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The Untold Story of Glacier View


Editor's note: in this previously unpublished interview, Trevor Lloyd talks with William Johnsson about his insider's view of the Glacier View conference, which took place from August 10–15 1980. It has been called the most important event of its type for the Adventist Church since the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis. Johnsson was a former associate dean of the Adventist Seminary, editor of Adventist Review for 24 years (1982–2006), founding editor of Adventist World, and co-editor of the main Consensus Statement of the Sanctuary Review Committee at Glacier View. He died on March 11, 2023, at the age of 88 and is remembered for his lifelong contributions to the Adventist Church.   

Trevor Lloyd: How do you rate the importance of the Glacier View convocation?

William Johnsson: I consider Glacier View to be one of the most important conferences of our church. It ranks alongside the 1888 Minneapolis event and the 1919 Bible Conference.

Lloyd: When newly appointed General Conference President Neal Wilson chose to tackle Desmond Ford's October 27, 1979, challenge to the church's sanctuary teaching by calling in more than 100 delegates to Glacier View from around the globe, were you surprised?

Johnsson: Yes, initially. Later, I recalled the way Wilson had managed an earlier consultation on Righteousness by Faith (October 3–4, 1979). At that earlier time, he had successfully brought together 145 scholars and administrators, given them all opportunity to speak their minds on what was at the time a sensitive and controversial subject, and ended up with an acceptable consensus statement. Then his Glacier View plan made sense. The success of the Righteousness by Faith consultation, I expect, prompted him to try a similar approach for the even more difficult issues of the Sanctuary doctrine.

Lloyd: Thinking back on the main product of the Glacier View conference, the Consensus Statement, "Christ in the heavenly sanctuary," how significant has it been in the church's doctrinal advancement?

Johnsson: The Consensus Statement contains several areas that broke sharply with the traditional teaching on the Sanctuary doctrine. Unfortunately, this important statement has largely been neglected because many Adventists equate Glacier View with a trial of Desmond Ford and his subsequent dismissal from the ministry.

Lloyd: What did you make of the plan adopted at Glacier View to prepare a set of questions for each day during the week, with the small groups of 16 or so made up of administrators and scholars working directly via exegesis of the relevant scripture passages only—and all of this without the mention of the name of Desmond Ford? Did you approve of this?

Johnsson: Yes. I think the plan was excellent; it was true to the Adventist tradition of focusing on the scriptures.

Lloyd: How would you describe the type of understanding that developed between the scholars and the administrators in the small groups? With the discussion questions assigned for each day requiring a good deal of insight into the interpretation of apocalyptic literature, were the administrators inclined to wait for the scholars to take the lead? Did the scholars accommodate capably to those less experienced, without looking down on them? Did the administrators feel free to ask questions along the way?

Johnsson: I was assigned to one of the small groups and stayed with it throughout. In our group, the discussion was polite and respectful, with both scholars and administrators displaying keen interest and contributing. It’s true that some of the issues were pretty heavy, but some of the administrators were keenly aware of them and had given them careful thought.

You may be interested in an incident that I remember vividly. One morning, we addressed the question of whether sacrificial blood defiled the sanctuary. I stated that in the New Testament, and notably in the book of Hebrews, blood is always an agent of cleansing, never of defilement. Wilson happened to visit our group that day and took me up on my comments. He noted that what I said ran contrary to what Adventists, including Ellen White, usually taught, and asked me what I intended to do with these ideas. I replied that I spoke only in terms of the NT, which is unequivocal on the matter. I further stated that I would continue to study the question without making it an issue. My answer seemed to satisfy him. The Consensus Statement, significantly, makes no mention of this issue in view of its not gaining consensus. In fact, the view that sacrificial blood defiled the Sanctuary played an important part in the original 19th-century formulation of the Sanctuary doctrine.

Progress under a Collegial Group Dynamic

Lloyd: Some have reported considerable agreement between the conclusions drawn by the various small groups. To what do you attribute this?

