MODERN HISTORY OF THE SEVENTH DAY OBSERVING CHURCH OF GOD #5
Later History of the Marion Period
Volumes of the Hope of Israel are missing from the official files between the May 4, 1869 and June 27, 1871 issues. Although not mentioned in the "official" church history of Klesz, it appears that during this time B. F. Snook left the ministry and the editorship of the magazine. Loughborough reports that Snook became a Universalist preacher for $1,000 a year.
With the 1871 issue, thirty year old Jacob Brinkerhoff, a relative of W.H. Brinkerhoff, became editor of the paper. H.E. Carver was still President of the Publishing Association, and the Publishing Committee was composed of N.M. Kramer, Asahel Aldrich, andV.M. Gray.
On September 15, 1871, there was held the Second Annual Meeting of the General Conference of the Church of God at Marion. This indicates that in 1870 a General Conference had been organized. A Quarterly Meeting was also held in conjunction with this conference.
And on September 29, 1871, a "Conference of the Church of Christ" was held at Waverly, Michigan. Elder Gilbert Cranmer was still the leader of the work in Michigan.
During 1868-1869, there appeared articles in the Hope written by such men as Samuel Everett, I. N. Kramer, S. Davison, M. A. Harris, D. W. Randall, M. A. Dalbey, L. E. Horton, J. C. Day, J. H. Nichols, William O. Munro, J. R. Goodenough, and others.
Also in 1871 there began to appear reports of A. C. Long doing missionary work in Missouri and Kansas. In 1872 he preached in Harrison and Worth counties, close to Stanberry (Gentry County). One meeting lasted for three weeks, and was held at the Union School House near the Moore residence in Harrison County; Six convents were added, making 23 Sabbath keepers in the area. The Moore's reported they had been keeping the Sabbath there since 1861.
Name Changes and Internal Disputes
At the Third Annual Conference of the Church of God General Conference, reported in the March 12, 1872 issue, it was decided to change the name of the paper from the Hope of Israel to the Advent and Sabbath Advocate and Hope of Israel, because the latter was a more distinctive name that would appeal to more people. In March of 1874 the sub-title Hope of Israel was dropped altogether. Also at this conference the Church of God brethren heard the Seventh Day Baptist Elder V. Hull, a delegate from the American Sabbath Tract Society, give a report of the Seventh Day Baptist activity in promulgating the Sabbath. Hull lived in Welton, Clinton County, Iowa.
Because of the historical and geographical proximity of the Seventh Day Baptists and the Church of God, there may have been an attempt for some sort of Joint effort at this time. Indeed, Hull requested that a Church of God minister be sent to visit a group of Sabbath Adventists at Welton, Iowa. And the Conference voted to send M.N. Kramer as delegate to the Seventh Day Baptist Northwestern Association, as its next meeting at Albion, Wisconsin, in June.
In October of 1873, the paper was suspended, and not resumed until March of 1874. It appears that Brinkerhoff and the Publishing Association were at odds over something. The office property was sold, but to save the Advocate and the Church of God publishing work, Jacob Brinkerhoff sold his home and bought the office, press, and accoutrements so as to continue publishing. The Christian Publishing Association composed of Kramer, Carver, and Gray, previously the overseer of the magazine, was dissolved, although it appears in the end they approved of Brinkerhoff's buying the paper from Aldrich.
But they instructed Brinkerhoff that the paper's circulation must increase so as to make it self-supporting.
On April 5, 1874; the Marion church rented the upper floor of the church building to Brinkerhoff for the publication of the Advocate. Generally, the editorial policy of the Advocate remained the same as that of the Hope. In the March, 1874 issue, Brinkerhoff stated: "The editor of the Advocate does not hold himself responsible for the sentiments contained in articles written for the paper. Each writer will be responsible for his or her views of scripture. We hold ourselves responsible only for editorial selections and comments."
Missouri Becomes the Leading Center of the Church of God
Although Jacob Brinkerhoff of Marion, Iowa continued to be the editor of the Advocate until 1887, it appears that from 1874 on, the real thrust of the Church of God was carried on in Missouri rather than Iowa. Reasons for this are difficult to determine. Even today, besides the Church of God in Marion, there is little evidence of the church in Iowa; on the other hand, Missouri churches of God grew and flourished, several of which continue today.
A. C. Long's Missouri Efforts
Apparently, much of the Missouri growth was due to the preaching efforts of A.C. Long. In early 1874, he held three months of meetings in Harrison and Worth counties. At Martinsville, he garnered seventeen converts and began a church. In a series of meetings at Denver, Missouri, four more began the Sabbath, including S. C. B. Williams, owner of a large grist and saw mill. Williams posted an ad in the local paper stating that henceforth his mill would be closed on the Sabbath.
Long's July 30, 1874 meeting at Denver was a "Grove Meeting," one held out of doors in a grove of trees. This was a common practice of itinerant ministers, as the trees acted as a canopy and sound shell magnifying the voice. Church of God ministers in the 1920's were still continuing this practice.
Other evangelistic efforts in Missouri, as by W. C. Long in 1881, were done with the use of "Gospel Tents."
Moores' of Missouri
Jasper Moore and his family moved from Iowa to Missouri in about 1867. In 1873 or 1874, his son Samuel (S. A.) Moore, of Harrison County, Missouri, was baptized by Elder A.C. Long on one of his evangelistic campaigns. Moore claimed that "The Spirit of the Lord fell on me, and I felt the power of that Spirit so much so that I hurried over to Brother Long, and gave him my hand.... While this was all going on, my heart was just burning like fire. Oh, I never felt so good in-my life.—But that was all the Lord's work...." Chosen elder of a local church about 1879 at the age of twenty, Samuel Moore, and his father Jasper Moore, became leading Church of God ministers and officials.
