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Author Topic: Seventhday Adventists during the Civil War  (Read 5539 times)
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Laura Hoover
« on: September 14, 2009, 12:22:19 PM »

This is an area that has been of interest to me since I am SDA and the Civil War falls right during our formative years. I was wondering if anyone had any good resources on the denominations activities leading up to and during the war? Which publications were available? What the belief set was like during that time, etc? It is something I'm sad to say is not covered in enough detail in SDA schools to allow me to go make a persona on it and it is such a specific period of time that the books I've seen seem to spend minimal time on it or cover a much broader period in general. Just finding publication dates on Ellen G White's books and pamphlets has been interesting. I'll start us off with the basics and then I'd love help finding more resources to flesh it out.

The Christian Roots of Seventh-day Adventism
The local church where "Christian," "Advent," and "Sabbath" combined was established by Christian Connection believers, a religious body that in the mid-nineteenth century was fifth in membership within the United States.
Members of the Christian movement sought biblical authority for every aspect of belief. They wanted "no creed but the Bible." Thus, if they were convinced from the Scriptures of the literal soon advent of Christ and the continuing validity of the seventh day Sabbath, their heritage demanded acceptance.
Because William Miller, a well-known Baptist preacher, exhibited profound knowledge of the Scriptures as he lectured upon the literal soon advent of Christ, scores of Christian Connection churches and many of its ministers and leaders became "Adventist" in the late 1830s and 1840s. The Washington, New Hampshire, Christian Connection church by the early 1840s was an "Adventist" church.

Social, Organizational, and Theological Freedom
Another element of the Seventh-day Adventist heritage from "Christians" involves the Seventh-day Adventist emphasis upon freedom.
Washington, New Hampshire, was the initial town in the United States to name itself after George Washington, and it took that name in 1776, the year of the American Revolution. Its very birthplace seemed a call to personal freedom.
"Christians," as did Seventh-day Adventists from their earliest days, actively sought freedom for all and worked toward abolition of slavery as well as roles for women in the church, and fostered a strong opposition to formalized church creeds.
Freedom was also emphasized through an orientation toward temperance and health reform. Proper care of the physical frame would yield a clear mind with which to perceive scriptural truths.
Thus within nineteenth-century Adventism one finds strong anti-slavery actions, women licensed as ministers, and health reform principles that included abolition of alcohol and tobacco within the membership.
Religious freedom came to mean more than the separation of church and state. It also implied a right to read the Scripture for oneself and come to conclusions not bound by creedal presuppositions. The "present truth" perspective assumed that new insights would arise as Seventh-day Adventists continued to study the Scriptures. The prophetic guidance of Ellen White within the movement solidified this perspective of social, organizational, and theological freedom.

A Diverse Movement
The Washington, New Hampshire, roots also illustrate the diversity within the heritage of Seventh-day Adventists. It was Rachel Oakes, a Seventh Day Baptist, that convinced some of the members of the Washington church about the continuing validity of the seventh-day Sabbath. Not all mid-nineteenth century churches would give a fair hearing to the insights of a woman. Besides that, Thomas Preble, who attended that church and wrote an influential tract on the seventh-day Sabbath, was a Freewill Baptist. Frederick Wheeler, who served as their pastor, was a Methodist minister. We thus have substantial diversity within that original church. At least five different religious faiths formed the first Sabbath keeping Christian Adventist church. Within that diversity, however, unity over central issues prevailed.
Shortly after settling on a denominational name in 1860, Seventh-day Adventists began to talk about a worldwide movement. After all, didn't Christ urge to "go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" and didn't Revelation talk of "the everlasting gospel" to be proclaimed to "them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people"? In 1861 it was discovered that at least five in Ireland were practicing Seventh-day Adventists. But how could a group of only a few thousand perform the task of worldwide evangelism? The denomination was officially organized on May 21, 1863, when the movement included some 125 churches and 3,500 members. By 1864 Michael Belina Czechowski, a former Catholic priest, decided to spread the Seventh-day Adventist message throughout Europe.
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 02:38:29 PM »

You're not going to "In the Van" in Tennessee next August, are you? Apparently, there's a group of modern Seventh Day Adventists who'll have a wagon there and it looks like I may be with them. Don't know their names yet, but I've been told I'll be with the Millerites who won't be eating meat, so that's what I'm reading between the lines.  Smiley

So I'm also curious about what typically happened to the beliefs of Millerites after the Great Disappointment, especially how the church might have spread into Tennessee if it did, and what sort of beliefs or dietary restrictions there might have been. So far, I've been running into it being more of a Yankee thing, and vegetarianism coming a little later than the early 1860s with Ellen G. White, so I'm not sure what if anything can be applied to a southern impression yet, but I dunno.

Hank Trent
Heidi Hollister
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2009, 03:54:56 PM »

Hank, you are right, the Seventh-day Adventists were mainly a Yankee phenomenon at this time.  It was founded in New Hampshire and spread slowly in the early years.

The culture of vegetarianism did not come until later.  Ellen White herself was a heavy meat eater and even ate pork in her youth.  It took her a long time to decide to actually give it up and encourage others to do the same, 1863 to be exact.  Even then she continued to eat meat when her situation compelled her to do so until 1894 when she decided to be absolutely strict about it.

So as far as early war Millerites go, they might possibly be vegetarians, but it would not be nearly as widespread as it would become later on. 

The name Seventh-day Adventists was adopted in 1860, but the church was not formally founded until 1863.  Even then it only had 3,500 members in 125 congregations.  Ireland had 5 practicing Seventh-day Adventists in 1861, however, Tennessee did not really have an SDA presence until the 1870s.  Publications made it into Tennessee by 1872, but Adventist workers did not arrive until 4 years later.  Too late for the Civil War.

Semper Sewus Historicana!
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