| Ellen G. White Estate

Is the inspiration of Ellen White a test of fellowship?

I don’t have a definitive answer to your question about the fundamental beliefs. As far as I know, this was the first statement of our fundamental beliefs ever to name Mrs. White and to express explicitly that the gift of prophecy was manifested in her ministry. I believe I heard that there was discussion about the advisability of including this point. I don’t know what the arguments were that finally prevailed.

Of course, I can speculate. It may be that there was broad recognition that, in fact, this article of the fundamental beliefs does indeed describe what the vast majority of Adventists believe, and it would be only honest to come out and say it. For many decades—perhaps throughout the history of this church as an organized movement—we have held that people considering church membership should be taught about the role of the gift of prophecy among us. We haven’t required that people affirm their belief in Ellen White prior to baptism, but our general understanding has been that we ought not to baptize someone who is opposed to accepting her prophetic ministry. This would be unfair to the new member, who would certainly be like a fish out of water. And it would be unfair to the church, which would have a note of discord es-tablished within it.

On the other hand, let me be the first Adventist minister to answer your question about baptism affirmatively—with this qualification. In the passage from which you have quoted, Mrs. White indicates the conditions: first, the potential members do not yet understand the gift (they haven’t had enough information to make an intelligent choice), and second, “if their Christian course is otherwise correct, and they have formed a good Christian character.” (These words follow right on the ones you quoted.) Such individuals are in the category Mrs. White spelled out in the paragraph just before the one you quoted, “Others had no opposition [to the visions], yet dared not take a decided stand in regard to them.” This, I take it, was from lack of information about the visions or experience with them. They simply didn’t know, but they were not opposed. I wouldn’t hesitate to baptize such a person. The baptismal vow in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual poses the right question: “Do you accept the biblical teaching of spiritual gifts and believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church?” If people accept that, then they may join the church if they wish to do so while they examine for themselves the evidences that Mrs. White’s ministry was a genuine manifestation of this gift that they believe in and the presence of which they believe to be an identifying mark of the remnant church of the last days.

Lastly, you asked about the General Conference president’s statement that people can’t say they don’t accept this fundamental belief and still claim to be part of the church. Expressing disbelief would be opposition, wouldn’t it? Here we have moved out of the realm of uncertainty, of needing additional time to study and to gain evidence. To say, “I don’t accept this” is to reject it, isn’t it? It is not the same as the group Mrs. White was speaking of, who “had no opposition [to the visions], yet dared not take a decided stand in regard to them.”

Regarding the person who refuses to accept after being a member and having time and opportunity to examine the validity of the gift, I would stand with the General Conference president and say that people cannot reject one of the fundamental beliefs of the church and still claim to be a part of the church. “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Such people would be uncomfortable in the church, and the church would be troubled by their influence. If people believe the members of this church are so deceived as to follow one who claimed to have the prophetic gift but who did not have it, why would they want to join them?

For more on this matter, see chapter 2 of volume 2 of Arthur White’s biography of Ellen White, and see also the F. M. Wilcox appendix in the same volume.

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