58] Cf. Guy’s paper entitled “The Future of Adventist Theology: A Personal View,” (Berrien Springs: Andrews University, 1980), with the way these ideas are presented in his 1999 volume Thinking Theologically. In 1980, as he reflected on the “the activity of theological reflection and construction” within Adventism, Guy commented: “This activity consists of an ongoing consideration of the bases, definition, and implications of beliefs such as those listed above, and may include (1) reformulation, as eternal truth is understood afresh in the language of each different culture and each new generation; (2) clarification and specification, as new questions arise and require a more careful investigation and more precise answers; (3) elaboration, as the church enlarges its thinking by probing deeper and looking farther; (4) application, as the ongoing course of human history produces new situations; (5) reinterpretation, as further study and the witness of the Holy Spirit indicate that the Biblical revelation means something slightly different from what it has been understood to mean.” I suggest an historical context for understanding this process in “Re-Visioning the Role of Ellen White for Seventh-day Adventists Beyond 2000” and other papers on in the At Issue section. Note the way in which Bert Haloviak’s review of Adventism and the American Republic in Adventist Today 10, no. 2 (March-April 2002), 22-23 credits Morgan with presenting a viable perspective on the development of Adventist thought.

[59] See Rolf J. Poehler, “Change in Seventh-day Adventist Theology: A Study in the Problem of Doctrinal Development” (Th. D. dissertation, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, 1995), since published in edited form as two volumes. I have reviewed and applied Poehler’s work in “Doctrinal Development Studied,” Record, 15 March 2003, 10, and  “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice,” a paper presented at the San Diego Adventist Forum, July 2003. Cf. my article, “The Reality of Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine,” Adventist Today 11, no. 5 (September-October 2003), 16-17.

[60] Arthur Patrick, “History for a New Generation,” Adventist Heritage 17, no. 2 (1997), 46; note also the extensive list of Knight’s published volumes that are available in institutional libraries.

[61] For perceptive analyses of post-modernism as both problem and promise, see Adventist Society of Religious Studies Papers, 18-20 November 2004, especially the presentation by Jon Paulien; cf. Richard Rice, “The Challenge of Spiritual Individualism (and How to Meet It),” Andrews University Seminary Studies 43, no. 1 (2005), 113-131.

[62] Coincidentally, an article by Gary Land on the maturation of Adventist historiography appeared before the issue of Spectrum that carried the Glacier View reports. See above and Spectrum 10, no. 4 (March 1980), 89-100.

[63] See Edwin S. Gaustad (ed.), The Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid-Nineteenth Century America (New York: Harper and Row, 1974) and note the way in which the “Bibliographical Essay” (pages 207-317) became available in microform; see Jean Hoornstra (ed.), The Millerites and Early Adventists: An index to the collection of rare books and manuscripts (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1978).

[64] See Gary Land, “The Historians and the Millerites: An Historiographical Essay,” in Everett N. Dick, William Miller and the Advent Crisis of 1831-1844 (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1994), xiii-xxviii.

[65] For one example, see Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler (eds), The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987).

[66] Kai Arasola, The End of Historicism: Millerite hermeneutic of time prophecy in the Old Testament (Uppsala: K. Arasola, 1990). I reflect on this type of research in a paper entitled “Eschatolgy for the New Millennium: Is Millerism Shifting Sand or Solid Rock? (2000); Alden Thompson offers cautionary comments that help to maintain balance in such articles as “Daniel 8: Let’s Not Lose Our Nerve,” Adventist Today 11 (January-February 2003), 12, and  “What’s Up With 1844?” Adventist Today 12, no. 5 (September-October 2005), 10-11. A reader of a draft of this paper comments on the footnotes in this section: “Yes, but who is reading this material”; and another reader laments more generally that he has never before heard of many of the items cited in the paper’s footnotes. Such comments underline the enormity of a problem the Church faces: how to develop effective awareness of such research.

[67] Cf. footnote 5, above. I contextualise some of this research in “Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific: A Review of Sources,” The Journal of Religious History 14, no. 3 (June 1987), 307-326, a review article that now needs significant updating. Under the editorship of educators like Trevor Lloyd and Arnold Reye, for more than a decade the content of Adventist Professional offered some of the best summations of the process of maturation. As an example of the contribution of just one scholar, note Valentine’s books on Prescott.

[68] Fritz Guy, Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1999).

[69] One source that needs to be consulted on this issue is the SDA Encyclopedia, from its first edition to the revised edition dated 1996, observing the reliance upon Ellen White’s writings. Note the constructive address (Bible study) by Richard Davidson, NNSW Camp Meeting, 11 October 2001 (Research Centre LL6). Davidson, concerned by Adventism’s 1940s/1950s pictures of the Investigative Judgment, has torn pages from his books of that era so his children will not see them. Davidson offers a coherent biblical doctrine of assurance (the Gospel) in the setting of Adventist forensic theology.

[70] Young’s presentation at the 2002 Being Adventist conference left me convinced that further warfare over the judgment was unnecessary if the biblical data is faithfully assembled. See also Kevin Ferris, “What We Really Believe About the Judgment,” Adventist Review, 9 June 2005, 8-9. Ferris believes “It’s About Calvary” and that “atonement-based judgment” rather than “judgment-based atonement” grows naturally from the language of Fundamental 23 with “no truth sacrificed.” He adds (e-mail to Patrick, 12 October 2005): “We Adventists fit right in there, but we’ve never noticed it. Merging our cornerstone doctrine into this concept, with its implications of restoring Calvary to all its fullness, requires no committee, no edict from above, no repercussions. It’s already inscribed in Fundamental 23.”

[71] Cf. Alden Thompson, “Conversations with the Other Side,” Spectrum 31, no. 4 (Fall 2003), 54-59. Note the way in which the writings of many scholars are indexed (and are often available in full text) on websites.

[72] Nathan Brown, “President calls for renewed focus on local churches,” Record, 17 September 2005, 2.

[73] Romans 8:28 remains instructive for the situation. A journalist’s venture into Christianity led him to opine: “The Christian matrices form a code to be translated afresh in each new situation, so that Christian history is a constant process of struggle and rebirth—a succession of crises, often accompanied by horror, bloodshed, bigotry and unreason, but evidence too of growth, vitality and increased understanding,” Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976), 515-516.

[74] Repeated visits over decades to heritage sites of Mormon and Christian Science believers and listening to their interpreters has helped me define the difference between the perceptions that followers of Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy cherish versus the Adventist’s perception of and relationship to Ellen White.

