VII.  Conclusion

            Study of Church Governance and Unity  by GC Secretariat           
                       published September 25, 2016 
 ( PDF file )


     VII.   Conclusion

   In this document, we have seen Our Lord and Savior’s heartfelt desire that His disciples be united; the apostles’ teachings on unity, especially Paul’s compelling conceptualization of the church as the body of Christ; Ellen G White’s powerful and repeated endorsements of Jesus’s plea for unity; the New Testament principle of collective decision-making by the body of believers, with diversity of practice permitted when all agree to it; Ellen White’s warnings of the danger of disunity, her consistent evocation of the authority of the General Conference, and her admonitions against unilateral action. All these indicate very clearly how Seventh-day Adventists should relate to each other and how the Remnant Church should conduct itself.  

    Mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), bearing and forgiving (Col 3:12-14): these are obligations for the followers of Jesus, but they are, moreover, absolutely essential in discussions among Seventh-day Adventist about ordination. As a result of the study process, three positions were proposed and what the 2015 GC Session voted accords entirely with none of them. While many church members are not closely aligned with any of these positions, this tripartite division highlights that all who felt strongly for one position or another are disappointed to a greater or lesser extent. All have to submit to the wider body. All will do well to submerge differences, bearing in mind that the issues that divide Seventh-day Adventists are fewer and less significant than those on which we agree. 

   The danger to our unity lies not primarily in who we ordain, or what credentials we issue to them. The chief danger lies in accepting the possibility of unilateral action. That has potential implications which go far beyond this immediate issue. Yet if we were to sacrifice the overarching principle of representative, collegial, consensus-based decision-making — if we were to accept that organizational units can act unilaterally — then our whole ecclesiastical polity and system of church governance would be in danger of breaking down. Unions would decline to follow divisions’ guidance; conferences will ignore unions when it suits them; local churches would flout conferences or missions. We would do well to look to the wider principles of interconnectedness and interdependence. They have been the basis for 150 years of powerful proclamation of the gospel and prophetic truth, of extraordinary service to humanity, and of remarkable growth. They should not be lightly abandoned.  [ end of page 41 ] 

   The ordaining and commissioning of pastors, and the issuing of credentials and licenses, are not matters essential to salvation, but they are essential to the unity of the Church. They are also important elements in the Church’s smooth functioning as an organization: that is, they are important for mission. As Seventh-day Adventists, we are part of a larger body — the body of Christ — and need to mutually submit to the body’s decision. We need to redouble our efforts to proclaim “this gospel of the kingdom . . . throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14 ESV). This was the commission the Master gave to all His followers; its reference to the end times points to this denomination’s particular prophetic mission, embodied in the angels of Revelation 14.

   We also, however, need to do as Ellen G White urged us, to make Christ’s prayer for unity in John 17 our “first study” and to cultivate loving relationships with our fellow church-members. This is true for adherents of all positions on ordination, for debates in recent years have created considerable ill feeling, across all shades of Adventist theological opinion. At a time in our history of great divisiveness, Ellen White implored church leaders: 

   Labor in harmony with one another, even though you are not alike. Bring all the pleasantness that you can into your lives. . . . Do not let trifling differences destroy your fellowship with one another. Do not say that because your brethren differ with you in some particular, you cannot stand by their side in service. They do not differ with you any more than you differ with them.

   We are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us. So great was His love for us that He willingly gave His life for us. And our love for one another is to make us willing to sacrifice our feelings and ideas if by so doing we can help them.   


   Here, she draws church members’ attention to John 17 and Jesus’s prayer that His followers be characterized by their love for each other, and to the need for us to be willing to make sacrifices for the unity that He desires for us. But here, too, as so often in her writings, Ellen G White writes of the importance of harmony—a musical figure of speech. The Bible tells us that earthly history as we know it will end in music—when “those who have the victory over the beast,” drawn from all nations and races, will gather “on the sea of glass,” and, using harps given them by God, will “sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb,” hymning our praises to the “Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 15:2–3 NKJV). The most beautiful music is polyphonic, in which a number of parts, each forming an individual melody, nevertheless harmonize with each other. There is not merely a place for diversity; it is essential in creating a greater, more beautiful whole. But it is thoughtful diversity, each part composed and performed with awareness of, sensitivity to, and in harmony with, every other part. If a melody is added unilaterally it can all too easily result in dissonance. Acting unilaterally undermines the harmony that Christ desires for the Church.

