History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church had its roots in the Millerite movement of the 1830s and 1840s, and was officially founded in 1863. Prominent figures in the early church included Hiram Edson, James Springer White and his wife Ellen G. White, Joseph Bates and J. N. Andrews. Over the ensuing decades the church expanded from its original base in New England to become an international organization. Significant developments in the 20th century led to its recognition as a Christian denomination.


The 19th Century provided ideal conditions for the development of a revival movement in the United States. Religious diversity was paramount and many minority movements were formed. Some of these movements held beliefs that would later be adopted by the Seventh-day Adventists.

An interest in prophecy was kindled among some Protestants groups following the arrest of Pope Pius VI in 1798 by the French General Louis Alexandre Berthier. Forerunners of the Adventist movement believed that this event marked the end of the 1260 day prophecy from the Book of Daniel.]

Edson shared what he believed he saw with many of the local Adventists who were greatly encouraged by his account. As a result Edson began studying the bible with two of the other believers in the area, O.R.L. Crosier and Franklin B. Hahn, who published their findings in a paper called "Day-Dawn". This paper explored the biblical parable of the Ten Virgins and attempted to explain why the bridegroom had tarried. The article also explored the concept of the day of atonement and what the authors called "our chronology of events". [cite journal | title = The Law of Moses | author = O. R. L. Crosier | journal = Day-Star Extra | month = February 7 | year = 1846 |] [cite journal | title = October Morn - Adventism's Day of Insight | author = Howard Krug | journal = Adventist Review | year = 2002 |]

The findings published by Crosier, Hahn and Edson led to a new understanding about the sanctuary in heaven. Their paper explained how there was a sanctuary in heaven, that Christ, the High Priest, was to cleanse. The believers understood this cleansing to be what the 2300 days in Daniel was referring to. [cite journal | title = How Our Pioneers Discovered the Sanctuary Doctrine | author = P. Gerard Damsteegt | journal = Adventists Affirm | month = Fall | year = 1992 |]

abbath observance

A young Seventh Day Baptist layperson named Rachel Oakes Preston living in New Hampshire was responsible for introducing the Sabbath to the Millerite Adventists. Due to her influence Frederick Wheeler began keeping the seventh day as the Sabbath, probably in the early spring of 1844. Several members of the Washington, New Hampshire church he occasionally ministered to also followed his decision. These included William and Cyrus Farnsworth. T. M. Preble soon accepted it either from Wheeler or directly from Oakes. These events were shortly followed by the Great Disappointment.

Preble promoted the Sabbath through the February 28, 1845 issue of the "Hope of Israel". In March he published his Sabbath views in tract form. Although he returned to observing Sunday in the next few years, his writing convinced Joseph Bates and J. N. Andrews. These men in turn convinced James and Ellen White, as well as Hiram Edson and hundreds of others. [material above summarised from Light Bearers to the Remnant]

Bates proposed that a meeting should be organised between the believers in New Hampshire and Port Gibson. At this meeting, which occurred sometime in 1846 at Edson's farm, Edson and other Port Gibson believers readily accepted the Sabbath message and at the same time forged an alliance with Bates and two other folk from New Hampshire who later became very influential in the Adventist church, James and Ellen G. White. Between April, 1848, and December of 1850 twenty-two "Sabbath conferences" were held in New York and New England. These meetings were often seen as opportunities for leaders such as James White, Joseph Bates, Stephen Pierce and Hiram Edson to discuss and reach conclusions about doctrinal issues. [cite book | title = Sabbath Conferences | last = Neufield | first = D | year = 1976 | pages = 1255-1256 |]

While initially it was believed that the Sabbath started at 6pm, by 1855 it was generally accepted that the Sabbath begins at Friday sunset.Fact|date=March 2007

The " [http://www.adventistarchives.org/documents.asp?CatID=31&SortBy=1&ShowDateOrder=True Present Truth] " (see below) was largely devoted to the Sabbath at first. J. N. Andrews was the first Adventist to write a book-length defense of the Sabbath, first published in 1861.