[75]See my review, “Summit on Ellen G. White Writings, Adventist Today 12, no. 2 (March-April 2004), 11, and note my contention that a new tipping point in Ellen White Studies (as a crucial subset of Adventist Studies) has been reached in the publication of five recent books: “Prophets Are Human! Are Humans Prophets?” Spectrum 33, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 73-74. Observe the constructive way in which the SPD has (since 1999) developed and updated a strategy document relating to the ministry of Ellen White.

[76] Note the comment on the Ford and the Folkenberg crises in Bruce Manners, “Publish or Perish: A Study of the Role of Print in the Adventist Community” (Monash University: Ph.D. thesis, 2004).

[77] The extensive literature produced by such writers as Samuel Koranteng-Pipim and the Standish brothers illustrates related problems: an attitude that is highly critical of the Church, the elevation of tradition over Scripture; the failure to pursue factual information adequately. Note, for instance, Pipim’s recent use of a chapter by Bruce Price, “Are the Churches Really Growing? Church Growth Experiments in Secular Australia,” in Pipim (ed.), Here We Stand: Evaluating New Trends in the Church (Berrien Springs: Adventists Affirm, 2005), 23-35. Note Price’s comment on Russel R. Standish and Colin D. Standish, The Greatest of All the Prophets (Narbethong: Highwood Books, 2004) in relation to my unpublished review of the Standish volume.

[78] It is my hope that the oral discussion that will follow the presentation of this paper may assist in the process of drawing together a cluster of related conclusions, among them: the peril faced by the Church when a small group of persons circumvents the analyses of a representative group like the Sanctuary Review Committee; the inadequacy of research that determines outcomes before it engages in its investigation, as is the case with most reversionists and, to some extent, publications of the Adventist Theological Society; the value of expressing fundamental beliefs versus the negative outcomes of creed development; the ease with which tradition (especially as expressed in the ten-point statement) can be rated above Scripture during a crisis, a matter illustrated by the stance of selected administrators and local church activists during the years of conflict.

[79] Avondale College would close promptly if it insisted its students must come to the Cooranbong campus via the Great North Walk. Similarly, the Church will falter in its mission within Australasia if it fails to hear and respond to the demand of Western society for both evidence and meaning.

[80] Pilgrimage, 233. Rick Ferrett’s dissertation, currently under consideration by the Sydney College of Divinity, offers useful reflection on this tension that is pervasive in the lives of individual believers and Christian communities. For an earlier, insightful perspective by a noted American historian, see Robert T. Handy, “Liberal and Conservative: An Inescapable Dichotomy in American Church History?” Encounter XXXII (Summer 1971), 208-216.

[81] Testimonies for the Church, I, 262. Adventist identity was formed with this attitude during the early years of the movement; Seventh-day Adventist identity will be maintained within the more complex world of the 21st Century in proportion to the extent that it implements this attitude.


Post 77, Ellen White’s Antipodean Exile: Reflections on Her Australian Years

Ellen White (1827-1915) was born and raised in the New England State of Maine during an era that did not favour extensive travel by women. However, from 1844 until 1909 she itinerated in the United States and elsewhere. What began as New England travels in the 1840s continued until 1909 when, during a five-month final journey across America, she spoke on seventy-two occasions in twenty-seven different places. Earlier than that, two periods of overseas service aggregated almost eleven years. From August 1885 to August 1887 she lived in continental Europe and made repeated trips to England as well as visiting Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The next four years were spent back in the United States, residing in Healdsburg and Battle Creek but travelling much and also preparing Patriarchs and Prophets and Steps to Christ for publication. Then came her second and longer overseas venture, December 1891 to August 1900, nearly nine years in the Southern Hemisphere. Ten months of that pioneering effort was invested in New Zealand, the other ninety-five months were devoted to Australia.

Exiled or Invited?

Ellen White helped Seventh-day Adventists envision an outreach to Australia as early as 1875, but a further decade passed by before Stephen Haskell led ten other believers (five men, two women and four children) from San Francisco to the Antipodes. During 1890, some 1500 American Adventists crowded a San Francisco wharf for the dedication of a mission vessel, named imaginatively after Pitcairn Island. As it sailed amongst the islands of the South Pacific and to New Zealand and Australia, the Pitcairn aptly symbolised the sacrifice and effort required to plant Adventism in a vast new region. At the General Conference session of 1891, Ellen White received an urgent call to visit the new mission field of Australasia. November 12 that year, on a San Francisco wharf, some twenty-five friends farewelled Ellen, her widowed son William and her three literary assistants, as they boarded the SS Alameda. (Elder George and Mrs Nellie Starr joined the expedition in Honolulu.) By Ellen White’s sixty-fourth birthday the ship was almost to the islands of Samoa; on December 3 the group visited Auckland, New Zealand. At seven on Tuesday morning, December 8, the Alameda sailed into Sydney Harbour, arguably one of the finest and most beautiful harbours in the world. Australia consisted of six widely separated, competing colonies of England. European settlers had arrived in the oldest and largest colony, New South Wales, only 112 years previously.

The records are clear: Ellen White was invited to the lands Down Under and she chose to accept the invitation. Why, then, is it sometimes implied that she was exiled there? A longer look at the historical context illumines the situation.

First of all, a major transition that began to gain strength in the 1870s was still occurring within Seventh-day Adventism. A tiny remnant of marginalised Millerite believers in Christ’s Second Coming had added to their Advent hope four other landmark doctrines and ably defended them in open debate with their Bibles open. They came to assume their mission was to bring a warning message to a Christian world. The way of salvation they proclaimed was well symbolised by the “tree of life” on which hung four commandments defining duty to God and six commandments encompassing duty to humankind. By 1883 this core focus was being changed to centre on the crucified Christ rather than the symbolic tree. However, in 1891 this shift in the church’s position was still a threatening reality for many stalwart leaders and laity.

Second, the Minneapolis General Conference of 1888 signalled a new phase of what would become a century-long debate over the way of salvation. The discussion was not without serious threat to established parameters. Indeed, it pitted acknowledged pioneers of towering stature against rather obscure progressives who seemed somewhat lacking in the grace they advocated. It appeared to threaten landmark ideas, pillars of faith built by prayerful Bible study under Divine guidance. The year 1891 was still too soon to predict the outcomes of this traumatic conflict.

Third, while in some respects Ellen White took a median position in the controversy, she articulated the necessity of change in unmistakable terms. (For some true believers, change is one of the most threatening words in the dictionary.) She chose to ignore the appeals and even the warnings of the General Conference president that historic landmarks appeared to be under threat. She chose not to defend Uriah Smith’s authority in the realm of prophetic interpretation. She openly recommended that further Bible study should proceed within a climate of open enquiry. She even publicly defended the rather brash duo, Alonzo Jones and Ellet Waggoner, suggesting that it was in the mercy of God that they were bringing “a most precious message” to His people. She gave active support to the new emphasis in ministerial institutes and official publications. Thus, by 1891, the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith was being proclaimed widely and with greater clarity in the North American church.