Moore distributed tracts, and it may have been his urging that caused A. C. Long to travel to Missouri. Long organized two churches, one in Denver, Worth County, with sixty members. Here many of the new converts had been Seventh Day Baptists, and had believed in the immortality of the soul. But tracts from Moore convinced them otherwise. The second church Long organized was near the Moore place, with about forty members.
Kramer reports that a Missouri state conference was organized in 1873. But Kiesz reports that it was 1874. From the pages of the Advocate, it appears that the Missouri Conference, known first as the Sabbatarian Adventist Conference of Missouri, was organized on August 2, 1874, with a constitution and By-Laws. The officers were: S.C.B. Williams, President; A.C. Long, Vice-President; H.R. Perins, Secretary; Alistes Williams, Treasurer; and Executive Committee, S.C.B. Williams, Jasper Moore, and William C. Long. Ministers appointed to District Number 1 were W.C. Long and A.D. Leard; District 2, A.C. Long and I.N. Rogers; District 3, A.F. Dugger. The extent of such a work in Missouri apparently never had such a counterpart in Iowa-Northern Missouri and Southern Iowa Church of God brethren had a conference near Hopkins, Missouri on October 23, 1874.
The second Missouri conference was held at Pleasant Valley School House, Harrison County, Missouri on August 13, 1875. The following report was given: "Objections having been made to the name, 'Sabbatarian Adventist Church,' as adopted at our first conference, it was moved and carried that we select the scriptural name 'Church of God', and henceforth known in a church capacity by that name."
Present at this conference were the Long brothers, A.C. and W.C., A.C. Leard, Alistes Williams, R.S. Wheat, T.L. Davison, H.R. Perine, and Jasper Moore.
Missing Church History
Often, the critical years of Church of God history are obscure because of missing articles of the church paper. If all the issues were extant, presumably much more would be known. As the 1936 Census of Religious Bodies reports, "The history of the church is closely connected with the history of the publication...." I. N. Kramer of Iowa was responsible for preserving much of the early issues of the Church of God paper without which there would be very little to record.
There are no Issues available from late 1875 or early 1876, until April 5, 1881, when the Advocate went from semi-monthly to weekly.
Some of the new names of ministers and writers appearing after 1881 were N. A. Wells, R.E.Caviness, R. V. Lyon, J.A. Nugent, John Branch, G.W. Admire, W.O. Munro, and B.G. St. John.
Conferences and Campmeetings
What was life in the Church of God like during the 1880's? It seemed from the publications to be one consisting of going to Sabbath meetings and Sabbath Schools, campmeetings and conferences.
The "Annual Conference of the Church of God" was usually held in the fall, in August or September, in conjunction with a general church campmeeting. An example is the compmeeting held at Mineral Springs, Gentry County, Missouri beginning Thursday, September 1, 1881, and continuing until Thursday, September 6. The eighth annual conference meeting was held at the same time. The Long brothers and N. A. Wells comprised the executive committee.
Jacob Brinkerhoff, the editor of the Advocate from Iowa, attended this conference and reported of the prayer and social meetings and sermons. He stated that attendance rose as high as 1200 to 1500 people, and that the Church of God was greatly expanding in northwestern Missouri at this time.
The highlight of this meeting, as all others, was the official conference meeting, conducted according to parliamentry law. President W.C. Long presided. Leading members and ministers there were: W.C., A.G., A.C. Long, N. A. Wells, E.L. Pierce, Thomas Beckman, Elisha Marshall, A.C. Leard, Jacob Lippincott, Samuel A. Moore, Jasper Moore, J. W. Osborn, C.T. Pierce, James A. Sims, T.L. Davison, and Jill Nichols. Ministers reported on their work and Brinkerhoff gave an overall report of the state of the work, from the Advocate office. Businesslike and devoid of human interest and real life content, the reports of these meetings give little besides who attended and who were chosen new officers.
The year 1881 also saw Church of God meetings at Spring Ranch Grove, Nebraska and Hartford, Michigan. J.H. Nichols, Enoch Owens, John Sperry, and G. W. Admire were working in Nebraska, while Lemuel J. Branch reported from Michigan.
Two Types of Ministers
The Michigan meeting decided that "all who labor among us as ordained ministers must have credentials as such, and those preaching without being ordained must have license." This shows the existence of the two common types of church of God ministers: (1) credentialed, that is, ordained ministers, and (2) licensed, not ordained, ministers.
Credentials were issued by the General Conference, and renewable from, year to year.
Also in the 1880's, it appears that there began the practice of holding ministerial conferences. A ministerial conference was held in Stanberry, Missouri, on March 18, 1884.
Some Kept the Passover
The April 12, 1881 issue of the Advocate sets forth reasons for observing the Lord's Supper, or Passover, annually at the time of the Jewish Passover. Pro and con articles were printed on the subject, but Passover reports in the spring of that year showed that many brethren had accepted it. A group in Nebraska at Samuel Barackman's kept the Passover and footwashing on the evening after the 13th of Nisan, as did R.E. Caviness of Beckwith, Iowa, and a "Brother Davison." The May 24, 1881 issue of the Advocate contains a long article by A. F. Dugger explaining the reasons for annual observance.
The Year 1884: General Conference Organized Copies of the Advocate are missing for the year 1883. But the year 1884 seemed to show a decided upturn in events of the developing Church of God.
For one, there was the first mention of the Church of God at Stanberry, Missouri, where a Ministerial Conference was held, March 18, 1884. Churches and members had sprouted up around Stanberry for some time previously, and it appears that by now there was a church at Stanberry.
