Post 78, Twenty-five Years After Glacier View: Using the Lantern of History, Anticipating a Brighter Future

This paper indicates my assessment of the Glacier View Sanctuary Review Committee 25 years after the event. Posts on this website dated 10 November 2011 and 10 March 2012 offer other interpretive attempts. Obviously there is some duplication in the three pieces but, because they are written for different audiences over a period of time, each piece (hopefully) adds useful features.  Footnotes in this paper are kept to a minimum because it is assumed that readers will use official archives where extensive documentation is available, employ online facilities, or e-mail me ( should specific references or data be needed. The stance of this presentation is influenced by one of my favourite authors, Morris West, A View from the Ridge: The Testimony of a Pilgrim (Sydney: Harper/Collins, 1996). Like West, my early life was characterised by “a heavy load of unexamined certainties.” I hope that, like West as he approached death, I am now less “dangerous” for other pilgrims. Incidentally, while this presentation was made initially to an Australian audience, I knew many North Americans would read it. Thus I explain some of the things that may be difficult for such readers and I adopt some conventions that will be familiar to them.

If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us! Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Table Talk, 18 December 1831 (1835).

For Seventh-day Adventists living in the South Pacific Division,[2] 1980[3] is important for at least two reasons: the General Conference session that convened in Dallas, Texas, and the Sanctuary Review Committee that met at Glacier View Ranch, Colorado. The earlier of these events (April 1980) gave birth to the first expression of Adventist fundamental beliefs voted by a General Conference in world session;[4] the later event (August 1980) provided the Church with its most comprehensive and potentially unifying statement regarding its twenty-third fundamental, “Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary.”

Sociologists comment on the past and the present, thereby seeking to illumine the human journey.[5] Usually, historians are coy when making reference to the recent past; for instance, few supervisors allow master-level or doctoral projects in history to interpret events younger than a decadeHowever, with the passing of two or three decades since the Adventist conflicts of the 1970s and the 1980s and their related employee and membership losses within the homelands of the SPD, it is not too early to map this historical period constructively and to explore options that the Church might evaluate with reference to its ongoing agenda. Specifically, 25 years after the Sanctuary Review Committee of 1980, it appears possible to assess that particular event in terms of its historical context and “the lessons it might teach us.”

This short paper will explore in a preliminary way only the second of the Church’s two achievements of 1980: it will seek to define the Glacier View event, outlining its context, listing its primary documents and short-term outcomes before suggesting historical perspectives that may be useful for those seeking to understand this aspect of Adventist heritage.[6]My interpretation is offered here tentatively, with humble gratitude for Coleridge’s lantern and cautious optimism that a promising glow is visible on the Church’s contemporary horizon.

I. “Glacier View”: Definition and Documents

The name “Glacier View” has become Adventist shorthand and may, therefore, require explanation for the uninitiated.

A lecture delivered by Desmond Ford[7] on 27 October 1979 to a chapter of the Association of Adventist Forums at Pacific Union College evoked both interest and concern throughout the Adventist world. Within a short time, SPD members were reading that the Adventist sanctuary doctrine was not “negotiable”[8] and it was announced worldwide that a review committee would meet from 11-15 August 1980 at Glacier View Ranch, the Adventist youth convention site in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.[9] During July 1980, the Glacier View conferees received a long manuscript (some 990 pages in its original form, 694 pages in its later, single-spaced, printed form)[10] with instructions to read it prior to the official gathering. Sermons and articles projected possible outcomes even before some 115 of about 125 invitees assembled to engage in five days of discussion.[11] By the conclusion of the conference on 15 August 1980 the committee had produced and voted approval of two consensus statements each relating to a landmark doctrine within Adventism: sanctuary and spiritual gifts.[12] Meanwhile, six attendees were asked by the General Conference president to define major points of difference between Ford’s manuscript and traditional Adventist concepts; their individual attempts, screened by a 28-member committee, were read to but not discussed by the large committee.[13] The conference closed without further actions. Many of the delegates remained at Glacier View and were joined by others on the evening of August 15 for a further conference that would become known as Consultation I.[14]