Both sociologists and historians are apt to point out the likelihood of tensions between charisma and government within a religious movement. Seldom were prophets the preferred confidantes of the kings of Israel and Judah, from Saul to Zedekiah. Prophetism demands to be unfettered, whereas bureaucracy by its very nature must attempt to control. No church leader or administrative group could engineer Ellen White’s exile in Australia; her dependence upon Divine guidance was too specific for that to occur. However, Ellen White listened intently to the advice church leaders gave her. She understood well that some church leaders were not overwhelmed with grief that she was so far from Battle Creek, the hub of Adventist decision-making.

Problematic Elements in the Transfer

Any analysis of the pro and con factors relating to Ellen White’s proposed sojourn in Australasia should have identified a range of problems. At sixty-four years of age, surely it was time for her to withdraw from pioneering initiatives. The mood of the time indicated that religious leaders with British accents were more acceptable in the colonies and thus more likely to be successful than North Americans. Ellen White had suffered two broken ankles in a Rocky Mountains accident and, because they were improperly set, she was permanently impaired. Not only was a hip giving her additional difficulty, for eleven months she would suffer from “malarial fever and inflammatory rheumatism” (the diagnosis she recorded) so severe that physicians predicted she might never walk again. Constantly she experienced the “humiliation” of being carried to a speaker’s position to deliver her message while sitting down. Her writing was often done with her upper right arm strapped to her body; even so, she frequently suffered intense pain. Beyond these personal issues was the fact that Australian society at the time was little attuned to a premillennialist message announcing a supernatural end of the world as Christ returned in power and glory. (Millennialism had flourished in nineteenth-century North America but it was not popular in Australia.) By 1892 any hope of a constructive outcome from Ellen White’s presence in the South Pacific must have seemed remote.

The Outcome in Retrospect 

Surprisingly, the outcome of Ellen White’s Australasian sojourn was remarkable for its success. Her presence and involvement was a potent factor in enabling the church’s membership to be multiplied by three. Not only did the fledgling publishing house grow significantly, the young church developed two other institutions, the Avondale School for Christian Workers and the Sanitarium Health Food Company. Healthcare initiatives were started, including Sydney Sanitarium, which for a century has exerted a powerful influence on behalf of the church. Missionaries were being readied and even sent to the vast mission fields of the Pacific Islands and Asia. Ellen White established a rapport with members and leaders that would influence the Australasian church profoundly throughout the twentieth century and beyond

Why This Success?

Accounting for this level of success is a worthy but elusive endeavour. Several observations present themselves as meriting consideration.

Ellen White epitomised the “present truth” that was so precious to Adventism. Prior to her arrival she was known through her writings as a living link with the sacred pain of 1844 and as one who had experienced the growth of “the little flock” into a named and organised body dedicated to sharing “the everlasting gospel” with every nation, tribe and language. She lived and travelled in the North Island of New Zealand and within the huge triangle of Australia bounded by Hobart, Adelaide and Rockhampton.  The imagination of the Australasian constituency was engaged and the Adventist community became convinced of a compelling consistency in her writings, oral discourses and daily life. Her camp meeting addresses drew huge crowds quite out of proportion with the tiny Adventist membership. She fired the imagination of “the little remnant” about what might be done for the Adventist cause in the colonies. She did far more than offer counsel about Christian education, health and mission. She was deeply involved in the tasks she enjoined, she gave liberally to the causes she recommended, she engaged in the neighbourhood service that she envisioned as basic for Christ’s followers.

Ellen White’s Australasian years formed “the decade of Christ” in her literary endeavours. The ethos of 1888 was already evident in Patriarchs and Prophets (1890) and Steps to Christ (1891). The former book begins with the words “God is love,” while the latter declares in its opening sentence, “Nature and revelation alike testify of God’s love.” Her most encompassing task in both New Zealand and Australia was the “Life of Christ” project that yielded three enduring volumes: Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 1896; The Desire of Ages, 1898; Christ’s Object Lessons, 1900. These tomes were the direct outgrowth of a theme intimated to her mind in 1848, reinforced in 1858 and thereafter addressed in Spiritual Gifts, Spirit of Prophecy, numerous periodical articles and manuscripts. Ellen White’s contemporaries knew she was committed to an overarching theme, the great struggle between Christ and Satan, but that she laid no claim to total knowledge of the sublime subject or even skill with how to express it. So they helped her locate what seemed to them to be the best outline of Christ’s life. They gathered into coherent form her previous writings on Jesus, His earthly life and teachings. They shared their insights from Bible classes at the Australasian Bible School. They knew in detail her fallible grasp of language and expression because they polished her drafts toward printer’s copy. But, with Ellen White as the leader of a prophetic school, a core emphasis of 1888 came through powerfully: “To know God is to love Him.” Cf. The Desire of Ages, page 22.

It seems perfectly natural that Australasians would respond positively to a person who aptly epitomised both “the present truth” and “the truth as it is in Jesus.” But their attention was also caught and held by convincing evidence that Ellen White was a person of practicality and common sense.

Three decades after Ellen White’s major health reform vision she was speaking at a camp meeting in a Melbourne suburb, during 1894. A Catholic woman who was also a temperance leader came to the front of the tent and confronted Ellen White over the suffering caused to animals by meat eating. From that moment, so far as we know, Ellen White’s occasional use of flesh food ended. This event helps us to understand such laments as that in The Ministry of Healing, pages 315-316: “The animals see and hear, and love and fear and suffer…. What man with a human heart, who has ever cared for domestic animals, could look into their eyes, so full of confidence and affection, and willingly give them over to the butcher’s knife?”

While we are on the subject of animals we should notice Ellen White’s response to a “barbarous practice” that she found amongst Australians. They confined a cow’s head in a bail, she said, and tied a rope to the cow’s hind leg before drawing the leg back and milking the animal. Ellen White did more than score this “barbarous practice.” She demonstrated that it was totally unnecessary, even for a cow that had been running wild on the Watagan Mountains. After she invited my grandfather to move his family to Cooranbong and work on the buildings at the Avondale School for Christian Workers she loaned him a tent to accommodate his family until he could build a house, and she loaned him a cow so his children would be provided with milk and cream. I have no recollection that he ever mentioned a need to employ the customary “barbarous practice” when milking the borrowed cow.

However, not all of Ellen White’s farmyard creatures lived happily ever after. A family living in the township of Dora Creek were both poverty-stricken and ill, yet their prejudice against Adventist “peanut-eaters” was so strong that they declined to receive vegetarian food. Ellen White commissioned Sara McEnterfer to lop the heads off some of her chickens and prepare broth for the impoverished family. Interestingly, they received the broth and, ere long, the Adventist message.