It appears that a move to closer Church of God organization was well underway. President W. C. Long of the Missouri Conference urged that the church elders choose a delegate for every ten members to represent the local congregations at the conference. The ministers present, and their areas of service, shows the extant of the church at that time: W. C. Long, N. A. Wells, A.C. Leard and J.C. Kerns were in Missouri; J. H. Nichols in Kansas; Jacob Brinkerhoff in Iowa; John and L.J. Branch in Michigan, S.W. Mentzer in Iowa; and Bro. Stahl in Indiana.
A meeting was held at Marion, beginning September 6th, attended by all the Iowa brethren as well as the Michigan brethren returning from the Missouri Conference. An Iowa Conference, with a Constitution and By-Laws, was adopted. Elder A.C. Long was elected President, indicating he had moved from Missouri to Iowa.
Next was held the "Fourth Annual Conference of the Church of God" in Michigan, October 2-6, at Irvington, in Van Buren County. Michigan finally moved to take the name Church of God, and as Kiesz later noted, 1884 was thus the year that "every local group associated with the General Conference, that had not done so previously, accepted the name of 'Church of God'."
L. J. Branch was then President of the Michigan Conference, While other Michigan ministers were Gilbert Cranmer, M. Davoist, Thomas Howe, Elsis L. Robinson, A.N. Fisher, and John Branch. The Long brothers and I.N. Kramer visited the Michigan meeting.
With these several meetings, in Missouri, Iowa and then Michigan, the subject of a more unified body was brought forth. And during the Michigan Conference, it was voted to organize a General Conference, made up of the state conferences of Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. The first officers were:
A. C. Long --President
A. F. Dugger --Vice-President
Jacob Brinkerhoff-- Secretary
I.N. Kramer-- Treasurer
General Conference Committeemen
A. C. Long
W. C. Long,
It is surprising to note the full circle that the Church of God people had come to. In 1860 and 1861, they had vehemently been against any form of organization, especially that which the White Party formed at Battle Creek, with a "General Conference." Yet by 1884, they had come to form the same conference system that they previously had denounced. To be sure, there were articles in the Advocate as late as 1885 against organization. But before this, articles began appearing for organizing, written by Brinkerhoff and the Longs.
The General Conference System
As organized in 1884 (Kramer says it was 1883), the Church of God General Conference was in reality only a loose confederation. Individual churches and individuals seemed to have great liberty about many points of belief, although the 1885 session outlined 24 articles of common Church of God belief.
From the starts the Hope of Israel had been open to views from both sides of controversial issues. But now, beginning with the November 15, 1887 issue, the Advent and Sabbath Advocate was published not by Jacob Brinkerhoff who had bought the press previously, but by the General Conference of the Church of God. Brinkerhoff was hired by the conference to publish the Advocate and the Missionary. And the General Conference Committee was to examine all articles not in harmony with the Church of God Constitution.
Apparently this "new editorial policy" did not in reality change anything, as far as article content. Controversy was still allowed. From W. H. Brinkerhoff on, articles had appeared advising strongly against the use of pork. Now, from 1885 and in following years, a number of articles appeared in favor of eating the unclean meats. A possible reason for this is that some of the brethren were so anti-Seventh Day Adventist that they become pro-pork.
The unclean meats issue was one that has long been, and still continues to be, a dividing factor in the Church of God, Seventh Day.
However, the general trend of articles on the subject of tobacco was that it was a "filthy weed."
In 1874, A. C. Long noted that he and some of his converts at Denver, Missour, entered into a "solemn vow" never to engage in the "filthy habit" of tobacco. Mr. and Mrs. Williams, their sons Enoch and Amzy Williams, and Bro. Moore were among the signers of the pledge.
H.C. Blanchard Refused to Support Visions
In 1877, a 43-page tract was printed at Marion, Iowa by the Advent and Sabbath Advocate press, entitled "The Testimonies of Mrs. E. G. White Compared with the Bible. " Written by H.C. Blanchard, the tract records the plight of a man who refused to go along with Mrs. White's visions.
Blanchard united with the Seventh Day Adventists in 1861, covenanting to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Soon afterwards, he received a license to preach. At that time he knew little of the visions, had read a few of them, but believed they were of divine origin. He did not heartily endorse the "Health Reform" visions, but said little on the subject.
In 1869, he moved from Illinois to Missouri. He relates, "I did not preach the visions and health reform, but I still continued to labor with the Seventh Day Adventists." Officials of the Kansas and Missouri Seventh Day Adventist Conference checked up on Blanchard, discovering that he did not preach the visions nor proscribe tea, coffee, flesh meats, and pork. As a result, in 1874, Blanchard's ministerial credentials were withheld. In 1875, he was notified that they would be renewed, providing he accept the visions and Health Reform. He turned in the credentials, preaching his views fully for 4-5 months at the Labette, Kansas church, of which he was a member.
In March of 1876, Elder J. H. Cook visited the church, remaining several weeks, and condemning Blanchard's "rebellion." Most of the church sided with Blanchard, so he could not be put out. But at a church business meeting, on May 13, 1876 with the advice of G.I. Butler, some fourteen members withdrew in order to conform with Seventh Day Adventist teaching. Blanchard continued to hold regular meetings in the Labette church, now composed of independent Sabbath-keepers.
Blanchard's 1877 tract zeroes in on the Health Reform. Referring to Gen. 18:8; Isa. 9; I Sam. 17:18 and II Sam. 17:29, he showed that the Bible is not against meat, butter, cheese and eggs, as Ellen G. White's visions purported. To Seventh Day Adventists, the prohibition against pork was as binding as "thou shalt not steal," but Blanchard believed that pork was permissible.
