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Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)

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    How and Why Ellen White Dispensed Tithe Funds

    That Ellen White in her special ministry handled some tithe funds has perplexed some. A few have felt it gave them license to disregard the plain teachings on tithe paying cited above, and use their tithes in their own way. The following details and quotations should be carefully noted.5BIO 392.1

    First should be established Ellen White's personal relationship to the tithe and the manner in which she paid her tithe. In an early pamphlet published in 1890 she stated:5BIO 392.2

    I pay my tithe gladly and freely, saying, as did David, “Of thine own have we given thee.”—Manuscript 3, 1890.5BIO 392.3

    The preceding sentence indicates clearly that she paid her tithes in the regular way into the conference treasury.5BIO 392.4

    Unworthy ministers may receive some of the means thus raised, but dare anyone, because of this, withhold from the treasury and brave the curse of God? I dare not.—Ibid.5BIO 392.5

    But back to the special commission God gave her and the burden this placed on her. As a denominational worker she knew from experience what it meant to face illness in the family with no provision for financial assistance. When James White, while serving as president of the General Conference, was stricken with paralysis, and in the absence of provision for such an emergency, she had to take up the carpets from the floor—rag rugs of her own making—and sell them, as well as the furniture, to secure means for the care of her husband. So the instruction that in a special manner she was to watch out for ministers who might be in need was significant to her.5BIO 392.6

    Through vision her attention was often called to the cases of ministers or their families who were being neglected. In many cases she gave financial assistance from her own personal income, or from funds in her control, for at times her personal resources were inadequate. Of this experience, and of the inadequacy of funds, W. C. White wrote:5BIO 392.7

    When we pleaded with her that her income was all consumed in the work of preparing her books for publication, she said:5BIO 393.1

    “The Lord has shown me that the experience which your father and I have passed through in poverty and deprivation, in the early days of our work, has given to me a keen appreciation and sympathy for others who are passing through similar experiences of want and suffering. And where I see workers in this cause that have been true and loyal to the work, who are left to suffer, it is my duty to speak in their behalf. If this does not move the brethren to help them, then I must help them, even if I am obliged to use a portion of my tithe in doing so.”5BIO 393.2

    In harmony with this, Mother has many, many times made request of our conference officers, to give consideration to the necessities of humble but faithful workers whose needs were by some means overlooked.5BIO 393.3

    In many instances her requests have been responded to, and the needed help given. But in some cases the lack of funds and the absence of appreciation of the worthiness and the necessities have left the needy workers without help, and have left her to face the burden.5BIO 393.4

    Then she has said to me or to the bookkeeper, “Send help as soon as you can, and if necessary take it from my tithe.” In many cases we found it possible to respond to her requests by gifts from her personal funds, and in some cases a portion of her tithe has been used.5BIO 393.5

    These experiences relate mostly to the years we were in Europe and Australia, and to the years 1900 to 1906, in behalf of the work in the Southern States.—DF 113b, WCW statement in “Ellen G. White and the Tithe.”5BIO 393.6

    W. C. White then clearly declares: 5BIO 393.7

    During the greater part of the time since my connection with Mother's business in 1881, a full tithe has been paid on her salary, to church or conference treasurer. Instead of paying tithe on the increase from her books, there has been set apart an amount greater than a tithe from which she has made appropriations from time to time in accordance with the instruction mentioned above....

    In view of the extraordinary and exceptional responsibilities placed upon her as a messenger of God having special light and special responsibility in behalf of the needy and the oppressed, she says she has been given special and exceptional authority regarding the use of her tithe. This authority she has used in a limited way as seemed to be for the best interests of the cause.—Ibid.5BIO 394.1

    What called for the January 22 letter written from Mountain View was that in the latter part of 1904 an agent of the Southern Missionary Society (the conference-recognized organization fostering work among the blacks in the South), while visiting in the State of Colorado, received as a gift from one church the sum of about $400 to assist in the work of the society. These funds came to his hands in response to his appeal for help in evangelizing the South. Some of the money was tithe. Elder W. C. White, familiar with the details of this matter, informs us:5BIO 394.2

    The officers of the Southern Missionary Society did not use this money to pay their own wages. They did not use it in any way for their own personal benefit. Neither did they pay it to the support of men whom the conferences in the South thought to be unfitted or unworthy. Neither was it paid to men who were carrying on an unauthorized work of their own devising.5BIO 394.3

    The money was placed in the treasury of the Southern Missionary Society and was paid out in a regular and economical way to approved laborers who were engaged in regular denominational work.—Ibid.5BIO 394.4