Johnsson: To the sincere, collegial group dynamic, which allowed the Holy Spirit to lead. Remember, I can report only on the group that I attended. Since the findings of the groups showed a large measure of agreement, I infer that the other groups enjoyed a dynamic similar to ours. No doubt the scholars played an important role. They were already familiar with the ideas that sounded new in the Consensus Statement.

Lloyd: A question on a position approved by the Sanctuary Review Committee regarding Jesus's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary: the historic interpretation regarded the expression "within the veil," from Hebrews 6:19, as referring to Jesus's role from the ascension to 1844, as taking place in the first apartment. By way of contrast, the Consensus Statement makes no mention of the Holy Place at all and indicates that "within the veil" is "symbolic language of the Most Holy Place." Comment, would you, on whether there was any objection to this interpretation in your own small group or in the plenary body, and on how/why this position achieved consensus and was able to get through?

Johnsson: I didn’t keep notes and don’t recall any discussion on this point in my small group. I am confident that the matter wasn’t discussed in the final plenary session because the Consensus Statement was adopted unanimously or almost unanimously.

The Consensus Statement's handling of the phrase “within the veil” marks a large shift from the pioneers’ understanding. The shift in understanding at Glacier View is indeed striking. My explanation would be that over the years many Adventists had gradually moved from a literalistic view of the heavenly sanctuary with two compartments—which seemed absurd to confine God to one space—to a broader view that understood Christ’s heavenly ministry in terms of phases rather than places.

Lloyd: Can we be confident that the great majority of the 114 Glacier View conferees could have explained why applying the expression “within the veil” to the first apartment was so important to the historic position?

Johnsson: I don’t think so. When the discussions brought in the Greek or Hebrew, those unfamiliar with these languages fell back on the scholars. I had one administrator from an overseas division approach me privately to ascertain my understanding of key issues for his benefit. Probably there were many others who felt unsure.

Lloyd: Considering the unequivocal entry in the Consensus Statement, "In Daniel 8:14 it is evident that the word [nisdaq] denotes the reversal of the evil caused by the power symbolised by the 'little horn,' " can we rightly assume that this is the first occasion in an official Adventist publication (first in the Adventist Review and then in Ministry, both in 1980) that the defiling of the sanctuary was to be attributed not to the accumulated sins of God's people (as in Leviticus 16 and in the historic position) but to the workings of an evil secular power?

Johnsson: Almost certainly. I’m not aware of any previous official publication of this view.

Lloyd: Do you recall any specific objections to this statement in the process of arriving at the Sanctuary Review Committee consensus?

Johnsson: No, none at all.

Lloyd: To what do you attribute this, especially when individuals over the previous 80 years had been severely disciplined for raising such matters?

Johnsson: To the gradual change in understanding from a literalistic approach to a more mature one.

Lloyd: Considering three of the prominent dissenters, Albion Foss Ballenger (1861–1921), William Warde Fletcher (1879–1947), and Desmond Ford (1929–2019), would you summarize for us the main dissenting positions they had in common?

Johnsson: All three argued, on the basis of the book of Hebrews, that at Jesus's ascension, he went immediately into the presence of God—he didn’t have to wait for almost 2,000 years before entering the Most Holy Place. After Ballenger’s firing from the Adventist ministry, he wrote out his views in Cast Out for the Cross of Christ (1909). In it, he made clear that for him Hebrews 6:19 was decisive.

Lloyd: To what extent do you consider the dissenting positions of these men to have been exonerated by the Glacier View findings as found in the Consensus Statement?

Johnsson: On this point, the Consensus Statement, especially its treatment of Hebrews 6:19, exonerates them.

Lloyd: In writing the Consensus Statement, what modus operandi did your small editorial group adopt?

Johnsson: The Consensus Statement has two parts, the longer one on the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary and the shorter one on the interpretation of Ellen White’s writings. Fritz Guy and I wrote the draft of the former, basing our work on the reports from the small group discussions. W. Duncan Eva and W. Richard Lesher completed the drafting committee for our writing. They suggested very few changes to our draft. A separate committee worked on the Ellen White draft. Fritz and I had no part in their work.

