Archive for September, 2006


Forgotten Heralds: Millerite Women Who Preached

September 21, 2006

More women than men participated in nineteenth-century religious life. Therefore, women began to take on important roles in that religious life: missionary, teacher, evangelist etc. Phoebe PalmerOne well-known example is Phoebe Palmer—a revivalist preacher in the Methodist tradition. She preached at over 300 camp meetings and revivals in the United States, Canada and the British Isles. For more information on Palmer, see the Wikipedia entry. Some of her works can be found online: The Way of Holiness and Faith and its Effects.

Phoebe Palmer

Adventist women began preaching during the Millerite Movement. One of the earliest known was Lucy Maria Hersey Stoddard, born in Worcester, MT in 1824. She accepted Miller’s teachings in 1842 and was impressed that God wanted her to proclaim the gospel. She quit her job as a teacher to preach full-time. Her ministry was very successful—Isaac Wellcome pointed out that:

“Elder Jonas Wendell and many other ministers now proclaiming the gospel state that their conversion to the truth was through her preaching. This should encourage others, whom the Lord calls, not to refrain because they are females.” (Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, 156.)

Stoddard was associated with Sarah J. Paine Higgins–the first female preacher in Massachusetts; unfortunately, very little is known about her life.

Olive Maria Rice was a Millerite preacher in the State of New York, of whom it was said: “This devoted sister is still laboring in this State [New York]. She lectured recently at Batavia, and Pine Hill…and Attica….The effect is good, wherever she goes.” (The Midnight Cry, October 19, 1843, 73.)

Two other Millerite women preachers were Emily C. Clemons and Corinda S. Minor. Together they also edited the Millerite periodical The Advent Message to the Daughters of Zion and wrote numerous articles for that journal as well as another Millerite periodical, the Advent Herald.

Abigail MusseyAbigail Mussey encountered Millerite teachings during the 1830s. However she did most of her preaching after 1844. She gave insight into some of the difficulties she faced in her ministry when she wrote in her autobiography:

“Preachers that oppose female laborers can shut up their houses, and refuse to give out their appointments; but they can’t shut up the private houses or school-houses, and the cannot hinder others room giving out appointments; so there is no danger of shut doors or the way being hedged up….Doors opened, and I moved on, with sword in hand and the gospel armor on, with loving all and fearing none. I knew in whom I believed, in whom trusted, and who had sent me out. My mission was from heaven, not from man. My faith stood not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (Life Sketches and Experience, 163-164.)

Mussey was known as “The Yankee woman preacher”, and spent most of her time in Massachusetts. She is known to have spent a large part of her ministry preaching to the Black community. She preached at Black churches in Clarence and Clements in 1861, and also in the Bay Shore area. She later reflected, “I felt to praise God that he called me to preach free salvation to rich and poor, bond and free, black and white, male and female, old and young, high and low, and none has any right to say, ‘Stop!’ or hedge up the way.” (Life Sketches and Experience, 1865, 63.)

In Lauretta Elysian Armstrong Fassett’s biography, her husband wrote:

“The spirit of the Lord was with her; and there came to me, though as opposed as herself to women’s taking the place as teacher or preacher in public, the scripture: ‘On my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit; and they shall prophecy [sic].’ (Acts 2:18) This kept me from ever hindering, or placing the least thing in the way of hr duty, fearing I might grieve the Holy Spirit, by which she was divinely aided in reaching the hearts of her hearers with the words of life as they fell from her devoted lips. (O. R. Fassett, The Biography of Mrs L. E. Fassett, A Devoted Christian, 26-27.)


Josephine Benton, Called by God, Smithsburg: Blackberry Hill, 1990.

Michael Bernoi, “Nineteenth century Women in Adventist Ministry Against the Backdrop of the Times,” in Women in Ministry, Nancy Vhymeister (ed.), Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1998, 211-233.

Bert Haloviak, “A Place at the Table: Women and the Early Years,” in The Welcome Table, Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart (eds.), Langley Park: TEAMPress, 1995.

Carole Rayburn, “‘Women Heralds of the Advent Near’,” Adventist Heritage 17:2 (1996), 11-21.

Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1874.



The Beginning of Regional Conferences in the US III

September 5, 2006

In October 1928, W. H. Green—the Colored Secretary of the General Conference (GC)—died. His position was not filled immediately as many Black ministers felt that “the only way to improve the work among Negroes of the country is to organize colored conferences, whereby the colored people may handle their own money, employ their own workers and so develop administrative ability and all cultural lines of work…to organize Negro conferences that would function in exactly the same relation to the General Conference as white conferences.” (Quoted in Jacob Justiss Angels in Ebony p46.)

After discussion, the GC appointed a commission of eleven Whites and five Blacks to study the issue. J. K. Humphrey had been one of the Black ministers calling for Black Conferences and was one of those appointed to the commission. Humphrey later accused the White members of the committee of meeting separately and asking the Black members of the committee to rubber-stamp their decision that Black Conferences were not appropriate. Humphrey later left the SDA Church and formed the United Sabbath Day Adventist Church.

