Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers


Consolidation and Its Attendant Problems

At the General Conference session of 1889, consideration was given to problems arising from the operation of two large publishing houses, one in Battle Creek and the other on the Pacific Coast. A committee of twenty-one was appointed to give study to the consolidation of the denomination's publishing interests. The action also called for consideration of a similar organization “for the purpose of controlling all our educational interests and owning the property, thus bringing them under one general management; also, another to control our health institutions.”—The General Conference Bulletin, Nov. 6, 1889, 149. This committee brought its report to the session of 1891. The proposal made was that the General Conference Association, as the corporation formed to represent the legal interests of the church, should take over all the publishing interests and operate the publishing houses from one headquarters. It was recognized that with the larger interests to be placed in the hands of this legal association, the membership should be enlarged to twenty-one. These proposals were adopted by the conference. TM xxvi.2

Subsequent records indicate that steps were taken to consolidate the church's worldwide activities, which had been under the management of various committees, and place them under the control of the General Conference Association with its committee of twenty-one. TM xxvii.1

The leading officers of the General Conference Committee were also leading officers of the General Conference Association. However, with the members of both committees usually scattered throughout the world, the routine business fell largely into the hands of a few men in Battle Creek, some of whom were deeply involved in the business interests of the institutions there. TM xxvii.2

Not all that was contemplated in the action calling for consolidation came about, but sufficient did materialize to start a train of movement toward consolidation and to load the General Conference Association with the financial obligations of the publishing houses, tract societies, educational institutions, and sanitariums throughout the world. With a full meeting of the committee held only rarely, it was inevitable that routine decisions affecting the interests of the cause throughout the world were made by a handful of men in Battle Creek—often no more than four, five, or six men. In her communications Ellen G. White protested the moves toward consolidation, and other moves which did not bear God's endorsement. (See Life Sketches, Pages 319-330, chapter, “Danger in Adopting Worldly Policy in the Work of God.”) TM xxvii.3

The situation at Battle Creek, involving both institutions and the General Conference, seems to be well summed up in the article, “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me,” written in September, 1895, and appearing on pages 359-364. The reader would do well to peruse this carefully. TM xxvii.4

The E. G. White communications to Elder Olsen, president of the General Conference and of the General Conference Association, contained many messages of reproof to those who would take upon themselves the responsibility of making decisions touching so intimately the work of the denomination around the world. Much of this instruction sent to Elder Olsen is to be found in Testimonies to ministers. As noted above, he put the messages into print, that the instruction and warning might be sent to others. TM xxviii.1