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The Radical Politics of Our First GC President, John Byington — 48 Comments

  1. What the SDA community needs more than ever are men and women with strength and drive of a similar preacher I read about just like Elder John Byington. PRAYER, practical christian living and speakings and doings of a Holy Spirit filled life. We can find no fault in His actions. Jesus is his name.

  2. Elder Byington may not have been the conventional adventist, but he sure had the holy spirit that enabled him to work the works of God.

    • So he did Jayne..indeed he did what an inspiring story! May God raise up more who are moved by the Spirit like he

  3. we could use someone like this today leading the adventist church. thank you for sharing the story on the life of this true gentleman.

  4. Wonderful to read this about the early SDA GC President. ..... wish that more SDA's were like this man today.

  5. Very insightful. Dr. Strayer is to be commended for bringing the life of Elder Byington to those of us who can only assess who this great man was by his photograph.

  6. I wish our church now was as active in politics. Time after time I get told by fellow Seventh Day Adventists that we should not be involved in politics. I am active in politics as I co-chair the Adult Autism Partnership Board for my local government area. Partnership boards are inter-agency strategic planning and oversight bodies. The one I co-chair draws up the Autism strategy i.e. plans for improving the care of people with Autism.
    I have the opportunity to witness to people in power through my involvement with the partnership board. Best example I can give was the board asked me to write the religious discrimination assessment of the newly written Autism strategy. I wrote it and surprised my local government by pointing out not everyone has a modern Western medical view on medical issues. This resulted in my local government rewriting several of its policies to make it respect the views of people with a faith. I might not have had anyone join our church yet because of my work with the partnership board but forcing local government to be more tolerant, respectful and understanding of those with a faith is a witness.
    I believe ALL Seventh Day Adventists should be active in encouraging governments to be more caring of those less fortunate and to be less anti-religion.
    Please note I have Asperger's Syndrome (a form of Autism) myself so have severe problems with social interactions but I am still able to make a significant impact by my witness. As a result of my experience I know ANYONE if willing to be used by God can be a strong witness even to those in power.

    • Wooow! thank YOU very much Mr. Warren.
      that really motivated me. I should not be waiting for others to join me. Thank YOU for reminding me--i need to pray for courage. (smiling)

    • Bro.Warren am impress with your comments and am reminding you that where ever you find yourself and whatever your hands find to do do all to the glory of God. Remember Daniel committed his life to God and God rewarded him well. In a heathen society,as a captor, he performed his task well to the honour and glory of God. Continue doing well for your master my friend.

  7. Each time i sit at the door of my grass thatched house here in cental Africa,i often think about the faith like that of elder J. Bayinton.The self-devotion and hardwork and then i ask my self a number of questions.From self denial to duty.The lord said if any one wants to follow me,he must deny himself and carry his cross and follow me.What shall we do brethren?

  8. Thank you for that article. I just stumbled upon this site and this article about John Byington caught my eye. He was my great great great grandfather. He became the first GC president after James White turned down that position. I hope to someday meet him when soon Jesus will call forth the sleeping saints.

    • Randy, you have something to be proud of. Having a great- grandfather with this legacy is something to shout about. I read the article last week and again, this week. Reading it made me come up with a plan to do my part to spread the gospel to my community and to my church members who are missing Sabvath after Sabbath. What dedication from John and Catharine.

    • Randy,

      I hope then that you will purchase a copy of my full-length book on Byington! It's now available in the ABCs.

      Your name pops up as well in the biography of Blythe Owen that Linda Mack and I are working on.


    • Randy, do you mind sharing how the legacy of your great great great grandfather, Elder Byington, has impacted your life and the life of your family?

      May our Father in Heaven continue to bless your life and that of your family with the intelligence, wisdom and love that is in your double heritage of father on earth, and Father in Heaven

  9. wow....one tiny thing that struck me was that he didnt eat chunks or mock meat...he ate meat from the farm..YES REAL MEAT...and lots of SDAs behave like its a crime to eat meat and like quoting spirit of prophecy to justify the nonsense...just chose to highlight that part

    • Soren, that is an interesting comment. I agree we shouldn't judge people based on diet. I do believe that God wants us to be healthy and that he specified diets for his people. While it is good to learn about our leaders and be inspired by their dedication, I believe that only Jesus was perfect and can be used as an example in everything he did.

      • Shirley, always tactful. I have to follow you as my model, but just seem unable to achieve it. You are sharp. God bless.