Lloyd: Please comment on an intriguing segment towards the end of the Consensus Statement. Already, "within the veil" had been termed "symbolic language of the Most Holy Place"—not associated with the Holy Place, as for the historic position. "Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary" had, as for the wording of the (April 1980) Dallas General Conference fundamental, been referred to in terms of a "final phase"—not in terms of the second apartment. And the defiling of the sanctuary had been attributed to "the evil caused by the power symbolized by the 'little horn' "—not caused by the accumulation of the confessed sins of God's people. With all of these reinterpretations behind it, the Consensus Statement remarks that "we believe that our historic interpretation of Daniel 8:14 is valid." In view of these evident updates, in what ways may we deem the historic position to be valid?

Johnsson: Reading the Consensus Statement today, the disconnect stands out sharply. I don’t think that was the case at Glacier View, however. For at least 20 years prior to Glacier View, teachers at the seminary had pointed out these ideas in a noncontroversial manner. I taught at the seminary from 1975 to 1980, each year taking up courses in both the exegesis and theology of Hebrews. My PhD dissertation had focused on the motifs of defilement and purification in Hebrews—potentially an area fraught with difficulties for Adventists. But, like other professors, I simply let the biblical text speak for itself without agitating for an agenda. During those five years, the only criticism I had to deal with was over the authorship of Hebrews!

Sola scriptura Adopted, but Not without Exception

Lloyd: Apart from Wilson's reference to Ellen White at the time of his visit to your small group, do you recall any group member's raising her name as an authority regarding interpretation of the various scriptures referred to in the prepared questions?

Johnsson: No.

Lloyd: To what do you attribute this?

Johnsson: I could only speculate. The focus in the groups was on what the Bible taught.

Lloyd: To keep things in perspective, could we go back briefly to the early days when the sanctuary teaching was first understood as the answer to the bitter disappointment following the passing of October 22, 1844? Do you accept that the rise of Sabbatarian Adventism and, later, the formal organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were dependent on the affirmation of the traditional/historic Sanctuary teaching in those formative days?

Johnsson: Undoubtedly. Ellen White listed five landmarks or waymarks of the Adventist message, with the Sanctuary doctrine being one of them. (The others were: the second coming, the Sabbath, the state of the dead, and the Spirit of Prophecy). For those first Seventh-day Adventists, the sanctuary teaching had powerful existential meaning, because it explained the reason for the Great Disappointment.

Lloyd: To your knowledge, from the middle of last century, was the Sanctuary teaching, as promoted by the earliest believers (including the Hiram Edson "vision"), still being presented as occupying this critical, essential place in the church's spectrum of beliefs?

Johnsson: Around the time of the Glacier View conference, one of the “leading brethren” at the General Conference engaged me in a conversation in which he stated forcibly his conviction that if we were wrong about the Sanctuary, it was “all over” for our church. At the time, that struck me as being a flimsy foundation on which to build one’s faith, but the idea was very common among Adventists in those days.

Lloyd: Presently, what can be said to help maintain the commitment of such folk to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, perhaps building on the findings of the 1980 Sanctuary Review Committee? Can it be shown that, though the early Sanctuary teaching was a sine qua non of those pioneering days, it need not be so today?

Johnsson: Although our Sanctuary doctrine as traditionally expressed faces some important problems of exegesis, at its heart, it points to major biblical values. For instance, it centers in the idea of the judgment, something prominent in both Testaments. Likewise, with the heavenly ministry of Jesus Christ. Both these teachings used to be part of accepted doctrine among Christians, but they have dropped out of consciousness. I see Adventists as restoring these important teachings. And there are others I think of, like the Sanctuary teaching's safeguarding the believer from a wholly subjective understanding of salvation. Unfortunately, we have been so caught up in a defensive mode that we haven’t engaged in the creative theological reflection that this doctrine might invite.