Whether Blanchard joined the Church of God or not is as yet unknown.
Almon Hall Refutes Adventist 2300 Day Interpretation
Another tract writer during the Marion period was Almoh Hall, who in 1880 published a 44-page tract, "The Command and the Weeks of Daniel 9: 24-27" at the Advocate press.
A native of Vermont, born in 1820 and "converted" in 1835, Hall received the Advent message of Miller prior to 1840. Shortly before October 22, 1844, he was convinced that no definite time for Christ's return could be known.
After a long and careful investigation, Hall embraced the Sabbath in September, 1849, and was one of the first Sabbath-keepers in Washington County, Vermont.
In 1880 his address was Transit, Sibley County, Minnesota. In his tract, Hall refuted the Millerite connection of the 70 weeks prophecy to the 2300 days prophecy, holding that 490 years are not part of the 2300 days, and was not sure that the 2300 mornings and evenings should even constitute 2300 years.
Jacob Brinkerhoff of the Seventh Day Adventists
In 1884, Jacob Brinkerhoff published a 16-page tract at Marlon (the third edition) entitled "The Seventh-Day Adventists and Mrs. White's Visions." It is of a rather mild tone and without caustic criticism or bitter vituperation, but simply explains why the visions are wrong. The main point Brinkerhoff emphasized was that Mrs. White's visions were of human origin. He quoted Elder White's 1868 edition of Life Incidents, noting that since 1845, Ellen had had some 100-200 visions, "the most apparent change being that of late years they have grown less frequent and more comprehensive." Thus, Brinkerhoff concluded, after keeping "the laws of health," that is, abstaining from pork, she became more healthy in mind and body, and therefore had less visions, which were a product of an unhealthy body and mind.
An examination of Mrs. White's visions convinced Brinkerhoff that they corresponded to what people already believed. "For instance, for a space of several years they believed that probation for sinners ceased in 1844, and the visions taught the same thing.... [viz., ] 'fee time of their salvation is past'." Later the visions said the opposite. Another case was that of conditionalism. In 1845 or 1846, Elder George Storrs had brought to the attention of Adventists at a conference at Exeter, New Hampshire, the doctrine that the dead sleep until the resurrection. Later, Mrs. White's visions upheld this.
Brinkerhoff felt that Mrs. White's visions had greatly hurt the spread of the Sabbath truth. He felt that the Whites had gotten lots of money because their people were led to believe that they were the only church and "are taught that to be saved they must be with 'the body', that is, their organization." Seventh Day Adventists treated their dissenters with intolerance, for "The power exercised over the people, and their treatment of dissenters, very much resembles the Roman Catholic Church."
How did Brinkerhoff explain the great growth of Seventh Day Adventists versus the insignificance of the Church of God at this time? "Some are held with that people because of the large work they are doing, saying they must be right, or they would not be so prospered; forgetting that other bodies of professedly religious people have had great prosperity, though holding and teaching gross errors." Their prosperity, Brinkerhoff believed, was not due to their being right, but because of the managing skill of James White.
A final interesting comment by Brinkerhoff is his reference to a conference in western New York in the early history of Adventists, where the Whites attended. There Mrs. White had visions against certain positions the Whites opposed, but that Brinkerhoff said were correct. This must have reference to the 1848 conference at Volney, New York and William E. Arnold, who held to a yearly Passover observance and the Age-to-Come doctrine.
Canright's Defection from Seventh Day Adventists
D. M. Canright began keeping the Sabbath in 1859 as a result of the preaching of the Whites. In 1864 he was licensed to preach by the Seventh Day Adventists, and in 1865 ordained by James White. He soon became dissatisfied with Seventh Day Adventists, because he "saw that he [Elder WhiteJ ruled everything, and that all greatly feared him. I saw that he was often cross and unreasonable."
An incident occurred in 1867, in which Canright saw that Elder White was clearly wrong, but Mrs. White's "Testimonies" sustained him. J.N. Andrews was adamantly against White, and Canright was sympathetic to Andrews' position. But they were forced to make a written confession that they had "been blinded by Satan." Canright noted, "I saw that her revelations always favored Elder White and herself. If any dared question their course, they soon received a scathing revelation denouncing the wrath of God against them."
For years in the late 1860's, the main business at major Seventh Day Adventist meetings was the complaints of Elder White against leading ministers. Canright related that "Elder and Mrs. White ran and ruled everything with an iron hand. Not a nomination to office, not a resolution, not an item of business was even acted upon in business meetings till all had been first submitted to Elder White for his approval;" Seventh Day Adventism was a fear religion, a "yoke of bondage," or "cold legalism," Canright felt, because members were cowered by White's use of the visions, to either accept them or "fear of being damned if they refuse."
Canright left the Seventh Day Adventists in 1880, was back for a time, but left them for good in 1887 when he became a Baptist minister. He notes that most of those who left them became infidels, because "The natural rebound from fanaticism and superstition is into infidelity and scepticism….the ripe fruit of Adventism in the years to come will be a generation of infidels."
In her Testimonies for the Church, Ellen G. White seemed to show the corruption extant in her church, which was a cause for Canright and others withdrawing. She wrote, "The Spirit of the Lord has been dying away from the church.... The churches have nearly lost their spirituality and faith.... I saw the dreadful fact that God's people were conformed to the world with no distinction, except in name .... Covetousness, selfishness, love of money and love of the world, and all through the ranks of Sabbath-keepers.... There is little love for one another. A selfish spirit is manifest. Discouragement has come upon the church.... There is but little praying.... Right here in this church corruption is teeming on every hand.... There is a deplorable lack of spirituality among our people."