    • Soren, his real meat didn't have the added female hormones of estrogen and progesterone to help change his physical structure; and it didn't need antibiotics to kill the bacteria from dead animals being part of the feed for his cows and chicken.

      [off-topic redacted]

    • Eating of meat nowadays in the developed World can not be justified on health, social justice or environmental grounds.
      It is a basic law of biology each step up the food chain requires approx. 10 times the food. Approx. for a Human you get 1kg/pound of body weight per 10 kg/pound of wheat. To get the same from a cow 100 kg/pound of wheat is used. 10 kg/pound of wheat to feed the cow to get 1 kg/pound of body weight. A Human needs to eat 10 kg/pound of cow meat to get 1 kg/pound of body weight. If you want to reduce world hunger one of the best things you can do is have a pure plant based (vegan) diet.
      Global Warming which appears predicted in Revelation 16:8 is caused to a large extent by Methane released by cows as a result of the digestion. Global Warming has already caused millions of people to lose their land from rising sea levels and changes to climate causing drought ect.
      Global warming is also threatening undeveloped world's food supply by causing bleaching of coral so wiping out fish stocks, shifts in fish distribution. Also warming sea water is leading to a massive increase in jellyfish which eat young fish ect wiping out fish stocks ect.
      The main cause of deforestation in the Amazon and its associated human rights abuses of the indigenous peoples is cattle farming. Partly to make new cattle ranches but also to grow soya to feed cattle. Yes, most cattle in the developed world are fed soya NOT grass during the Winter. There is also a strong trend for cattle to be keep in huge barns ALL year round so they have to be fed on cattle feed.

  10. Sometimes we are so obsessed with the health message that we forget that our mission to the world involves building relationships that will allow us to reach those who are lost. This preacher did not have to be a vegan to become an effective evangelist. He lived a healthy life by staying busy for God instead of staying in church all day eating Veggie burgers and gossiping about members who eat 'flesh foods'

    • Jacob, are you referring to a vegan or some vegetarians you know, and probably have issues with? Or are you categorizing vegans and vegetarians in a class of irresponsible, lazy, obsessed gossipers?

      What about a young Daniel and his three stalwart friends, as the Word of God gives credit? The Bible certified a 10 times wiser, 10 times more knowledgeable, 10 times fairer group of young men who honored God in their lives -- specifically identifying their vegetarian diet as a decisive categorization of faithfulness to God; similar to the decisive categorization of those who chose not to bow down and worship a 90 feet tall Dagon.

      Would you say, presumably, that the non-gossiping, non-obsessed meat eaters were kneeling with faces to the ground before a great golden image with determined faithfulness in character? As God often does, He highlighted the integrity and faithfulness of His children, and chose not to comment on the continued rebelliousness of those He sent into captivity for the very same reason.

      Our judgement of others, Jesus Christ pointed out, is the predetermined basis for our own judgment before God. Our Father in Heaven is calling us to examine our own selves, whether we are in the faith, rather than attempting to examine others when the complexity of motives and behaviors is beyond our capacity to give fair judgment. God alone is LOVE, and His judgment is just and righteous.

      It is good that your affirmed the faithfulness of a stalwart child of God; but the Elder will not be honored by our using his faithfulness as a whipping block for vegetarians.

      God bless, my brother.

    • Brother Jacob,
      Especially since your post regarding those "obsessed with the health message" grew out of an affirmation of the life of GC President Elder Byington, and was liked by 14 others, I am expressing concern regarding a point that you made.

      First, I think you made a Biblical founded statement "that our mission to the world involves building relationships that will allow us to reach those who are lost".

      While it is true that a few use the health message as their personal forte, and at times the apparent standard of righteousness, the health message of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy has been one of the most effective gifts of God in building relationships for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, EGW makes the point that Jesus spent more time in healing than in preaching.

      Jesus Christ knew that healing and showing concern for health communicates care for the person; and also that sickness replaced by health makes the mind more fit to make critical decisions. Even while addressing the health of His hearers, Jesus Christ knew that receiving a miracle of health and healing will not necessarily translate into faith and surrender to Him/God. The point? 1) God-given health is evidence for faith in Jesus Christ; 2) God-given health instructions and healing disallows sickness affecting the mind to be a reasonable excuse in the judgment of the wicked.