However, by the beginning of Consultation I, rumours were already spreading that a small group of administrators (nine) had met with Ford and may have recommended decisive action be taken by the SPD regarding his status and employment.[15] The next month, the executive committee of the SPD and the board of Avondale College met jointly in Wahroonga, New South Wales, voting to withdraw Ford’s ministerial credentials and relieve him of “his responsibilities as a minister and teacher.”[16] Thus a decade of conflict was intensified and within the next eight years in Australasia, 182 ministers would be dismissed or resign (some, of course, for other reasons), a large number of teachers would lose their employment and an uncounted number of members would resign or be ejected from the Church.[17]

The principal document received by the Glacier View conferees had been written by Desmond Ford after his October 1979 Forum address and reproduced by early July 1980, the last date that would enable it to reach committee members in distant parts of the world and allow them three weeks to assess it. During this time the Ford family moved to Washington, D.C., to facilitate Desmond’s access to the archives at Adventist world headquarters. Ford’s six chapters embraced 425 pages of the printed version. Chapter 1 offered a history of the Adventist sanctuary doctrine, noting the way in which the Church’s writers have recognised certain interpretive problems. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 looked at the way in which the Day of Atonement is presented in the biblical books of Hebrews, Daniel and Revelation. Chapter 5, “Rehearsal and Resolution of the Problem,” prepared the reader for Chapter 6: “Ellen G. White, 1844, and the Day of Atonement.” Then followed 269 pages of appendices either written by Ford or collected by him as having relevance for the issues under discussion. Ford was aware of some repetition within his manuscript: he believed this was necessary in a document intended not for scholarly review alone but for the diverse people appointed to review it.

The conferees also received “study papers on key topics, prepared by Seventh-day Adventist scholars, sent to delegates before, and read prior to the conference.”[18] In all, therefore, each delegate had about two thousand pages of “homework” to assess in addition to meeting other demands upon their time, like employment (for most), family commitments and travel.

According to Richard Hammill, the General Conference vice president who formulated the Sanctuary Review Committee, the initial invitees included 55 Bible teachers, six editors, 10 pastors, three ministerial secretaries, 11 college and university presidents, four local conference presidents, 11 union conference presidents, 10 division presidents, eight members of an earlier committee appointed to study the Book of Daniel, 12 General Conference headquarters employees and nine retired General Conference officers. The longer of the two consensus statements developed and voted by the attendees related most directly to Ford’s first five chapters; the shorter consensus statement focused specifically on the content of his Chapter 6. Adventists were able to read the consensus documents in Adventist Review, the Church’s “General Organ,”(4 September 1980, 4-15); in Ministry, “A Magazine for Clergy,” October 1980; in Australasian Record and advent world survey (85, no. 26, 8 September1980) as an eight-page insert entitled “Overview of A Historic Meeting”; and in less widely known publications like the independent journal, Spectrum: A Quarterly Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums (11, no. 2, November 1980).[19] Soon after Glacier View, various participants began to offer interpretations of the event orally and in letters, articles and books; this process has engaged attention from some of the attendees and others up to the present.[20]

II. Warning: Complexity Here!

Due to its multi-faceted character, it may well be presumptuous for any one human being to interpret the Glacier View event.[21] Any such attempt might be informed by an impressive array of specialists as well as the diverse perceptions of a worldwide community of believers.[22] For an Old Testament scholar, at the heart of the matter is the interpretation of biblical apocalyptic in general and the Book of Daniel in particular. For a New Testament devotee, matters such as the relationship between the Old Testament and the New and the interpretation of Hebrews and Revelation are in sharp focus.[23] A psychologist might posit the idea that personality theory and group behaviour are crucial considerations. An administrator might suggest that managerial responsibilities and organisational leadership issues are of prime importance. A systematic theologian is apt to point out that Glacier View illustrates at once the volatility of eschatology within a believing community and the constant tension between continuity and change in Adventist hermeneutics and doctrinal expressions. A sociologist is likely to claim that the crux of the issue is where Adventism was located at that particular point in time on the continuum between sect and denomination.[24] A scientist may worry that 1980 provides a template illustrating how the Church may be tempted to exercise control ofresearch and researchers, especially during a time of crisis.[25] A pastor may observe that such an event is especially concerned with relationships in a community of believers. An historian of the Reformation may identify 1980 as the time when Australasian Adventism had an unprecedented opportunity to affirm the Reformation doctrines of Righteousness by Faith and the Priesthood of All Believers. Other historians[26] might declare that the situation can be understood only if a number of influential personalities or groupings are considered in the context of the time, beginning with Ellen White (1827-1915) and including such participants as Robert Brinsmead, the Concerned Brethren, John Clifford, Russell and Colin Standish,[27] Desmond Ford and a cluster of administrative leaders who were in office at the time. Some of the professionals listed above may also warn that historical perspectives are only possible after the passage of considerable time as they point to the thirty-year embargo on sensitive documents that is currently recommended by the SPD.