Adventist Media and Reporting with "Spin"

Lloyd: In view of the important updates of the historic Sanctuary teaching we have noted in the Consensus Statement, the reporting of the findings of the Sanctuary Review Committee in church media may be seen as presenting some significant concerns. For example, writing in retirement ten years after Glacier View, Richard Hammill, a leading convener of the conference, expressed concern at the "pronounced 'spin' to what actually happened at the important meeting" given by Ministry magazine. He went on to refer to an "unsigned article" in Ministry "which interprets passages in the Book of Hebrews (especially 9:23) directly opposite to interpretations voted in the day-by-day reports approved by the Committee."[1] How does your own reaction to the Ministry report and to related reports compare with that of Hammill?

Johnsson: I wholeheartedly concur with Hammill’s assessment. The issue of Ministry (October 1980) gave a badly misleading picture of Glacier View. It fell back on a literalistic approach to the Sanctuary, leading the reader to conclude that the old views had prevailed. That issue troubled me greatly, both in content and tone (it was very negative toward Ford). It was far from accurate reporting, yet it became the accepted version of the consultation, with few people taking the time to grasp the significance of the Consensus Statement. At the time I had just joined the Adventist Review office as associate editor and was not in a position to write a rebuttal. I was distressed over what was going on. I hate to say it, but it seemed to me manipulation of the church press.

Lloyd: Were you similarly concerned at the reporting of the Glacier View event in Adventist Review?

Johnsson: In the Review’s coverage of Glacier View, it placed the report concerning Ford’s differences with the official view of the Sanctuary ahead of the Consensus Statement. By this means, the reader was oriented to give greater weight to the former. I wasn’t happy about this: on one hand, you had a carefully crafted report of discussions that occupied the week and which was discussed and voted, over against a document hastily put together late in the day and never discussed or voted. Misleading? Yes.

Lloyd: Since the Glacier View conference, have you observed any move away from the traditional, literalistic view of the Sanctuary—for example, in church literature such as the senior Sabbath School Bible Study Guides?

Johnsson: The Adventist world is large and diverse, with the great majority of members now found outside of Europe and North America. No doubt one would find the old literalistic view still maintained in large areas of the church. Elsewhere, however, it has practically vanished because it seems remote from day-to-day living. I hadn’t heard a sermon on the Sanctuary in more than 20 years until, strangely enough, the pastor of the church we attend spoke on Exodus 21-26 just last Sabbath! His message, which was powerful, took a totally different approach. Instead of the old typological treatment that focused on furniture and festivals, he brought out the central message of the Sanctuary—God is with us—and showed how God can’t be contained in any place. He fills space; he is infinite. This is the progressive sort of thinking I would like to see everywhere, but unfortunately, our publications have yet to make the change.

Maintaining Confidence in the Face of Change

Lloyd: What do you suggest it might take to bring about such moves from the literalistic to the symbolic in the ongoing presentations of the Sanctuary teaching? Do we rely on a wholly positive approach, hoping the shortcomings of the traditional position will fade away quietly? What is the alternative?

Johnsson: You raise a difficult question, one to which I have given much thought. Let me share a couple of reflections. For more than 25 years I was involved in official dialogues with leaders from other Christian denominations. On one occasion we spent a week in Geneva with theologians from the Reformed tradition. Some years later the Presbyterian Church USA, the largest branch of American Presbyterianism, requested a dialogue. It ran for seven years. In both dialogues—in Geneva and in the US—we found the other side very reluctant to discuss the doctrine of double predestination (the view that God determines arbitrarily who will be saved and who will be damned), even though this teaching played a prominent part in John Calvin’s theology. It seemed obvious that for these modern heirs of Calvin, that doctrine is dying by benign neglect.

The General Conference periodically conducts surveys of the world Adventist Church. I was told on good authority that recent surveys of our doctrines show members rating the Sanctuary teaching very low in importance. That suggests that it also is dying by benign neglect. A big problem, I think, is the relentless passage of the years: we have come nearly 200 years since 1844, so the doctrine no longer speaks to us as it did for the pioneers of the movement. Personally, I would like to see creative theology on this teaching rather than allowing it to become a relic.

