Ellen White Scholars See Crisis, Call for Change

ANGWIN, CALIF. (October 22, 2023) — PRESS RELEASE 

About twenty Seventh-day Adventist scholars spent the weekend of October 22 discussing historically responsible ways to reposition the influence of Ellen G. White in the denomination she helped found. Held in the Scholars’ Reading Room of the Walter Utt Center at Pacific Union College, the working conference proceeded under the motto, “Misuse does not take away proper use.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2023/ellen-white-scholars-see-crisis-call-change
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Grateful to all who made this conference possible and excited to see the creative suggestions for reinterpreting Ellen White’s contribution and role in Adventist formation. “Prophetic authority” needs to be clearly defined (I prefer other designations). She is not “canonical” or privy to supernatural revelations exclusive to her. Rather, let her be wrapped in the same halos we afford to Martin Luther and others whose understanding led to new insights so attractive, a movement was born. Thanks to all who attended this meeting.


And then quickly squirreled away so no one could see it! Well that is what I am assuming since it was not linked to in the article. Really when I see the quote

And nothing really about how they would like it to be changed, being the skeptical person I am I doubt they are willing to come out and say in public what they said in private. Shades of the 1919 Bible conference it appears. But let me see if I could offer my reinterpretation of that Beliefs quote:
–The Gift of prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts God gives his followers. Some of Ellen G White’s statements appear to be manifestations of the gift of prophecy. When those statements show evidence of being in line with the teachings of the Bible and consistent with our understanding of God these writings can provide comfort, guidance and instruction and correction to the church. Prophetic authority is found in the teachings of the Bible, the application of scientific method and reason and always dependent upon the honest search for truth. Messages from God are not limited to someone who claims they have the gift of prophecy. God speaks through whom He wills.


A Conference of this nature is somewhat encouraging in my opinion. I could wish it had been attended by a wider spectrum of Adventist scholars. And that those attending had seen fit to release their 423 word statement which for some unknown reason remains hidden.

It is for each believer to reposition the influence of Ellen White in their individual spiritual experience by reading, studying and heeding her messages.

I believe that we would grossly misunderstand her divinely intended role if we understand that role as chiefly that of historical and devotional interest and without asserting her ‘prophetic insight’ for our contemporary situation.

I believe that a fruitful and very accurate way of understanding Ellen White’s role among Adventists is to see her as a ‘practical theologian’ with prophetic insight. In the last fifty years or so ‘practical theology’ has come to designate a respected theological genre.

This particular theological genre seeks to understand the true nature of theology as it was first practiced in the early centuries of the Christian era. Theology in that era was not so much an academic enterprise done in an ivory tower by academics for academics. Instead it was an occasional enterprise, for the most part, best seen in hymns, treatises, letters, sermons, and pastoral commentaries on the Scriptures. It was done by elders, bishops and church fathers.

Robert Maddox, an American Methodist theologian, in his book Redeeming Grace seeks to illustrate how John Wesley did such ‘practical theology.’ John Wesley’s theological output was mostly occasional pieces of exhortation and insight designed for the needs of his growing bands of Methodists. It’s important and wholly practical function was to norm and form the worldview of Methodist believers.

In this way, Maddox has aided the cause of the relevance of John Wesley’s theology. It has often been rejected as nothing more than ‘folk theology’ or at least minimised in academic circles. But if Wesley’s theology be read in terms of this freshly understood theological genre of ‘practical theology’ there just may be a renewed appreciation of Ellen White’s work were it read in similar terms. It may give us a renewed appreciation for her writings.

Afterall, like Wesley and many within the early Christian centuries, Ellen White wrote occasional pieces such as testimonies, pamphlets, magazine articles and sermons. And all while she sought to norm and form the worldview of Adventist believers.

One large question suggests itself at this juncture. How were and how are such occasional pieces of ‘practical theology’ to achieve coherence and consistency with the great volume of her literary output. Robert Maddox suggested an answer for this question in the experience of John Wesley in his book Redeeming Grace. Maddox suggests that such theological coherence and consistency is ensured by Wesley’s adoption of an ‘orienting concern.’ Further he seeks to demonstrate that ‘redeeming grace’ was Wesley’s orienting concern in his book by that name. This means that all of John Wesley’s literary output was shaped and oriented toward illuminating that central concern.

In a similar way, Ellen White also adopted an orienting concern. Her orienting concern was that of the Great Controversy worldview. All her literary output was shaped by and oriented toward illuminating that central concern of hers.

I do believe that the language of the Fundamental Belief, the ‘Gift of Prophecy’ can be improved. The term ‘remnant church’ is not helpful in my thinking. Adventists are a movement within the universal church. The emphasis here should not be on the institutional scaffolding, however important that may be. For many years now I have attempting to avoid speaking and writing of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I note with interest that the General Conference if officially the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Unfortunately, some other Adventist entities have embraced the more institutional sounding language. The emphasis should be on an organic movement of Adventist believers and the remnant message for the world that they are tasked to share.