Each one of these important viewpoints has a measure of validity yet an identifiable limitation. Probably most of us perceive that all of the above considerations and many more must be considered if Adventists are to understand August/September 1980 in a comprehensive and thus sustainable and unifying way. In the ultimate, any conclusions offered by Church leaders or researchers must be validated by evidence, much of which (but not all) is already available in the public arena. Further, interpretations given must be understandable to rank-and-file believers if they are to win widespread support from members and congregations that currently nurture an array of opinions.

III. River or Torrent

During April and May this year (2005), I read Ford’s Glacier View manuscript in full while on a journey through Hawaii, New England and the maritime provinces of Canada, an experience that gave me some appreciation for the task of the Glacier View conferees. The writing style and argumentation of the manuscript indicate thorough research and the level of skill one might expect from an individual whose M.A. thesis and second doctoral dissertation were written in related areas, and whose extensive published writings at the time included a significant Adventist commentary on the Book of Daniel and a book about Ellen White for Sabbath School members. There are a relatively small number of minor typographical mistakes in the printed form of the manuscript that I would list for correction, were I examining it as a doctoral dissertation. I would also note instances of repetition (a matter already mentioned) and debate the inclusion of long appendices. But the historical substance deserves applause, as does the grasp of the problems that indicate the necessity of such studies. The marshalling of evidence is impressive. The document was researched and written in about six months; usually a dissertation on a subject of this type consumes several years. The manuscript received some benefit from “the fourteen-member guidance committee that met with Dr. Ford for nearly fifty hours of consultation,”[28] a process that is typical for dissertations written in the United States. The manuscript is clearly the work of a person writing within a particular religious community as a believer-participant; that is, its tone is probing and constructive, not iconoclastic or vindictive. In response, the consensus documents offer positive perspectives that invite ongoing communication and research in order to integrate conclusions and clarify a cluster of matters needing further consideration.

In short, any person who offers an overview, analysis and synthesis of this quality deserves gratitude, respect and an ongoing role in the constant dialogue and dialectic that helped to develop Adventism and is a healthy part of a religious community. Why, then, did Glacier View become Adventist shorthand for pain, dissension and division?

A principal reason derives from the context of the time. A symbol may help to suggest a useful perspective in this regard. Rain that nurtures the fertile Hunter River Valley created a devastating torrent for Maitland in 1955. As one of the many who tried to help as the floodwaters subsided, I saw silt up to the windows of buildings, the broken remains of houses that floated downstream and smashed against a long bridge, the stark ruin of a thriving city. The water was not evil; the problem was its excessive quantity arriving within a limited amount of time, thereby making a nourishing river into a destructive torrent.

The volume of new information that swept over the Church during the second half of the twentieth century was, by 1980, overwhelming for many believers.[29] At the end of the Second World War, the long struggle between Fundamentalism and Modernism was ongoing for Adventism. For a movement that belonged in neither camp, many issues were potentially volatile. Some of these surfaced in the early phases of the movement spearheaded by Robert Brinsmead and his colleagues. The conversations between Adventists and Evangelicals during the 1950s signalled the ending of an era and the beginning of another phase of Adventist development, as did a sequence of events at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. By 1970, in Western cultures, the quantity of new information that required coherent incorporation into Adventist belief systems was rising toward flood levels. From 1972, the establishment of effective headquarters archives and regional research centres offered the Church fresh resources to assist it in the task of assessing and interpreting new data coherently, but few busy administrators and only some members used these facilities. If the surging water is used to symbolise the Church’s inundation with new information, by the end of the 1970s Adventism was like Maitland in 1955.[30] The Forum address on 27 October 1979 and the subsequent Glacier View manuscript provided another tributary to the swelling torrent of new information that characterised the era.[31] The over-arching question of the time may be stated simply: How should evidence function in the process of shaping and sustaining faith? The Church’s complex task was to develop a coherent response and communicate that effectively to its diverse, worldwide constituency.

