MAKING US A NAME
The Adventists struggle to organize and select a name.
John N. Andrews
T. J. Butler
J. N. Loughborough
E. A. Poole
J. H. Waggoner
S. B. Warren
As the play opens, we find a physically exhausted James White at home in Rochester, New York, venting his emotions and frustrations in a statement for The Review and Herald, of which he is both manager and editor. In 1855 a heavy burden of debt hangs over the publishing operation, and this, combined with long hours of work in the office, and a responsibility for housing and feeding many of the press employees, has undermined James Whites health. His wife, Ellen, lends a sympathetic ear and supports his decision to have the publishing work relocated and the responsibilities shared by a committee.
Scene Two is set at Battle Creek, Michigan, some months later, where we join a meeting of four local Sabbath-keeping Adventists, among them David Hewitt, their first convert in the town. The four reach a decision to establish the Review press and office in their town before the end of the year, and appoint a committee to carry out the plan.
Scene Three opens five years later, in 1860, at the Battle Creek office of the young Review editor, Uriah Smith, as James White arrives with the notice of an important general meeting to be held in Battle Creek from September 28 to October 1. Despite the fact that the labor is now shared by several people, Whit is still plagued by financial responsibilities which should be shouldered by the church rather than by an individual. The church must legally organize in order to hold and insure property. But the idea has met with considerable opposition form some Adventist leaders who harbor fears of the church becoming Babylon if it becomes an official organization with a name. The general meeting to be held in Battle Creek will address this issue. As Uriah Smith says, It looks like it will be an interesting meeting!
The final scene takes us right into the Battle Creek Conference of 1860, where delegates from churches all over the northeast discuss the question of whether or not to organize. Joseph Bates chairs the discussion, and one by one the delegates come to understand and support Whites proposal. Having made an affirmative decision to organize, the conference must now decide on a name for the body, an issue which raises the hackles of several delegates who are opposed to taking a name. A majority finally comes out in support of finding an appropriate name, and it is David Hewitt who suggests the name Seventh-day Adventists for the growing body of believers.
The subject of organization was a sensitive one for the early Adventist believers. Ousted from the churches of their day, the Millerites equated ecclesiastical organization with Babylon. For several years after the 1844 Disappointment, Adventists held that the door of salvation remained shut to the apostate churches of Christendom.
In contrast to the experience of most Millerites, James White had not suffered expulsion from his church, and retained his ordination as an elder of The Christian Church. As a consequence, he was never forcefully opposed to the concept of church organization, and from the early 1850's both Ellen and James Whit encouraged the move toward gospel order. Through publication of the Present Truth and Review and Herald papers, the Whits were able to establish a measure of unity in faith and practice among believers.
As the number of Sabbath-keeping Adventists multiplied, and the movement expanded beyond the confines of New England, the need for some form of organizational unity and division of responsibility became increasingly apparent. Yet progress in that direction was slow and fraught with controversy. Finally, James White used the question of legal ownership and insurance protection of property (such as publishing office and church buildings) to bring the whole question of organization and taking a name into open discussion.
A Conference at Battle Creek in the fall of 1860 resulted in the first steps toward church organization and it was as at this meeting that the name Seventh-day Adventists was chosen. A year later, the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was organized, but it was until 1863 that the General Conference was established.
The historic 1860 Conference actually began on Saturday night, September 30, and continued through the following Monday, October 2. In this play the sessions and discussions of the Conference have been combined and rearranged into a single scene. However, the views of the various delegates, as well as their arguments, are accurately reflected in the play.
List of Sources:
Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Vols. 6, 7 (1855) and 15, 16 (1860).
Anderson, Godfrey T. Make Us A Name. Adventist Heritage, Vol. 1, no. 2, July 1974, pp. 28-34.
The Beginnings of Adventism in Battle Creek, compiled from articles published in The Enquirer and News, during the 1932 Fall Council.
Loughborough, John N. The Great Second Advent Movement. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1905.
Spalding, Arthur W. Footprints of the Pioneers. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947.
Spalding, Arthur W. Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists. Vol. 1 Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1961.
White, Arthur L. Ellen G. White: the Early Years, 1827-1862. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985.