The Present Truth

On November 18, 1848, the young lady Ellen White, claimed to have a vision in which God told her that her husband should start a paper. In 1849, James, determined to publish this paper, went to find work as a farm-hand to raise sufficient funds. After Ellen had another one of her visions, she told James that he was to not worry about funds but to set to work on producing the paper to be printed. James readily obeyed, writing from the aid "of a pocket Bible, Cruden's Condensed Concordance, and an abridged dictionary with one of its covers off." Thanks to a generous offer by the printer to delay charges, the group of Advent believers had 1000 copies of the first publication printed. They sent the publication, which was on the topic of the Sabbath, to friends and colleagues they believe would find it of interest. [cite web | url = http://www.whiteestate.org/vault/pt.asp | title = White Estate on Present Truth | accessdate = 2006-07-22 |] [cite web | url = http://www.adventistreview.org/2005bulletin/history.html | title = Our Roots and Mission from AR | accessdate = 2006-07-22 |] In total 11 issues were published, in 1849 and 1850.

Formal Organization

In 1860, the fledging movement finally settled on the name, "Seventh-day Adventist", representative of the church's distinguishing beliefs. Three years later, on May 21, 1863, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was formed and the movement became an official organization.

Worldwide Mission

In 1874 John Nevins Andrews became the first Adventist missionary to travel overseas. Working in Switzerland, he sought to organise the Sabbath-keeping companies under one umbrella. [cite web | url = http://www.aplib.org/Gallery.htm | title = APL Gallery | accessdate = 2006-03-27 |]

Later History

1888 General Conference

In 1888, a General Conference Session occurred in Minneapolis. This session involved a discussion between the then General Conference president, G. I. Butler; editor of the review, Uriah Smith; and a group led by E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones about the meaning of "Righteousness by Faith" and the meaning of the law in Romans and Galatians. Ellen G. White also addressed the conference.

Early 20th century

The early 20th-century brought with it new challenges to Adventist faith and practice. The death of Adventist prophetess Ellen G. White in 1915 brought new questions about how the church would continue without a living prophet. Adventist leaders participated in a variety of Fundamentalist prophetic conferences during and soon after World War I. The 1919 Bible Conference was a pivotal theological event that looked at how Adventists interpreted Bible prophecy and the legacy of Ellen White's writings for the church. The 1919 Bible Conference also had a polarizing influence on Adventist theology with progressives such as A. G. Daniells and W. W. Prescott pitted against traditionalists like Benjamin G. Wilkinson, J. S. Washburn, and Claude Holmes.

Fundamentalism was dominant in the church in the early 20th century; George Knight dates it from 1919 to 1950.

The edited transcripts of the 1952 Bible Conference were published as " [http://www.adventistarchives.org/documents.asp?CatID=94&SortBy=0&ShowDateOrder=False Our Firm Foundation] "DjVulink.

Mid 20th century

The mid 20th century saw a series of conferences take place between Adventist leaders and evangelicals Walter Martin and Donald Barnhouse. These discussions led ultimately to the publication in 1957 of a doctrinal exposition called "Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine". "Questions on Doctrine" together with the follow up book by Martin, "The truth about Seventh-day Adventism" (1960), convinced many Protestants that the Adventist church was not a cult but instead an orthodox Christian church. It also ignited a storm of controversy within Adventism, as M. L. Andreasen and others argued that the church leadership had seriously compromised historic Adventist theology.

According to Raymond Cottrell, the 1952 Bible Conference led to a 15 year theological climate of freedom and openness in the church, though not by the design of the conveners. Without this freedom of objectivity the "Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary" could never have been written, according to its editor-in-chief Francis D. Nichol. [" [http://spectrummagazine.org/spectrum/archive16-20/16-3cottrell.pdf The Untold Story of the Bible Commentary] " by Raymond Cottrell, in "Spectrum" 16:3 (August 1985), p. 35–51. (This reference p. 46–47). Nichol's viewpoint is represented by Cottrell]

During the 1960s, Australian Robert Brinsmead created a controversy with the promotion of his historic "Awakening" message. Desmond Ford and Edward Heppenstall were his chief opponents. Brinsmead would repeatedly change his views over the following decades.