Canright on Others who left the Seventh Day Adventists
D.M. Canright's 1889 book, Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced, shows that he was not the only one to withdraw from the Seventh Day Adventists. He records others who had also withdrawn. J.B. Cook and T.M. Preble, whose Sabbath tracts converted many to Sabbath-keeping in the 1840's, left Sabbath-keeping, as did O.R.L. Crozier. Elder B. F. Snook, a leading Sabbath Adventist minister, was in 1889 a Universalist. Elder W. H. Brinkerhoff of Iowa had also renounced the faith. Elders Moses Hull according to Canright, the most able speaker Adventists ever had and Shortridge had become Spiritualists. Elders Hall and Stephenson were with the "Age-to-Come" party. A.C.B. Raynolds of New York had become "a noted blasphemer." Elder H. C. Blanchard and T.J. Butler of Avilla, Missouri, had renounced the Seventh Day Adventist doctrine. Elder L.L. Howard of Maine left them, as did H. F. Haynes of New Hampshire. Nathan Fuller of Wellsville, New York became a libertine. M.B. Czechowski went to Europe and died in disgrace. H.S. Case, Elder Cranmer and Philip Strong of Michigan all left the Seventh Day Adventists, as did Elder J. B. Frisbie, a pioneer preacher for many years in Michigan.
Others who left included Dr. Lee of Minnesota, who inaugurated work among the Swedes there; Elder A.B. Oyen, missionary to Europe and editor of their Danish paper; Elder D.B. Oviatt, for many years President of the Seventh Day Adventist Pennsylvania Conference, who became a Baptist minister, as did Elders Rosquist and Whitelaw of Minnesota; Elder C.A. Russell of Otsego, Michigan, became a Methodist; and Elders Hiram Edson and S.W. Rhodes, pioneer preachers, died cranks and a trial to the church.
Those who wrote against their former church previous to Canright were H.E. Carver, H.C. Blanchard, J.W. Caasady, A.C.Long, Jacob Brinkerhoff, J.C. Day, H.W. Ball and Goodenough and Bunch.
The main reason why he and the others left, Canright states, was the question of Ellen G. White's visions.
Canright specifically mentions the Church of God with headquarters at Stanberry, Missouri, who separated from Adventists because of opposing Ellen G. White's visions. He notes that "they have grown steadily, and now have thirty ministers and about six thousand believers... They have done a good work in exposing the fallacy of Mrs. White's inspiration."
Extent of the Church of God on the Eve of the Stanberry Era
Statistics for the Church of God for the middle 1800's have been almost impossible to locate. The first instance occurs in the report of the fall, 1886 general conference meeting at Marion. Elder J.H. Nichols reported a membership of 75 in four churches in Kansas; Elder W.C. Long reported 440 members in 13 Missouri churches; Elder John Branch reported 365 members in 8 Michigan churches, and Jacob Brinkerhoff, 81 members, four churches in Iowa. Total was 961 members and 29 churches. At the same time, 485 copies of the Advocate were being published weekly.
Receipts for the year were $1,032.38, total conversions for the year, 122, and number of ministers and licentiates, 30. And also in 1886, average salary for each minister and licentiate was $34.40 per year. Mostly the ministers had farms of their own to supplement their income.
The Move to Stanberry
It seemed inevitable that the Church of God headquarters would move to Stanberry, Missouri. The thrust of the work had long before been centered in northwestern Missouri. The building at Marion which had long been the publishing headquarters of the Advent and Sabbath Advocate was sold in 1886 for $1200.
And during the Fourth Annual Session of the General Conference, held at Stanberry, beginning October 28, 1887, Jacob Brinkerhoff resigned the editorship. A.C. Long immediately became the editor and publisher, beginning with the November 15 issue.
The new General Conference Committee was composed of W. C. Long of Stanberry, John Branch of Wayland, Michigan, and A. C. Long of Marion. The fourth session of the General Conference, which initiated these changes, is believed to have been the first one at Stanberry.
The General Conference had agreed to support A.C. Long financially for a year when he was apointed publisher and editor. He bought the equipment and continued to produce the paper from Marion. Because issues of the paper are missing from May of 1888 to May of 1892, it is difficult to determine the precise nature of events during the move from Marion to Stanberry.
According to the August 12, 1963 Bible Advocate, the first issue to be printed in Stanberry was that of June 26, 1888, showing that A. C. Long did not last a year as editor at Marion. A notation in the Marion church records shows that by October 13, 1889, the Advocate had already been moved to Stanberry, and the editorship had changed to W. C. Long.
According to S.J. Kauer, the change in editorship and office occurred in the summer of 1889. A.C. Long's health was bad, and it was thought best for him to move to a warmer climate. So W. C. Long, who lived in Stanberry, bought the equipment from his brother and moved it to Stanberry, where he began publishing the Church of God paper. "At this time — 1889," Kauer reports, "Stanberry was the center of the rapidly growing work of the Church of God in Missouri. It was also the location of the home of W. C. Long. These seem to be the reasons for the move from Marion, Iowa."
W. C. Long secured a building for the machinery, which was later so arranged that the upper story was used as a meeting place for the church.
Another innovation was the change in the name of the paper. From Advent and Sabbath Advocate, the name was changed to Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Advent. And, the paper was now issued weekly, by the General Conference of the Church of God, Stanberry, Missouri, and the General Conference Committee of A.C. and W.C. Long, and J.C. Branch.
Steam Press Increases Activity
Previously, the paper had always been published by use of a hand press. But beginning in October of 1892, the Advocate was printed by a steam press, acquired for $130. A larger steam press was purchased in October, 1900. In the June 21, 1892 issue; Jasper Moore stated that according to W.C. Long, the Advocate office had printed 1,064,000 pages of tracts, presumably still on the hand press. With the acquisition of the steam press, the possibilities of expansion were greatly increased.