Lloyd: Is an important part of our problem that bringing about change in the Sanctuary teaching (for example, moving from literalistic to symbolic interpretation) involves far-reaching change in other areas of fundamental Adventist belief?

Johnsson: You are probably correct. Certainly, our understanding of the role of Ellen White’s writings would be impacted. Beyond that, much of our eschatology would need adjustment. Quite apart from any connection with the Sanctuary doctrine, there is, I think, already an urgent need to get our eschatology back on a biblical track. More and more, especially in the United States, Adventists have become preoccupied with conspiracy theories and apocalyptic scenarios. Our wonderful hope of Jesus’s second coming is being degraded by wild speculations that bring our name into disrepute.

I’d like to point out something that’s usually overlooked: many of the end-time scenarios that play a critical role in the thinking of a lot of Adventists aren’t part of our Fundamental Beliefs. Not the mark of the beast, 666, Sunday laws, fleeing to the mountains, etc.—you won’t find a word about these ideas in the Fundamental Beliefs. Yet they have come to play a critical role in public evangelism and daily living. So here we are, living in a fast-changing world where space vehicles are exploring the surface of Mars—and what are a number focused on? Wild, crazy stuff. We should be grappling with the implications of the space age for theology—like the new understandings of time and space, and Einsteinian relativity.

Lloyd: Would you say a few words to encourage those who fear that, if the traditional Sanctuary teaching emphasized by Edson and others is not maintained intact, Adventism has lost its reason for existence? Must we cling to this, our sole distinctive teaching, to remain a distinctive people with a distinctive message?

Johnsson: The saints have no reason to be alarmed if the Sanctuary doctrine is tweaked a bit. Its central, foundational truth remains unchanged: we have a great high priest in heaven who himself has suffered and been tempted like us. He understands what it means to be human, and he is there for us. This doctrine brings heaven close to us. I find it greatly comforting and encouraging.

Yes, I’ve heard it argued that our church will collapse if the Sanctuary doctrine is modified in any way. But that’s faulty reasoning. Adventism is much more than a matter of being right in details of doctrine. We are a movement, a way of life in the world, with a message of hope and healing, and a wonderful global fellowship. In spite of our failures and foolishness, the Lord has been, and is, marvelously gracious to his Adventist people. In making this assertion I acknowledge that he is working with many people apart from Adventists.

Profound Relief Followed by Troubling Disquiet

Lloyd: Let’s return to the work of the Sanctuary Review Committee and note the final events in the closing of the Glacier View week. By the last morning of the conference, Friday, August 15, 1980, the Consensus Statement (the drafting of which Fritz Guy and you played the central role) has been presented to the final plenary session and accepted virtually unopposed—and this including the critical updates and advances on the traditional Sanctuary teaching we have noted in the earlier sections of this interview. How did you feel at this point? What did you sense was the general mood of the Sanctuary Review Committee as a whole?

Johnsson: After the Consensus Statement was discussed and voted through overwhelmingly on the Friday morning, I felt a profound sense of relief, almost of elation. It seemed that the Lord had done something wonderful: we had negotiated difficult areas of doctrine and reached close agreement.

Lloyd: When the official conference closed soon after noon on the final Friday, did you leave still feeling encouraged?

Johnsson: Sadly, no. Late in the morning, there was a development that left me troubled. A new document was suddenly introduced. Read aloud, it was neither discussed nor voted on, nor were copies given out. We weren’t told its purpose, nor who had prepared it. It was, of course, a listing of ten points where Ford’s views differed from Adventist orthodoxy. I had no prior knowledge of this document; its introduction troubled me greatly. Prior to this point, Glacier View had been marked by openness, honesty and collegiality; suddenly I had a sinking feeling that another agenda was at work in an underhand manner. At the opening of the conference, Wilson had assured delegates that Ford was not on trial but only his views. I began to wonder: Is this really the case? The elation from earlier in the day began to evaporate. Eventually, the purpose of the Ten-Point Document came out. It was these points, not the Consensus Statement, that became the instrument to recommend Ford's removal from the ministry. I still feel very badly about the Ten-Point Document and its role in Ford’s dismissal. The process followed lacked the openness that should characterize all our relationships. It wasn’t my church’s finest hour.