Ellen White was an enthusiastic farmer on the side. Early in the piece she bought forty acres from the Avondale School and set about developing an orchard, vineyard, vegetable and flower gardens that would demonstrate the potential of the soil and the climate. While she was far too busy with travel, speaking and writing to do much outdoor work herself, she sustained a constant interest in the planting and growth of peaches, pansies and potatoes at her much-loved “Sunnyside.”

My research for the just-completed centennial history of Sydney Adventist Hospital, founded as Sydney Sanitarium in 1903, leaves me with the conviction that its planting and its success are heavily dependent on Ellen White. More than that, she envisioned a health retreat in the village of Cooranbong, an ambitious enterprise that foundered after she returned to the United States. The saga of how she supported the sick in the geographical region of Cooranbong may be little known but it is impressive. Heroic efforts to save the life of a pre-school lad in 1899, my uncle, have lived in the family’s memory for 103 years as another witness about the person who was exiled amongst us in the Antipodes. But in the larger scheme of things, Signs Publishing Company, Sydney Adventist Hospital and Avondale College are the known features of the public face Adventism in Australia. Each of these institutions, like the Adventists’ 1885 mission to the South Pacific, is in a large measure a product of Ellen White’s innovative role within her community of faith.

This observation prepares the way for a fifth assertion: Ellen White’s success in Australia was in considerable measure due to the fact that the believers amongst whom she lived and ministered were convinced God had called and equipped her to deliver counsel that met their needs. This counsel covered a huge range of subjects and situations. Often it focused on the love of God, salvation by faith through the grace of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It could emphasise the need for an institution, help decide its location and the plan of its buildings. Sometimes it focused on personal dilemmas or interpersonal relationships. Sometimes it was bewildering, like the time she blew the whistle on student games such as cricket and tennis. At other times it was manifestly disturbing, as when Ellen White called for funds and gave beyond her means so that the young church might take another step forward in its mission.

Maybe the pervasive strengths of that five-phase mothering by Ellen White also created a dependence upon her that required the corrective experiences of the 1970s and the 1980s. Sociologists tell us that a wealth of new information can cause dilemmas of a serious nature within a religious communion. By 1976 the church had developed an Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre on the campus of Avondale College. The primary sources available in this institution enabled the careful checking of claims that deluged our people from the late 1970s onward as photocopiers filled more efficiently the role of mimeograph machines and the slim fingers of ham radio reached more often across the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Ellen White’s legacy in the Antipodes must be understood in the context of the turmoil and loss of the 1980s as well as in the more open and constructive climate of 2002.

Ellen White Studies in Historical Perspective

We Australians owe a great deal to North Americans with reference to Ellen White Studies. Some explorations that are not universally acclaimed by the corporate church in the United States have, even so, lasting significance. For instance, Ron Numbers has shown that Ellen White was an authentic member of a reformist society in her time and place, deeply interested in and responsive to the innovations that were related to her priorities. Currently an Australian consultant physician is proceeding with research that indicates the credibility of Ellen White’s health counsels is more than double that of her contemporary health reformers. Don McAdams has painstakingly documented the way in which Ellen White related to Protestant historians in writing The Great Controversy. Walter Rea has offered useful evidence of her pervasive relatedness to Adventist and non-Adventist authors. Fred Veltman has established a firm foundation for the discussion of such sources, especially those that lie behind Ellen White’s writing on the life of Christ. Alden Thompson has crafted a sustainable view of her inspiration. The journal Spectrum and the magazine Adventist Today have filled exploratory roles for students of Ellen White, often traversing terrain that, subsequently, the church has mapped in detail and adopted as part of its territory. Herbert Douglass, in an official tome, has brought the church another long step toward an appreciation of the varied sources that need to be understood by those who claim to present Ellen White’s ministry in a responsible way. As Adventists we need every available fact that bears on the way God has led and taught us in our past history.


It bears emphasis that Ellen White agonised over the call to Australia and felt she might be in Australia for only a few months. But she came to identify so strongly with the people and the mission of Adventism in the territory of the South Pacific Division that she was loath to leave Australia and even wanted to return. What had seemed like a painful exile became, in the providence of God, a fruitful period of ministry. It also readied her for the dual needs she would met at the 1901 General Conference: the requirement to confront the Holy Flesh heresy and the necessity to reorganise the structure of the church.

Perhaps a small but important subset of Ellen White Studies has been too much neglected: the significance of her Australasian years. May these reflections serve to remind us that those 105 months of her public ministry will repay exploration by those who value the church, its fellowship, its mission and its prophetic messenger.

References for further study:

If this presentation was intended for an academic setting it would be footnoted in detail. But it is prepared for a Friday evening meeting with attendees that have access to relevant sources in the Loma Linda University and La Sierra University heritage resources, the second and third best collections in the Adventist world. (The most comprehensive collection is at Andrews University.) Twenty years ago I was privileged to read and comment on the manuscript of Arthur White’s Ellen G. White: The Australian Years, 1891-1900 (Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1983) and I read it again this month as part of the background required by this presentation. My interpretive framework is indicated in an M.Litt. thesis (1984), a Ph.D. dissertation (1991), a Ministry article (April 1991), an Adventist Heritage article (Spring 1993), and a cluster of papers posted on in the AT ISSUE section. A host of Ellen White letters and manuscripts add colour to this subject; see, for instance, Letter 127, 1896; Letter 89, 1900; Letter 174, 1900.  As Australian input into Ellen White Studies I value, in particular, master-level theses by Allan Lindsay (1978) and Robert Wolfgramm (1983), doctoral dissertations by Milton Hook (1978) and Michael Chamberlain (2002), and ongoing interaction with doctoral candidates Rick Ferrett and Bruce Manners.

Arthur Patrick, 25 October 2002, posted 5 September 2012

Post 76, A Noteworthy Thesis by Michael Chamberlain on Avondale College and Ellen White

“The Changing Role of Ellen White in Seventh-day Adventism

With Reference to Sociocultural Standards at Avondale College,”

by Michael Leigh Chamberlain, July 2001

On 22 February 2002, the Council of the University of Newcastle resolved to admit Michael Chamberlain to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Education, Faculty of Education and Arts. I have read carefully and with appreciation Chamberlain’s 392-page thesis presented to the University in July 2001, subsequently examined by Professor Alan Barcan, Professor John Knight and Dr Harry Ballis.