      This means that the health message is a far deeper issue than the surface value of being vegetarian or not. It is demonstrated medical fact and research proven evidence that certain diets lead to significantly greater challenges to health, and consequently significantly greater challenges to faith. Some are even blatant enough to hold God responsible for their illness and lack of recovery when they themselves knew where their choices will lead. When prayers for healing are disconnected from commitment to obedience to God, or justified by bargaining promises and shallow commitments, blaming God for lack of faith becomes norm. Jesus Christ knew exactly why He spent more time in healing than in preaching. Healing is preaching par excellence.

      Every person, including every SDA, has to make a decision about the Temple of the Holy Spirit, for he who destroys this temple, will God destroy (Paul). This is the message of Genesis 3.

      As we post-Genesis 3 aliens pray for restoration of God's creation, and the restoration of the image of God, are we willing to live by the rules of the restored world of Genesis 1 and 2?

  11. I hope our church leaders today are taking notes on Elder Byingtons leadership style. Yes, I know we are living in the 21st century, but the unnecessary spending of Gods money on buildings that house the same forms of leaderships (Conferences, unions, divisions, and General Conference,) were politics put Washington to shame is not pleasing to our God. Lead by example. Let's all Go out into the highways and byways and preach the love of God. And, like Elder Byington, let's be dedicated to our mission, get involved in our communities, be leaders who share Gods love for others like M. Warren. Get involved in politics that makes us shine for JESUS!

    I can't wait to read Byingtons biography.

    • Henrietta, it is easier to spend someone else's money on self and the glory of self, so how do you cure that sickness? Any suggestions? Do you have any suggestions as to how to adapt the open style of evangelism to today's challenges? I grew up in the old style system; but now the Pastor is paid to do the work in the Church, so he really can't go out and do the other part of his job that he is paid to do. "Paid to do" is the reason of course that it his exclusive job, not that of the members. This is not applicable to all geographical settings. Many international communities are still living back in the ancient days of the circuit riding John Byington.

      • I really do not have any suggestions or solutions. I know God has the solution and He is waiting for both our leaders and ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit in making decisions that will bring Him glory and honor. If we model Jesus' ministry, we will focus on both the needs outside of the church as well as the needs of the church. What are pastors learning at our theological institute today? I am a part of the international community where pastors empower members to be disciples and work alongside these members to carry the gospel to those in need. It can be done with prayer and commitment.

        • I agree with Sis.Bishop s position. Pastors, officers, members all united to complete the divine task of carrying the gospel to the world in our generation. First things first. Setting our priorities trait.

          • Mister Lavalas used a key word. PRIORITY. Byingtons priority was to introduce JESUS to the community. He did not need a dozen committee and thousands of dollars to do the work. Instead, he gave of his own money to make Adventist institution what they are today. He was committed to the work and he believed in order.

            I hope the delegates to this upcoming General Conference Meeting in San Antonio Texas reads this article before the session begins. We need to focus on saving the lost souls in the church and those who are waiting for a missionary to knock in their doors and give them the good news of a risen Savior who loves them. We must address the social needs of this generation before we loose them.

            I am so fascinated with Byingtons story that I read it again this week. I must stop reading because I am comparing and contrasting his life of service with what we get today from ministers, which in reality, is not all ministers. We do have some great workers in the field today. But there are those who are in the profession for the easy life, the paycheck and status. (That's my opinion.)

          • Hi
            Ms. Henrietta,

            It is noteworthy You said that those folks should have read this excerpt testimonial on the Byingtons. Because how much would that have allowed them to more critically think about what they were undertaking.

            For how many times, have I been, altogether, "rearranged"--in a spirtual way--after reading something in a lesson plan, or Friday lesson, or even the "inside story" features. It is about the lost souls as well right? Because he world is perishing.

            Oh and yes, speaking of great missionaries in the field. Ms. Henrietta, I am still trying to find contact info., on Me. Gayle Haberkam's ministries, o Dr there in Indonesia, and have been in touch with the Adventist missions website, and still trying. This is after, our flock past out envelopes and brochures about supporting that ministries.
            So yes, I get what You've saying here in Your reply to Mr. Lavalas

  12. Can hardly wait for Dr Strayer's biography on Elder Byington. This is what it means to be a christian, practical living that is of service to God and man. Not waiting for others to do, not useless advisories when scriptures admonishes us to occupy till He comes. Our organization, in my opinion, continues to be silent on social reforms; this while our children are killed, hauled off to jail, we continue to be marginalized, disenfranchised, and confront racist and racism on a daily basis. We may not eat meat, or drink coffee or tea, however the social issues that bombards us daily creates enough stress that sets us up to suffer and die of all the maladies that affects the world. Yet, our organization keeps silent, except on tithes and offerings; 'you are cursed with a curse', sound the alarm! Elder Byington had an opinion, and followed through on said opinion. I am so glad he was an abolitionist before he became a sabbatarian Adventist. I am of the strongest belief that things would have been different, the underground railroad would have lost a great conductor. I am also happy that Uriah Smith was secretary instead of President. It offered him the time he needed to write Daniel and the Revelation. There is a God in heaven. Elder Byington had integrity, compassion, empathy. I know heaven was proud of him. I most certainly am. My heart/soul is cheered.

