by AT News Team
Entitled Ministry to the Cities, a 224-page compilation of material written by Ellen G. White throughout her lengthy career as a cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has recently been published. It includes some material that has been released for the first time with this publication.
Compilations are created by collecting short extracts, usually about one paragraph each but some even a few pages in length, from the vast files of letters, diaries, periodical articles, books and other manuscripts that White authored between 1845 and 1915. It is a method she originated. Her earliest books were collections of material from a variety of her writings. She made provision in her will for her literary assistants to continue to release unpublished materials in this way, although almost all of the posthumous compilations have been a combination of previously published and unpublished materials.
There has been controversy about this process. Generally no record has been published as to who the compilers were in each case and what their guidelines were in creating the compilation. The few critical studies that have been done have revealed some point of view visible in the selections as compared to similar material that was not included.
This latest compilation has some improvements over previous, similar publications. For one thing, the original source of each passage is noted. When additional citations are given for an item, it is clearly visible as a subsequent publication and appears to be included primarily in those cases where the original may be difficult to access. It also does a better job at noting the dates of the original materials. As in several of the more recent compilations, there are a few footnotes explaining some of the archaic or technical terms included in the materials.
Ministry to the Cities in the second chapter includes many of the things that Ellen White wrote in which she described the priority she envisioned for urban mission in the Adventist movement, a concept that has not really been embraced by a significant number of denominational leaders until recently. This is consistent with one of the major goals that Pastor Ted Wilson has set for his administration as General Conference president. He started his career as director of a metropolitan ministry organization in New York City and wrote a PhD dissertation at New York University on this topic.
This volume includes chapters on various aspects of urban mission strategy, Bible stories about cities, the importance of planting churches in the cities, health ministries, and a case study from San Francisco around the turn of the 20th century. At least three similar compilations have been published in the past, not officially endorsed by the Ellen G. White Estate as this volume is.
This volume treats one controversial aspect of the topic very fairly. Some compilations have focused on “outpost evangelism” and a theme of “leaving the cities.” They have evidently been designed to support the belief of some Adventists that the faithful should not live in cities, but travel in periodically from rural locations to do missionary work. In fact, Ellen White never used the word “outpost.” She did write about the fact that a healthier, natural environment for raising children could be found if families lived on farms in rural areas. The majority of American families lived in rural areas and small towns until World War 2.
She also advocated that boarding schools and sanitariums be established in rural areas “outside the city” instead of in urban neighborhoods. This concept is often conflated with the things she wrote about a rural environment being healthier. A key aspect of this perspective that most of today’s readers miss is the essential element in the business model of these institutions played by farming. Today’s agricultural economy in the U.S. makes it almost impossible to do the same thing now.
Ministry to the Cities by Ellen G. White was published earlier this year by the Review & Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland. Copies can be obtained from www.adventistbookcenter.com/ or local bookstores.