In addition to this, I would much prefer to speak of biblical authority and Ellen White’s prophetic insight. This highlights to me the supreme role the Scriptures have in the life of the Adventist believer, while at the same time affirming the prophetic origin of Ellen White’s writings.


It is also impossible to explain Nazism without Hitler, Russian Communism without Marx, or Mormonism without Joseph Smith.

IOW, while the above quote may help explain Adventist elitist exceptionalism, it does nothing to validate the denomination’s claims, confirm Adventism’s self-appointed mission, nor affirm the absolutist assertion of EGW’s supposed divine inspiration.

Also, would it have hurt to have invited at least one or two participants whose income wasn’t derived from Adventist coffers or who had penned a non-Adventist, non-sycophantic assessment of EGW’s life’s work?

In the end, if a more realistic and critical assessment of EGW”s “gifts” is to be presented to, and accepted by, a predominantly secular society, she would be seen as a televangelist before the advent of TV, ala Peter Popoff, Jimmy Swaggart, Jimmy Bakker, et. als. who used her flamboyance, personal histrionics and the technology of her time to impress credulous people with her parlor tricks, unfalsifiable flights of fancy to fantastic and phantasmagorical realms, and semi-spiritualistic mind-reading “testimonies”, all in order to procure an income for herself and her spiritual heirs, such as those who participated in the article’s self-congratulatory, while mildly critical conflab.



Except the misuse, of her writings and of the writings of others, started with her. A lifelong pattern of dishonesty. But, that doesn’t matter.

No full re evaluation will ever happen. It’s too scary…



The hard reality of the situation is demonstrated by the first picture in the article. Nobody under sixty cares - or, the church doesn’t care what anybody under sixty thinks. Without any supernatural input, it would be safe to predict that Ellen White will be taken off life support within a generation.


These are my reflections on the situation:

  1. I felt good and curious when I saw the title of this article, so I read it avidly. I thought, “Wow, is there something really relevant happening in my former Church?”
  2. Where were the younger scholars, if any, that are now 30-40-50 years old? They probably couldn’t be present because their job could be jeopardized?
  3. Was anyone from the GC even invited? Those are the guys who retain the power - and they are not going to support any change in the views of EGW’s role as a true prophet. So what can this group actually accomplish?
  4. Some in this group are already rubber stamped by the SDA Church as “APOSTATES” for daring to expose the flaws and fraud related to EGW. This group will now be marked as “rebels.”
  5. Where is the 423-word statement? I feel like the little kid whose mom tells him, “I bought a delicious ice cream for you. It’s in the freezer. But you can’t open the freezer and eat it.” Very exciting indeed!
  6. Oh, so Des Ford was right attributing to EGW a “pastoral” role but not accepting her as a true prophet?" Yes, he was! But, read my lips, the Church will NEVER acknowledge her flaws and fraud. Regardless of how much evidence of deceit is uncovered and publicized, the Church will stay silent. As silent as it has been about Steve Daily’s very well documented revelations in his book on EGW.
  7. The Church is not going to apologize for lying to its members, for duping them since inception. A change cannot and will not happen without a full acknowledgement and apology. But this cannot be done because it would be catastrophic to the membership numbers. It’s easier to keep the 3rd world members believing that whatever was discussed in this group was nothing but a rebellion and apostasy actually predicted by EGW.
  8. Was this meeting recorded? If so, is there a transcript available to the public?
  9. Of course I support the initiative, and I wish it could trigger some changes in the Adventist Church. But we all know that EGW is untouchable and nothing about her will ever change. Therefore, the word “change” should be erased from this conversation. Actually, “a new Church” would be more appropriate…

It strikes me as strange and disturbing that Spectrum appears to not be able to fully report on itself by meetings it has co-sponsored. I so much detest myself for turning somewhat cynical and hope there is be a good reason for not releasing the full statement. At this report alone, may cement the opinion already held by many, that the individuals associated with this committee, are the very types targeted by Ted Wilson´s 2023 Autumn Council sermon, and are already totally discredited.

Perhaps it would have been wiser, to work “under the radar” for a longer time, to get a broader representation on the committee. But as previous comments to this article point out, this would incur deep personal danger for non-retired church employees.

Where do we find the energy and creativity to prevent this from being a losing cause? Could we imagine it being an uprising of lay members instead. Or will the passing of time let it fade into the sunset and become irrelevant in the next generation.


The article speaks of EGW’s writings repeatedly, but never discusses the included writings of her family, friends and gifted editorial staff. Pull out all their contributions, show us the facsimiles of her handwritten pages so we can work forwards in truth from there. Comparing “her” writing to the Wesley’s or Luther is not an apples to apples scenario. There were not “shown” tall beings walking on Jupiter with good old Enoch, or Thomas Paine howling in hell.


