James Nix is Director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference World Headquarters. He has written several books and articles on the history of our church. In 1981 he helped establish, and currently chairs, the board of Adventist Heritage Ministry that operates four Adventist heritage sites, including the Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA. Elder Nix is married to Mindi, a middle-school teacher at Spencerville Adventist Academy in Silver Spring, MD. He has one daughter, Shannon.
WHY IS THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH
REMEMBERING THE CENTENNIAL OF ELLEN WHITE’S
DEATH IN 2015?
Although the doctrines of our church are based upon the
Bible, very early in the history of the Adventist movement
God chose to call Ellen G. White to be His special messenger.
The pioneers soon realized that God was speaking through
her, and that what He showed her helped clarify points of
Scripture they were studying while working out the major
doctrines of our church. As time passed, the pioneers also
discovered that when they followed her counsels, individually
and collectively they prospered, but when they ignored
or refused to heed the counsels, they found themselves in
Ellen White died on July 16, 1915. Today, not only can
we see the valuable role that Ellen White’s ministry filled for
our church during the seventy years from her first vision in
late 1844 until her death, but we have now had an additional
100 years to experience the value of her counsels—demonstrated
in the lives of thousands of Adventists worldwide, as
well as in the whole church’s ongoing life and ministry during
the intervening century. In 2015 the church will not only be
highlighting the impact of that legacy, but more importantly, we will be refocusing on the importance of reading—or better
yet, studying—the actual counsels. As a friend of mine
recently said, the emphasis will be more on the messages
than on the messenger.
And that is exactly how it should
be, and how she would have wanted it.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT ARE BEING
PLANNED FOR 2015?
Adventists worldwide will be blessed by the series of articles
to be published in the Adventist World. Some will focus
on Mrs. White’s life story while others will address specific
themes that she emphasized during her lifetime. But there will
be much more. At the General Conference Session in Texas
next July, the final Friday evening program will highlight the
ministry of Ellen White, and its impact on our church. World
divisions are being encouraged to feature the centennial in
various ways appropriate to their local fields. We also hope
that pastors or local church elders who are responsible for
preaching on Sabbaths will make opportunities during the
year to focus not only on the on-going importance of Ellen
White’s writings today, but also on re-exploring specific biblical
prophets and prophecy in general. Likewise, we hope that
the teachers in our schools will feature Ellen White’s ministry.
The plan is to release the 2016 Ellen White daily devotional
book at the General Conference Session next year. In
addition, a new book is being published in English in 2015
that features various topics of interest relating to Ellen White
and her ministry. We hope that both books will be translated
into other languages. To view a list of things that the White
Estate Board voted relating to the centennial, go to the main
page of the White Estate’s website at EllenWhite.org. That list
is only the starting point for what is being planned for 2015.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC RESOURCES THAT THE ELLEN
G. WHITE ESTATE IS MAKING AVAILABLE TO HELP LOCAL
CHURCH LEADERS IN 2015?
The most useful single resource is the special section of
the White Estate’s main website (EllenWhite.org) that was
created specifically to be a source for information to access
throughout the year. Click on the link to take you to the 2015
“Legacy of Light” Centennial page. We hope that several of
the world divisions will develop similar websites to provide
helpful resource materials in non-English languages. Among
the things on the webpage will be copies of Spirit of Prophecy
Day sermons for the past 70 years; short Ellen White
quotations for use in church bulletins; stories for the children’s
feature on any given Sabbath, and much, much more.
HOW CAN A LOCAL CHURCH LEADER BECOME INVOLVED
IN THIS COMMEMORATION?
Several suggestions come to mind; let me mention a
couple. First, church leaders should find ways to share their
own excitement about what Ellen White’s writings mean to
them personally. Whether in private conversation, or in public,
leaders need to let people know how they feel about Ellen
White, and why. A good way to do that is to read, or reread,
one or more Ellen White books. That way they will have
something fresh to share—something that they have just
discovered in their reading. Of course, we should already be
reading now, but certainly during 2015.
Also, explore ways to encourage church members to read
the writings of Ellen White personally. This might be through
small groups studying an Ellen White book, or it might be in
a sermon, a chapel or worship talk at your church school, or
maybe talks to the young people in their Sabbath School or
local Pathfinder club. In short, think creatively on how you
can help guide your local church members, both young and
old, to take seriously the inspired counsels with which God
has blessed our church.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WERE ELLEN WHITE’S GREATEST
CONTRIBUTIONS TO OUR CHURCH?
I’m glad you asked about her greatest contributions in
the plural and not the singular, because I don’t think we can
summarize them by listing just one contribution. Foremost,
of course, was her continual, consistent uplifting of Christ
and the Bible during her entire ministry. Couple that with her
insights into the great controversy—the cosmic struggle between
Christ and Satan, involving every one of us. Her understanding
of that war impacts almost everything else that
she wrote. In fact, if you stop to think about it, almost everything
of importance that our church does today is affected in
one way or another by our understanding of the great controversy.
Another important contribution has been the unifying
impact that her writings have had on our church’s theology
and organization throughout the years. The fact that we are
a single Adventist Church worldwide, rather than many fragmented
smaller Adventist churches is due in large part to the
impact of Ellen White.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HELPING SOME WHO
ARE HAVING CHALLENGES ACCEPTING ELLEN WHITE’S
(Laughing) Let me first suggest what not to do! Don’t
start an argument with anyone in your church who may not
accept Ellen White’s prophetic ministry. The centennial is not
intended to be controversial. In my experience, the best way
to help people accept her gift is to get them to read her writings.
I have evangelist friends who tell me that long before
they get to the point in their studies where they talk about Ellen
White, they have already given attendees one or more of
her books to read. Consequently, when the gift of prophecy
comes up in their studies, accepting her prophetic ministry
generally is not a problem. Admittedly, sometimes people
look on the Internet where some become confused by untrue
things they find there about Ellen White. However, there are
excellent resources available, both on the Internet as well as
in print, that not only provide answers to many criticisms,
but that also point out the positive impact of Ellen White’s
writings on the spiritual life of those who read and follow her
ADVENTISTS HAVE BEEN GIVEN A SPECIAL BLESSING
IN THE WRITINGS OF ELLEN WHITE. I’M GLAD OUR
CHURCH IS TAKING TIME IN 2015 TO REMIND OURSELVES
OF THAT BLESSING.
I agree. The White Estate hopes that 2015 will be a very
special year for all of us.
Alberto R. Timm, “Centennial of Ellen White’s Prophetic Legacy”,
Adventist World, September 2014, 22.