   The Seventh-day Adventist Church has periodically experienced internal dissension yet, remarkably, it has always emerged stronger and more focused on mission. Tensions among leaders in the young denomination in the late 1860s and early 1870s were mostly resolved. Energies were refocused outward, instead of inward, and in 1874 the denomination sent its first missionary overseas. Sustained debates about theology and the institutional work in the late 1890s and early 1900s gave way to a golden age of missionary expansion. Some will look at the current situation and wonder whether it is possible for history to repeat itself. However, Ellen G White, writing on  [ end of page 42 ]  John 17 made this promise to God’s people: “When we strive for this unity as God desires us to strive for it, it will come to us.” (187)  It is a promise to claim. 

   If we—all of us—involve ourselves totally in the mission and ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in ways appropriate to our different spiritual gifts; if we enthusiastically endeavor to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded ( Matthew 28:20 ); if we gladly bear with each other, putting aside whatever grievances we may feel we have against others, forgiving as the Lord forgives us (Col 3:13); if we ardently strive to “be one” with our brothers and sisters as Christ is one with the Father, and to embody, in our relations with fellow church members, Christ’s love for His Father and His people (John 17: 22-23) — then “this unity” that “God desires us to strive for,” the unity Christ prayed for, the unity God desires for us, “will come to us.”

            End   Notes    ( aka  Footnotes )

 1.  See “Unions and Ordination,” GC Secretariat Statement (Aug. 2015), available at https://www.


 2.  Fifty-fifth Session, July 11, 1990, Session minutes in GCC Minutes, 1990: 1039–40 (available at ). See below, n.160.

 3.  “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” nos. 1 and 18. The Fundamental Beliefs are printed in the Yearbook (Seventh-day Adventist Church Yearbook 2016, 6–9), and are available

 4.  Ellen G. White, “Consumers, but not Producers,” April 25, 1901 (i.e., two days after the conclusion of the GC Session of that year), MS 35, 1901: “The Lord declares that His church is not to be governed by human rules or precedents. . . . I am oppressed with the thought of the objectionable human management seen in our work.” It should instead be a manifestation of “truth-loving, Bible-believing Christians” (emphasis supplied).

       II.  Unity and Policy

 5.  In Seventh-day Adventist Church Yearbook 2016, 6–9; org/files/articles/official-statements/28Beliefs-Web.pdf.

      2.  Unity in Writings of Ellen White

6.  Quotations from Ellen G. White are cited, in the first instance, to the original letter or manuscript, including title or recipients and date, where these are known, and to any publications during her lifetime. Subsequent references are to the published text (if any), or to letter/manuscript in abbreviated form. Modern compilations are not cited, because all the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, even previously unpublished letters and manuscripts, are now available online at

 7.  White, Testimonies for the Church, 9 vols. (orig. eds., 1885-1909; 4th ed. Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press, 1948), 3:434, 445.

 8.  Ibid., 3:446.

 9.  White to Brother and Sister E. P. Daniels, Aug. 6, 1886, Letter 11a, 1886.

10. White, Testimonies, 5:236. (Cf. Testimonies 2:165 and 6:292.)

11.  Ibid., 237.

12.  Ibid., 239.

13.  White, The Desire of Ages (orig. ed., 1898; Mountain View, Calif. & Oshawa, Ont.: Pacific Press, 1940), 677–678.

14.  White, “An Appeal to the Brethren in Battle Creek,” 1898, in Testimonies, 8:80.

15.  White to J. Edson and Emma White, Jan. 22, 1902, Letter 8, 1902. In an undated testimony of c.1903 she cites John 17 again and quotes John 17:23-30, commenting “Wonderful statement!” (Testimonies, 8:269)—but this passage is chiefly an affirmation of the Trinity. [ end of page 43 ]

16.  White, “One with Christ in God,” Dec. 31, 1903, MS 149, 1903; published in The Southern Watchman 13.5, “One with Christ in God” (Feb. 2, 1904): 73, and immediately republished in Testimonies, 8:239.

17.  White, Testimonies, 8:240 and cf. 242. The final part of the quoted statement additionally references John 13:35 and perhaps the early church father Tertullian’s celebrated claim about pagan attitudes to Christians: “‘Behold,’ they [i.e., pagans] say, ‘how they [i.e., Christians] love one another’.”

