Ellen G. White Writings

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Ellen White and the Role of Women in the Church, Page 1

Ellen White and the Role of Women in the Church

by William Fagal

Table of Contents

1. Part 1: Ellen White’s Statements2
   1. The 1895 “Ordination” Statement2
   2. “Ordination” of Women Physicians3
   3. Women in the Gospel Ministry4
   4. Women as Pastors to the Flock6
   5. Women Engaged in the Ministry9
   6. “Address the Crowd Whenever You Can.”9
2. Part 2: Historical Arguments10
   1. Was Ellen White Ordained?10
   2. Licensing of Woman Ministers10
   3. The 1881 Resolution to Ordain Women14
3. Part 3: Ellen White’s View Of Woman’s Role In The Church17
4. Conclusion21

In accord with historic Protestant teaching, Seventh-day Adventists give priority to the Bible as the rule of faith and practice for the Christian. They also believe that God has given a prophetic witness to the church in the life and work of Ellen G. White (1827-1915). This witness was not to supersede the Bible nor to be an addition to the canon of Scripture, but to call attention to the truths of Scripture and to make their application plain. In light of its belief in the prophetic role of Ellen White, the church takes her writings seriously, viewing them as a source of “comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.” 1Endnotes “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” Number 17: The Gift of Prophecy, in Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1986 (Washington, D.C.: 1986), p. 7.

What was Mrs. White’s stance in regard to the ordination of women? The interest within the Adventist church in the matter of whether to change church polity to include women among those eligible for ordination has prompted some to search Mrs. White’s writings for indications for or against the issue. Not surprisingly, the variety of ideas and opinions about what the church should do have been accompanied by differing constructions of what her position was.

Since most of the work on this matter has endeavored to find support for women’s ordination in Mrs. White’s writings or in her involvement in certain matters of the Adventist Church’s history, the purpose of this study is to examine the validity of such claims as have come to my attention and to present briefly what Ellen White taught regarding the ministry of women in the church. In so doing I will not document the sources of the claims to be examined. Addressing the issues raised is more important than identifying the individuals who have articulated the various views, some of whom are my personal friends, and all of whom have my respect. Our mutual interest is best served simply in learning what is truth and following it. In areas where we may come to differing conclusions, Christian courtesy will lead us to guard the feelings and reputations of those whose positions we may regard to be in error.

Part 1 : Ellen White’s Statements

1. The 1895 “Ordination” Statement

The nearest that Ellen White came to calling explicitly for women to be ordained is in the following statement, published in 1895:

Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young, and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister, but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church. This is another means of strengthening and building up the church. We need to branch out more in our methods of labor. Not a hand should be bound, not a soul discouraged, not a voice should be hushed; let every individual labor, privately or publicly, to help forward this grand work. Place the burdens upon men and

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