IV. The Division President and the Crisis: A Subjective Interpretation

Within this dynamic context, the process and outcome of Glacier View depended on one person more than any other, Pastor Keith Parmenter, president of the SPD.[32]  Parmenter’s role as the hard-pressed leader of the Church during this era must be assessed carefully if there is to be any hope of interpreting Glacier View effectively. Obviously my perspective summarised here is merely one of many in a discussion that needs to be facilitated by numerous interpretive attempts.[33] Any individual or even group endeavour will be subjective, of course; however, taken together, the fruitage of a number of investigations should help the Church arrive at accurate assessments.

My perspective is influenced by my experience from February 1976 until the end of 1983 with Parmenter as the person to whom I reported while director (the first title, curator, was changed to director) of the (then) Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre serving the Division. In the early years of that relationship our conversations were frequent and cordial, as demonstrated by written communications that are readily available. However, it slowly became apparent that my attempt to implement a 22-point job description adopted at a meeting chaired by Parmenter was leading me on a collision course with the chairperson. In hindsight, the problems seem painfully apparent; they may be illustrated succinctly along the following lines.

Parmenter, a competent, gracious chairperson, did not have the time to assess the constant stream of new information or to utilise the facilities of the Research Centre as a way of separating rumour from reality. On no occasion between the setting up of the Centre early in 1976 and his retirement late in 1983 do I recall his using the Centre’s facilities for even one hour. The escalation of tensions in the Church due to a range of controversies, not least those relating to Righteousness by Faith and the life and writings of Ellen White, led Parmenter to adopt a position that he maintained consistently against both accepted policy and direct suggestion: he decided to handle the issues “administratively” rather than with counsel from such advisory bodies as the Biblical Research Committee. As I perceived a drift toward escalating misunderstanding about Ellen White and what appeared to be needless controversy with reference to her life and writings, I proposed the setting up of a “Spirit of Prophecy Resource Committee” to help the Church evaluate and apply coherently the new evidence that was accumulating at a rapid pace. However, the Resource Committee transmitted only minimal information to the field.[34] A sphincter-like role also characterised another specially appointed “Reading Committee” chaired by the Division secretary. During its lifespan in a volatile context, the Reading Committee released only one item of information: a short list of selected documents held by the Research Centre.

Parmenter did not attend an illuminating series of meetings offered throughout Australasia by White Estate representatives, Robert Olson and Ronald Graybill. Further, he chose not to acquaint himself with the 940 pages of documents made available at the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop in Washington, the high water mark of the intense discussion relating to Ellen White that began to escalate in 1970. Furthermore, he directed that these Workshop materials and the tape recordings of Workshop discussions not be shared with the Church at large. Additionally, he wrote a letter directing that my reports of the Workshop, written for the Division paper, were to be kept in “a personal file.” His administration allowed no effective avenue for the correction of disinformation, as when a Record article suggested Ellen White’s writings demonstrated “about 0.002 per cent ‘literary dependence’ over a writing lifetime of nearly seventy years,” or when Walton’s Omega was dividing congregations.[35]

I list these observations not to denigrate my friend, the (then) president of the Division, but simply to illustrate Parmenter’s resolute determination to control information relating to the life and writings of Ellen White, his commitment to protect her from what he perceived may be the effects of investigation in the light of newly available data. The biblical question aired in the Forum meeting on 27 October 1979 elicited from the leadership of the SPD an Ellen White answer;[36] it became clear to me that Parmenter’s stance indicated that, in his mind, the real issue of the era was the authority of Ellen White.[37] But the status of Parmenter’s understanding of Ellen White’s life and writings by the time of Glacier View, almost two years before the flood-peak of information on these subjects was reached during the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop, meant he could hardly be expected to handle the complex issues other than the way he chose to do. Essentially, to save Ellen White and the Church from what he feared may be chaos, he believed that the Glacier View consensus statement had to be marginalised in favour of the ten-point summary as the basis for administrative action.[38] Next, Ford and then all those employees that Parmenter perceived as questioning the doctrinal authority of Ellen White must be dismissed. In this regard, Parmenter’s conviction was so strong that he took the lead in the process of disregarding the essential adequacy of two letters Ford wrote and even requiring more than a vow of discreet silence: Ford was expected to renounce his convictions if he was to remain an employee of the Church.[39]