J. N. Andrews Although his family lived at Waukon, Iowa, in 1860, Andrews was a busy evangelist who at that time was conducting meetings in New York state. His views on all topics and doctrines were carefully thought out, and Bible-based.
Joseph Bates Born in 1792, Bates was much older than most of the early Adventist pioneers, and was well respected by the believers. He chaired the important 1860 Conference where the name Seventh-day Adventists was chosen for the growing church.
Stephen Belden One of the early workers at The Review and Herald in Battle Creek, Belden was married to Sarah Harmon, Ellen Whites sister. Their son, Frank E. Belden, became an Adventist hymn-writer.
Ezra Brackett A layman from Battle Creek to the 1860 Conference.
T. J. Butler A leader of the Sabbath-keeping Adventist church at Gilboa, Ohio, who opposed the concept of church organization and of taking a name. He was the only delegate to vote against the name Seventh-day Adventists at the 1860 Conference, and he and his church left the organization.
Abram Dodge An early Advent believer in Battle Creek.
Joseph Frisbie A Methodist minister converted to the Advent faith in 1853. He moved to Battle Creek and became a leader in the early work of the church there. The first Seventh-day Adventist church in Battle Creek was built on his property.
David Hewitt Remembered as the most honest man in town, David Hewitt was the first Adventist convert in Battle Creek. He took an active role in the growth of the church at Battle Creek, was the local agent for the Review, and in 1860 Conference he moved the adoption of the name Seventh-day Adventists.
Moses Hull A delegate to the 1860 Conference from Knoxville, Iowa. He was an eloquent and convincing preacher, and supported the concept of church organization. Later he left the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
John N. Loughborough Converted to the Advent truth by J. N. Andrews, Loughborough was a strong preacher for the church. He attended the 1860 Conference, and strongly supported the move to organize.
W. Ingraham A delegate from Wisconsin to the 1860 Conference.
E. A. Poole A delegate from New York State to the 1860 Conference. Although initially opposed to organization and adopting a name, he eventually supported the action.
Uriah Smith As a young man of 21, Smith joined the staff of The Advent Review and, in 1855 when the publishing work was moved to Battle Creek, he became its editor, a position he held for most of the next 50 years.
J. H. Waggoner Although he had misgivings about organization, Waggoner finally supported the actions of the 1860 Conference. At that time he was a tent evangelist in Michigan.
S. B. Warren One of the earliest Advent believers at Battle Creek.
Ellen White Through divine revelation, Ellen White guided the growing Adventist movement, including its progress toward organization. Ellen White gave birth to their fourth son just a few days prior to the 1860 Conference.
James White From the earliest days after the 1844 Disappointment, James White took a leadership role in the Sabbath-keeping Adventist movement, especially in the organization of the publishing work.
MAKING US A NAME
SCENE 1. A room in the White home at Rochester, New York. The room serves as James Whites editorial office for The Review and Herald. James White sits at his desk writing. He reads aloud as he writes, with increasing emotion and frustration. The date is February, 1855.
James: Nearly three years since, we came to this city to establish the Press with only $15. At that time there were no friends in this vicinity able to assist us, and we were almost entirely destitute of everything to commence housekeeping. Those who then joined us in this enterprise toiled for no more than food and clothing.
The care of a large family, and of the Review, has fallen principally on us. In this time we have traveled and labored in the churches about one third of the time. This amount of care and labor, together with protracted sickness and deaths in our family, has brought us very near the grave. In this prostrated condition we have been saddened with pecuniary embarrassment, and the unreasonableness of false brethren.
Our usual hours of confinement to our business have been from 14 to 18 out of 24. This has well nigh ruined our health. We are resolved on a change, even if we leave the Office entirely. We hope to live, and if possible, yet do some little good in the world. Having worn out a good constitution in this cause, we can now hope for no more, than that by rest, and care, with the blessing of God, we may yet be able to do something.
When we consented to take charge of the Review, it was with the hope that a Financial Committee would relieve us of much care. But we are still left with the whole burden upon us. Without capital, and without health, we cannot much longer bear the burden.
(At this point, Ellen White enters the room behind where James is sitting. He is not aware of her as she stands behind him, silently listening.)