18.  White, Testimonies, 8:243.

19.  White to Brethren, Sept. 1, 1905, in Testimonies, 9: 195–98, quotations at 195, 196, 198.

20.  White, “To Our Brethren Connected with the Publishing Work at College View,” Aug. 24, 1905, in Testimonies, 9: 184–88, quotations at 184, 188.

21. White, Testimonies, 3:209, 8:19; The Acts of the Apostles (orig. ed., 1911; Mountain View, Calif. & Oshawa, Ont.: Pacific Press, n.d.), 45; cf. Testimonies, 8:241 and 9:196.

22.  White, Acts of the Apostles, 90.

23.  Ibid., 91.

24.  Ibid., 91.

25.  Ibid., 317.

26.  White to “My Brother Laborers at Lausanne,” n.d., Letter 66, 1886.

27.  White to Members of General Conference Committee and Publishing Boards of the Review and Herald and Pacific Press, April 8, 1894, Letter 71, 1894; published in General Conference Bulletin [hereafter GCB], 1, extra, 15 (Feb. 27, 1895): 373; in Selections from the Testimonies Setting Forth Important Principles Relating to Our Work in General, The Publishing Work in Particular, and the Relation of Our Institutions to Each Other ([Oakland, CA]: Pacific Press, 1898), 20.

28.  White to Kellogg, April 17, 1899, Letter 73, 1899; published in Testimonies, 8: 173–74.

29.  White, “Sermon by Mrs E. G. White at General Conference, Sabbath, March 28, 1903,” MS 10, 1903; published in “The Work Before Us,” GCB 5.1 (March 30, 1903): 11.

30.  White, “Found Wanting,” April 21, 1903, MS 32, 1903; published in Testimonies 8: 251

         II,  3.   Role of Policy

31. See the Executive Committee’s effective definition when it decided to create a separate published Working Policy [hereafter WP] in 1926: a “careful digest” of all previous “General Conference actions voted in . . . sessions and Councils,” which was to “constitute a working policy”: Actions of the Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee (1926), 20 (GC Archives, Leaflet 6375). Cf. W. A. Spicer, “Proceedings of the General Conference,” Review and Herald 103/30 (June 10, 1926): 2, an article explaining to church members why Working Policy was being created.

32.  Cf. Working Policy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (2015–2016 edition), B 05, 8. [Citations hereafter to WP without dates are to the 2015–2016 edition.].

33.  White, Testimonies, 3:445.

34.  H.W. Cottrell, “The Growth of Denominational Organizations,” Review and Herald 109/12 (March 24, 1932): 267.

35 “The General Conference and Its Divisions—A Description of Roles and Relationships in Light of Organizational Structure Development, Current Governance Documents, and Practices,” report received by Spring Meeting, Apr. 17, 2012, General Conference Executive Committee [hereafter GCC], Minutes, 2012: 54–69, quotation at 69.

36  See White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (1923), 26; Testimonies, 5:534.

37.  From “Constitution of the General Conference” (see endnote 1): “For the purpose of securing unity and efficiency in labor, and promoting the general interests of the cause of present truth, and of perfecting the organization of the Seventh-day Adventists, we, the delegates from the several State Conferences, hereby proceed to organize a General Conference.”

38.  “An Appeal and Appreciation to all Church Entities and Members from the General Conference and Division Officers Regarding the 2015 General Conference Session Vote on Ordination,” recorded (not voted as an action) by Annual Council, Oct. 11, 2015, in GCC Minutes, 2015: 102–103.  [ end of page 44 ]

       II,  4.  Policy and Unity

39.  Cf. “An Appeal and Appreciation to all Church Entities and Members from the General Conference and Division Officers Regarding the 2015 General Conference Session Vote on Ordination,” recorded (not voted as an action) by Annual Council, Oct. 11, 2015, in GCC Minutes, 2015: 102–103.

40.  “Mission Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” WP A 05 05.

      III.  Diversity and Unity

41.  White, Letter 71, 1894 (cited in n. 27).

42.  White, MS 10, 1903 (cited in n. 29).

43.  White, “Unity in Diversity,” MS 38a, 1909; published in “The Spirit of Independence, Read to the General Conference Session by E. G. White, May 30, 1909,” GCB 6:15. May 31, 1909: 221, and republished in Testimonies, 9:259–60.
44.  Testimonies, 9:259.