Raymond Cottrell described the period 1969-1979 as "the decade of obscurantism" in which a "triumvirate" consisting of General Conference President Robert H. Pierson, Gordon M. Hyde and Gerhard Hasel attempted to gain control of Adventist biblical studies.Raymond Cottrell, " [http://www.jesusinstituteforum.org/AssetOrLiability.html The "Sanctuary Doctrine" - Asset or Liability?] "]

In the 1970s Kenneth Wood and Herbert Douglass, editors of the "Review and Herald", began to emphasize historic Adventist teachings such as sinless perfection of a final generation, which was opposed by many other Adventists. [ [http://www.presenttruthmag.com/7dayadventist/shaking/7.html The Shaking of Adventism ] ]

Late 20th century and beyond

Desmond Ford convinced Robert Brinsmead his perfectionism was incorrect in about 1970. During the 1970s, what is now the "Adventist Review" carried articles by editor Kenneth Wood and associate editor Herbert Douglass rejecting "Questions on Doctrine" and arguing for a final perfect generation."Righteousness by Faith" entry in "Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists" by Gary Land]

The General Conference addressed this controversy over "righteousness by faith" by holding a conference in Palmdale, California in 1976. Ford was the "center of attention", and the resulting document known as the " [http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/RH/RH1976-22/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=4 Palmdale statement] "DjVulink. [http://www.presenttruthmag.com/7dayadventist/shaking/1.html Adventists: Heirs of the Reformation] , chapter 1 of " [http://www.presenttruthmag.com/7dayadventist/shaking/index.html The Shaking of Adventism] " by Geoffrey J. Paxton] [cite journal
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Christ Our Righteousness
journal = Adventist Review
volume = 153
issue = 22
pages = 4–7
publisher = Review and Herald
location = Washington, D.C.
issn = 0161-1119
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url = http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/RH/RH1976-22/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=4
format = DjVu
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accessdate = 2007-10-23

The 1970s and 1980s saw Ellen G. White's writings come under attack by Walter Rea and others, who charged the Adventist prophetess with plagiarism. At the same time, Adventist scholars such as Arthur Patrick intensely studied White's writings and concluded that White was not inerrant (compare Biblical inerrancy). [cite web
title = Re-visioning the Role of Ellen White, and other papers
author = Arthur Patrick
url = http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/white/patrick/index.htm
accessdate = 2007-01-18
] This gradually changed the way that the church as a whole has used White's writings in matters of doctrine.

The 1980 General Conference session, held in Dallas, produced the church's first official declaration of beliefs voted by the world body, called the "27 Fundamental Beliefs". (This list of beliefs has since been expanded to the present 28 Fundamentals).

Firing of Desmond Ford

The year 1980 also saw the Adventist church become embroiled in a crisis over its investigative judgment teaching, known as the Glacier View controversy. This precipitated a major schism within the church, the effects of which have persisted well into the 21st century. [cite web
title = Sydney Australia Adventist Forum remembers Glacier View twenty-five years later
author = Dr. Milton Hook
date = 2006
url = http://www.atoday.com/news/atnewsbreak/2006/01/16
accessdate = 2007-01-18

Subsequent history

Dale Ratzlaff left the church in 1981, over doctrinal issues, mainly Sabbath and Covenant Theology.

The book "" was first published in 1989, becoming the "best available study of American Seventh-day Adventism" according to [http://www.andrews.edu/cas/history/faculty/land_gary.html Gary Land] , [http://spectrummagazine.typepad.com/the_spectrum_blog/2007/09/review-of-seeki.html#comments Review of "Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream] by Gary Land] and updated and enlarged in 2007, [ [http://www.ruskin-sch.ox.ac.uk/People/staff_detail.php?id=3 Malcolm Bull] and [http://progressiveadventism.com/2007/01/05/interlogue-3-keith-lockhart/ Keith Lockhart] . "Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream", 2nd edn. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007] it "remains the foremost work on this denomination."