  13. I agree! Why focus on what a person is eating or not eating? Why not get out and live our Christian faith practicallly - encouraging one another, bringing comfort to those in need, supporting one another .... pratically-when our main focus is on what the other person is eating or not eating,

    • Hi Janet, you are right, our main focus should be on Jesus, on beholding we become like Him. The more we become like Him the more we will love our neighbour and we will care about their physical and spiritual welfare.

  14. What a practical pioneer! We have a lot to learn from our pioneers. Thank you for sharing this article am looking forward to Dr Strayer's biography on Elder Byington.

  15. Thank God for the life and ministry of our first General Conference president John Brington, who demonstrated commitment to Jesus, and his word,and love and respect for all people.

  16. All in all, Elder john was hardworking.
    Lets stop crying of poverty when we have land that can be used to generate money that we need to push the ministry a step further.
    God reward us all

    • Amen. Amen (10 x 10)^10. that's what I've been trying to "between-the-lines, trying to communicate to the body-of-believers i deal with. One of the best comment on proactivity, and productivity I've heard yet.

  17. I know SDA business owners whose tithe and offerings, individually, are more than the that of the whole congregation combined, certainly adequate to cover the full budget of the local Church. What they spend in doing God's work in a variety of places is not their money, but the Lord's in tithe and offerings. Let us not be awed by mortal flesh, but by the God who gives in Jesus Christ the means to transformation of character internally, and in some cases wealth externally.

    There are some nominating committees who would never elect David, son of Jesse, as Youth Director or Church Elder. Sorry, they would elect him as a young man singing the Psalms of praise; but the Church Board and nominating committee members will tear him apart in their God-given right as official committee members, and dump him mercilessly after they discover the pregnant married girlfriend. And when he turned around and married her after her husband's death? He will sit in shame on the back pew of the Church the rest of his life, compliments of official church board and nominating committee gossiping/right of character dissection.

    God anointed David, while in his teens, to be King of Israel, full well knowing his future. God called David a man after His own heart, because God is a Divine heart-knowing God, and a blood-covering-sin God, and selects and elects on His own merit, not the merit of humans. Let us praise Jesus Christ for David. Let us praise Jesus Christ for Elder Byington. And if in our reading and writing and speaking of biographies and autobiographies (daily) we do not find the praise and honor going to God, intentionally and fully, we question the starting point of the reader/writer/speaker, whether individual, committee or published.

    God be praised.

  18. Let's be careful lest we begin to imagine that there is a man without fault. I would rather that I were not the one to find fault with this pioneer, but there was a time when Brother Byington had taken a position in the churches Health Institution. Mrs. White wrote, for the main part, in his favour, but she also commented :

    "Bro. Byington was not in the best position for one of his ardent, active temperament. He did not possess quiet and gentleness, so important for one that is around nervous, easily-excited invalids."

    Obviously there were positions that he was well suited for, but in a hospital/sanitarium setting? No... it seems that he may have been too much of a zealot.

  19. The most important thing I noted among so many other attributes, is that Elder Byington visited and encouraged, members, spiritually uplifted in prayer, He care about keeping souls for the Kingdom.So often newly baptized members feel unimportant after accepting Christ, they have problems. With no phone call or text msg, or e-mail to show encouraging words to help strengthen their faith, some soon fall into the same or worst predicament of a sinful life. Yes! We need more soldiers for Christ especially for our young and old alike.

    • Definitely Carol. The bible workers (such a weird name), pastors, elders and church members need to replicate that behaviour of Elder Byington ( surely he was following Jesus methods). Sure there are many church members that do the same. However, not enough of US, ESPECIALLY OUR LEADERS-the example of christianity that many church members follow (sad but true). So church officials.....BE LIKE JESUS ALL DAY, sorry that should be LIFE LONG.

      People of GOD be blessed always.


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