Ron Laura, Professor in Education, University of Newcastle, supervised the thesis. It attempts an overview of Avondale College from its founding as the Avondale School for Christian Workers late in the nineteenth century to its status as a university-like institution at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The author has negotiated adequately a significant issue: how to deal competently in a single thesis with such a long time period. In fact, it is essential for the ultimate viability of his argument that he takes a broad-brush approach. He also transcends related problems, like the lack of access to certain types of resources and the demand for a sustainable perspective on recent events.

Chamberlain’s resolution of such matters depends in part on the way in which he combines clusters of insights from three distinct but complementary disciplines: education, history and sociology. Educational philosophy and more importantly Seventh-day Adventist educational ideals provide the backdrop for his investigation. Historical method is crucial for the enterprise. But Chamberlain’s work is also informed by methods and imbued by insights from sociology. Thus his writing may not be fully satisfying for educators, historians or sociologists. But some of the most fruitful scholarly enterprises are those that risk trans-disciplinary approaches. Chamberlain has succeeded in this self-imposed and more demanding endeavour.

As an individual with an interest in the history of ideas in the context of the interface between religion and society, I found myself wanting to argue with Chamberlain’s interpretation of the meaning of particular sources and the application that he made of their specific content. But I find myself in substantial agreement with the entirety of the big picture that he sketches.

This thesis has relevance for those who are interested in Australian education in its secular and religious forms. It speaks to many issues: the transmission of values, the impact of a majority culture on a minority subculture, the processes of change that may occur in a religious sect, the struggle between continuity and change within a community of faith, and more. It also embraces notions of administrative theory with particular reference to the relationship between organisers/expediters and thinkers/educators. Finally, however, Chamberlain’s thesis is a profoundly important gift to his church.

For this gift he is unlikely to be thanked in any official fashion. Some may categorise him as an unwelcome bearer of bad tidings who has unearthed disturbing data. Some may dismiss his work as equivalent to that of a bothersome investigative journalist. Some will sense his passion for his religious community and suggest he is too close to it to be objective. Perhaps an even larger number may charge him simply with being “critical.” But the fact remains that he has joined a small body of sociologists—like Robert Wolfgramm, Greg Schneider, Ron Lawson, Rick Ferret—whose work has profound meaning for Seventh-day Adventists.

Adventism began in 1844 as a fledgling religious movement inundated by the ashes of Great Disappointment. Within the lifetime of Ellen White, it developed an attitude of great certainty. During the next 55 years it experienced an even greater certainty until it was confronted by forces that derived from its relation to historic Christianity and its religious identity as they encountered elements of both modernity and post-modernity. The short-term result was a new uncertainty that engendered controversy, even an element of chaos. Since 1990, the church has been in a process of maturation as it develops a new consensus relating to data considerably unknown even to its thought-leaders two decades previously.

Chamberlain’s thesis is a warning that this business is unfinished, that historical understandings and hermeneutical issues are still important matters in the ongoing process. The flow of events over a century in the life of an educational institution offers a way of identifying fruitfully both issues and possibilities. This thesis should be required reading for those involved with the projection and maintenance of Avondale’s mission into Century 21. As individuals, we do well to undergo a physical examination as we plan an appropriate lifestyle. If what Dr Milton Hook has dubbed “Experiment on the Dora” is to succeed for a second century, it is essential for Avondale’s stakeholders to listen intensively to a range of diagnostic voices, including that heard in Michael Leigh Chamberlain’s thesis.

 Arthur Patrick,  28 February 2003,  posted 5 September 2012




Post 75, Ellen White and Conservatism: Dr Lester Devine’s Research

For me this started in the late 1970s. In those days there were 800 or so

Adventist Physicians and Dentists in California — and they were giants in

the land.  Their education, status, prestige, and in many cases their

wealth, gave them disproportionate influence in the Church — and as a group

they kind of liked that.

Each year they had ‘Big Weekend’ where they networked and dreamed up stuff to give

church leaders additional heartburn.  Central California was the

logical place to hold these get-togethers and twice in our years at

Bakersfield Adventist Academy these annual events were held downtown.

Now — Bakersfield is an interesting place.  Most people never stop there

except for gas and when they do they tell you they stopped for fuel at

midnight and the temperature was ‘110 in the shade.’  The locals reckon it

gets so hot there in the summer that if you dig down six inches you can hear


Anyway — back on point.  The Chairman of the Academy Board was usually a Physician or Dentist and the custom was that he would provide complimentary tickets to the Academy Principal of the day and his wife for ‘Big Weekend’ each year.  Apparently, though not one of the blessed exalted ones, status as a Senior Academy Principal made one marginally respectable in such august company, though Noreen was never so sure about that.

So Desmond Ford came into town from Pacific Union College as the featured speaker and it was good to see him again and to meet Gillian for the first time.  One of his topics electrified me — how Ellen White despised conservatives; delivered with all the usual flair and with the lobbing of many hand grenades.  One got the impression that Desmond had had it with his conservative critics and was giving them a right royal serve.  The medical fraternity audience loved it for as far as the Church was concerned these folk tended to regard denominational leaders as second-rate people and an obstacle to progress. Remember this was California; had the Pacific Union seen value in the General Conference it would have moved it out west decades earlier.

I was so excited — I could use some of these quotes for a Board meeting

devotional and make a few points with my reactionary critics.  Know also

that I was a member of Bakersfield Hillcrest, pastored then by Barry

Crabtree, and the home congregation of Lewis Walton who would later write

that dreadful little uninformed book, Omega.  Lewis saw himself as the

conscience of the Church and manufactured many bullets for others to fire,

some of them lobbing over the fence from Hillcrest and onto the Academy


Added to this was his distaste for Barry Crabtree and his firm opinion that anyone from ‘down-under’ was theologically suspect as most of the theological problems in the Church seemed to originate from that part of the world.  Certainly they were all Liberals (note the large L).

So — once back on campus I headed straight for the library and looked up

‘conservative’ in the three volume index and was discombobulated the word

was not there!  Des would have not mis-stated; his critics would have had a

field day with him had he done that.  Something was going on here I did not

understand — so I put the matter aside; on the shelf.

Later when the four volume index came out I had an eager look there too; same result.  So — back on the shelf until I arrived at the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre at Avondale and one of the first things I did was ask Marian de Berg to do a search on the CD-ROM and the result is attached for your amazement and amusement.

Now I will not speculate why this extensive use of the word ‘conservative’

never made it into the Index because I could have more fun with that than

any Christian should.  But what Ellen White said is important.

So over the years since, I have had my fun sharing the print-out with

denominational leaders in the breaks between meetings and gotten a kick out

of how they blanch when they start reading and then give up half-way down

the first page.

Conservative, Conservatism, etc : The Quotes from Ellen White

We are too quickly discouraged, and earnestly cry for the trial to be removed from us, when we should plead for patience to endure and grace to overcome. 1T 310.

