“That They All May Be One”

In His John 17:21 prayer Jesus asked for the gift of unity among believers.

Tim Poirier
 “That They All May Be One”
Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

One can find many examples in the life and writings of Ellen White where the gift of prophecy served to foster this unity in the church—not only among church members but also among our church’s institutions. One that is lesser known involves a testimony Ellen White wrote in 1899 to the “managers and foremen” of six of our major publishing houses. She opened her nine-page letter with these words:

“I am alarmed by the spirit of rivalry which is coming into our publishing houses. It is most manifest in our oldest printing offices, but the same spirit is working elsewhere. This spirit, wherever manifested, is displeasing to God. If it is allowed to exist, it will grow and strengthen, and as it grows and strengthens it will crush out the missionary spirit. It will grieve the Spirit of God, and lead to such a course of action as will drive away from the institution and its workers the ministering angels sent to be co-workers with those who cherish the grace of God.”1

How was such a pointed testimony received by the leaders of our publishing houses? In at least one instance we know the answer. The story is told by Henry Franz Schuberth.2

Just In Time

Henry was born in 1868 in Germany, but emigrated to the United States, where, in his early 20s, he began his connection with the church as a Bible worker and literature evangelist for the Oakland Mission in California. At his very first camp meeting, in September 1889, he was introduced to Ellen White by Elder Nathaniel McClure, the superintendent for the city mission. He recalled Mrs. White asking him, “If you are willing to help me, you may look after the horse and buggy which a sister has lent me to use during my stay at Oakland.” Henry was happy to do so and often drove her buggy for her visiting and errands.

As was often the case, Mrs. White expressed an interest in this young person’s future. She asked him if he would like to attend the upcoming German school to be conducted at Battle Creek College. He replied that he had been praying about that possibility, but lacked the money needed. His father had cut him off from any financial support so long as he was connected with the Adventists.

Ellen White replied, “That does not matter; we will take care of you and take you to Battle Creek.” Mrs. White was headed there for the General Conference Session, and as the school wouldn’t open for another three weeks, Henry was invited to stay in her home. He wrote that his experience during the weeks of that conference “made such a deep impression upon my mind that I shall never forget it.”

But back to Ellen White’s 1899 testimony to the publishing house leaders. After completing his education, Henry taught at Union College in Nebraska, and then, in 1894, was asked to return to Germany and head the newly opened 15-student training school in Hamburg, Germany. He was also given the responsibility of the Hamburg Publishing House, along with Elder L. R. Conradi. Here we will continue the story in Henry’s own words:

“There was a little difficulty among the workers in that institution [the publishing house]. It involved a plan of missionary work in the city after work hours. I was leading out in a certain plan and urging it. One brother particularly fell out with the proposals, and others joined him. A spirit of separation entered into our meetings, and a situation arose that greatly troubled me.

“On a certain Sunday I asked different members of the office family to come to a meeting in the chapel on Monday evening for a special council. I felt that we must somehow get the difficulties adjusted. Monday morning I went to my desk. There was a letter bearing Australian postage stamps, with the name ‘E. G. White’ printed in the corner. I opened the envelope. In it was a message from Mrs. White, dealing with the very matters that had made the trouble in our institutions.

“That night at the meeting I asked the workers, ‘When did I call this meeting?’

“ ‘Yesterday,’ they said.

“ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘this morning I received in the mail a message from Mrs. White from Australia. It deals with the very matter about which I wanted to speak to you.’

“I read the testimony to them, and then spoke of my own relation to the counsel given in it. At once the brother who had caused the difficulty stood to his feet and took a fine Christian stand. One after another followed, and the Lord helped us out of all our difficulties.

“Now, anybody might think that since I was well acquainted with Mrs. White, I had written to her in Australia. But in those days it took about six weeks for mail from Hamburg to reach Australia, and the whole difficulty had arisen within the preceding three weeks. So the message from Mrs. White left Australia about three weeks before the difficulty arose in Hamburg, and arrived just the morning of that day when I needed the help.”

Henry immediately wrote to Ellen White’s son W. C. White, expressing his appreciation for the timely instruction:

“Dear Brother: Yours of Sept. 25 and the testimony [from Mrs. White] I received just in the morning when I intended to search for a testimony to read in a meeting with our workers. I had appointed for that same evening to seek the Lord; so it just came in time and has done us all good and we all recognized it as just the thing we needed and are thankful that we could see ourselves in the right light, confess the wrong and receive forgiveness.”3

“Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

1 Ellen G. White letter 148, 1899 (Sept. 24).

2 Unless otherwise credited, the quotations that follow are from H. F. Schuberth, “My Confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy,” Review and Herald, June 1, 1939, p. 15.

3 H. F. Schuberth to W. C. White, Nov. 8, 1899.

Tim Poirier