I personally know many of those who participated in this conference, and I have enormous respect for them. When asking why there weren’t more “younger” scholars, I suggest two considerations:

  1. Every one who participated is in peril of losing their job (if they are still employed by the church). Ted will retaliate I expect.

  2. Younger Adventists have not given as much attention to EGW. I think that says something significant.


There is no doubt that Ted Taliban would go after any employee that would dare to be part of any group that would be discussing the Church’s dishonest handling of the EGW fraudulent issues. He already stated it clearly that those who don’t bow down to the charlatanism must leave employment.

Regarding Spectrum’s reporting, let’s see if they will justify the omission of the “423” along with this article, and let’s see how long it will take for them to finally unveil the (so far) secretive document. So far it’s like, “Hey, there are some cookies out there in the woods” …


As a person of color, I’m interested to see how many of the scholars presenting are white. Maybe there are no others who are interested.

I will say, and this may sound very foreign to some even as it is endemic to my soul, that growing up hearing “White says this” or “White is that” always met with some nascent resistance. Why should I care what “White” has to say about my spiritual experience or lack thereof.

Of course one can outgrow religion just as one can outgrow “White” and that generally seems to the trajectory that our white brothers and perhaps a white sister or two are taking at this conference.


…and who knows what this issue would be like today had not early Adventist administrators appointed Ellen White’s son, then grandson to be chair of the White Estate. That is nepotism. Of course they loyally marketed her.


Very positive outcome albeit a little bit too late because those in GC leadership formulate the church’s agenda. And if, according the TW’s recent sermon, those who do not read the Bible the way he does deserve to turn in their resignation letters, the most this noble committee can do is turn in their resignation letters, en masse. This is the price for not being proactive.


i think this conference is possibly interesting and meaningful for the participants, and of course Spectrum commenters, :slightly_smiling_face:, but i predict it will have next to no influence with our millions of Church members…the only question that can have influence is whether egw was inspired…

if egw wasn’t inspired, resolution of her place in our Church is a relatively straightforward atrophy over time…no particular input from anyone is required…

but if egw was inspired, related questions that demand an answer are whether her inspiration differs from the inspiration of the Bible writers - that is, whether something about the 1500 yrs passing between Moses and Paul is substantively different from preceding and subsequent passages of time, particularly the 1800 yrs passing between Paul and egw; and whether there is evidence that God’s communication to his Church through prophets and apostles, from the beginning of the world, somehow ended with the visions of John, coming well after the life of Jesus…

in particular, i think Adventism needs to answer the question of whether the Council of Trent, hundreds of yrs ago, was qualified to close the canon…

quite apart from the prospect of being fired from denominational employment, i can’t see any of our scholars venturing to answer definitively any of these questions…this is why whatever statements they conclude with, while likely interesting to them, as well as some of us, cannot be expected to influence the Church at large…


I don’t see what the SDA church offers to the world about righteousness by faith. I don’t think that is a very strong SDA focus. Plus, that has been around for centuries.

What is the “Blessed Hope” that they are referring to? Jesus’ return? If so, that’s not a new belief, or a belief only held by SDA’s. Once again, that has been believed for millenia.

As to the Sabbath, that is only an issue for SDA’s. Christians aren’t beholding to a day, or the belief that Sabbath is binding on New Covenant believers.


Just as you accuse me of being a closeted SDA, I’m convinced you are secretly a Mormon.

As @GeorgeTichy has pointed out, their canon is not closed and can be added to, as needed, to make the Bible say whatever their denomination wants it to say.

IOW, all you have to do is convince them that EGW is as inspired as they believe Joseph Smith to be.

(Good luck with that!)

That said, you and George are both right.

Adventism can no more renounce EGW and remain Adventist than an astrophysicist can declare the law of gravity invalid and still be considered scientist.

So this conference will have no effect on the direction and inertia of the juggernaut that calls itself “The GC”!



I think the reality is that EGW is only of value if your over sixty, white and likely from an academic background. For the other 20+ million members, they hear about her but mostly leave it there. A smaller, extreme group of Adventist tells everyone else how we can’t live with her writings and that it’s so valuable that we must give out a billion of her favourite book making it seem a more important book than the Bible!!! Another small group of Adventist say Jesus is central, so concentrate on him and not EGW, I wonder which group would win out and more importantly, which group would you like to be a member off?


Judging by their working motto, this committee begins with an a priori set of assumptions about EGW, and are just looking to strengthen and validate them. That’s not research. That’s apologetics dressed up. It’s just that none of them on the committee seems to take seriously the full gravity of what’s been uncovered over time about her, and then admit that the empress has no clothes.

I’m surprised that Spectrum, once dedicated in the increasingly distant past to calling it straight, is seeming to endorse this.