In short order, the same scenario obtained for scores of other ministers, many of them accused of heresy by local Church members or others who had a minimal grasp of the issues. During the years of conflict, some ministers chose to share their anguish with me in copious detail. In their perception, the Church they loved and served was requiring them to violate their consciences if they were to keep their job. Men for whom truth was dearer and more precious than life, trained to respect the spirit of the martyrs and the reformers (cf. The Great Controversy, chapter 14), were being required to make compromises that their keen consciences could not approve.[40] An issue in the minds of a substantial number was, in essence: How can our Church be the Remnant Church when it is requiring its apologists to tell manifest untruths or face dismissal? This reality lies at the core of the attitudinal dilemmas described in such research as the doctoral dissertation by Harry Ballis.[41] Central to the Church’s turmoil was the volume of new information (noted earlier) that was inundating its members and congregations, but was ignored, denied or misunderstood by so many, including dedicated “Concerned Brethren” (as they named themselves in a plea to Church leaders) and conscientious, over-worked administrators.

V. Three Options for Adventism: Reversion, Rejection, Transformation

I returned to Australia during September 1973 after a decade of pastoral-evangelism in New Zealand (1958-1967) and almost six years of pastoral ministry and study in the United States. Within a few months it became apparent to me that a significant pressure group including former pastors, evangelists and administrators was committed above all else to achieving the dismissal of Desmond Ford, considerably due to the fact that his role at the time required him to understand and interpret the increasing volume of new information that was arriving on the Church’s corporate desk. From 1974, I participated in the discussions that led to effervescent (at times, stormy!) meetings of the Biblical Research Committee convened while Pastor Robert Frame was the Church’s Division president. I attempted to assess the outcome of events like the Palmdale Conference of 1976 and the much larger Righteousness by Faith Consultation of 1979. The effective interpretation of this period is now more possible due to the passage of time and the consequent clarification of issues.

It may be necessary at this point to repeat certain matters already stated in order to clarify the total picture. Following the conflicts that gained intensity in the 1950s, during the 1970s the Adventist Church in Australasia made significant progress in better understanding and presenting “the everlasting gospel” but it failed to win the support of certain older members to whom, in hindsight, it needed to deliver more effective pastoral nurture. In addition, viewpoints similar to those of the Concerned Brethren were promulgated by a variety of independent groups: some clustered around individuals like John Clifford, Russell Standish, ministers and laity who tacitly or openly supported emphases or fostered mindsets that would become known in Australia through such publications as Anchor, Alma Torch, The Protestant and The Remnant Herald. As a widely known advocate of the gospel emphasis, Ford attempted to offer suggestions – for what he was assured (incorrectly, as it turned out) would be a select audience on 27 October 1979 – whereby the Church might resolve certain important conflicts with reference to the interpretation of Daniel and Hebrews in particular.[42] However, in the ensuing months, a vigorous rejectionist impulse further inflamed the already powerful reversionist impulse, in part due to the worldwide distribution of Ford’s oral suggestions via tape recordings. A more thoughtful attitude was also identifiable at the time, well illustrated in Ford’s Glacier View manuscript and the work of the Sanctuary Review Committee that met during August 1980.[43] Twenty-five years after the central year of the crisis it seems imperative for the Church to understand and nurture the demanding median stance, a transformationist response.[44]

Intense conflict overshadowed the constructive achievements of the Church in the late 1970s and early 1980s and continued with powerful momentum. While a change of climate began with the appointment of a new Division president in 1984, it took years to nurture new attitudes and actions. Since various analyses of this period are offered elsewhere, their content will not be repeated here.[45] However, it is important to observe initial perceptions of Glacier View as a backdrop for understanding factors that make the present era so different from the situation of the Church at its nadir during the early 1980s.

