Delegates to the 58th General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted July 3 to approve a resolution acknowledging the writings of Ellen G. White, a pioneering founder of the church, as something that has “richly blessed” the movement and that continues to have an important role in nurturing the life of the church.
At the same time, a July 1 resolution on the Bible affirms the Scriptures “constitute our supreme rule of faith and practice and [are] the standard by which all teaching and experience is to be tested.”
“We acknowledge that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been richly blessed by the Lord through the gift of prophecy manifested in the ministry and writings of Ellen G White,” the statement, passed without floor discussion, reads. “Through it the Lord guided the development of the Church from a small number of members to a worldwide movement entrusted with the proclamation of a message of salvation in Christ and the hope of His soon return in glory. Her ministry has directly contributed to the preservation of the unity of the Church and has sustained it in difficult times. Her writings continue to be a most positive influence in the life of the Church, providing for it comfort, guidance, instruction, correction, and theological stimulus.”
According to Dr. Gerhard Pfandl, associate director of the church’s Biblical Research Institute, and who clarified for the delegates the document’s purpose, noted the resolution, which has been a regular feature of several world church business sessions, reaffirms a fundamental belief of the church in the gift of prophecy. That belief states that gift “was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White.”
Pfandl said that those questioning the role of end-time prophets in the church are confronted both by the Bible, which says the gift of prophecy will be active in the church, as well as the work of non-Adventist theologians who advance a similar position.
“Since the Bible itself predicted the gift of prophecy at the end of time, Adventists feel we are on solid biblical ground in accepting the ministry of Ellen G. White as a manifestation of [that] prophetic gift,” he said.
“Many evangelical churches claim the same gift for their churches,” Pfandl added. He noted that, in comparison, one non-Adventist theologian, evangelical scholar Wayne Grudem “has developed a theology to justify the manifestation of the prophetic gift in the church today.”
The resolution, Pfandl added, is also “an expression of gratitude to God for the wonderful gift he has given this church” in Mrs. White’s writings, as well as to encourage church members, especially young people, to make use of these writings in their study and devotional lives. It will also demonstrate that these writings, long cherished and studied by Adventists, are still considered relevant to the church today.
The resolution notes the study of Mrs. White’s writings “will constantly lead the Church back to the Bible as the very foundation of faith and practice.”
Dr. Angel Manuel Rodríguez, Biblical Research Institute director, said that for Adventist Christians, the “Bible is the fundamental ground of the Adventist faith and practice.”
He added that the gift exercised by Ellen G. White “can enrich but not define our faith and practice.”
Other delegates to the Session endorsed the resolution. Edward Motschiedler, secretary of the church’s Columbia Union Conference, said “this resolution clarifies that [the Spirit of Prophecy] is something for the present and the future of our church.”
—Additional reporting by Angelika Grozdic