The Church of God, Incorporated
Legal incorporation had apparently been discussed previously, for at the 16th Annual Session of the Church of God General Conference, a committee of three, B.F. Whisler, M.A. Branch, and G.T. Rodgers, were appointed to consider the matter of incorporation. Their report in favor of legal organization was carried, and the January 2, 1900 issue of the Sabbath Advocate carried this report: "The General Conference of the Church of God is now incorporated. Articles, by-laws, etc., of incorporation will appear in the General Conference report which will be issued in pamphlet form and be ready for distribution in ten days. Price 10 cents."
Final Change of Name of the Paper
At the following annual Conference, the 17th, held at Stanberry, December 6, 1900, it was decided to change the name of the paper from Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom to Bible Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom, the name that has continued to this day. N. A. Wells became editor, and W.C. Long stepped down to become office editor and business manager.
Thus, by the turn of the century, the Church of God and the Bible Advocate had acquired much of their present form, and the seeds of further growth were already sprouting.
Church of God Work to 1900
The Church of God made great strides in growth during the last years of the last century. In 1892, George Batten and Company's Directory of the Religious Press of the United States took notice of the Sabbath Advocate. It stated that the paper was an eight-page weekly published in Stanberry, Missouri, and had been established in 1865 [sic.]. Its editor then was W. C. Long and the circulation was about 1000 copies.
A year's subscription was priced at $2.00. The church also published The Sabbath School Missionary, twice a month, 50 cents a year, with Edwin H. Wilbur, editor. The directory reported that this paper had been established in 1884, and had a circulation of 460. (But it is interesting to note that by late 1969, the circulation of the Advocate had grown to only 2225).
According to the Eleventh Census (1890), the "Church of God (Adventist)" had 29 churches and 647 members. One of its churches had a building seating 200, and was valued at $1400. And the Church of God at this time had 19 ministers.
In the spring of 1896, W. C. Long reported that over 100 converts had been made since the 1895 General Conference meeting.
To show the spread and growth of the Church of God in the years just preceding 1900, the following give some evidence:
Song Book Published
E.G. Blackmon of Neosho, Missouri, an ex-Seventh Day Adventist minister, was converted through the efforts of W. C. Long in 1886. He was a songwriter and became a leading minister in the Church of God.
By January of 1893 he had prepared a church hymnal called "Songs of Truth." Most of the hymns therein, the music as well as the words, were composed by Blackmon. The new church hymnal went through several revisions and "the black book" continued to be used for many years by the Church of God. As Kiesz stated, "The songs were slanted toward truth so that our people could freely sing them, not only with the spirit but with the understanding also." Blackmon died in 1912.
Cranmer and Branches continue in Michigan
Gilbert Cranmer and the Branches in Michigan continued to be mentioned in the Advocate. In 1887, at the age of 73, Cranmer held a meeting which resulted in 22 signing a church covenant. In reporting his efforts in the Advocate, Cranmer remarked, "I would rather wear out than rust out." At 86, Cranmer was still hale and hearty. He died in late 1903 at the Church of God hospital and sanatorium at White Cloud, Michigan.
Sanatorium at White Cloud
A Church of God sanatorium was established at White Cloud, Michigan, around 1900. In accordance with the Seventh Day Adventist practice of instituting hospitals and emphasizing bodily health and medicine, it appears that the Michigan brethren led a Church of God effort to establish a hospital. J.C. Branch became a medical doctor, and in the May 17, 1898 issue, he suggested that the Church of God build a sanatorium at White Cloud. The rest of the church seemed to support his move; the Stanberry church even subscribed the furnishing and keeping of a room in the White Cloud Hospital and Sanatorium, as it was called, known as the Stanberry Room. By September 25, 1900, the building was nearly finished, and sixty-six surgical operations had been performed. Elder Gilbert Cranmer became one of its patients and died there. Dr. J.C. Branch directed the sanatorium, assisted by two other doctors and three nurses.
The April 2, 1901 issue reported that the Sanatorium was a three-story, brick building. Micropal and chemical examinations were made to determine the cause of each patient's disease. Curative treatment included dietetics, Branch reported, while the "up to date laboratory" was used to fill prescriptions for the patients, "when it is found that medicine is necessary." Yinton, Iowa; Stanberry; Hartford, Michigan; and the Nebraska and South Dakota Conferences, provided money to furnish rooms in the hospital.
Little is heard of the Church of God Sanatorium at White Cloud after 1900. One reason is that the Michigan Church of God drifted away from the General Conference until in 1917 most of them joined with the Seventh Day Baptists.
Kiesz reports that at the turn of the century, there was a Normal School and a Sanatorium at Stanberry, which later became extinct. But the indication is that they were not direct projects of the Church of God.
The 1902 General Conference discussed the possibility of establishing a Church of God "Academy."
Church of God member M.J. Vanderschuur reported in the October 16, 1900 issue of the opening of an orphanage or children's home at his place in Kenwood Park, Iowa.
West Virginia Church of God
In 1887 appears the first mention in the Advocate of Church of God activity in West Virginia. A Seventh Day Adventist state meeting was held at Kanawha Station, West Virginia on May 18, 1887. The meeting was held because some Seventh Day Adventists, such as Elder Chaffee, had refused to preach for the visions of Mrs. White, and a division was threatened. Emory Robinson and his wife, and six more, including Henry L. Lowe and wife, were put out of the Seventh Day Adventist church for refusing to accept the visions. They were subscribers to the Advocate, and though not claiming to be Church of God members in 1887, wrote a letter commending the Advocate because "it is not always calling other commandment keepers evil names."