In the 1990 Robert S. Folkenberg became president of the General Conference. He suggested four areas of emphasis for the church that were embraces by church leaders throughout the world--1. Assurance in Jesus2. Global Missions3. Organizational Restructuring4. Involving Youth and Young Adults in all aspects of the church.

In 1990 the first "Valuegenesis" survey of students in North American Adventist schools was conducted, with a follow-up survey in 2000.

Proposals supporting the ordination of women were turned down at General Conference Sessions in 1990 in Indianapolis and 1996 in Utrecht. Western representatives generally supported women's ordination, while those from developing nations generally rejected it.

In 1999 Jan Paulsen was elected president of the General Conference. The Seventh-day Adventist Church added more than one million members a year during the early years of the 21st Century.


External links

* " [http://www.presenttruthmag.com/7dayadventist/shaking/index.html The Shaking of Adventism] " by Geoffrey Paxton (Anglican)
* " [http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crj0005b.html From Controversy to Crisis: An Updated Assessment of Seventh-day Adventism] " by Kenneth R. Samples. "Christian Research Journal" 11:1 (Summer 1988), p. 9
* " [http://www.atoday.com/magazine/2002/11/reinventing-adventist-history-how-adventist-historians-transformed-adventist-herita Reinventing Adventist History: How Adventist Historians Transformed Adventist Heritage] by Ciro Sepulveda

Other resources

* Gary Land, "Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists"
* Gary Land, ed. "Adventism in America: A History", 2nd edition. Andrews University Press ( [http://www.andrews.edu/universitypress/catalog.cgi?key=145 publisher's page] )
* "Earliest Seventh-day Adventist Periodicals", reprinted by Andrews University Press. Introduction by George Knight ( [http://www.andrews.edu/universitypress/catalog.cgi?key=181 publisher's page] )
* "Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message & Mission" by Gerard Damsteegt. Andrews University Press ( [http://www.andrews.edu/universitypress/catalog.cgi?key=73 publisher's page] )
* "Adventist Classic Library" series, reprints of up to 40 major titles by 2015 ( [http://www.andrews.edu/universitypress/catalog.cgi?series=7 publisher's page] )
* "Adventism and the American Republic" by Douglas Morgan ( [http://utpress.org/a/searchdetails.php?jobno=T00823 publisher's page] ), about Adventists and religious freedom


* [http://www.adventistreview.org/2002-1543/story1.html "October Morn" by Howard Krug] - a look at Hiram Edson on October 23 1844
* [http://www.adventistreview.org/2002-1543/story1.html "Our Roots and Mission" by William G. Johnsson] - A history of the Adventist Review
* [http://www.catholic.com/library/seventh_day_adventism.asp Catholic.com article on Seventh-day Adventist Church]
* [http://adventist.org.au/about_adventists/history South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventist's History Page]
* [http://pages.prodigy.net/aesir/tgd.htm]
* [http://www.adventist.org/world_church/facts_and_figures/history/index.html.en "Seventh-day Adventists: the Heritage Continues"]

See also

*Seventh-day Adventist Church
*Ellen G. White
*Sabbath in Christianity
*William Miller (preacher)
*Adventist studies

External links

* [http://www.adventistarchives.org/DocArchives.asp Adventist Archives] Search Historical Documents
* [http://www.adventistreview.org/2001-1524/story5.html What is Adventist in Adventism?] by George R. Knight.
* [http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/documents/Prophetic%20Basis%20Adventism.htm Prophetic Basis of Adventism] by Hans K. La Rondelle.
* [http://www.whiteestate.org/pathways/pioneers.asp Pathways of the Pioneers] at the Ellen G. White Estate website
* 150th anniversary addresses by [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOjTLNDrkOc&mode=related&search= George Bush] and [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIrugadxBpE&mode=related&search= Hillary Clinton] on YouTube
* " [http://www.presenttruthmag.com/7dayadventist/shaking/index.html The Shaking of Adventism] " by Anglican Geoffrey J. Paxton, a history of the struggle over righteousness by faith within the Adventist church

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