45.  White, “Rebellion Within the Ranks,” MS 1, 1865; “Testimony Concerning Moses Hull and Wife, Also Brother Whitney,” MS 6, 1862; “Regarding James White as a Laborer,” MS 4, 1866; “Testimony Regarding a Young Licentiate in Minnesota,” MS 8, 1883; “Treatment of the Erring,” MS 11, 1888; “Instruction Regarding Church Discipline,” MS 61, 1902; White to Brother and Sister Scott, July 6, 1863, Letter 5, 1863; White to Brethren Atwood and Pratt, May 28, 1890 Letter 1c, 1890.

​46.  White, Acts of the Apostles, 87.

47.  Ibid., 89; cf. Acts 6: 2–7. See Mark A. Finley, “Toward Unity in the Body of Christ,” paper presented to the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, Columbia, Md., Jan. 24, 2014: 

48.  White, Acts of the Apostles, 190.

49.  See Acts 15:6, 22-23 and cf. White, Acts of the Apostles, 190, 196, and 383.

50.  White, Acts of the Apostles, 196.

51.  Ibid., 197.

52.  Ibid., 96.

53.  W. A. Spicer, “Gospel Order, No. 1, The Divine Principle of Organization,” Review and Herald 86/12 (March 25, 1909): 5. Spicer was GC Secretary at the time he wrote this, an office he held for 19 years, followed by eight as President. The GC Executive Committee, just over a century later, similarly endorsed the principle of allowing variations, “according to conditions and work”: “The General Conference and Its Divisions,” GCC Minutes, 2012:68.

54.  “Statement on Church Polity, Procedures, and the Resolution of Disagreements in the Light of Recent Actions on Ministerial Ordination,” Annual Council, Oct. 16, 2012, GCC Minutes 2012: 205–208 quotation at 206.

55.  Oliver O. Montgomery, Principles of Church Organization and Administration (Takoma Park, Washington, D. C.: Review & Herald Publishing, 1942), 98.

56.  Constitution, art. IV.

57.  Constitution, art. III.

58.  General Conference Bylaws, art. I, sec. 4.

59.  Bylaws, art. XIII, sec. 2.a.

60.  Bylaws, art. XIII, sec. 1.a; Constitution, art. VIII, sec. 1.b.

61.  Bylaws, art. XIII, sec. 1.a.

62.  Middle East Division Committee, Apr. 17 and May 16, 1962, actions 62/34 and 62/47, Division Committee Minutes, pp. 954, 957. GCC Minutes, May 3, 1962, pp.1238.

63.  “The General Conference and Its Divisions,” GCC Minutes, 2012: 63, with examples on 63–64.

64.  “Principles and Practices in Organizational Flexibility for Seventh-day Adventist Denominational Structure,” Report of the Commission on Ministries, Services, and Structures, Annual Council, Oct. 15, 2007, GCC Minutes, 2007: 139–64, quotation at 143.

65.  “The General Conference and Its Divisions,” GCC Minutes, 2012: 68.

66.  WP B 10 27 and B 10 28. 46

67.  On the 1901 Session, see n. 107 and above pp. 22-23. The approved variations in the organizational model are summarized in WP B 10 28, nos. 2–5.

68.  See, e.g., GC Officers Meetings, Aug. 21 and 31, 1967, GC Officers Minutes, 1967: 244, 256–57: the title originally suggested was “Austrian Union of Seventh-day Adventist Churches” (Ibid., 256) but was immediately simplified: see Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1968, 237.

69.  Annual Council, Oct. 7, 1983, GCC Minutes, 1983: 293–95, at 293. Vote on 293, quote on 294.

70.  It first appears in WP (1984), B 10 05; it appears for the last time in WP (2006–2007), B 85 05.

71.  General Conference and Division Officers, Mar. 9, 1999, in ADCOM Minutes, 1999: 68–69 (action), 72ff. (copy of report: “Variations in Administrative Relationships Within Seventh-day Adventist Denominational Structure,” 11 pp).

72.  They first appear in WP (2007–2008), B 10 27–28. The actions adding the new sections were taken Oct. 15, 2007, see GCC Minutes, 2007: 155–58.

73.  WP BA 10 28, no. 1.

74.  As of 2015 there were 14 unions of churches, in five divisions (ESD, EUD, IAD, SAD and TED), out of 132 unions of all kinds, i.e., 11% of the total. See Annual Statistical Report, 152 (2016), 8, table 15.

75.  “The General Conference and Its Divisions,” GCC Minutes, 2012:69.

