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


Organization of the General Conference

The matter of a meeting referred to as a true “General Conference” could not be put off for a year. By April, 1863, James White was calling for such a meeting to commence Wednesday, May 20, 1863, at 6:00 P.M. “to secure the united and systematic action of the friends of the cause in every part of the wide field” (Ibid., April 28, 1863). At the appointed time, twenty delegates assembled in Battle Creek. They examined and accepted credentials and undertook the work before them. The minutes read: 1BIO 479.8

For the purpose of securing unity and efficiency in labor, the promoting of the general interests of the cause of present truth, and of perfecting the organization of the Seventh-day Adventists, we the delegates from the several State conferences hereby proceed to organize a General Conference, and adopt the following constitution for the government thereof.—Ibid., May 26, 1863. 1BIO 480.1

There were nine articles in the constitution, specifying the name General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Three officers were called for—president, secretary, and treasurer—and an executive committee of three, of which the president was to be one. Article Five was perhaps the most important, for it made provision for the uniform distribution of labor and the uniform handling of funds. 1BIO 480.2

An election of officers and an executive committee was the next business. The minutes report an interesting turn: 1BIO 480.3

The committee on nominations reported as follows: For President, James White. Secretary, Uriah Smith. Treasurer, E. S. Walker. Executive Committee, James White, John Byington, J. N. Loughborough.... 1BIO 480.4

On motion the conference proceeded to vote on the nominations presented. Brother White was unanimously chosen president, but declined to serve. After a considerable time spent in discussion, the brethren urging reasons why he should accept the position, and he why he should not, his resignation was finally accepted, and Elder John Byington elected as president in his stead. 1BIO 480.5

The nominations for secretary and treasurer were then ratified. J. N. Andrews and G. W. Amadon were chosen as the remaining members of the executive committee.—Ibid. 1BIO 480.6

Uriah Smith, reporting the conference, declared: 1BIO 480.7

Perhaps no previous meeting that we have ever enjoyed was characterized by such unity of feeling and harmony of sentiment. In all the important steps taken at this conference, in the organization of a General Conference, and the further perfecting of State conferences, defining the authority of each, and the important duties belonging to their various officers, there was not a dissenting voice, and we may reasonably doubt if there was even a dissenting thought. Such union, on such points, affords the strongest grounds of hope for the immediate advancement of the cause, and its future glorious prosperity and triumph.—Ibid., p. 204.

Organization in its fullness was at last attained: All could praise God and rejoice. 1BIO 481.1