The sessions of the General Conference of the Adventist Church, that were postponed by Corona for two years, are now part of history. If there are no unexpected events causing future postponements, the next General Conference will take place three years from now. The place of the meeting will again be St. Louis.
One of the notable decisions of the meetings of a few weeks ago was the appointment of a new functionary in all local congregations. This person will be tasked with “the responsibility of promoting the importance and right use of the Spirit of Prophecy writings, in collaboration with the publishing ministries coordinator [The term "Spirit of Prophecy" in this context should be read as "Ellen G. White."]
Whether this decision will be widely implemented is highly questionable. My guess is that there will not be many unions and conferences that will give this high priority, and there will not be many congregations that will put this new function on their list of vacancies to be filled at their next election cycle. There is a danger, however, that in some (many?) congregations this issue will lead to further polarization between those who believe that Ellen White’s publications deserve more promotion and those who, on the contrary, believe that she already receives far too much attention.
In very many local churches it has become increasingly difficult to find people for all offices and positions. It is a characteristic for our postmodern society that people are less and less prepared to take on long-term commitments. Often the most capable men and women are not willing to accept positions of leadership. And frequently, those who are willing to do so, are pushed into caring for several different positions. It is curious, to say the least, that the top leadership of the church has not given more weight to this reality at the local level and now adds yet another function to the range of responsibilities for which persons must be found. Small congregations, in particular, will not (be able to) comply with this recommendation.
However, there is a much more important objection that deserves urgent attention. At present, as far as the role of Ellen White is concerned, the main emphasis is on the promotion and mass distribution of her books. The contentious idea of distributing free copies of the book “The Great Controversy” worldwide in the hundreds of millions, illustrates this tendency. At the same time, the church is silent about the questions being raised from many sides about aspects of Ellen White’s person and work, and about all sorts of serious accusations that have been made about how she operated. The General Conference and the Ellen G. White Estate (the body that administers Ellen White’s literary estate) have the primary task of providing the church with information with regard to various matters that remain shrouded in darkness, and of relieving Ellen White and her work of all kinds of myths. Ellen White, with her husband and other early leaders, played a prominent role in the birth and further development of Seventh-day Adventism. Her work can remain an important source of inspiration, but in the long run this is only possible, if the story of who and what Ellen White was, is told in a way that is consistent with the historical facts.
Unfortunately, instead of an initiative from the higher echelons of the church to answer the questions surrounding the person and work of Ellen White, a new initiative is being launched that completely ignores the questions that are becoming more and more pressing.
I hope that unions and conferences that will decide to facilitate the appointment of this local promoter of Ellen White’s books will at least organize webinars or other channels of instruction to adequately equip these coordinators for their task.