76.  Ibid., 68.

77.  WP B 10 22; cf. Constitution, art. III; Bylaws, art. XIII, sec. 1.a.

78.  WP B 40 05, cf. B 05, 1; and A 05 05, A 09 05

       IV.   Authority in Spirit of Prophecy

79.  E.g., Gerry Chudleigh, Who runs the Church? Understanding the Unity, Structure and Authority of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Lincoln, NE: AdventSource, [2013]), 27–30.

80.  Cf. George E. Rice, “The church: Voice of God?”, Ministry 60:12 (Dec. 1987): 4.

81.  White, Testimonies, 3:414, and also cf. 433 (later in the same testimony) and 450–51 (from another testimony from 1875, cited separately below), both of which make similar points using similar language. The identity of Lee as the recipient was supplied by the Ellen G. White Estate, drawing on documents in their possession.

82.  Testimonies, 3:417.

83.  Ibid., 450.

84.  Ibid., 428.

85.  Testimonies, 3:492. The identity of Butler as the recipient was, again, supplied by the Ellen G. White Estate, though it is fairly clear from the language of the testimony and the context.

86.  Ibid., 493.

87.  Ibid., 445.

88.  See D. J. B. Trim, “Fit for purpose? The General Conference Secretariat and Seventh-day Adventist mission in historical purpose,” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies 11/2 (Fall 2015): 184.

89.  Special meetings, August 17, 1875, GC Session minutes, pp. 90-91.

90.  Chudleigh, Who runs the Church?, 30.

91.  Trim, “Fit for purpose,” 184–85; Cf. George Knight, Organizing for mission and growth: The development of Adventist church structure. Hagerstown, Md.: RHPA, 2006), 75.

92.  Joe Engelkemier, “Independent Ministries: Should they cooperate with church leaders?,” part 3, “A look at ‘kingly power,’ responsibility, and unity,” Adventist Review 166/51 (Dec. 21, 1989): 17; Seventhday Adventist Yearbook: 1890, 53, 115, and 1893, 60; “Statistics of European Union Conference” and “Summary of Statistics of Conferences and Missions for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1900,” GCB 4, extra, no. 6 (April 9, 1901): 161–63.

93.  White, “Board and Council meetings,” n.d., MS 33, 1891.

94.  White, MS 33, 1891. See Rice, “The church,” 5.

95.  White, “Relation of the G. C. Committee to Business Interests,” n.d., MS 33, 1895.

96.  White, “Concerning the Review and Herald Publishing Association,” Oct. 12, 1895, MS 57, 1895.

97.  White to Brother and Sister Waggoner, Aug. 26, 1898, Letter 77, 1898.  [ end of page 46 ]

98.  See Engelkemier, “Independent Ministries,” 16–17; cf. Chudleigh, Who runs the Church?, 29.

99.  “General Conference Proceedings,” Thirty-fourth Session, 1st meeting, April 2, 1901, in GCB 4, extra, 1 (April 3, 1901): 25; MS 35, 1901 (cited n. 4).

100.  “General Conference Proceedings,” 25.

101.  Ibid., 25, 26.

102.  A. G. Daniells commented after her speech (“General Conference Proceedings,” 27, cited in n. 100): “A number of the brethren . . . met yesterday in an informal way . . . . Sister White was present and spoke very plainly to us. . . . We received substantially the same instruction that has been given us to-day.”

103.  White, “Talk by Mrs E. G. White in College Library, April 1, 1901,” MS 43, 1901.

104.  This is not in Ellen White’s prepared text (MS 43, 1901, cited in n. 104) but she certainly departed from the text at points, extemporizing, as is evident at multiple points in the shorthand notes of her address taken by C. C. Crisler (who was then President Irwin’s private secretary but later Ellen White’s), from which these statements are taken: “Talk of Mrs E. G. White, before representative brethren, in the College Library, April 1, 1901,” MS 43a, 1901.

105.  April 2, 1901, in “General Conference Proceedings,” 26 (cited in n. 99).

106.  The authoritative study of the 1901 Session and the organizational model it introduced is Barry Oliver, SDA Organizational Structure: Past, Present and Future (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1989).

107.  April 2, 1901, in “General Conference Proceedings,” 25 (cited in n. 99).

108.  See Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, rev. ed. (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2000), 277.

109.  White to J. Edson White, June, 1901 (two-part letter, no date specified for first part, June 5 for second), Letter 54, 1901. In the June 5 continuation, Ellen White reiterated her sentiments for emphasis: “It hurts me to think that you are using words which I wrote prior to the Conference. Since the Conference, great changes have been made.”