Dugger, in his History of the True Church, refers to a Church of God established in Wilbur, West Virginia in 1859, by Elder J. W. Niles, who came from Erie, Pennsylvania. Derisively called "Nilesites" by their enemies, this group was said to have kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan.
Church of God in Oklahoma
Cherokee Strip, Oklahoma was opened up for settlers in 1893. Among the early settlers were some Church of God Sabbatarians, the Wells, Websters, Hortons and Helsons. Elder J.R. Goodenough came to Oklahoma in 1896, holding services in the area, and adding new Sabbath keepers. Elder S.S. Davison, who appeared in the Advocate of 1892 from Woodward, Iowa, moved to Oklahoma in 1899, as did the Sheffields and the Baums. During World War I the Cherokee Strip area Sabbath keepers bought a meetinghouse from the Mennonites, as a permanent church was established.
The Fairview Church of God Sabbath School is reported to be the oldest in the state, with Claremore a close runner-up. J.K. Hinds founded the latter group, when he moved to Inola in 1905, and began preaching the Church of God message.
Up until 1905, the Church of God in Oklahoma was associated with the Missouri Conference. But at a meeting held at the Golden Valley School House near Fairview, Oklahoma, September 2 and 3, 1905, an Oklahoma Conference was formed. President was C.C. Wells; Vice-President, Frank Miller; Secretary, Blanche Sheffield; and Treasurer, Eber Davidson.
Church of God in Nebraska and the Dakotas
German Speaking Brethren the first mention in the Advocate of Church of God work in South Dakota comes in November, 1892, when it was announced that a Northwestern Nebraska and South Dakota Conference of the Church of God had been formed. A Quarterly Conference of the Church of God was held at Bonesteel, Gregory County, South Dakota on December 2, 1892.
The third annual session was held, September 27, 1895 at Bassett, Nebraska. J. A. Nugent was Secretary of the conference, and it was noted that most of the members lived within 10 to 15 miles of Bassett. Bassett, Nebraska was the home of Elder A. F. Dugger, and his son, A.N. Dugger. In 1896, Elder L.L. Presler was working in Nebraska, and a Brother Ellis in South Dakota.
In 1898, unknown to A.F. Dugger and the other Church of God people in Bassett, Nebraska, a German-speaking Church of God was organized near Eureka, South Dakota, in the northern part of the state. A minister named Halbesleben, formerly a Free Methodist preacher in Minnesota, moved to the Dakotas, and having accepted the Sabbath, began to work among the Seventh Day Adventists. His preaching emphasized "holiness or sanctification as a second experience, that is, another experience with God besides conversion." The result was the breaking up of a number of Seventh Day Adventist churches in both the Dakotas, and the formation of several independent Churches of God, including Eureka. In other words, Halbesleben was pentecostal, preaching about the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." John Kiesz reports that Halbesleben was against "speaking in tongues," although some people during the sermons were "taken possession of by the Holy Spirit." This explains why John Kiesz and other Germans in the Church of God tended to be "pentecostal." Kiesz' father, Philip Kiesz was one of the first leaders in the Eureka church.
For about twenty years, members met in homes for services, under the leadership of Philip Kiesz, Sr., and John Brenneise, Sr. A large group of younger people, including John Kiesz, became converted in 1910, and in 1918 a church building was erected five miles north of Eureka. Kiesz, Brenneise, Frederic Miller, George Dais, Sr., and Peter Schrenk were trustees. Later, in 1925 the church elders were Christ Kiesz and John B. Brenneise.
It was not until late 1923 that the group, calling itself the Church of God, came into contact with the Stanberry General Conference. R. P. Bossert of Montana, an Advocate subscriber, sent an issue to Eureka, which opened up the way for eventual union with Stanberry. Early in the spring of 1924, Elder A.N. Bugger was invited to hold services in Eureka and council with them on doctrinal points. There were a few differences, but Eureka soon became a General Conference member, and held its first campmeeting in 1925.
Dugger wrote of his contact with these German brethren in the March 4, 1824 Advocate. He reports his visit to a church of 100 people in Roseoe, South Dakota, who had been Sabbath keepers and holders to the name Church of God for more than 20 years. "They did not know of anyone else holding to the faith as they, except a few small companies...." Dugger reported that the church had no regular minister, but the leading brethren spoke in turn, viz., John B, Jacob A., Henry A. and Daniel B. Brenneise; Christes and Philip Kiess; Jacob Dais; and John Schrenk. The older pioneer members were Johannes Brenneise, Philip Kiese, Fred K. Miller, George Dais, and Peter Schrenk. They were said to believe that Jesus was the Son of God (and not God himself), a Wednesday crucifixion, Sabbath resurrection, the 1000 year reign on the earth, unconscious state of the dead, destruction of the wicked, and other doctrines similiar to the Church of God. They wanted the Church of God General Conference to recognize them as one of its churches, but Dugger wanted to wait awhile in order for them to thoroughly understand what the church believed.
Brenneise and Christ Kiesz preached in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as several states. Thus it was that the Church of God contained many German-speaking members. Soon after 1925, a German Bible Advocate was started, with Christ Kiesz editor, and Bossert, Brenneise, and John Kiesz contributing editors. Kulm, Alfred, and Cleveland, North Dakota and Fellon and Glasgow, Montana, were prime mission fields.
North Dakota Church of God
Possibly even before the 1898 establishment of the Eureka, South Dakota Church of God, William Halbesleben established a church about twenty miles south of Kulm, North Dakota. About twelve or fourteen families began keeping the Sabbath, meeting in various homes. The Schlenker family, and the Moldenhauers later, were among the members.
