The Making of a church : Ellen G. White's views on church government 1844-1888
Even though Ellen G. White is not usually seen as a theologian there is no doubt that she plays an important role in the understanding of Adventism. Two issues regarding her writings need to be addressed today. The first relates to her understanding of the doctrine of the church during the development of the Seventh-day Adventist organization. The second attempts to find how and in what sense her understanding of the church affected church organization in Adventist history. This study approaches the subject using a historical-descriptive methodology and is divided in four major chapters. The introduction reveals that no specific study exists of the role Ellen G. White had during the early years of the denomination in guiding the process of its organization. Chapter 2 shows how immediately after the disappointment of October 1844, Ellen G. White began to introduce order among the troubled band of ex-Millerites. Chapter 3 focuses on the challenges that the lack of formal organization and fanaticism brought to Sabbathkeepers in the early years of the movement. It shows how Ellen G. White appealed to early Adventists to support their leaders, to remain united in issues of doctrine, to make wise use of their resources to preach the gospel, to keep themselves as a holy people, and to carefully scrutinize the qualifications of those willing to serve as ministers of the gospel. Chapter 4 assesses the role Ellen G. White played in the circumstances that led early Adventists on the road of formal organization. This chapter highlights her appeals to the authority of the church. Chapter 5 describes and analyzes the period of 1863 to 1888, in which Ellen G. White’s appeals for church order were forcefully presented to the leaders of the church as never before. She advocated that (1) mission had to be the driving force of any organizational attempt among Seventh-day Adventists, (2) centralism in the activities of the church was not according to divine order, (3) ministers are to submit their individual independence and to support those whom God has chosen to lead the church, (4) leaders of the church are not called to rule or lord it over the church, (5) faultfinding among church leaders weakens the church as a whole, and (6) union on matters of doctrine is indispensable for the church. The present study concludes that the development of organization in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is pervaded by the influence of Ellen G. White. It shows that, through her prophetic authority, she was able to advocate ecclesiological principles that gave direction and a unique missionary identity to the Seventh-day Adventist Church at that time. Her role set the stage for some order-fostering practices among Seventh-day Adventists which have remained up to the present.