Records Pertaining to Ellen G. White’s Ministerial/Ordination Credentials
A. Ellen White’s Biographical Information Form
On March 5, 1909, Ellen White’s biographical information form was filled out by her assistant, Mary Steward, as requested for General Conference records. Question 19 asked, “If ordained, state when, where, and by whom.” The line was marked with an “x” indicating that she had not been ordained, just as an “x” was recorded for question 26, “If remarried, give date, and to whom.”
B. Conference Credentialing Records in the Review and Herald
Ellen White’s name is not found in lists of Michigan Conference credentialed ministers prior to 1871. (See, for example, lists published in RH, May 31, 1864, May 28, 1867, and May 26, 1868.) She was first issued ministerial credentials on February 10, 1871, by the Michigan Conference:
“Moved and voted, That Sr. Ellen G. White receive credentials from this Conference.”—RH, Feb. 14, 1871, p. 69.
Her credentials were renewed by the Michigan Conference annually thereafter through 1887. The 1886 report was introduced with the words: “Your committee on credentials and licenses would present the following names of ordained ministers for a renewal of their credentials the ensuing year.” (Ellen White was not listed in the Michigan Conference report for 1888.)
C. Listings in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook & General Conference Bulletin
The first listing of ministers in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook was in 1884. Ellen White was listed under both “General Conference” Ministers and “Michigan” Ministers. The listings appeared the same in 1885, 1886, and 1887. In 1888 she was listed under “California” Ministers, as well as under “Michigan” Ministers and “General Field” Ministers. She was also listed under “Ministers” (not Licentiates) in the “Alphabetical List of Laborers.”
Beginning in 1889, all the workers were listed alphabetically, as well as by territory, with letter codes inserted to indicate whether the worker was (l) licensed to preach or (m) an ordained minister. Ellen White was listed under “General Conference” Ministers only (not “Michigan” or “California”) and an (m) appeared after her name in the directory. She was listed the same way from 1890-1894. No yearbooks were published from 1895 to 1903, however, “Workers’ Directories” were published in the General Conference Bulletin.
In the 1895/1896/1897/1898 Bulletins, Ellen White was consistently listed in the “Workers’ Directory” with the code for “Minister” (m) in the absence of any separate coding for ordained ministers in the directory, as well as appearing in the list of “General Conference” Ministers. In the 1899/1900 Bulletins, the Ministerial Directory listed (m) for ordained minister and (l) for licensed minister. Ellen White was listed with the (m) code, and in the list of “General Conference” Ministers.
In the 1901/1902 Bulletins, the codes were not used, but a distinction between Ministers and Licentiates was made in territorial listings. Ellen White was listed in the General Conference “Ministers” list rather than the “Licentiates.” No directory was published for 1903, but she was granted “ministerial credentials” from the General Conference by action reported in the General Conference Bulletin, Apr. 14, 1903, p. 216.
In the 1904 Yearbook, Ellen White was listed in the Ministerial Directory and with “Ministers Under the Direction of the General Conference.” There was no separate coding for ordained ministers in the directory. In the 1905/1906/1907/1908 Yearbooks, she was listed in the Ministerial Directory and with Ministers listed under “Laborers Engaged in General Work and in Mission Fields, Under the General Conference.” Again, there was no separate coding for ordained ministers in the directory.
In the 1909/1910/1911/1912/1913 Yearbooks, Ellen White was listed in the Ministerial Directory and with Ministers under “Laborers Engaged in General Work Under the General Conference” (with no separate coding for ordained ministers in the directory).
In the 1914/1915 Yearbooks, Ellen White was listed in the Ministerial Directory and with Ministers listed under “General Laborers Holding Credentials From the General Conference” (with no separate coding for ordained ministers in the directory).
D. Ellen White’s Paper Credentials
The White Estate possesses six paper credentials that were issued to Ellen White. The first credential is dated October 1, 1883, from the Michigan Conference. The second is dated December 6, 1885, from the General Conference. On that one credential, the word “ordained” was crossed out. The third is dated December 27, 1887, from the General Conference. The fourth is dated March 7, 1899, from the General Conference. The fifth is dated June 14, 1909, from the General Conference. The sixth is dated June 12, 1913, from the General Conference.
In a letter dated Nov. 17, 1935, Dores E. Robinson replied on behalf of W. C. White (Ellen White’s son and Robinson’s father-in-law) in response to a query concerning Ellen White’s ministerial credentials. He wrote: “[W. C. White] tells me that Sister White was never ordained, that she never baptized, nor did she ever give the ordination charge to others.”
From 1871 until her death in 1915, Ellen White was issued ministerial credentials. From 1871 to 1887 she was credentialed by the Michigan Conference, and from 1884 until her death, she was credentialed as a General Conference Minister. On one of the credentials (1885), the word “ordained” is struck through. (In the 1888 Yearbook she was also listed among the California Ministers.) Throughout the years, her name was listed along with ordained ministers rather than licentiates, although her biographical information sheet and the testimony of her family indicates that she did not receive ordination at the hands of church officials.
Compiled by the Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.
^ 1 See RH, Sept. 10, 1872, p. 102, Sept. 16, 1873, p. 110, Aug. 25, 1874, p. 79, Aug. 26, 1876, p. 63, Oct. 5, 1876, p. 106, Oct. 4, 1877, p. 107, Oct. 17, 1878, p. 127, Oct. 16, 1879, p. 134, Oct. 14, 1880, p. 253, Oct. 11, 1881, p. 237, Oct. 10, 1882, p. 637, Oct. 9, 1883, p. 636, Oct. 21, 1884, p. 668, Nov. 17, 1885, p. 717, Oct. 26, 1886, p. 668, Nov. 1, 1887, p. 684.