We have decided :
1. To take all proper means for the recovery of health.
2. To be free from the care of a large family. The hands in the Office will have to pay the usual price of board elsewhere, and receive more wages.
This will increase the cost of the Review.
3. To get free from debts as soon . . .
(Suddenly stops, aware that someone is standing behind him. Turns around to find Ellen looking at him. A moment of silence.)
Ellen: (With a touch of humor.) Is something troubling you, James?
James: (Sighs) Ive been writing a piece for next weeks Review. (Turns in his chair to face Ellen.) Ellen, we are putting ourselves in the grave with all we are trying to do.
Ellen: I have no quarrel with that, James. The Lord does not expect you to administer His church single-handed. (She places a hand on his shoulder, while continuing to stand behind him, and looking away from him most of the time.)
James: The Lord doesnt, Ellen, but the saints do! Whenever there is a problem or something to be done, let Brother White take care of it! We dont need a management committee! Brother White has done it all since he started with Present Truth six years ago. Let him carry it till the Lord comes!
Ellen: So what is Brother White proposing to do?
James: For a start, we are going to begin charging for the Review. Up to now, we have depended on the friends of the cause to send in enough to cover expenses, so that the worthy poor can receive it free of charge. But, beginning in April, we are going to charge one dollar for an annual subscription!
Ellen: I think that is a good decision.
James: Well, some will strongly oppose it. Buy the truth, and sell it not! is their maxim. They want the truth freely available to all, but they choose to ignore the first part of the maxim buy the truth. These so-called friends of the cause will not accept their responsibility to pay for the paper!
Ellen: What else do you propose?
James: (Emphatically) Ellen, it is time that we stopped trying to operate an accommodation house and a publishing office, all within our living quarters. Why, our family sometimes numbers twenty! The burden is too much and runs us into debt.
(Quietly) Besides, I fear for the state of our health. Brother Masten died a few months ago of consumption. Sister Annie Smith has had to return home with an illness that turns out to be the same thing. And now Brother Andrews has worn himself into such a state of feeble health that he is returning home to rest. Soon there will be no one left for the work but ourselves and I feel like I have one foot in the grave already!
Ellen: My poor James! All of what you say is true. We should start paying a small wage to our workers, and ask them to find accommodations elsewhere. I think that is necessary for the health and happiness of our own little family. But what are your plans for the Review office?
James: I wish we could find a group of brethren willing to accept financial management of the printing shop, and a new committee to take charge of the publishing. We have carried the entire responsibility for publishing since we started out at Rocky Hill six years ago. I think it is now time we were free to give ourselves to traveling and preaching.
Ellen: Are there brethren anywhere who would be willing to take over the publishing work?
James: (Gets up from desk.) We have brethren in Vermont who have the means and the will to do it, I believe. And there are some in Michigan who could do it. Of the two, Michigan might be more central, since our work now is rapidly opening up as far west as Iowa.
Ellen: (Ellen sits in his chair) James, I think your proposals are good, and they should be discussed with the believers. But be prepared for some opposition. There are many who are opposed to organization in any form.
James: You are right, Ellen. Some think that the word organization is synonymous with Babylon! (Both leave.)
SCENE 2. Interior of an almost-completed church building in Battle Creek, Michigan. Furniture consists solely of three saw horses and a step-ladder. The date is September 23, 1855.
(David Hewitt and S. B. Warren enter.)
Hewitt: (Looking around the room.) So our meting house in Battle Creek is just about completed. Just the interior to finish. Eighteen feet one way, and twenty-four feet the other. Ample room for a congregation of twenty-four members, dont you agree, Brother Warren?
Warren: I am sure it will, Brother Hewitt. And I know you and your wife are looking forward to its completion. Your home has been our meeting place until now.
Hewitt: Mrs. Hewitt and I have been happy to have our parlor used for the Sabbath meetings, but it has become very crowded. This building will be adequate for the needs of our church here in Battle Creek until the Lord comes.
Warren: Yes, the Lord has surely blessed the progress of the work in this town. The expansion of the church all throughout the West has been rapid. Why, Brother Hewitt, you and your wife were the first converts here in Battle Creek, and that wasnt very long ago, was it?