VI. Using the Lantern: Interpreting Glacier View

Bulging files in the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre that serves the Church and its members in Australasia offer rich insights into both immediate and longer-term interpretations given to the Glacier View event. Sabbatarian Adventism was born within a millenarian awakening, deeply informed by such apocalyptic writings as Daniel and Revelation. This matrix generated language and metaphors used to describe and symbolise events such as Glacier View, like the Great Controversy theme with its series of vivid contrasts: Christ/Satan, light/darkness, good/evil, righteousness/sin, truth/error, orthodoxy/heresy, loyalty/apostasy, Jerusalem/Babylon, Remnant Church/fallen church, Christ/Antichrist. Typically, Ellen White’s writings were mined for her application of these and a plethora of related descriptors: the omega of apostasy; stars admired for their brilliance going out; last day deceptions; the shaking; signs of the end and more. Such terminology was employed most of all by those who would find a city of refuge in reversionism, but the same lexicon was used and adapted to some extent by both extremes in the continuing warfare. Ford was, for his opponents, the omega of apostasy, functioning like a praying mantis that conceals intentions and character in order to deceive and destroy. For others, the Church was the villain, victimising a knight in shining armour. Between the extremes was a more nuanced interpretation: Glacier View provided an instructive example of Adventist theological development. In the words of a prominent General Conference participant (W. Duncan Eva), Ford was a “sacrifice” as the Church moved forward from “stilted” positions to a better understanding; Ford needed to understand that the speed of a convoy is that of the slowest ship.[46]   

It is important to assess all such immediate interpretations in the light of serious reflection by competent persons writing as historical perspectives became possible. Land’s insightful overview written early in the 1980s has already been cited. The first history of Adventism to be written by a trained historian (1979) was revised by Floyd Greenleaf (2000) and offers a useful overview of Glacier View in the context of the “Twentieth-Century Debate Over Fundamentals.”[47] For Richard Hammill, the General Conference vice president appointed to supervise the process leading up to Glacier View, the conference and its aftermath involved constructive elements but also a list of problematic features: “a serious mistake in tactics”; official reporting that was at times “the opposite of the discussion on the committee”; the ignoring of crucial pieces of evidence; the perception by the Church’s Bible teachers that they had been “betrayed”; “hasty” action “due to the ineptitude of the Australasian Division officers” and more.[48]

The core theological issue of the 1970s was that of salvation in Jesus Christ as viewed in the light of a discussion within Adventism that began to gather intensity two decades earlier. A new interest in understanding the General Conference of 1888 was flagged at the General Conference of 1950, spawning a major Bible conference, providing part of the context for the Adventist/Evangelical discussions, stoking the furnace of the Brinsmead Awakening and stimulating a plethora of publications.[49] By the onset of the 1970s, a better exposition of the pervasive biblical theme of Righteousness by Faith brought the Australasian Church to the edge of a significant revival, with unprecedented numbers of young people rejoicing in the Good News and openly sharing their faith even on city streets. The General Conference presidency of Pastor Neal Wilson (1979-1990) included significant attempts to meet Adventist crises with large-scale councils; located at the top of an impressive list is the Righteousness by Faith Consultation that reported its findings worldwide in Adventist Review, 31 July 1980.[50] Anyone who listened carefully during the meetings between the SPD Biblical Research Committee and numerous complainants during the mid-1970s should marvel and thank God for the clarity and inclusiveness of “The Dynamics of Salvation” statement.

The relaxing of tensions relating to the Church’s understanding of Righteousness by Faith carried a potential for resolving other issues, particularly those relating to the doctrine of the sanctuary and the prophetic ministry of Ellen White. Again, a personal note may suggest a helpful perspective on the longer sequence of events. At the first Seminary Extension School held in Australasia, December 1957/January 1958, the lectures given by Pastor Arthur White and Dr Edward Heppenstall ignited my youthful imagination (and I think others had a similar response). White’s presentations enlarged my understanding of Ellen White’s life and writings; years later he would be my mentor when I became Research Centre director. Heppenstall pushed back the horizons of my limited understanding of the doctrine of the sanctuary, readying my mind to see the significance of the primary sources of early Adventism during my student years at Andrews University (1970-72). Also, during 1972, Dr Raoul Dederen added a crucial element to my understanding, a fuller appreciation of the doctrine of revelation/inspiration. Taken together, I thank God for the way these witnesses helped to fortify my personal faith to withstand the turbulent crisis years. There was much to unlearn and a great deal more to learn, but the foundations were, in the main, effectively laid with the help of Seminary classes over a period of fifteen years (1957-1972).[51]

Immediately after the Glacier View conference, during a retreat in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I read The Letter to the Hebrews in my Revised Standard Version with the Glacier View consensus statement open before me as a point of reference. “Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary” echoed and extended Heppenstall’s teaching and led me to muse that, for the first time in such a document, my Church was actually helping me in a significant way to hear the heartbeat of Hebrews.[52] It only remained for the fuller documentation and discussions of the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop in Washington, D.C., to place a capstone on the edifice of faith that had been, for me, in dynamic process since 1957.[53] Thereafter my perception of the essential profile and mission of Adventism would be more sustainable even though many smaller modifications would be necessary.[54]