Lloyd: What could possibly have been behind the sidelining of a document prayerfully and meticulously put together from the deliberations of over one hundred loyal believers, gathered at considerable expense from around the globe?

Johnsson: Undoubtedly, because Ford made clear his concurrence with its views. Some delegates at Glacier View came determined to see Ford put out of the ministry, and the official document could not be used against him.

A Fateful Friday Afternoon Meeting

Lloyd: As you have intimated, at 4:00 p.m. on that day, Ford was called to meet with a small group of nine, chaired by the General Conference president and including two from the Australasian Division—the president, Keith Parmenter, and the secretary of the Ministerial Association, Arthur Duffy. In line with your fears, Ford was not handed the doctrinal findings in the main Consensus Statement; rather, he was asked to consider the Ten-Point Document prepared during the week, independently of the Sanctuary Review Committee deliberations, by a small ad hoc committee appointed by Wilson, to point out "the major differences between Ford's position and that of the church" When did you learn of this move by Wilson and what was your reaction?

Johnsson: I learned of these developments fairly late on the Friday evening. I’d been out walking and had returned to the lobby of the ranch. There I found a group of people milling around in agitated fashion. Gillian Ford had just finished speaking to friends in Australia on the public telephone in the lobby, and she was sharing her pain with the group. I was shocked, dumbfounded by the news.

Lloyd: The record of the Friday afternoon meeting indicates that Ford was shown a draft for a letter advising the terms he should be willing to meet if he were to remain in church employment; and that he was urged not to rush his response. Are you aware of subsequent moves made to retain Ford in church employment, and the results of those attempts?

Johnsson: W. Duncan Eva, a vice-president of the General Conference who worked closely with Wilson, made strong efforts to find another place of ministry for Ford. I understand that the New Gallery in London was one possibility he explored. I don’t know why these efforts failed, but I think it’s only fair to conclude that Eva would not have taken this initiative without Wilson’s approval.

Lloyd: Following the procedure adopted by the group of nine on that fateful Friday afternoon and the subsequent recommendation (to the then Australasian Division) for the termination of Ford's employment by the church, did you sense a change of attitude amongst Adventist scholars toward General Conference administration? What do you see as the practical effect of this?

Johnsson: After news from Glacier View had sunk in (some of the many accounts being distorted), many scholars experienced a sharp loss of confidence in General Conference leadership. The Glacier View conference quickly became a byword, its positive features buried beneath a load of anger and frustration.

True to the Biblical Text

Lloyd: As we approach the close of our conversation, could we give thought to the future? Who could question the part the Sanctuary teaching played in giving this church its initial sense of identity and mission?  We may now add to this the unprecedented work of the Sanctuary Review Committee in updating pivotal elements of this teaching by way of original language word meanings and faithfulness to scripture context. 

Do you have a word for well-meaning students of scripture who may wish to minimize or reverse the gains of the Glacier View Conference, as contained in this document, in particular? 

Johnsson: The changes that come through in the Consensus Statement are based on the biblical text in an endeavor to be true to its intent and context. They are in line with Ellen White’s encouragement to continue to study for clearer understanding. I think the Lord desires that we keep advancing, not throwing out past understandings but building on them.

Lloyd: I find considerable encouragement in the position taken by the Sanctuary Review Committee on Righteousness by Faith. The Consensus Statement left no doubt where it stood on this matter. On the basis of Romans 8:1 ("There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus"), it laid down: "In the righteousness of Christ the Christian is secure in the judgment." Can you envision the enshrining of this certitude at the heart of our last-day mission?

Johnsson: I long to see the day when Seventh-day Adventists everywhere no longer fear the judgement, when they have come to know in their experience that “perfect love casts out fear” and so they can have confidence before God (1 John 4:17, 18). The Lord calls us to better things, to fullness of joy in the assurance that Jesus is all we need, now and eternally. We are complete in him.