Hewitt: Just three years ago. Yes, I remember the day very well. There was a knock at the door just as we were preparing to eat breakfast. I opened it to find a total stranger who said, Are you Mr. David Hewitt? I said, Yes. Well, he said, I have been directed to you as the most honest man in town. My name is Joseph Bates, and I have some important truth to present to you.
Warren: What a surprise that must have been!
Hewitt: It surely was. I was taken aback for a moment, but I said, Come in, Mr. Bates. We are just sitting down to breakfast. Eat with us, and then we will listen to you. So we ate breakfast, and then he opened Gods Word to us. By five oclock that afternoon my wife and I were ready to accept the Sabbath and the Third Angels Message. Quite an event for a couple of devout Presbyterians!
Warren: Im sure it was. I heard the story from Brother Bates. How the Lord impressed him to travel west to Battle Creek, even though there were no Advent believers here. How he went to the post office and asked to be directed to the most honest man in town. The postmaster thought for a moment and said, That would be David Hewitt. He lives down on Van Buren Street.
Hewitt: Here come Elder Frisbie and Brother Dodge. (Frisbie and Dodge enter, Frisbie greets each of them.) Shall we meet here, Brother Frisbie, or back at my house?
Frisbie: Why dont we meet right here, brethren? (Three sit on saw-horses, the other on the step ladder.) This meet house will be a great blessing to all of us here in Battle Creek.
Dodge: It surely will. Mind you, there are some who think the church should not be erecting buildings so close to the Second Coming.
Frisbie: There will always be those Adventists who oppose progress and organization at any level. Some think all organization is the work of the Devil. Brother White faces the criticism in regard to the Review office.
Warren: You have heard from Brother White? Has he made a decision regarding the relocation of the publishing office?
Frisbie: Yes, that is why I called us together today. Brother White has written, saying that he favors Battle Creek.
Hewitt: A good decision!
Dodge: Wasnt it a choice between Vermont and Battle Creek? Did the Vermont brethren withdraw their offer?
Frisbie: Oh, I am sure the brethren in Vermont would be happy to have the Review office there, but they agree with Brother White that Michigan will be more central as our message moves westward.
Hewitt: Well, several of us here in Battle Creek have been blessed with means, an dwe are ready to construct a building immediately to house the printing plant, including an office for the editor.
Dodge: In fact, land is already available for that purpose.
Frisbie: Yes, and Brother White was much encouraged by our offer, brethren. He would like to have the Review moved here as soon as possible. I think we ought to appoint a committee of three to make plans for the building and for moving the press from Rochester.
Hewitt: That is a sound idea. I think Brother Henry Lyon should be a member of that committee. He sold his farm in order to advance money for the Lords work. He is also a carpenter.
Warren: Brother Cyrenius Smith is another local member who is blessed with means that he wants to use to advance the cause. I suggest his name for that committee.
Frisbie: Do you have a nomination, Brother Dodge?
Dodge: (Reflects a moment.) Yes, I think Dan Palmer who lives over in Jackson should be the third member. He also is willing to put money into this cause.
Frisbie: Good. That gives us a committee of three.
Hewitt: I think we should report this action in the Review.
Frisbie: A good idea. Brother Dodge, will you be our secretary, and send Brother White a report of our meeting for the paper?
Dodge: Ill be happy to do that. I think we should encouraged our believers to send in their free-will offerings to assist with this project.
Hewitt: Yes, I like that idea.
Warren: We understand that Brotehr Whites health is poor. Will that prevent him from keeping a controlling hand in the publishing work?
Hewitt: I couldnt imagine the Review without Brother White.
Frisbie: Neither could I. What I think Brother White has in mind is the appointment of a resident editor for the Review. That would relieve him of the day-to-day management problems. But I am sure Brother White will continue to oversee the publishing work.
Dodge: I am sure the committee will want it that way. But who would be the resident editor here in Battle Creek?
Frisbie: I think Brother White will recommend Uriah Smith for that job. He is now the editorial assistant. Just a young man, but talented and dedicated.
Warren: This is going to make Battle Creek a center for the Adventist work. (Looks at Hewitt.) This meeting-house may be filled more quickly than we planned!
Hewitt: Could that be possible? Well, brethren, my wife has lunch ready for us at home, so lets adjourn to my house.
(All four exit.)