    But the action was irregular on the part of the agent who received the money, and the church that paid it to him. This action was considered by the officers of the Colorado Conference to be not only irregular but wrong and censurable. The matter became known to Sister White, and from Mountain View she wrote a letter to the conference president, dated January 22, 1905. Here is her letter to the conference president in its entirety:5BIO 394.5

    My brother, I wish to say to you, Be careful how you move. You are not moving wisely. The least you have to speak about the tithe that has been appropriated to the most needy and the most discouraging field in the world, the more sensible you will be.5BIO 394.6

    It has been presented to me for years that my tithe was to be appropriated by myself to aid the white and colored ministers who were neglected and did not receive sufficient, properly to support their families. When my attention was called to aged ministers, white or black, it was my special duty to investigate into their necessities and supply their needs. This was to be my special work, and I have done this in a number of cases. No man should give notoriety to the fact that in special cases the tithe is used in that way.5BIO 395.1

    In regard to the colored work in the South, that field has been and is still being robbed of the means that should come to the workers in that field. If there have been cases where our sisters have appropriated their tithe to the support of the ministers working for the colored people in the South, let every man, if he is wise, hold his peace.5BIO 395.2

    I have myself appropriated my tithe to the most needy cases brought to my notice. I have been instructed to do this; and as the money is not withheld from the Lord's treasury, it is not a matter that should be commented upon, for it will necessitate my making known these matters, which I do not desire to do, because it is not best.5BIO 395.3

    Some cases have been kept before me for years, and I have supplied their needs from the tithe, as God has instructed me to do. And if any person shall say to me, Sister White, will you appropriate my tithe where you know it is most needed, I shall say, Yes, I will; and I have done so. I commend those sisters who have placed their tithe where it is most needed to help do a work that is being left undone, and if this matter is given publicity, it will create a knowledge which would better be left as it is. I do not care to give publicity to this work which the Lord has appointed me to do, and others to do.5BIO 395.4

    I send this matter to you so that you shall not make a mistake. Circumstances alter cases. I would not advise that anyone should make a practice of gathering up tithe money. But for years there have now and then been persons who have lost confidence in the appropriation of the tithe who have placed their tithe in my hands, and said that if I did not take it they would themselves appropriate it to the families of the most needy ministers they could find. I have taken the money, given a receipt for it, and told them how it was appropriated.5BIO 395.5

    I write this to you so that you shall keep cool and not become stirred up and give publicity to this matter, lest many more shall follow their example.—Letter 267, 1905.5BIO 396.1

    It should be noted that as Mrs. White speaks of the use of the tithe in this and similar cases, it is always in the setting of money that was to be used for the support of the ministers. Any tithe money she handled was used as tithe money should be used. The one whom the Lord used as His messenger, and to whom had been given special enlightenment regarding the necessities of worthy laborers, at a time when there was inadequate provision for these ordained ministers, was authorized to meet those necessities, even to the use of her tithe.5BIO 396.2

    But there is not one phrase or sentence in this letter that would neutralize or countermand the clear and full instruction concerning paying tithe or its use. Any such use of the letter addressed to the conference president is a misuse.5BIO 396.3

    Ellen White did not make a practice of gathering up tithe funds, and she never requested that tithe be placed in her hands.5BIO 396.4

    At times a certain veteran colporteur sent a portion of his tithe to Mrs. White to be used properly in the Lord's work. How she handled such tithe is reflected in a letter she wrote to workers in the South explaining the source of some $500 that she was hastening on to them in response to an urgent need made known to her. She related that a large part of this was money given when she made an appeal for the work in the South at a large gathering. A part of it was tithe money place in her hands by this colporteur. Of this portion she wrote:5BIO 396.5

    I have seventy-five dollars from Brother---, tithe money, and we thought that it would be best to send it along to the Southern field to help colored ministers.... I want it specially applied to the colored ministers, to help them in their salaries.—Letter 262, 1902.5BIO 396.6

    But in writing to this man at another time she revealed not only her course of action but her attitude toward such matters, urging confidence in his brethren and the regular manner of handling the tithe:5BIO 396.7

    You ask if I will accept tithe from you and use it in the cause of God where most needed. In reply I will say that I shall not refuse to do this, but at the same time I will tell you that there is a better way.5BIO 397.1

    It is better to put confidence in the ministers of the conference where you live, and in the officers of the church where you worship. Draw nigh to your brethren. Love them with a true heart fervently, and encourage them to bear their responsibilities faithfully in the fear of God. “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”—Letter 96, 1911.5BIO 397.2

    Great changes have come into the work of the church since the things that are mentioned in the letter to the conference president happened. Such needs as that letter referred to are now well cared for by conference organizations.5BIO 397.3

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