The Watson Letter
In chapter 1, references are provided showing that Ellen White used her tithe money to support people who were not employed by the Church. This appendix contains the Watson letter written by Ellen White to Elder G.F. Watson, president of the Colorado Conference. It reveals a number of important points regarding the issue of tithing.
Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 215-216
The Use of the Tithe.
Mountain View, Calif., Jan. 22, 1905.
My brother, I wish to say to you, Be careful how you move. You are not moving wisely. The least you have to speak about the tithe that has been appropriated to the most needy and the most discouraging field in the world, the more sensible you will be.
It has been presented to me for years that my tithe was to be appropriated by myself to aid the white and colored ministers who were neglected and did not receive sufficient properly to support their families. When my attention was called to aged ministers, white or black, it was my special duty to investigate into their necessities and supply their needs. This was to be my special work, and I have done this in a number of cases. No man should give notoriety to the fact that in special cases the tithe is used in that way.
In regard to the colored work in the South, that field has been and is still being robbed of the means that should come to the workers of that field. If there has been cases where our sisters have appropriated their tithe to the support of the ministers working for the colored people in the South, let every man, if he is wise, hold his peace.
I have myself appropriated my tithe to the most needy cases brought to my notice. I have been instructed to do this; and as the money is not withheld from the Lord's treasury, it is not a matter that should be commented upon; for it will necessitate my making known these matters, which I do not desire to do, because it is not best.
Some cases have been kept before me for years, and I have supplied their needs from the tithe, as God has instructed me to do. And if any person shall say to me, Sister White, will you appropriate my tithe where you know it is most needed, I shall say, Yes, I will; and I have done so. I commend those sisters who have placed their tithe where it is most needed to help to do a work that is being left undone; and if this matter is given publicity, it will create knowledge which would better be left as it is. I do not care to give publicity to this work which the Lord has appointed me to do, and others to do.
I send this matter to you so that you shall not make a mistake. Circumstances alter cases. I would not advise that any should make a practice of gathering up tithe money. But for years there have now and then been persons who have lost confidence in the appropriation of the tithe who have placed their tithe in my hands, and said that if I did not take it they would themselves appropriate it to the families of the most needy minister they could find. I have taken the money, given a receipt for it, and told them how it was appropriated.
I write this to you so that you shall keep cool and not become stirred up and give publicity to this matter, lest many more shall follow their example.
(Signed) Ellen G. White
- In this case, Ellen White and others were supporting ordained ministers in the south and not, as some have assumed, self-supporting ministries.
- Conference officials were not happy that people were sending their tithe to workers in the south.
- Ellen White was instructed by God to appropriate her own tithe to those who had been neglected. This was done for years.
- Ellen White points out that her tithe was not “withheld from the Lord’s treasury.”
- Ellen White was happy to send other people’s tithe to the southern workers.
- Ellen White commended people for sending their tithe to where it was most needed.
- This work was appointed by God.
- For years people who had lost confidence in the appropriation of the tithe by their conferences gave it to Ellen White for the workers in the south.
- Circumstances alter cases.
The Watson letter vs. the Conference
|The conference says we have to return our tithe to our local church.||The Watson letter shows we can return our tithe to any division or neglected gospel worker.|
|The conference says there are no exceptions to their tithe regulations.||The Watson letter says that circumstances can alter cases.|
|The conference says if we have lost confidence in the leadership or the way our tithe is being used, we must still return our tithe to our local Conference church.||The Watson letter shows that if we have lost confidence in those who appropriate our tithe, it is acceptable to send it someplace else where it will be used correctly.|
|The conference says that because Ellen White was a prophet, it was acceptable for her to appropriate her own tithe.||The Watson letter shows that God appointed other people also to appropriate their own tithe.|
Circumstances alter cases
One important point the Watson letter reveals is Ellen White’s comment that, “Circumstances alter cases.” Both the neglect of the southern workers and the misappropriation of the tithe by the conference were valid reasons for a change in circumstances. This is a Biblical principle as can be seen in the following verses:
2 Kings 4:42-44
And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God [Elisha] bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.
The firstfruits were to be given to the priests (Leviticus 23:10; Deuteronomy 18:1-4). On this occasion however, the firstfruits were given to Elisha the prophet who was not a Levite. One of the reasons this may have occurred is because all the priests had fled to Judah (2 Chronicles 11:13-14). Circumstances can alter cases.
In another example, Ellen White says, “There are exceptional cases, where poverty is so deep that, in order to secure the humblest place of worship, it may be necessary to appropriate the tithes. But that place is not Battle Creek or Oakland.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 1, p. 191. It is very clear from Ellen White’s writings that she upheld that tithe was only to be used for the support of the gospel ministry (Gospel Workers, p. 227). Yet under severe circumstances, this may be altered.