       IV. 4 - Kellogg and "Kingly Power"

110.  See Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, vol. V, The Early Elmshaven years: 1900–1905 (Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing, 1981), 243–46, 248–53, 255–57. Cf. Rice, “The church,” 16.

111.  White, “Regarding Work of General Conference,” Apr. 3, 1903, MS 26, 1903.

112.  White to “the Leaders in the Medical Work,” Aug. 4, 1903, in Testimonies, 8: 232–33; she uses the term three times. Cf. White to Kellogg, Nov. 10, 1899, Letter 232, 1899: “you took so many responsibilities upon yourself that it was as though one man's brain, and that your own, was brain for all the others.”

113.  White, Nov. 17, 1903, Testimonies, 8:236–37.

114.  White, Testimonies, 9:260.

115.  Ibid., 260.

116.  Ibid., 261.

117.  Ibid., 260.

118.  Ibid., 260-61.

119.  Ibid., 260. For a similar assessment of White’s meaning, cf. Knight, Organizing for mission and growth, 74–75.

120.  White, Testimonies, 9:260 (see n. 115).

121.  This was first published in May 1911, in the Review and Herald, but was evidently drawn from the MS of Acts of the Apostles, which appeared later that year. See Ellen G. White, “Separated Unto the Gospel,” Review and Herald 88/19 (May 11, 1911): 4.; Acts of the Apostles, 163–64; Gospel workers: Instruction for all who are “Laborers together with God” (Washington, D.C.: RHPA, 1915), 443. This passage is not in the first edition of Gospel workers (1892).

122.  White, Testimonies, 3:417.

123.  Ibid., 492.

124.  Ibid., 493.

125.  White, Testimonies, 9:260 (see n. 115).

126.  Ibid., 260 (cited in n. 115).

127.  White, Acts of the Apostles, 163.

       V.   Unilateralism

128.  A recent study states that Ellen G White renounced her 1875 position in the 1890s and never fully returned to it. This claim, however, is based on an extraordinary misreading or rather misquotation of Ellen White’s writings. Chudleigh, Who runs the church?, 30, asserts that “in the 1909 statement, she does not use the strong terms she used earlier [in 1875]. Instead, her strongest counsel in 1909 is that the decisions of the GC in session should ‘be respected’ and ‘shall have authority.’” This argument can only be advanced because the author omits the entire paragraph that ends: “private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered. Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence contrary to the decision of the general body.” (This paragraph is quoted in full in the text above.) I.e., the author does not quote the two sentences that explicitly say what he denies is said—thus, contrary to his claim, Ellen White does use precisely the “strong terms she used earlier.” The best that can be said of this analysis is that it is careless.

129.  White, Testimonies, 5:236. This testimony, on “Christian Unity,” is analyzed at greater length above, pp. 4-5.

130.  White, Letter 11a, 1886 (cited n. 9).

131.  White, “The color line,” Oct. 21, 1908, MS 107, 1908; published in Testimonies, 9: 213–22, quotation at 216.

132.  White, Testimonies, 5: 236–37, quotation at 236.

133.  White, address at Basel, Switzerland, Sept. 24, 1885, Testimonies, 9: 181.

134.  White, Letter 11a, 1886 (cited n. 9).

135.  White, Sept. 8, 1900, diary entry, MS 82, 1900.

136.  White, Testimonies, 3: 446–47, quotation on 447.
137.  White to “Brethren and Sisters at Oakland,” Mar. 1, 1887, in Testimonies, 5:534–35.
138.  White, Letter 66, 1886.
139.  White, Testimonies, 9:187.
140.  White, “Testimony Concerning Sister Haskell,” June 28, 1898, MS 83, 1898

141.  White to Kellogg, [March 3, 1898], Letter 123, 1898; published in Testimonies for the Church, 8:161. The quotation comes from the Testimonies; the letters reads with slightly different wordings for two sentences, while still retaining the same meaning: “To stand thus would place you on an unsound footing” and “no confederacy can stand but that which God has framed”.

142.  White to Kellogg, April 17, 1899, Letter 73, 1899; published in Testimonies, 8:173–74.

143.  White, “Words of Instruction Regarding the Building of the Sanitarium,” July 13, 1900, MS 39, 1900; published in “Work in Christ’s Lines,” Review and Herald 79/25 (June 24, 1902): 8.

