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Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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    Chapter 28—(1860) Initial Steps in Church Organization

    While Ellen White had written and published at some length on the need of order in managing the work of the church (see Early Writings, 97-104), and while James White had kept this need before the believers in addresses and Review articles, the church was slow to move. What had been presented in general terms, was well received, but when it came to translating this with something constructive there was resistance and opposition. James White's brief articles in February aroused not a few from complacency, and now a great deal was being said.1BIO 420.1

    J. N. Loughborough, working with White in Michigan, was the first to respond. His words were in the affirmative, but on the defensive:1BIO 420.2

    Says one, if you organize so as to hold property by law, you will be a part of Babylon. No; I understand there is quite a difference between our being in a position that we can protect our property by law and using the law to protect and enforce our religious views. If it is wrong to protect church property, why is not wrong for individuals to hold any property legally?—The Review and Herald, March 8, 1860.1BIO 420.3

    James White had closed his statement in the Review, laying the matter of the need of organization of the publishing interests before the church with the words “If any object to our suggestions, will they please write out a plan on which we as a people can act?”—Ibid., February 23, 1860. The first minister laboring out in the field to respond was R. F. Cottrell, a stalwart corresponding editor of the Review. His immediate reaction was decidedly negative:1BIO 420.4

    Brother White has asked the brethren to speak in relation to his proposition to secure the property of the church. I do not know precisely what measure he intends in this suggestion, but understand it is to get incorporated as a religious body according to law. For myself, I think it would be wrong to “make us a name,” since that lies at the foundation of Babylon. I do not think God would approve of it.—Ibid., March 22, 18601BIO 421.1

    Cottrell was experienced and influential, his message, published in James White's absence, set the pace for a long drawn-out battle.1BIO 421.2

    The matter seesawed back and forth through the next six months, with some reference to it in most of the issues of the Review. Then came the call for a general conference at Battle Creek opening Friday, September 28, to consider safeguarding the work through some type of organization. Because of the importance of the conference, its business proceedings are reported in great detail in the issues of the Review and Herald for October 9, 16, and 23. The business meetings began September 29 immediately after the Sabbath, with Joseph Bates called to serve as chairman. Having in mind the debate that had been running in the Review, those attending the conference moved immediately into a lengthy discussion. It was clear that most looked negatively on any steps toward organization. Meetings continued through the evening after the Sabbath and Sunday morning and afternoon, ending finally with the adoption of the following:1BIO 421.3

    We recommend to the conference the organization of a publishing association that may legally hold the Review office.—Ibid., October 16, 1860.1BIO 421.4

    With relief, James White stood and said, “This is just what I have been pleading for, for the last six months.”—Ibid., October 23, 1860. On Monday at sunrise, the conference met to adopt a constitution built upon this action. First, White made some remarks, “expressing his gratitude for the candor and good feeling and unity and regard for the principles of right, manifested by those present” (Ibid.). The first of the ten articles adopted that Monday morning read:1BIO 421.5

    This Association shall be denominated The Advent Review Publishing Association, the object of which shall be the publication of periodicals, books, and tracts, calculated to convey instruction on Bible truth, especially the fulfillment of prophecy, the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.—Ibid.1BIO 421.6

    The balance of the document was given over to details of organization and staffing and an outline of duties of various officers. But the business of the conference was not over.1BIO 422.1

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