SCENE 3. Uriah Smiths office at the Steam Press of The Review and Herald in Battle Creek, Michigan. The date is around August, 1860. Smith is checking proofs as James White enters.
Smith: Hell, Brother White. Do you have something for next weeks Review?
White: Yes, Brother Smith. I do have something here. (Hands copy to Smith.) It is a notice for an important meeting.
Smith: (Reads) General Conference at Battle Creek. It is deemed advisable to hold a general conference at Battle Creek, to commence at 6 pm on September 28, 1860. Thats just a few weeks away. (Pause) So you have made the decision?
White: (Sits) Yes, I have consulted with Brother Bates, and we have decided that the whole question of church organization should be discussed in an open meeting. This is too important an issue to deal with in any other way.
Smith: I agree most heartily! Ever since you wrote that article last February, the issue of organizing and Making us a name has been a major point of contention. Not a week goes by without at least one or two letters to the editor. I think we have had something on the subject in every other issue of the paper.
White: It all started with my piece entitled Borrowed Money. As I was at pains to point out in that article, my appointment as the publishing agent for the church makes me totally responsible for all the debts of the office. That is more than any individual should be expected to bear!
Smith: Of course it is! But many of the brethren have had trouble seeing that. They think we took all the necessary steps five years ago, when we relieved you of the care of editing the Review, but forgetting you still have to bear the entire financial responsibility for it.
White: Precisely. At that time the load became so great that my health completely failed. And I believe the brethren did according to their best light at that time. But it is high time that we take the next step. The church must organize in such a way as to be able to legally own and insure property such as this publishing plant. That is why I submitted that piece for the Review, inviting anyone who opposed my suggestion to write out a plan which we, as a people, could act upon.
Smith: (Removes file of correspondence.) Well, here is the file of correspondence on the subject, up to yesterday. (White takes it and begins to peruse some of the letters.)
White: I see that letters are still coming on the subject. Ah, here is Brother Cottrells letter. (Reads) Brother White proposes to secure the property of the church. I think it would be wrong to make us a name, since that lies at the foundation of Babylon. I do not think God would approve of it. The work is the Lords and he needs not the aid of insurance companies to take care of His property. I think we should leave this matter to the Lord.
Leave this matter to the Lord, he says. Well, I guess it is perfectly right to leave the sun, moon, and stars with the Lord, and the earth with its revolutions. But if God calls on us to act the part of faithful stewards of His goods, we had better attend to those matters in a legal manner!
(Picks up another letter.) Heres another one. It is my prayer that God will avert an evil in His sight, and that we all may get the victory over the beast, his image, his mark and the number of his name. All this concern with Babylon and the two-horned beast.
Smith: I fail to see how church organization can be equated with Babylon.
White: Well, unless we do something quickly to put an end to all the confusion among the brethren, we will soon have a perfect Babylon within the church!
(Picks up another letter.) I would like to request you to give me the evidence using some words in your Review article which are unscriptural. The word church is used instead of chapel; and the word organization is used for gospel order. I believe we should keep to the Bible expressions. This brother doesnt know his Bible! The words chapel and gospel order are not found anywhere in the Scriptures, so they are no more scriptural than the ones he objects to.
Smith: Here is a recent letter from Brother Miles, over in Mannsville, New York. (Hands letter to White.)
White: So what does Brother Miles have to say? (Reads) Brother White has taken such a position about organizing churches, and also of making us a name, that I see no consistency in his former position. I must say that a good many in this church have lost interest in reading the Review, as well as myself. I want the Review discontinued.
Well, Brother Miles is suffering from a confused and unhappy state of mind. What a pity that a few columns from our pen on the subject of organization should spoil the Review for him.
Smith: It appears that the planned conference here in Battle Creek is going to be a very interesting one.
White: (Stands to go.) I believe saner logic will prevail as we meet in session under the Lords guidance. But, as you say, it will be an interesting session.
SCENE 4. Interior of the new Battle Creek Church. Making their way on to the platform from various points in the audience are the following: Joseph Bates, James White, John Loughborough, John Andrews, Joseph Frisbie, J. H. Waggoner, T. J. Butler. Other delegates enter from the rear and take their seats in the audience. The date is the beginning of October 1860.