144.  “Instruction Regarding Church Discipline,” May 13, 1902, MS 61, 1902.

145.  White, MS 10, 1903 (cited in n. 29).
146.  White, Testimonies, 9:187 (cited n. 139).
147.  Ibid., repr. Gospel Workers [1915], 487.
148.  White, Testimonies, 3: 445. See also MS 135, 1901.
149.  White, Letter 11a, 1886 (cited n. 9).

150.   White to Brother Church, March 21, 1888, Letter 33, 1888.
151.  Ibid.
152.  White, Testimonies, 9:257, 260.

153.  Ibid., 9: 257.
154.  Ibid. 9:258.
155.  White, Acts of the Apostles, 163–64; repr. Gospel Workers [1915], 443. (cited n. 121).
156.  White, Testimonies, 5:236.

      VI.   Application

157.  Unless/until it takes an action changing course. This has happened, though rarely, in our history. Perhaps the best-known episode of a session reversing itself, in the 1870s, is analyzed in depth by Kevin  [ end of page 48 ]
​M. Burton, “Centralized for Protection: George I. Butler and His Philosophy of One-person Leadership,” unpublished MA thesis (Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University 2015).

158.  See the “Unions and Ordination” Statement (cited n. 1).

159.  D. J. B. Trim, “The Ordination of Women in Seventh-day Adventist Policy and Practice, up to 1972,” paper presented to the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, Linthicum Heights, Md., July 22, 2013 ( ), 1–2, 6–7, 9–11, 24. The first female commissioned minister was Del Delker in 1981: GCC, Spring Meeting, Apr. 30, 1981, in GCC Minutes, 1981: 116.

160.  On the proposal to the Forty-first (1881) Session, which has been misunderstood and misrepresented, see Trim, “Ordination of Women,” 12–17 (cited in n. 159). For the Fifty-fifth (1990) Session action, July 11, 1990, see GCC Minutes, 1990: 1039–40, cited above, n. 2.

161.  Fifty-sixth Session, July 5, 1995, minutes in Adventist Review 172/33 (July 11, 1995): 30 (cited in n. 3); Sixtieth Session, July 8, 2015, transcript at,-wednesday-pm,-july-8,-2015.pdf:  72–73.

162.  “Statement on Ordination to the Ministry and Ministerial Credentials,” GCC Minutes, April 3, 1930, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 13: 1122–1123, quotation at 1123. This wording appears in policy currently: WP L 60 10.

163.  Twenty-fourth Session, Nov. 20, 1885, “Records of the General Conference,” vol. 2 (1879–1886): 113 (in GC Archives, box 6873).
164.  Twenty-fourth Session, Dec. 2 and 3, 1885, “Records of the General Conference,” vol. 2: 126 (in GC Archives, box 6873).

165.  Autumn Council, Oct. 21, 1938, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 15: 894.
166.  Autumn Council, Oct. 27, 1942, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 16: 661. 

167.  Currently, WP E 50.
168.  WP E 10 100: “When an ordained/licensed minister changes his denominational employment to work other than that for which a ministerial credential/license is ordinarily issued, his credential/ license shall cease to be valid . . . .”

169. Annual Council, Oct. 16, 1975, GCC Minutes, 1975: 408, 409.

170. “The Conference,” Review and Herald 52 (Oct. 17, 1878): 124. See Kevin M. Burton, “Wolcott Hackley Littlejohn: Defender of the Faith,” Andrews University Seminary Student Journal 1 (Spring 2015): 93, 95–96. The stipulations in WP that “The credential/license of a minister who experiences a moral fall or apostatizes shall be withdrawn permanently” (WP L 60 25, 1), and that, in such cases, a credentialed minister “shall be ineligible for future employment as a Seventh-day Adventist minister” while a licensed minister “shall be ineligible for future ordination or employment as a . . . minister” (WP L 60 25, 2.a–b) have all been in place since 1982 (Annual Council, Oct. 11, 1982, GCC Minutes, 1982: 301-303).

