Q: Was Ellen White an ordained minister? I’ve seen pictures posted of her ministerial credentials showing that she was an ordained minister, and I understand that the White Estate has several of her ministerial credentials in their files. — April, from the United States
A: April, according to the Ellen G. White Estate, Mrs. White “was never ordained by human hands,” nor is there any ordination certificate in her name indicating a date and place of an ordination service for her.
In a letter written in consultation with his father, Willie White (Ellen White’s son), Arthur Write wrote on Oct. 1, 1936: “Mrs. White was never ordained by the laying on of hands. Her calling was from a much higher source and her work was a special one.”
He further says that, “Mrs. White never baptized nor did she ever give the ordination charge to others.” The letter is available here.
In another letter dated Dec. 18, 1956, Arthur White again states:
“You ask if Ellen White was ordained with the laying on of hands. The answer is that she was not. It was clear to those about Ellen White that her ordination was of a higher authority than that which would result from the laying on of hands by men.
“It would have been rather anti-climactic, after being called by God in a special manner to His work, for others to lay hands upon her in setting her apart for the Lord’s service. … She did not, however, engage in those acts which are restricted to an ordained minister, such as the performing of marriage ceremonies, et cetera.”
Regarding her having ministerial credentials, Arthur White wrote, “As the brethren issued her credentials, they were a bit perplexed. At times they neatly crossed out the word “ordained.” At other times it was left untouched.” This letter is available here.
In a helpful Ministry magazine article titled, “Did Ellen White support the ordination of women?” William Fagal, then director of the White Estate branch office at Andrews University, addresses the question regarding Mrs. White’s credentials:
“… from 1871 until her death she was granted ministerial credentials by various organizations of the church. The certificate that was used read ‘Ordained Minister.’ Several of her credential certificates from the mid 1880s are still in our possession. On the one from 1885 the word ordained is neatly struck out. On the 1887 certificate, the next one we have, it is not.
Had she been ordained in the interim? Some have argued that she had. But the question is settled definitely by her own hand.
“In 1909 she filled out a “Biographical Information Blank” for the General Conference records. On the blank for Item 19, which asks, “If ordained, state when, where, and by whom,” she simply inscribed an X. This is the same response she made to Item 26, which asked, “If remarried, give date, and to whom.” In this way she indicated that she had never remarried, nor had she ever been ordained.
“She was not denying that God had chosen and equipped her, but she indicated that there had never been an ordination ceremony carried out for her.” (Read the entire article here.)