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


Chapter 6—The Church Responds

Ellen White was asked to take the first early morning devotional study of the session. It convened on Wednesday at 5:30 A.M. Choosing a topic most appropriate for the occasion, she stressed the apostle James's admonition, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (chap. 1:5, 6). 5BIO 84.1

She dwelt on the experience of those who forget this instruction and “begin to look for human help.” “Is not Christ close beside us, and will He not give us the help we need?” she asked, and then reminded her hearers that in His Word there is the repeated promise “‘If ye ask anything in my name, I will do it.’”—The General Conference Bulletin, 1901, 35, 36. 5BIO 84.2

The whole address was an appeal for the workers to look to God for guidance. This was a thread that was to run through her appeals to the conference, urging men to look away from men and look to God. 5BIO 84.3

Fortunately, as the Committee on Counsel approached the task of reorganization, they had before them the knowledge of what had been done in Africa under Elder A. T. Robinson's leadership. There, departmental interests had been organized within a conference structure, in place of separate, independent organizations representing Sabbath school work, religious liberty, et cetera. 5BIO 84.4

They also had before them what had been done in Australia in the development of a union conference. Sister White had been in that field as the cause had developed and grown. Australia was far from Battle Creek. It took weeks to get letters to the General Conference and back. In the interest of efficiency, A. G. Daniells and W. C. White with encouragement from O. A. Olsen and in close counsel with Sister White, had led out in developing a form of organization that would bind the local conferences together in what they called a union conference. Incorporating the Robinson plan, such interests as Sabbath school work, tract and missionary work, and medical missionary work were brought into the union conference as departments. This plan had worked very successfully. 5BIO 84.5

Europe also had pioneered with some success a plan for a European General Conference, as it was called. 5BIO 85.1

Elder Daniells, with his implicit trust in the messages of the Spirit of Prophecy and his recent experience in leading in the organization of the work in Australia, was the man of the hour. He was the man to step forward and fearlessly initiate steps toward reorganization, standing at the head of the Committee on Counsel. After reviewing the general needs and the directions in which the work should move, the first task was to set up subcommittees. First to be appointed was a committee on organization, with W. C. White as the chairman. Then followed the naming of other committees on education, on colporteur work, on publishing, on missionary work, et cetera. But it was the committee on organization especially that often brought its reports to the conference as a whole. And it was these reports that gained first attention. 5BIO 85.2

An early proposal was that union conferences, after the order of what had been done in Australia, be formed throughout North America and the European fields. At the business session held Thursday afternoon, April 4, a memorial was presented from the Southern field, or what might be termed the Southern district, embodying three conferences and six missions. Perhaps it was the relative smallness of the field, with 2,600 members, and because the work was just getting well established there that they were able quickly to move into line with the new organizational plans and with a suggestion that they be made a union conference. The proposal also called for their president to be a member of the General Conference Committee. With the memorial was a request that they be permitted to draft a constitution for their union. 5BIO 85.3

Again Ellen White entered into the discussion, giving full support to the desires of the brethren in the South. In her speech she said, “I want to say that from the light given to me by God, there should have been years ago organizations such as are now proposed.”—Ibid., 68. 5BIO 86.1

One paragraph in the memorial declared, “We believe that a more complete and independent organization of the work in this field, if sanctioned and approved by the General Conference, will result in great benefit to the work.”—Ibid., 67. 5BIO 86.2

In the discussion that followed the reading of the Southern memorial, the point was made that there is strength in action that is initiated locally. Ellen White in a little speech told of how on her journey to Battle Creek as she visited different places in southern California, she asked, “Why do you not do this? and, Why do you not do that? And the response has been, ‘That is what we want to do, but we must first get the consent of the board, the members of which are in Oakland.’ But, I asked, have you not men here with common sense? If you have not, then by all means transport them. You show great deficiency by having your board hundreds of miles away. That is not the wisdom of God. There are men right where you are who have minds, who have judgment, who need to exercise their brains, who need to be learning how to do things, how to take aggressive work, how to annex new territory. They are not to be dependent on a conference at Battle Creek or a board at Oakland.”—Ibid., 69. 5BIO 86.3

Hers was one of the longer speeches made in regard to the Southern memorial, and it gave her an opportunity to stress some of the points that she was so eager to see carried into the work of the conference. She stated: 5BIO 86.4

We want to understand that there are no gods in our conference. There are to be no kings here, and no kings in any conference that is formed.... New conferences must be formed. It was in the order of God that the union conference was organized in Australasia. The Lord God of Israel will link us all together. The organizing of new conferences is not to separate us. It is to bind us together. The conferences that are formed are to cling mightily to the Lord, so that through them He can reveal His power, making them excellent representations of fruit-bearing. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”— Ibid. 5BIO 86.5

Then, in more general terms, thinking of the work in its larger elements, she declared: 5BIO 87.1

The Lord wants to bind those at this conference heart to heart. No man is to say, “I am a god, and you must do as I say.” From the beginning to the end this is wrong. There is to be an individual work. God says, “Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.” Remember that God can give wisdom to those who handle His work. It is not necessary to send thousands of miles to Battle Creek for advice, and then have to wait weeks before an answer can be received. Those who are right on the ground are to decide what shall be done. You know what you have to wrestle with, but those who are thousands of miles away do not know. 5BIO 87.2

It is best for us to put our trust in the God of Israel. We are to feel that it is time for us to possess new territory, time for us to feel that we must break the bonds which have kept us from going forward.—Ibid., 70. 5BIO 87.3

The whole discussion, in which a number took part, was a very wholesome experience and paved the way somewhat for the work that was in the hands of the committee on organization. 5BIO 87.4