Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers


The General Conference of 1901

Ellen G. White, just back in the United States after a nine-year sojourn in Australia, was invited to attend the General Conference session of 1901, held in Battle Creek. It was the first session she had attended in a ten-year period. The president of the General Conference, G. A. Irwin, made his opening address. Then Ellen White pressed to the front of the assembly, desirous of speaking. Earnestly she addressed the conference, pointing out the manner in which the work of God had been circumscribed as a few men in Battle Creek carried the responsibility of a work far beyond their grasp. She testified that these men and the cause were injured as they encouraged others to look to them for guidance in every phase of the work. She pointed out that there were some men in responsible places who had lost the spirit of consecration so essential to their work. At that meeting she cried out, “What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation and build on a different principle.”—The General Conference Bulletin, April 3, 1901. TM xxxii.2

What took place in the ensuing three weeks is a thrilling story. The message was heeded. Carefully the brethren went to work. Union conferences were formed, binding local conferences together in smaller units, with the responsibilities carried by men in the field. The several associations which represented the branches of general church activity, such as the Sabbath school work and the home-missionary work, took steps to become departments of the General Conference. The General Conference Committee, consisting of thirteen men, was enlarged to twenty-five. In 1903 the committee was further enlarged to include those connected with the newly organized departments of the General Conference. Within a few years’ time, five hundred men were carrying the responsibilities that prior to the General Conference of 1901 had been carried by a handful of men. TM xxxiii.1

Through this reorganization, provision was made for those who were in local fields to make decisions relating to the work in hand. So sound were the foundations laid, that when continued growth made it advisable, the denomination was able to move without any great problems into the development of divisions of the General Conference. In this plan, great areas of the world field were knit together, union conferences becoming units in the division organization. TM xxxiii.2