Ellen G. White in Europe 1885-1887


A Controversial Problem Arises

With Ellen White, the Bourdeau brothers, their wives, Elder and Mrs. Whitney, and Henry Kellogg present, D. T. Bourdeau presented the idea that France and Italy should become a separate conference, breaking away from the Swiss Conference. How Bourdeau could hope to form a viable conference organization with less than a total of 50 members is not clear, but he argued that each one of the national groups was jealous and independent and therefore would resent being a part of the Swiss Conference. Mrs. White suggested that this was a strong reason why each group should learn to blend with other nationalities. EGWE 77.3

“I told Brother Daniel that this would not be in accordance with God's will.... The truth is one. It will take people from France and Italy, and mingling them with other elements, soften and refine them through the truth.”—Letter 23, 1885. EGWE 77.4

Mrs. White tried to help Bourdeau see that with the cause still in its infancy in these countries, his proposition would only bring weakness. But Bourdeau took offense. He began to repeat stories of abuses he felt he had suffered years before in Battle Creek and later when he was working under J. N. Andrews in Europe. As he became more and more excited, Mrs. White sensed that she could not support such a spirit with her presence. And she rose and left the room. “I will not give sanction to such a spirit,” she explained in her diary. EGWE 77.5

The next morning, her devotional talk elaborated the general principles she had been trying to get across to D. T. Bourdeau. She did not specifically mention him, however. In fact, she tried to broaden the application: EGWE 78.1

“Some who have entered these missionary fields have said, ‘You do not understand the French people; you do not understand the Germans. They have to be met in just such a way.’ But, I inquire, does not God understand them? Is it not He who gives His servants a message for the people?”—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 136. EGWE 78.2

She used the illustration of the Jewish Temple. Its stones were quarried out of the mountains, but when they were brought together they formed a perfect building. Then, with great candor, she said: EGWE 78.3

“Let no one think that there need not be a stroke placed upon him. There is no person, no nation, that is perfect in every habit and thought. One must learn of another. Therefore God wants the different nationalities to mingle together, to be one in judgment, one in purpose. Then the union that there is in Christ will be exemplified.”—Ibid., 137. EGWE 78.4

Mrs. White confessed that she was almost afraid to come to Europe because she had heard so much about the peculiarities of the various nationalities. But then she realized that God could bring people where they would receive the truth. She urged: EGWE 78.5

“Look to Jesus, brethren; copy His manners and spirit, and you will have no trouble in reaching these different classes. We have not six patterns to follow, nor five. We have only one, and that is Christ Jesus. If the Italian brethren, the French brethren, and the German brethren try to be like Him, they will plant their feet upon the same foundation of truth; the same spirit that dwells in one, will dwell in the other,—Christ in them, the hope of glory. I warn you, brethren and sisters, not to build up a wall of partition between different nationalities. On the contrary, seek to break it down wherever it exists.... EGWE 78.6

“As workers together for God, brethren and sisters, lean heavily upon the arm of the Mighty One. Labor for unity, labor for love, and you may become a power in the world.”—Ibid., 137, 138. EGWE 79.1