Friday, December 23, 2005

News: Ford Forbidden, Alternative Arranged

adventist today | Adventist Church Authorities Forbid Dr. Desmond Ford'’s Participation In Spiritual Renaissance Retreat

Dr. Desmond Ford was a popular Adventist evangelist and theology professor from Australia who claimed that the doctrine of the investigative judgment, the only distinctively Adventist doctrine, can not be shown from the Bible. This resulted in a church conference, known as "Glacier View", to decide if there was truth in Ford's assertions. A good summary of that conferencee is posted on the adventist today website.

Now I don't exactly support Ford's theological deviations from Adventist orthodoxy. In fact, I agree with the church's decision to defrock him and wouldn't allow him to preach in my pulpit. But to say we can't have open dialogue with one of the key players in a pivotal event of our church's history twenty-five years after the fact is to say that we value doctrinal hegemony more than truth.

I don't undertake to criticize church administration lightly; heaven knows they get enough of it for the tough decisions they have to make. However this decision to intervene in the affairs of a para-church organization by twisting the arm of its leader, a church employee, is ham-handed and gives credibility to those who claim Fords arguments were so good that the church had no alternative but to silence him. I believe our church's doctrinal discussions would have more fruitful results if we spent less time attacking error and more time presenting truth.

It was also a dumb administrative move because it's unenforceable. Conference organizers who are not employed by the church are apparently setting up another venue for Ford's presentations, and the other presentations are being worked around Ford's schedule. As they say, the show must go on.

UPDATE (28.12.05): adventist today | Adventist Today Hosts Dr. Desmond Ford Presentations On The Gospel In Monterey, California


  1. Hey Dave, do I know you? Do your parents live in florida? Anyway, your comment re. Ford. When you have two immovable objects butting heads, nothing advances. Having heard Ford 30 yrs. ago, I saw an attitude that precluded discussion. On the other hand, the church is a vertical organization and gets its nutrition from protecting sacred cows. Let's be mature and be able to agree to disagree. Otherwise there's a high price to pay...that's still being paid. I think Wilson was the prez back then. What's wrong now!

    Wes Blevins

  2. Wes:

    I'm not sure if I know you; my grandparents in Florida for about half of the year.

    Being of the post-Glacier View Adventist generation, I regard Ford as more of a historical artifact than a theological threat. I'm sure those currently in leadership think otherwise, but I believe that there is still knowledge to gain by getting his perspective of the events leading up to 1980 (which also happens to be the year I was born). We may have the sanctuary doctrine right, but I believe have a long way to go with conflict resolution.

  3. Dave, I respect your decision not to invite Ford to your pulpit, but it's interesting to note that the Sydney Adventist Forum invited Dr. Desmond Ford to lead them in their Sabbath worship service, last October 22, 2005. (See They didn't want him there simply to represent the opposite viewpoint. They choose whom they considered to be the best for the purpose in leading them in their worship service. I can remember back in the Christmas of 1980 in Angwin, some Danish friends had invited myself and Desmond Ford and Calvin Edwards for Christmas dinner, where in Danish tradition, all the food on the table was white. At this meal, the subject of Lewis Walton's Omega of Apostasy book came up, and Calvin started to tear the book to pieces. But Des immediately counter-balanced his critiques with statements, like that "But Calvin, the book was well written, and had a very readable style" and so on.... that shows an open-minded person. Many of us know that Lewis Walton had targeted Des Ford as the "great Omega of Apostasy" and yet Des could show a charitable spirit when dealing with the book. Also Des could not take the position of "being negative." There was something positive in everything. The previous registration at PUC we students saw Dr. Erwin Gane and Des Ford together laughing side by side. Students had become so polarized between the "Gane camp" and the "Ford camp" and that was a wonderful demonstration by both Australians scholars of how we should be in the church "we can disagree without being disagreeable."

    When Desmond Ford returned to Australia in the year 2000 he went to the Avondale College Alumni meetings, and the speaker announced that Ford was in the audience. Every alumni present stood to their feet and gave Ford "a standing ovation." Now, when President George Bush visited Australia, and went to the Australian parliament, they decided not to honour Bush with any standing ovation, because we Australians only give that to people whom we consider to be very special.

    At Glacier view the scholars wrote up a consensus statement to express what they all could agree on. Dr. Ford signed the statement and showed that he was in harmony with the wide spectrum of brethren present at that meeting. However, that did not suit the plans of Elders Wilson and Parmenter because to fire him, they had to have evidence against him. So what they did was to privately interview a few scholars to ask them where they disagreed with Ford. This 10 point critique was not voted on by the General Assembly at Glacier view, although it was read to them. This violated the "democratic spirit" that had prevailed in their Consensus statement meetings by having the participation of the whole group.

    Then Wilson and Parmenter used this 10-point critique, that was not representative of the General Assembly, to fire Ford, and then later to rescind his ordination as a minister. Sorry Dave, but that was not fair!

    I think that the problem still in the church is that the church's administrators who are not academics and trained in the teaching of theology are making theological decisions that should be left to the scholars.

