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


Chapter 17—Preparing for the 1903 General Conference

Oakland, California, was chosen as the site for the 1903 General Conference session. The date for the session to open was set for Friday, March 27; it would run through a third Sabbath. Meetings would be held in the Oakland church. Delegates would stay largely in the homes of our church members, and would breakfast with their hosts. A large tent was pitched across the street from the church, where noon and evening meals would be served by the staff of the San Francisco vegetarian restaurant. 5BIO 236.1

This session would be different from any that had preceded it. With the new union conferences functioning well, many matters that normally would come to the General Conference were being handled by union conference committees. 5BIO 236.2

It was planned that this session would be “more a council of leading workers than an occasion for instructing the multitude” (20 WCW, p. 381). 5BIO 236.3

This would allow the rank and file of denominational workers to continue their labor in the field. There would be fewer delegates than assembled for the 1901 session at Battle Creek—initial provision called for 134. 5BIO 236.4

This was the first General Conference session under the new constitution that had been adopted two years before. Not only was the plan for union conferences working well, but the various corporations and associations were being developed into departments under the direction of the General Conference Committee. 5BIO 236.5

One weakness in the 1901 constitution had been early discovered, that the work as outlined by the delegates was to be administered by the General Conference Committee of twenty-five, under officers of its choosing—a chairman, a secretary, and a treasurer. Under this arrangement the church officers had no mandate from the people. They were responsible only to a committee of twenty-five. These twenty-five, if they wished to do so, could change the officers during the period between the sessions. 5BIO 236.6

Finance and financial policies loomed large. There were heavy debts, and the proposal that the denomination operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. 5BIO 237.1

Another point of vital importance following the 1901 session was the ownership and control of the institutions of the church. Corporations, controlled by their constituencies, had at some time in the past been formed to handle these institutions. No real problems were faced with bringing the publishing institutions or educational institutions into line, but the story was quite different when it came to medical institutions. It was with misgivings that certain church leaders had watched the steps being taken by Dr. Kellogg. First he had declared the work of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and its related interests as undenominational; second he was trying to keep the control of the institution in the hands of the constituency of the corporation, made up of stockholders, employees, and some General Conference men. 5BIO 237.2

This problem began to come into focus at the meeting of the California Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association (mentioned in Chapter 12) held at St. Helena in late June of 1902. At that time actions were taken with the intent to make all institutions an integral part of the work of the church, controlled by the church. Dr. Kellogg was present and argued stiffly against the move. Nevertheless, it passed. Battle Creek Sanitarium was being rebuilt, and certain denominational leaders entertained grave questions as to the future ownership and control of that institution. 5BIO 237.3

With the developments in all these lines, the leader of the church, Elder Daniells, kept in close touch with Ellen G. White and her son W. C. White. Through the latter he could channel problems and matters to the Lord's messenger; he was also the recipient of direct counsel from W. C. White. 5BIO 237.4