Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, Adventist Studies PhD

First Advisor

Raoul F. Dederen

Second Advisor

C. Mervyn Maxwell

Third Advisor

J. Walter Cason


The Seventh-day Adventist Church emerged from the Millerite movement of the 1840s. After the Disappointment of 1844 the unique features of Sabbatarian Adventism emerged--in particular, the seventh-day Sabbath and the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary--and were consolidated among scattered groups of believers by the end of1848.

This study describes the development of Seventh-day Adventist organization between 1844 and 1881, examines its theological and biblical foundations, and evaluates the influence of James White, the leading figure in promoting church order.

Chapter I presents the aims and purposes of the work, the methodology followed, the sources considered, and a biographical sketch of White.

Chapter II examines the socio-political and religious milieu of North America in which Sabbatarian Adventism developed, especially the influence Millerite separatism might have had on Seventh-day Adventist attitudes.

Chapter III covers the post-Disappointment splintering of the Millerites into several bodies. Sabbatarian Adventist concerns (1844-1849) centered on the consolidation of doctrine and emergence of a sense of mission, both prerequisites for organizational development.

Chapter IV describes the emergence of centralized church government (1849-1863), culminating in the establishment of the General Conference. Concern for proper discipline, coping with false teachers, owning church property, and efficient execution of the church's mission gave rise to considerable debate before agreement was reached. After 1863, interest centered on the role and authority of church leaders.

Chapter V discusses the theological foundations of Seventh-day Adventist polity; namely, the sense of unique mission and concern for doctrinal unity. Other factors in organizational development included the use of biblical precedent by Seventh-day Adventist pioneers in laying the foundations of church order, the influence of the organizational systems of other Protestant churches on the framers of Seventh-day Adventist polity, and the impact of White's experience and personality on church government.

In conclusion, the implications of the decisions taken between 1844 and 1881 for contemporary organizational issues are examined. Centralized government remains essential for coordinating the mission of a world-wide church, maintaining unity, and lending weight to its sense of identity. Flexibility is also needed within these underlying considerations in order to meet changing social and cultural circumstances.

Subject Area

White, James, 1821-1881, Seventh-day Adventists--History, Andrews University--Dissertations--James Springer, 1821-1881.

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