When God raises up men to do His work, they are false to their trust if they allow their testimony to be shaped to please the minds of the unconsecrated. He will prepare men for the times.  They will be humble, God-fearing men, not conservative, not policy men; but men who have moral independence and will move forward in the fear of the Lord.  They will be kind, noble, courteous, yet they will not be swayed from the right path, but will proclaim the truth in righteousness whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.–Testimonies, Vol. 5, pp. 262-263. Compare ChL, 73.3

The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding, circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld, must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith, and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren, and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us. The members of the church will individually be tested and proved. They will be placed in circumstances where they will be forced to bear witness for the truth. Many will be called to speak before councils and in courts of justice, perhaps separately and alone. The experience which would have helped them in this emergency they have neglected to obtain, and their souls are burdened with remorse for wasted opportunities and neglected privileges.–Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 463. ChS, 158.1.

A Sign of Growth.–Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid discussion.–CW, 38.

The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God’s people, should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves, to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as in ancient times, who will hold to tradition, and worship they know not what. CW, p. 39.

Peter exhorts his brethren to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 PETER 3:18. Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid discussion. GW, p.297.2.

To the conservative and compromising, these arguments seemed conclusive. But there was another class that did not so judge. The fact that these customs “tended to bridge over the chasm between Rome and the Reformation” (Martyn, volume 5, page 22), was in their view a conclusive argument against retaining them. They looked upon them as badges of the slavery from which they had been delivered and to which they had no disposition to return. They reasoned that God has in His word established the regulations governing His worship, and that men are not at liberty to add to these or to detract from them. The very beginning of the great apostasy was in seeking to supplement the authority of God by that of the church. Rome began by enjoining what God had not forbidden, and she ended by forbidding what He had explicitly enjoined.  GC, p. 289.

The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will have to do in a terrible crisis under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative [ELLEN WHITE IS NOT HERE DISTINGUISHING THEOLOGICAL CONSERVATIVES FROM THEIR LIBERAL COUNTERPARTS; SHE IS DESCRIBING THOSE WHO PUT “WORLDLY CONFORMITY” FIRST AND GOD’S CAUSE SECOND.] class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith.–5T, p. 463 (1885),  LDE, p.174.

Morality cannot be separated from religion. Conservative tradition received from educated men and from the writings of great men of the past are not all a safe guide for us in these last days; for the great struggle before us is such as the world has never seen. The brethren who have not acted a part in this work in the past need to move with far greater caution in regard to that which they accept and that which they refuse; they need to penetrate much deeper than their limited spiritual knowledge or their present habits or opinions would lead them to do. All these may need reforming.  MM , p. 99.1.

Presidents may become too conservative and narrow in their leadership.–Elder M, as president of the _____ Conference, you have shown by your general management that you are unworthy of the trust reposed in you. You have shown that you are conservative, and that your ideas are narrow. You have not done one half what you might have done had you had the true spirit of the work. You might have been far more capable and experienced than you now are; you might have been far better prepared to manage successfully this sacred and important mission a work which would have given you the strongest claim to the general confidence of our people. But, like the other ministering brethren in your state, you have failed to advance with the opening providence of God; you have not shown that the Holy Spirit was deeply impressing your heart, so that God could speak through you to His people. If in this crisis you do anything to strengthen doubt and distrust in the churches of your state, anything that will prevent the people from engaging heartily in this work, God will hold you responsible. Has God given you unmistakable evidence that the brethren of your state are excused from the responsibility of putting their arms about the city of _____ as Christ has put His arms about them? If you were standing in the light, you would encourage this mission by your faith.–5T, p.370. PaM, p.106.1

The lowly, those bound with poverty, pressed with care, burdened with toil, could find no reason in His life and example which would lead them to think that Jesus was not acquainted with their trials, knew not the pressure of their circumstances, and could not sympathize with them in their want and sorrow. The lowliness of His humble, daily life was in harmony with His lowly birth and circumstances. The Son of the infinite God, the Lord of life and glory, descended in humiliation to the life of the lowliest, that no one might feel himself excluded from His presence. He made Himself accessible to all. He did not select a favored few with whom to associate and ignore all others. It grieves the Spirit of God when conservatism shuts man away from his fellow man, especially when it is found among those who profess to be His children. 1SM, p. 260.1.

There are those who will, through hasty, ill-advised moves, betray the cause of God into the enemy’s power. There will be men who will seek to be revenged, who will become apostates and betray Christ in the person of His saints. All need to learn discretion; then there is danger on the other hand of being conservative, of giving away to the enemy in concessions. . . .  3SM, p.397.2.

The great work of reform must go forward. The Health Institute has been established at Battle Creek to relieve the afflicted, to disseminate light, to awaken the spirit of inquiry, and to advance reform. This institution is conducted upon principles which are different from those of any other hygienic institution in the land. Money is not the great object with its friends and conductors. They conduct it from a conscientious, religious standpoint, aiming to carry out the principles of Bible hygiene. Most institutions of the kind are established upon different principles and are conservative, making it their object to meet the popular class halfway and to so shape their course that they will receive the greatest patronage and the most money.  3T, p. 165.2.

I saw you listening to the conversation of men and women, and saw that you were only too pleased to gather up their views and impressions that were detrimental to our labors. Some found fault with one thing, and some with another, as did the murmurers among the children of Israel when Moses was their leader. Some were censuring our course, saying that we were not as conservative as we ought to be; we did not seek to please the people as we might; we talked too plainly; we reproved too sharply. Some were talking in regard to Sister White’s dress, picking at straws. Others were expressing dissatisfaction with the course that Brother White pursued, and remarks were passing from one to another, questioning their course and finding fault. An angel stood before these persons, unseen by them, busily writing their words in the book which is to be opened to the view of God and angels. 3T, p. 312f.

It was not my duty to urge the subject upon my sisters. After presenting it before them as it had been shown me, I left them to their own conscience. Reformatory action is always attended with sacrifice. It demands that love of ease, selfish interest, and the lust of ambition be held in subjection to the principles of right. Whoever has the courage to reform must encounter obstacles. He will be opposed by the conservatism of those whose business or pleasure brings them in contact with the votaries of fashion, and who will lose caste by the change.  4T, p. 636.2.