171.  GCC, Sept. 24, 1897, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 3: 9, 166.
172.  Forty-fourth Session, June 4, 1941, minutes in “Proceedings of the General Conference,” Review and Herald 118/30 (June 8, 1941; General Conference Report, no. 9): 203.
173.  Annual Council, Oct. 28, 1941, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 16: 168.
174.  GCC, Dec. 16, 1946, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 17: 340–41. WP L 60 25, 2; cf. L 60 20, 1.
175.  M. L. Andreasen’s credentials were suspended and later restored: GCC, Apr. 6, 1961, “Minutes of Meetings of GC Committee,” vol. 20: 900; General Conference Officers meeting, Feb. 26, Minutes 1962: 41. Desmond Ford’s credentials were withdrawn but his ordination was not annulled, at least initially: GCC Sept. 18, 1980, GCC Minutes 1980: 246. In 1945, the credentials of F. C. Carrier were “surrendered” by Carrier before the GC Executive Committee took an action “To annul his ordination” (for a moral fall): GCC, Mar. 7, 1945, “General Conference Committee Proceedings,” vol. 16: 1802. This meant that, briefly, he was in Ford’s situation, but this may have been a matter of timing, given that Carrier was employed in California and it took time for the GC Executive Committee to act in his case.   [ end of page 49 ]

176.  WP L 60 25, 3. Such actions are normally taken by organizations at lower levels of structure than the GC, but since the policies regarding moral fall and apostasy were added in 1941, there have been several cases in which the GC Executive Committee has acted in accordance with what is now WP L 60: e.g., GCC, Jan. 29, 1981, Apr. 30, 1981 (two pastors), Feb. 17, 1983 and Sept. 25, 2008, in GCC Minutes, 1981: 28, 119, 1983: 47, and 2008: 55–56. In all five cases, ministerial credentials were “withdraw[n]” as part of the same disciplinary process either “to annul” (1981) ordination or record it as having been “made void” (1983, 2008). (Cf. the examples in n. 176, above.

177.  The 1976 Annual Council approved a statement on the “role and status” of licensed ministers. It accepted that, in an example of diversity of practice, a licensed minister, in some places, had come to be expected to do more than “develop his ministerial gift, especially in the area of soul-winning.” In its statement the GC Executive Committee recognized: “There are circumstances in many fields . . . where it is necessary for the conference/mission to appoint [a licentiate] to carry responsibilities as pastor or assistant pastor of a church of group of churches.” However, a licentiate’s authority and right “to perform certain ministerial functions” was dependent on election and ordination as an elder in a local church, and limited to that local church, while (as Annual Council noted) “in the nature of the case” in many fields, the licentiate “also represents the conference/mission which appoints him and . . . the field may wish to extend his responsibilities and authority delegating to him certain other ministerial functions in order to enable him to discharge his responsibilities satisfactorily.” (Annual Council, Oct. 20, 1976, GCC Minutes, 1976: 347.) The statement therefore allows: “In certain circumstances the responsibility and authority of the licensed minister may be extended to include the performance of specific functions of the ordained minister in the churches to which he is assigned.” This may seem to permit unions only to license pastors if they so choose, but the statement continued: “This responsibility belongs to the division committee which shall clearly outline for its territory the ministerial functions which may be delegated to licensed ministers”. (GCC Minutes, 1976: 347.) The following year, Annual Council (Oct. 16, 1977, GCC Minutes, 1977: 320– 21) added a new policy, which used an adapted form of the statement, and is still essentially the same now (WP L 25) as when it first appeared (WP 1977 ed., L 25).  relevant passage has been amended by GC Sessions over the years, it still provides that “the right to permit the extension of a licensed pastor’s authority rests first with the division executive committee, it must approve the extension by specifically and clearly defining the additional functions that that licensed pastor may perform . . . . After the division committee acts, the conference committee may act.” It then expressly forbids the “conference committee [to] extend the functions of a licensed pastor beyond what has been authorized by the division committee.” Indeed, it adds: “A conference committee action cannot be substituted for church election or ordination to gospel ministry.” (Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual [19th ed., rev. 2015, updated 2016], 33.

178.  See WP L 60 20, 3; 60 25, 1 and 2.

179.  White, Testimonies, 5:239 (quoted above, pp. 5, 7).

180. White, Acts of the Apostles, 95.

181. White, Testimonies, 9:260, 261.

182.  White to Brother and Sister Scott, July 6, 1863 (the quoted statement was specifically directed to Sister Scott), Letter 5, 1863.

183.  “The General Conference and Its Divisions,” GCC Minutes, 2012:69 (see n. 75).

184.  See Trim, “Ordination of Women,” 22–23, quotations at 22 (cited in n. 159).

185.  White, Testimonies, 9:260 (see n. 115); cf. 3:492. 

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