J. K. Humphrey

By 1944 however, the situation had changed—the Black membership of the church had grown considerably and Black members were better educated and more confident than in the past. This lead a group of Black SDA laity to form the National Association for the Advancement of World-wide Work Among Colored Seventh-day Adventists on October 16, 1943. The group was chaired by Joseph T. Dodson, other members included Eva B. Dykes—one of the first Black American woman to receive a PhD, while the Corresponding Secretary was Valarie Justiss—the second SDA Black woman to receive a PhD.

Eva B Dykes

Eva B. Dykes

The group met on at least two occasions with J. L. McElheney—GC President. They presented a petition entitled Shall the Four Freedoms Function Among SDAs? to the GC leadership in Washington DC. (The document takes it’s name from the State of the Union address given by Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. The four freedoms were:
1. Freedom of speech and expression
2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear (See Wikipedia entry. See a copy of the speech.)
The group was not requesting the formation of Black conferences but rather recommending an end to racial discrimination in all SDA institutions. Graham states that the group also “asked for a full accounting of the money that Black people were contributing to the denomination and requested that their Black leaders be treated with courtesy.” (Ricardo B. Graham, “Black Seventh-day Adventists and Racial Reconciliation” in Perspectives: Black Seventh-Day Adventists Face the Twenty-first Century Calvin B. Rock ed. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1996, 136)

Racial discrimination was rife at SDA institutions and the Four Freedoms document did not hesitate to point out specific cases:
· “The Washington Sanitarium refuses to admit colored people.”
· “Colored girls are denied admittance to the Washington sanitarium School of Nurses and some other schools open to the whites.”
· It was the policy of Emmanuel Missionary College to seat Black students at the rear during chapel services.
· “There are no Negroes so far as we know on staffs of Adventist institutions.”
· “There is not even one General Conference office filled by a colored person.”
· “There is no colored editor, circulation manager, and business manager of the only Adventist periodical devoted exclusively to the interest of the 13,000,000 colored people in the United States.”
The document draws frequent contrast between SDA practice in these areas and the practices of secular or other religious organizations. These include:
“Since white and colored eat without friction daily in the cafeterias of the Library of Congress, Union Station, National Art Gallery, Interior Department, and other government buildings, it is illegal to segregate the Secretary of the Colored department for his meals.” (All quotes from Shall the Four Freedoms Function Among SDAs?

One of the impetuses for the petition was the tragic case of Lucy Byard. Byard was a light-skinned Black SDA from Brooklyn who was admitted to the SDA owned and operated Washington Sanitarium and hospital based on her appearance. When her true racial identity was discovered from her admittance forms, Byard was wheeled into a hallway without examination or treatment, while a place in another hospital was sought for her. She was eventually taken to Freedman’s Hospital where she died shortly after of pneumonia. While it is impossible to ascertain, it is often stated that her condition—at the very least—worsened due to the time spent in the drafty hallway of Washington Sanitarium.

McElheney introduced the topic of Regional Conferences to the GC Committee’s Spring Council held April 8-19, 1944, in Chicago. Following some debate (Of the 22 speakers on record, 17 spoke in favour, 3 against, and 2 asked questions of clarity. See Delbert W. Baker “Regional Conferences: 50 Years of Progress” Adventist Review November 2, 1995, p11.) a resolution was passed:
“WHEREAS, The present development of the work among the colored people in North America has resulted, under the signal blessing of God, in the establishment of some 233 churches with some 17,000 members: and WHEREAS, It appears that a different plan of organization for our colored membership would bring further great advance in soul-winning endeavours; therefore WE RECOMMEND, That in unions where the colored constituency is considered by the union conference committee to be sufficiently large, and where the financial income and territory warrant, colored conferences be organized.” (Quoted in Baker, “Regional Conferences” p14.)

From 1945 to 1947, seven Black Conferences were formed: Allegheny, Lake Region, and Northeastern (1945), South Atlantic and South Central (1946), and Central States and Southwest Region (1947). In 1967 Allegheny divided into the Allegheny East and Allegheny West, while the South Atlantic divided into the South Atlantic and Southeastern Conferences in 1981. Regional Conferences were not formed in the two westernmost districts: Pacific and North Pacific Union Conferences. Work amongst the Black population in these areas was coordinated by a Regional Affairs Office. (Baker, “Regional Conferences”, p14.)

It should be noted that there has been some recent agitation amongst Black SDAs in these western Union Conferences regarding the formation of a Black Conference. (See articles in Adventist Today.)


Delbert W. Baker “Delbert W. Baker Regional Conferences: 50 Years of ProgressAdventist Review November 2, 1995, p11-15.

Ricardo B. Graham, “Black Seventh-day Adventists and Racial Reconciliation” in Perspectives: Black Seventh-Day Adventists Face the Twenty-first Century Calvin B. Rock ed. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1996, 136)

Jacob Justiss Angels in Ebony chapter entitled “Regional Conferences”. Available as part of the Telling the Story Anthology (Part 2, p37-48)

Shall the Four Freedoms Function Among SDAs?