There are some in —– who ought to be men instead of boys and heavenly minded instead of earthly and sensual; but their spiritual vision has become obscured; the Saviour’s great love has not ravished their souls. He has many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. You are children in growth and cannot comprehend the mysteries of God. When God raises up men to do His work, they are false to their trust if they allow their testimony to be shaped to please the minds of the unconsecrated. He will prepare men for the times. They will be humble, God-fearing men, not conservative, not policy men; but men who have moral independence and will move forward in the fear of the Lord. They will be kind, noble, courteous; yet they will not be swayed from the right path, but will proclaim the truth in righteousness whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.  5T, p. 263.1

Elder M, as president of the —– Conference, you have shown by your general management that you are unworthy of the trust reposed in you. You have shown that you are conservative, and that your ideas are narrow. You have not done one half what you might have done had you had the true spirit of the work. You might have been far more capable and experienced than you now are; you might have been far better prepared to manage successfully this sacred and important mission–a work which would have given you the strongest claim to the general confidence of our people. But, like the other ministering brethren in your state, you have failed to advance with the opening providence of God; you have not shown that the Holy Spirit was deeply impressing your heart, so that God could speak through you to His people. If in this crisis you do anything to strengthen doubt and distrust in the churches of your state, anything that will prevent the people from engaging heartily in this work, God will hold you responsible. Has God given you unmistakable evidence that the brethren of your state are excused from the responsibility of putting their arms about the city of —– as Christ has put His arms about them? If you were standing in the light, you would encourage this mission by your faith.  5T, p. 370.3.

The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will have to do in a terrible crisis under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us. The members of the church will individually be tested and proved. They will be placed in circumstances where they will be forced to bear witness for the truth. Many will be called to speak before councils and in courts of justice, perhaps separately and alone. The experience which would have helped them in this emergency they have neglected to obtain, and their souls are burdened with remorse for wasted opportunities and neglected privileges.  5T, p. 463.2.

Peter exhorts his brethren to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative and seek to avoid discussion.  5T, p.706.2.

The lowly, those bound with poverty, pressed with care, burdened with toil, could find no reason in his life and example which would lead them to think that Jesus was not acquainted with their trials, knew not the pressure of their circumstances, and could not sympathize with them in their want and sorrow. The lowliness of his humble, daily life was in harmony with his lowly birth and circumstances. The Son of the infinite God, the Lord of life and glory, descended in humiliation to the life of the lowliest, that no one might feel himself excluded from his presence. He made himself accessible to all. He did not select a favored few with whom to associate and ignore all others. It grieves the Spirit of God when conservatism shuts man away from his fellow-man, especially when it is found among those who profess to be his children.  RH, 22 December 1891, par. 10.

Conservative traditions received from educated men, and from the writings of great men of the past, are not safe guides for us in these last days; for the great struggle before us is such as the world has never seen before. Those who have not acted a part in this work in the past, need to move with great caution in regard to accepting or refusing what may be presented to them as truth. They need to penetrate much deeper than their limited spiritual knowledge, or their present habits or opinions would lead them to do. We are not one of us safe unless we live as seeing Him who is invisible, even with past experience in the work; and we certainly are not safe, if we have not had that experience. Daily, hourly, we must be actuated by the principles of Bible truth,–righteousness, mercy, and the love of God. He who would have moral and intellectual power must draw from the divine source. At every point of decision inquire, “Is this the way of the Lord?” With your Bibles open before you, consult sanctified reason and a good conscience. Your heart must be moved, your soul touched, your reason and intellect awakened, by the Spirit of God; and then holy principles revealed in the word of God will give light to the soul. The true source of wisdom and virtue and power is the cross of Calvary. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. He says, “Without me ye can do nothing.”  RH, 7 February 1893, par. 13.

It is the design of God that through man his glory shall be revealed to the world; but it is only those who connect themselves with God in Jesus Christ, who can reveal that goodness and that fidelity which Christ manifested in his life. As the branches of the vine are united in the parent stock, so will the children of God be united as one in Christ. They are to reveal to the world the character of God. They must study the Scriptures with the purpose in view of living the unselfish life of Christ. The true Christian will not become self-centered or conservative in his plans. “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” As God’s grace is given us freely, so it must be imparted to others. Through the apostle we are admonished, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.”  RH, 30 May 1899, par. 13.

The Health Institute has been established . . . to relieve the afflicted, to disseminate light, to awaken the spirit of inquiry, and to advance reform. This institution is conducted upon principles which are different from those of any other hygienic institution in the land. Money is not the great object with its friends and conductors. They conduct it from a conscientious, religious standpoint, aiming to carry out the principles of Bible hygiene. Most institutions of the kind are established upon different principles, and are conservative, making it their object to meet the popular class halfway, and so to shape their course that they will receive the greatest patronage and the most money. . . .  RH, 21 May 1914, par. 1.

Those temptations are most dangerous which come from the professed servants of God, and from our friends. When persons who are uniting with the world, yet claiming great piety and love, counsel the faithful workers for God to be less zealous and more conservative, our answer must be an appeal to the word of God. When they plead for union with those who have been our determined opposers, we should fear and shun them as decidedly as did Nehemiah. Those who would lead away from the old landmarks to form a connection with the ungodly, cannot be sent of Heaven. Whatever may have been their former position, their present course tends to unsettle the faith of God’s people.  ST, 3 January 1884, par. 14.

“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” The seventy were appointed to go on their missionary journeys some months after the twelve had been appointed to visit the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When the twelve were sent forth, they were restricted to the tribes of Israel, lest their missionary efforts should create prejudice among the Jews, whose teaching had been of such a character as to make them narrow in their ideas in regard to the extension of the gospel to other nationalities. The disciples themselves could scarcely comprehend the fact that the blessings of God were for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews, and had to unlearn many lessons that made them conservative in their views concerning the mission and work of the Messiah. But evidences were given them that prepared them to understand that the tidings of the kingdom of Christ were to be preached to all nations. Now that their sympathies were broadening, and their ideas expanding in regard to the purpose of God, Christ desired them to act out their faith before he should be removed from them, that there might be no misunderstanding in regard to the extension of the gospel.  ST, 10 December 1894, par. 1.

The sending out of the disciples on a missionary tour was a most important movement, as it was a breaking away from the old, narrow conservatism of the Jews, and would have a tendency to lead them away from their prejudices against other nations, and establish them in a larger charity. He wished them to be impressed with the necessity of planting the truth in the hearts of all men, with the thought that all who would come might come to him, and by believing in him have life through his name. The time was approaching when he should leave his followers, but he promised them that the Spirit should come to lead them into all truth, to illuminate to their minds the Scriptures which he had himself given to patriarchs and prophets. No longer were the Gentiles to be kept in heathenism, or, as it were, in the outer courts of the temple.  ST, 10 December 1894, par. 3.

Those temptations are most dangerous which come from the professed servants of God, and from our friends. When persons who are uniting with the world, yet claiming great piety and love, counsel the faithful workers for God to be less zealous and more conservative, our answer must be an appeal to the word of God. When they plead for union with those who have been our determined opposers, we should fear and shun them as decidedly as did Nehemiah. Those who would lead away from the old landmarks to form a connection with the ungodly, can not be sent of heaven. Whatever may have been their former position, their present course tends to unsettle the faith of God’s people.  SW, 24 May 1904, par. 6.