"A Brooding Sense of What Might Have Been"

Lloyd: Looking back on Glacier View after 40-plus years, what is your evaluation of the event: Was it a mistake? A failure? A turning point in our theological growth as a church?

Johnsson: Although more than four decades have passed since Glacier View, emotions are still too raw for a fair evaluation. As raised earlier, my present understanding is that it has been one of the most important theological events in Adventism since the Minneapolis General Conference session in 1888. Many others no doubt hold a much more jaundiced view; they can see it only as a colossal failure to accept important new insights. For me, Glacier View will always conjure up a mix of positive and negative—hope and disappointment, fellowship and sadness, progress, and pain. Above all, a brooding sense of what might have been.

Lloyd: I appreciate your confirmation of the doctrinal progress made at Glacier View in the Sanctuary teaching—perhaps, more in five days than in the previous one hundred and thirty years. To follow up on the last point you have made: give us a glimpse of what you think would have been a satisfying outcome, immediate and ongoing, to the Glacier View conference?

Johnsson: If the Glacier View conference had limited itself to discussing the issues raised by Ford without introducing the Ten-Point Document very late in the proceedings, its outcome might have been vastly different in both actuality and perception. It would have closed on a high, affirming note, as I intimated earlier. The theological progress could have been conveyed to church members through carefully crafted articles in our official papers that were written with appropriate pastoral concern. Then, Glacier View could have been a high watermark and model for subsequent theological discussions.

We Adventists tend to crowd too much into major meetings; we want to pack the agenda, probably in an effort to justify the expense of the gathering. The big mistake in Glacier View lay in coupling consideration of Ford’s future service in the ministry with the theological discussions. Although the meeting with Ford took place after the official close of the conference, it followed so closely as to blur the distinction. Most Adventists soon came to understand Glacier View in terms of its relation to Ford instead of its theological conclusions. I’ve heard that the fateful Friday afternoon meeting was requested by the leaders from the Australasian Division, who argued that they needed to take back to the home field information on where the church officially stood vis-a-vis Ford. How much better if they had delayed their return by several days. Then, in a different location, away from the drama and tensions of the week—maybe at church headquarters in Washington, DC—in a less pressured frame of mind for both leaders and Ford, they could have engaged in the necessary discussions.

That eventually no place could be found for Ford in the Adventist ministry strikes me as extraordinary and tragic. With all his shortcomings (and who is free of them?), he had much to give for the Lord and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. To be fair to the brethren, Desmond Ford was a person who was hard to advise—at least that was my impression after many hours of participation in efforts to find a redemptive solution. He was so sure he was right. Let’s give him credit, however, for saving the church from a major schism. Following Glacier View, conditions were ripe for him to lead a breakaway church. I think it likely that many thousands would have joined him, with grievous harm to our mission. He must have been tempted to do so, but he did not: he continued to consider himself a Seventh-day Adventist. I applaud him for that.

Lloyd: In the aftermath of Glacier View, many ministers and teachers parted company with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, some by personal choice, some because they were dismissed. You did not leave. Why not?

Johnsson: Where would I go? I have been involved in dialogues with most of the major Christian churches and have come to know their leaders and their struggles. They all have problems, pain, and disappointments. There’s not one that I would prefer to link up with.

Some 70 years ago, I accepted Jesus of Nazareth as Savior and Lord, was baptized in his name, and threw in my lot with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It’s been a wonderful, fulfilling ride with no regrets. A few disappointments, yes, but unequaled global fellowship and fun. I have been blessed beyond measure. To a large degree, this church has made me what I am. With all its faults, craziness, and pettiness, it’s a wonderful family to belong to.


Notes & References:

[1] Unpublished paper by Richard Hammill: "Reflections on the Adventist Typological Interpretation of the Mosaic Tabernacle and its Cultus," January, 1990, p. 4.


Trevor Lloyd is a retired educator living in Sydney, Australia, and the former head of the education department at Avondale University. His doctoral degree focused on empirical/historical studies in teacher education.

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