The Henry Schlenkers later moved to Alfred, where a church developed. Alfred, North Dakota, was also the home of a Seventh Day Baptist church.
Parkston, South Dakota — Independent Church of God
The Church of God General Conference, organized in 1883-84, never contained all the Sabbath-keeping churches of God. One of them was at Parkston, South Dakota, the ancestor of the Lodi, California Church of God.
About 1876, a group of German immigrants from Russia began keeping the Sabbath at Parkston, South Dakota. They formed a congregation called the "Seventh Day Church of Cod." Its first elder was Henry Baumbach, who was succeeded by his son John. In 1908, a portion of this German church left South Dakota for Lodi, California. There, Henry Baumbach, Jr., served as elder for more than twenty years. The Lodi church was torn by dissensions through its years. In 1960 two factions of the church united. Elder Leo Merriam became pastor, Claude Ellis assisting. John Brenneise and Joseph Reuscher were also elders at this time.
Besides the doctrines of the Sabbath, Ten Commandments, Water Baptism, and Salvation through Christ alone, the main element of the Lodi's doctrine was local autonomy. Charles Monroe reports that the Lodi church never has been part of any conference, and is a "free" church.
It has been reported that "The church is not subject to any national organization, but is governed strictly by local autonomy with every qualified member having equal voice and vote. The importance of brotherly love is stressed at all times."
Elder Merriam stated that in the new earth, God's people will be governed by Christ. But, "until that time, however, a democracy is the only form of government that will succeed in a church, if the people are to be free, happy, and get along together." "Getting along together," or rather, the lack of it, has been one of the recurring themes in Church of God history. The independent nature of Church of God Sabbatarians has resulted in one schism and division after another, and at the turn of the century, this issue begins to take on major significance.
Church of God In Oregon, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania
Also previous to 1900, the Church of God had expanded its message into far reaching areas from the Stanberry headquarters.
On October 25, 1894, the Second Annual Meeting of the Church of God in Louisiana was held at Hope Villa. B.F. Purdham, B.C. Causey, and H.G. Roberts were on the Executive Committee.
A.H.W. Barnes, ex-Seventh Day Adventist minister, had started a work In Salem, Oregon in the spring of 1884. And by the fall of 1894, an Oregon Conference of the Church of God was held in the Cole SchoolHouse, Linn County. Some of the Pacific Coast ministers were Elders R.H. Sherrill, H.M. Anderson, J.H. Sperry, J.W. Beatty, C.E. Whisler, and W.L. Raymond.
And a Pennsylvania Church of God meeting was held, November 1 and 2, 1895 at Geneva, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, announced by William M. Darrow. J.W. Niles of Edlnboro, Penhsylvania and Brother Wing of Blockvillej New York were expected to preach during the meeting.
26 Ministers, Circa 1900
Contributing editors of the Advocate in 1895 were listed as S.S. Davison, A. F. Dugger, A. C. Long and Jacob Brlnkerhoff. These were four important Church of God ministers of this period.
In 1896, there were these Church of God ministers working in scattered parts of the country: A.F. Dugger, Bassett, Nebraska; J.C. Bartlett in Missouri and Iowa; L.J. Branch in Michigan; Jacob Wilbur in Arkansas; R.H. Sherrill in Oregon; L.L. Presler in Nebraska; andM.B. Ellis in South Dakota.
Church of God credentialed ministers in 1899 were: W. C. and A. C. Long, A. C. Leard, Jasper Moore, D.M. Spencer, Z.V. Black, E.G. Blackmon, Jacob Wilbur, N. A. Wells, S.S. Davison, R.E. Caviness, S.W. Mentzer, E.S. Sheffield, J.R. Goodenough, L.L. Presler, Hiram Ward, A. F. Dugger, J. A. Nugent, J.T. Johnson, H. P. Peck, S. Pope, M.B. Ellis, J. C. Branch, M.D., L.J. Branch, M.S. Carlisle, M.A. Branch, W.H. Sloan, L.A. Wing, J.W. Niles, Hiram Harris, J.W. Sperry, H.T. Whitehall, F. C. Pixley, F. P. Kennedy, James Shingletan, Levi Watkins, Gilbert Cranmer, M.J. Vanderschuur, J.W. Beatty, S.P. Loop, A.P. Bacon, R.H. Sherrill, and L.J. Herriman.
In the year 1900, A. C. Long, perhaps the leading Church of God minister since the 1870's, died of brain fever at his home in Brownsdale, Missouri. A Church of God member since the 1860's, Long was born in Perry County, Pennsylvania, September 15, 1846. Previous to his taking over the press in Iowa (1887), Long preached for several months in San Francisco and other points on the Pacific Coast. After he relinquished the editorship due to ill health, he again went to the Pacific Coast for a time.
Also in 1900 Michael W. Unzicker(1873-1956) was ordained. The December 18, 1900 issue of the Bible Advocate, the first with the new name, listed Newman A. Wells as editor, W. C. Long as office editor and business manager, and A.F. Dugger, S.S. Davison, J.R. Goodenough and J.C. Branch as contributing editors.
Team of Wells and W. C. Long
Newman A. Wells (1848-1923) editor of the Advocate in 1900, had moved to Maysville (Marysville?), Missouri in 1865. In the early 1870's he became a Baptist, but in the autumn of 1878 he heard the Sabbath preached, and united with the Church of God. With Elder W. C. Long, Wells held meetings in northwestern Missouri for about ten years, preaching in churches and school houses in the winter, and in tents during the summer. Wells preached in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan and Louisville, Kentucky.
TO BE CONTINUED