If you truly belong to Christ, you will have opportunities for witnessing for him. You will be invited to attend places of amusement, and then it will be that you will have an opportunity to testify to your Lord. If you are true to Christ then, you will not try to form excuses for your non-attendance, but will plainly and modestly declare that you are a child of God, and your principles would not allow you to be in a place, even for one occasion, where you could not invite the presence of your Lord. We should not permit the spirit of conservatism to lead us to misrepresent our Lord. Our daily influence must be like that of Christ. We must practice self-denial, overcome temptation, and daily grow in grace. We cannot be witnesses for Christ without his Holy Spirit to work upon our hearts; but he has said that our heavenly Father is more willing to give us the Holy Spirit, than parents are to give good gifts to their children. We are to receive the Holy Spirit, and through its agency the sinner will be impressed with the fact that in Jesus there are to be found joys superior to those of earth.  YI, 4 May 1893, par. 5.

The great work of reform must go forward. The Health Institute has been established at Battle Creek to relieve the afflicted, to disseminate light, to awaken the spirit of inquiry, and to advance reform. This institution is conducted upon different principles than any other hygienic institution in the land. Money is not the great object with its friends and conductors. This institution is conducted from a conscientious, religious standpoint, aiming to carry out the principles of Bible hygiene. Most institutions of the kind are established upon different principles, and are conservative, with the object to meet the popular class half way, and shape their course in that manner that they will receive the greatest patronage, and the most money.  PH, p. 138 8.1.

Great efforts have been made to secure the patronage of the wealthy. The Sanitarium has not been a success, and will not prove such, unless those who are connected with it shall give it a different mold. If this institution shall be conducted as it has been, with so little of the influence of the Holy Spirit, it will not answer the purpose of God, and will be rejected by him. It was Satan’s device to lead to a great expenditure of means in building and furnishing, when there were not sufficient funds to sustain such an outlay. Those who were responsible for this heavy debt, felt that extra effort must be made to secure patients; hence a conservative spirit has come in; little by little has the transforming been going on in the Sanitarium, until the object for which it was started has been almost lost.  PH, p. 100 55.2.

We have all kinds of material to deal with. There are those who will, through hasty, unadvised moves, betray the cause of God into the enemy’s power. There will be men who will seek to be revenged who will become apostates and betray Christ in the person of His saints. All need to learn discretion; then there is danger on the other hand of being conservative, of giving away to the enemy in concession. Our brethren should be very cautious in this matter for the honor of God. They should make God their fear and their dread. Should this Conference make resolutions and pass them, that it would be right and proper for Seventh-day Adventists to rest on the first day of the week in order to avoid arrests and what might probably arise if they did not obey the laws, would this be showing that we stand in right relation to God’s holy law? Exodus 31:12-17, 1888, p.483.1.

Ellen White was now 29 years of age and was beginning to speak to large non-Adventist audiences. This is a phase of her work that would develop rather rapidly. The outlook in conservative New England at the time was rather discouraging, and James reported see 1BIO, p. 357.2:

We were more than ever convinced that but little can be accomplished in New England at present. Brethren Sperry, Hutchins, and Phillips will probably visit the West this summer, and hold some tent meetings in Michigan in the Vermont tent. In such an atmosphere, and with the contrasting positions of two prominent men in the college, the conservative Bell was crowded out. He was not without some weaknesses and defects, of course. The published 1872 Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek, based on Ellen White’s vision of December 10, 1871, makes this clear. But he was also the subject of many words of commendation from Ellen White, of which the following is typical. 3BIO, p. 189.5.

The Lord has shown me the value of Brother Bell’s labors. The Lord has commended his thoroughness as a teacher, both in the college and in the Sabbath school. When it was suggested that Brother Bell travel and labor in the Sabbath school interest in different States, I said at once that I did not see how he could be spared from the college.–Testimony for the Battle Creek Church, p. 31; 3BIO, p.190.1.

He has had lots of experience clearing land, and also in handling timber. He has had full experience in running a sawmill. He can build a house or a boat, and has had much experience as salesman, and can keep books. He is a close, conservative man, and may lack breadth in his plans. But he has a high regard for Brother Rousseau, and this would help him some. It appears to me that Rousseau and Hare would make a good team to work together in clearing, making roads, putting up the workshop, and getting material for the girls’ hall ready for the builder.–Ibid., p. 188;  4BIO, p. 219.3.

Ellen White was urged to attend the camp meeting in Victoria, scheduled for March 8 to 18 in Geelong (UCR, 1 March 1900). Geelong is a beautiful, well-laid-out city about fifty miles southwest of Melbourne. A Mr. Watson, a church member, gave L25 to encourage the church leaders to have a camp meeting held there, and a tent 55 by 104 feet was pitched in the center of the city. As it was a conservative city, there was some question about attendance, especially when it was known that the local ministers warned their people not to go to the meetings. There were about two hundred church members on the grounds for the meetings, but attendance ranged from five hundred to 1,500. G. B. Starr reported that the Spirit of God stirred the place (ibid., 1 April 1900). A. G. Daniells, E. W. Farnsworth, and Mrs. E. G. White were the principal speakers.  4BIO, p. 453.3.

The reader will recall that at the time the Loma Linda property became available in May, 1905, for $40,000, Ellen White urged Elder Burden to move forward in its acquisition. Considerable opposition developed because the Southern California Conference, with its 1,100 members who would be responsible for its purchase, was already heavily in debt. With a new secondary school, San Fernando Academy, just getting well started, and with Glendale Sanitarium just opening its doors, to make further heavy financial commitments seemed not only unreasonable but almost impossible to the conservative conference president, Elder George W. Reaser. 6BIO, p.145.2,

The question as to what the pope has arrogated to himself is a difficu one. The church has attributed to him all that is claimed in our books, and he has received it and acted upon it, but it is a little difficult to prove from histories within our reach that he has assumed the titles of the Deity and the right to change divine law, and Mother may decide that it is best for us to take a very conservative position in view of the controversies before us.  6BIO, p.319.3.

Pacific Union College, nearby, was one of the schools holding to the more conservative position. Its president, C. W. Irwin, had served in the Avondale school, where the school calendar quoted from an E. G. White letter stating, see 6BIO, p. 383.1:

We have labored hard to keep in check everything in the school like favoritism, attachments, and courting. We have told the students that we would not allow the first thread of this to be interwoven with their schoolwork. On this point we are as firm as a rock.–Letter 145, 1897.

Arthur Patrick, posted 2 September 2012