    We hear about Ford. But what about Dr. Edward Heppenstahl, and Dr. Raymond Cottrell? They were in agreement with the problems that Des Ford raised, but no one mentions them. They could talk all they liked and no one "said boo." (except for Morris Venden's father.) But they could express their concepts in such complicated language that the Administrators never raised an eye-brow. But when Ford expressed the same ideas in simple down to earth Aussie English - it was a bombshell that shook the church - because he went public on an issue that had been kept "under lock-and-key" by the Administration of the church, and how dare he go public, and have the members understand what he said! Hey, are we children that we can't handle new information? Those were the days before the internet, and yet Ford had received dozens of phone calls from concerned Pastors all over the world about those issues about Ellen White and the Sanctuary.

    As Dr. Heppenstahl said at PUC at a talk in Paulin Hall back in 1980, if Jesus after his ascension didn't immediately sit at the right hand of the Father, what do you think that He was doing for 1800 years? Flipping show-bread? How ridiculous could you get? (But the pioneers of the church believed that! They believed that Jesus for the first time went into the Most Holy place in 1844.) These remarks of Dr. Heppenstahl infuriated the father of Morris Venden, and he grabbed the microphone and wouldn't put it down, and started shouting at Heppenstahl "Dr. Heppenstahl, you are ridiculing the Bible!"

    Another retired scholar was Elder Lowe who, like Heppenstahl, was originally from England, and was President of the British Union. Later he was one of the GC Vice-Presidents, and he was one of the ones who helped persuade Walter Martin not to include the SDA church in his book “The Kingdom of the Cults.” But Martin challenged our church leaders and asked where do you have these ideas in print? So what they did was to draft the book “Questions on Doctrine.” But there was a big dilemma. They knew that the Review and Herald Screening committee with its narrowed minded outlook would never print the book. So what they had to do was to go directly to the publishing house and get the book printed. Some asked Elder Lowe, how did he survive being an administrator and scholar in the church for all of those years, and he said the only way that he survived was to “have a sense of humour.”

    After Dr. Ford’s forum at PUC in 1979, Dr. Heppenstahl called Elder Lowe and pointed out that the points that they had talked about in private 20 years before that were now made public. Dr. Raymond Cottrell, who was one of the major contributors to the SDA Bible Commentary as well as being an Editor of the Adventist Review, also had publicly stated the same agreement that Dr. Ford stated what they had tried to push 20 years before in the Sanctuary Review Committee.

    Elder Lowe, Dr. Heppenstahl, and Dr. Raymond Cottrell were in agreement with the questions that Des Ford raised at his forum. They didn’t exactly coincide in the solutions that Des gave to answer the questions raised. But that was the purpose of the Consensus statement at Glacier View, and Des respected their viewpoints, and Heppenstahl, Cottrell and Lowe respected Ford’s viewpoints. No scholar agreed in everything. They had the right to their own opinions about different debatable doctrinal issues.

    Was it that Ford was simply communicating something that the administrators of the church wouldn’t publicly allow to be discussed and up until that point, it was always behind closed doors? Like the late Dr. Walter Utt of PUC history department said: “Des’ sin was that he spoke in front of the children.” Like Pastor Jorgensen at a Sydney Adventist Forum in August 1980 said, that Ford was not dismissed for theological reasons, but that he was dismissed because he went public on something that should have been kept private. Later at the same forum, Dr. Norman Young was asked about what he thought about the 10-point critique against Des Ford, and he replied and said that “I don’t want to go public; otherwise I’ll loose my credentials!” And the whole audience roared in laughter!

    Dave, back in 1968, I can remember the Australian SDA church administrators visiting Avondale College and eating at the College cafeteria. Desmond Ford was with them as Head of the Theology department. The church administrators had their trays loaded with desserts, and most of them had protruding stomachs or bellies. In contrast, Desmond Ford had only a plate of vegetables and no desserts, and no pot-belly. That really impressed me.

    Ford had always jogged and riden bicycles all over the communities of Avondale and Angin. He even ran the "Angwin to Anguish" foot race, and finished in the upper times.

    The combination of good diet and exercise produces a healthy brain - a brain capable of wrestling with difficult issues. The latest article from mentions that Dr. Cottrell informed Des Ford at Glacier View that the administrators had not read his manuscript. Was it because their brains were so numbed by their unhealthy lifestyles? If they never read the manuscript, why did they demand that Ford renounce his manuscript? (Hey, first read the thing, before jumping on the band-wagon! But all those guys knew was that the boat was rocking, and that they didn't want the boat to rock anymore. So to calm the waters, Ford had to go.)

    Is it possible that Ford is not the black sheep that the administrative side of the church has painted him to be?

  4. Mike:

    Thank you for your interesting comment. I haven't studdied the Glacier View history as extensively as you have. In fact, I find it a difficult piece of history to study because of all the misinformation and rummor propogated by both sides. So I take many of the accusations I hear with a grain of salt. That's why I think the Adventist church should promote more open dialogue and study of the event, but, as you insinuate, too many administrators right now have too much to loose if that happens.

    Nevertheless, unless Dr. Ford's views have been significantly misrepresented to me, I agree with the decision to remove his credentials. I don't think the the Adventist church has got every last doctrine nailed down as well as it could be, but Ford's preterist views alone are highly inconsistant with what I find in the Bible.