15 August 2022  |

My church wants to disfellowship me for not believing in the work of Ellen G. White. Should they be allowed to do that?

Signed, Believer—Except for This

Dear Believer:

Not only should the church not disfellowship someone who does not have faith in Ellen White, it is forbidden to do so by denominational teachings and policy. 

Ellen White is important in the history of our denomination. It is safe to say that it’s unlikely the denomination could have come into being and reached today’s level of success without her. We credit her with defining our message and shaping our mission, which is why Fundamental Belief #18 says that the gift of prophecy 

was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church.

But it quickly adds that her writings 

make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. 

In spite of her place in the Fundamental Beliefs, these are not the test of fellowship. You cannot have your membership in an organization judged by anything other than the promise you make when you joined it. So the official baptismal vow of the church is the only test of fellowship we have, and the baptismal vow makes no mention of Ellen White. 

It follows that one should never be disfellowshipped for rejecting the work of Ellen White.

In the March, 1942, issue of Ministry magazine, Oliver Montgomery, one of the group that crafted the official baptismal vow, explained that there’s a difference between beliefs we value and those that serve as tests of fellowship. With regard to Ellen White he writes, 

We have made no reference to the instruction given this people through the Spirit of prophecy in regard to many evils to be avoided and the right principles to be followed. On this point may I state that as a denomination, we hold to the fundamental Protestant principle of “the Bible, and the Bible only” as our rule of faith and conduct. Every doctrine, every principle of faith, every truth of the gospel, every standard of righteousness, is found in the word of God. … Therefore, it seems clear that the personal or private interpretation of the teachings of the Spirit of prophecy should not be used or applied by an individual worker as a substitution for, or an addition to, accepted church standards as adopted by official action of the body.

Aunty must add (sadly) that many church leaders today seem to have abandoned the Protestant principle of “the Bible and the Bible only.” They treat the writings of Ellen White as though they are the same as, or even above, the Bible. So if you are in a community of Adventists with those kinds of leaders, you can cite the above references until you run out of oxygen and turn blue—but get expelled from the church anyway.

Aunt Sevvy

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