| Ellen G. White Estate

Should the Adventist Church reject all government aid?

I don’t recall any discussion in Mrs. White’s writings concerning government funding of church buildings. She did, however, write about receiving grants of land from governments. The primary statements on this point are included in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pages 197–203. (See the notes in the appendix for pages 197 and 200 too.) Here are a few selections from them:

January 30, 1895.

You inquire with respect to the propriety of receiving gifts from Gentiles or the heathen. [Cecil Rhodes, premier of Cape Colony, South Africa, had given the Adventist Church twelve thousand acres on which to establish a mission.] The question is not strange; but I would ask you, Who is it that owns our world? Who are the real owners of houses and lands? Is it not God? He has an abundance in our world which He has placed in the hands of men, by which the hungry might be supplied with food, the naked with clothing, the homeless with homes. The Lord would move upon worldly men, even idolaters, to give of their abundance for the support of the work, if we would approach them wisely, and give them an opportunity of doing those things which it is their privilege to do. What they would give we should be privileged to receive.

We should become acquainted with men in high places and, by exercising the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove, we might obtain advantage from them, for God would move upon their minds to do many things in behalf of His people. If proper persons would set before those who have means and influence the needs of the work of God in a proper light, these men might do much to advance the cause of God in our world. We have put away from us privileges and advantages that we might have had the benefit of, because we chose to stand independent of the world. But we need not sacrifice one principle of truth while taking advantage of every opportunity to advance the cause of God (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 197, 198).

Our brethren [in Battle Creek, Michigan] are not looking at everything in the right light. [At the 1893 General Conference Session, it had been voted—in view of the denomination’s stand on the separation of church and state—to reject the state’s exemption from paying tax on the church’s properties and to pay the tax.] The movements they have made to pay taxes on the property of the sanitarium and Tabernacle have manifested a zeal and conscientiousness that in all respects is not wise nor correct. Their ideas of religious liberty are being woven with suggestions that do not come from the Holy Spirit, and the religious liberty cause is sickening, and its sickness can only be healed by the grace and gentleness of Christ. . . .

Let these men read the book of Nehemiah with humble hearts touched by the Holy Spirit, and their false ideas will be modified, and correct principles will be seen, and the present order of things will be changed. Nehemiah prayed to God for help, and God heard his prayer. The Lord moved upon heathen kings to come to his help. When his enemies zealously worked against him, the Lord worked through kings to carry out His purpose, and to answer the many prayers that were ascending to Him for the help which they so much needed (ibid., 200).

The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of His people, and it becomes those who are so deeply interested in the religious liberty question not to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves from the help that God has moved men to give, for the advancement of His cause. . . .

The Lord God of Israel has placed His goods in the hands of unbelievers, but they are to be used in favor of doing the works that must be done for a fallen world. The agents through whom these gifts come may open up avenues through which the truth may go. They may have no sympathy with the work, and no faith in Christ, and no practice in His words; but their gifts are not to be refused on that account (ibid., 202, 203).

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