Frisbie: (Stands at podium.) Brothers and Sisters, we welcome every one of you to Battle Creek for this special Conference. I believe this is the largest meeting of Advent believers to date (Amens), and I see that all of our 300 seats are filled.
Some of you have traveled great distances to be here for this important meetingfrom New York State in the east to Iowa in the west. With so many visitors, our accommodations are taxed to capacity, and we are sorry for some discomforts. I believe all of us here in Battle Creek have opened our homes. Some of the brethren have beds in our barns and cellars. Some of the sisters have been willing to sleep on camp meeting beds on our chamber floors. But I think no one has been turned away who needed a place to rest. So again I say welcome.
The work here in Battle Creek has certainly gone forward. Exactly five years ago a handful of believers in this town built a meeting-house over on Cass Streetjust a small building measuring 18 feet by 24. That church was too small almost from the start, and within two years we were erecting this fine new church which measures 28 by 42 feet, seating around 300, at a cost of $881. When we built it three years ago, some of us wondered if we would ever see it filled, but today we see it overflowing with believers.
I should explain that for our regular Sabbath worship service, the sisters enter by the left door and sit on the left side of the sanctuary, while the brethren enter at the right door and sit on the right side.
At this time I will introduce Brother Joseph Bates, who has agreed to chair this important series of meetings. Brother Bates. (Sits)
Bates: (Comes to podium.) Thank you, Brother Frisbie. May I add my own warm welcome to these meetings. The progress of our work has indeed been rapid, not only here in Battle Creek but elsewhere, and it is perhaps for that reason that this special conference is necessary. As the work expands, many of the brethren see a need for some form of organization, so that as a church body we can have the ownership of property such as our new steam press and meeting-houses such as this one.
We have delegates here from many places. Would all of the appointed delegates please stand. (All delegates stand, including several in the congregation.) Please tell us your name and the state or district you represent.
Brackett: Ezra Brackett from Battle Creek.
Hull: Moses Hull from Knoxville, Iowa.
Cornell: Meritt Cornell, also from Iowa.
Ingraham: William Ingraham from Wisconsin.
Holt: George Holt from Ohio.
Poole: E. A. Poole from New York State.
Belden: Stephen Belden from the press here at Battel Creek.
Waggoner: J. H. Waggoner, a tent evangelist here in Michigan.
Frisbie: Joseph Frisbie from Battle Creek.
Loughborough: John Loughborough from Parkville, Michigan.
Andrews: John Andrews from Waukon, Iowa, but I am currently conducting evangelistic meetings in New York State.
Butler: My name is Butler, and I bring a letter from the believers in Gilboa, Ohio. Do you wish me to read the letter?
Butler: (Reading) The church of God at Gilboa to their brethren assembled in conference at Battle Creek, greetings! Dear brethren, through our delegate, Brother Butler, we submit the following resolution as our unanimous sentiments: Resolved, that we are highly favorable to such organization only as the Bible authorizes and recognizes, built upon the foundation of apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ Himself. (Amens)
Bates: Thank you, Brother Butler. Now, there are one or two brethren with me on the platform, who have not been introduced. Elder White needs no introduction. We regret that Sister White cannot attend our conference. She gave birth to a son just a few days ago, and so is confined. Brother Uriah Smith is the editor of the Review, and I have asked him to be the secretary for our conference proceedings. (Sits)
Andrews: (Comes to podium.) Let us begin our meeting today by singing together Hymn No. 260 in the hymnal. [Lord, In the Morning SDAH 39] (Audience should be cued to join in singing of hymn.)
Waggoner: (Comes to podium.) Shall we pray? (Remains standing.) Our Lord, we bow before Thee this day, asking Thy blessing on this meeting. May Thy Holy Spirit infuse our hearts, and guide in all that is said and done. We pray in Jesus precious name, Amen. (All sit.)
Bates: (Comes to podium.) Before we get into our discussion, I want to mention the needs of some of our brethren and sisters. Many have come from afar as delegates to this conference, and spent most or all of their savings. Others of us live close by, so have not been faced with expenses. I trust we have all come prepared to contribute to the needs of the cause. So let us take up an offering, and invite each to contribute as the Lord has blessed him. (Sits)
(An offering is taken.)