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


Chapter 10—The Precarious Winter Trip to New York

The evangelization of the great cities of the world was a matter of deep concern to Ellen White, and high on the list was New York City. Her return to the United States in late 1900 intensified this interest. For several winters an evangelist, E. E. Franke, had conducted meetings in New York City with considerable success. He “could, as one of his converts testified, ‘present all the Seventh-day Adventist doctrines in a finer and more convincing way than he had ever heard them presented’” (Ella Robinson, S.N. Haskell, Man of Action, p. 194). 5BIO 133.1

But Elder Franke also had some weaknesses. He took great pride in extolling E. E. Franke's talents and abilities. He advertised rather lavishly, and sometimes spectacularly. He hired non-Adventist choirs as an attraction to draw crowds. But with his church members he was often abrasive and harsh, and on the least pretense would disfellowship any who disagreed with him. 5BIO 133.2

In November, 1900, Elder S. N. Haskell was asked to spend some time in New York City to strengthen the work. He and his wife worked there for nearly two months. In temperament and experience Haskell and Franke were entirely different. Haskell was a solid New Englander, deliberate, extremely economical, and calm. He and his wife believed in personally contacting the people, visiting them in their homes, studying the Bible with them, bringing them into the church in a strong, solid way. 5BIO 133.3

Soon there were rather bitter conflicts between the two evangelists. In late December, Haskell felt he must withdraw and spend some time in regaining his physical forces. Shortly after this, Elder Franke was called to work in Trenton, New Jersey. Then in midsummer, 1901, Elder and Mrs. Haskell were requested to settle in New York City and make it their field of labor. 5BIO 133.4

Characteristic of their methods, the Haskells began an evangelistic city mission. For this work they rented an apartment on the sixth floor of a good building, well situated, on West 57th Street. They drew around them a group of Bible instructors and colporteurs and opened the way for laymen in New York who could devote some time to the work of the Lord to come and help. The mornings were spent in instruction and the afternoons in house-to-house missionary endeavor. As interests developed, Haskell was successful in securing the Metropolitan Lyceum on 59th Street, in which he planned to conduct a series of Bible lectures. Elders John Brunson and Luther Warren, young ministers called to work in New York, joined Haskell in the presentation of the message in the evening meetings. 5BIO 134.1

Then, quite unexpected to them all, they learned that Elder E. E. Franke would return to New York City to conduct evangelistic meetings through the fall and early winter of 1901. They learned that he planned to hold Sunday-night meetings in Carnegie Hall, only a few blocks from the Metropolitan Lyceum. Elder Haskell feared such a program would interfere with his own efforts. Both men apparently forgot that there is more than one right way to accomplish a task, and in view of the tremendous needs of New York City, many methods of approach and many types of talent were needed. 5BIO 134.2

Letters from Haskell to Ellen White in October revealed the differences and conflicts, and greatly perturbed her. She wrote several letters to Elder Franke during this period, reproving him on many points, encouraging him on others. It was clear that he was very weak in instructing his converts concerning spiritual gifts, and he had little use for health reform (Evangelism, 663-665). When it was announced that he would begin his meetings in Carnegie Hall on the first Sunday in November, there was considerable distress. Ellen White had declared that “according to the light given her we [the brethren] ought not to encourage Elder Franke to return to labor in New York City” (17 WCW p. 425). 5BIO 134.3

But Franke had already secured his hall and had paid the rent. He had advertised in different papers and had distributed ten thousand advertising cards. He had made arrangements for music and other matters (E. E. Franke to EGW, October 25, 1901). 5BIO 134.4

Apparently there were some misunderstandings and perhaps poor communication. On October 31, Ellen White wrote to Elder Franke: 5BIO 135.1

I feel extremely sorry that matters have assumed the shape they have. Why did you not sit down with Elder Haskell and tell him all your plans? Why did you not come to some understanding? ... I am much interested in New York. There is abundant room for you both. Commence your labors in some other part of the city, farther away than within a few blocks of where another hall has been hired for meetings.... You can reach a class that Elder Haskell cannot reach.—Letter 157, 1901. 5BIO 135.2

And on the same day to Elder Haskell she wrote: 5BIO 135.3

I am troubled in mind. Last night matters were urged upon me that have made me afraid that we may fail to recognize that Brother Franke has talents which are needed in our cities. I feel afraid that we have not encouraged him as we should. We do not all have the same gifts.—Letter 158, 1901.

And then she counseled: 5BIO 135.4

Elder Franke needs to be helped in the right way. There is no need of your getting in each other's way, even though you both labor in New York City. It is not necessary for Elder Franke to interfere with your line of work. Is there not abundance to do in that great, wicked city?— Ibid.

Referring again to the vision, she recalled: 5BIO 135.5

The word was spoken regarding Elder Franke, “Forbid him not. I have given him a work to do. Varied gifts must be brought into exercise to break the terrible spell that is upon the people.”— Ibid.

She penned several communications indicating that God had given her light that Elder Franke was not to be restricted in his work. On the other hand, a good deal of counsel was given as to the conduct of his evangelistic meetings and his relationship to his brethren and to the church. 5BIO 135.6