The principal Glacier View consensus statement can now be read effectively in the light of “The Dynamics of Salvation” statement, allowing cheer and hope to permeate the Church.[55] There was no time for this connection to be explored effectively between the release of the latter document on 31 July 1980 and the event that was, for many observers, a professional martyrdom, set in place on 15 August 1980. In hindsight, it is apparent that the Church at that time was being pressed with new intensity by exterior circumstances to ask frankly and openly how evidence should function in support of faith. The Glacier View consensus statement went a long way toward offering effective answers with reference to the Church’s understanding of the Sanctuary. Did the small cluster of administrators who met on 15 August 1980 perceive their decision meant that tradition would increasingly take precedence over the quest for the truth of Scripture? Were they aware that informed convictions of the Church’s scholars were being sacrificed[56] and that their administrative attempt to uphold one fundamental would deny the truth of several other fundamentals, such as those dealing with “The Church” and “Unity in the Body of Christ”? In any case, their decision was a major factor in thrusting the Church into an era of unprecedented controversy and tragic loss. Fortunately, it is now possible to better define the Church’s teaching on Righteousness by Faith and to highlight this understanding as one of the promising signs of a brighter day.

More than that, there is now a more realistic perception that Adventist doctrine is not static; indeed, teachings develop in scope and clarity as God’s people walk with Him and search the Scriptures in the light of new circumstances.[57] Fritz Guy expressed this reality succinctly in 1980.[58] Since that time, Rolf Poehler has written a magisterial dissertation that offers a roadmap through this doctrinal development from Millerite times to the 1980s.[59] Others have continued this mapping process closer to the present, a task that must be ongoing. Such research needs to be expressed in language that engages the attention and commitment of the entire Church; probably George Knight has achieved more in this regard than any other person.[60]

VII: Gleams of a Golden Morning?

Adventism is, in essence, a quest for “the truth as is in Jesus” presented in the Scriptures (John 5:39, 2 Peter 3:18); indeed, of all professing Christians we are called to be “foremost in uplifting Christ.” The Church must be open to every avenue for understanding the Bible, religion and human beings. By 1980 an almost bewildering array of new evidence needed systematic incorporation into Adventist belief and practice. Twenty-five years later this demand continues. However, the Church must now meet an additional imperative: post-modern society includes many people who will only listen to the Church if they perceive that significant meaning is being communicated.[61] These twin demands, for evidence that sustains faith and for existential meaning, profoundly challenge Adventism and its mission within Western culture. In the lantern-light of history, how do the issues of 1980 appear in 2005 and what sort of report card does Adventism merit after 25 years?

First of all, the issues of 1980 have an historical source.[62] Only from 1973 has Adventism had widely available the broad sweep of primary documentation relating to its early history; the microform edition of these precious records took several additional years to become available and still more time to become well known.[63] (The most illuminating early dissertation on Millerism was destined to wait six decades to be appreciated and published[64] but, by the 1970s, a faster pace was becoming apparent.) Insights from a cluster of studies now give the Church a far better appreciation of its Millerite foundations, prophetic interpretation and doctrinal development.[65] Significant in this regard are doctoral dissertations by Kai Arasola, Reinder Bruinsma and Merlin Burt.[66] The maturation of Adventist historiography means that the Church in 2005 is in a far stronger position to bridge what has too often been a chasm between the present faith of its adherents, their understanding of the Church’s heritage and the actualities of historical processes. Not insignificant is the fruitage of doctoral studies undertaken by such South Pacific Division researchers as Milton Hook, Allan Lindsay, Arnold Reye, Gilbert Valentine, Barry Oliver and others, including those who link history with its partner discipline, sociology.[67]

Secondly, the debate over method in Bible study that created tensions in 1980 and at the time of Consultation II can now be viewed in a much calmer context and clearer light. The spiritual gifts of those men and women who have devoted their lives to the various aspects of Biblical Studies, taken together, help the Church to hone and extend its appreciation of the Bible as its sole rule of faith and practice. The long years of study the Church has devoted to Daniel and Revelation since 1980 have helped to clarify major facets of the issues. The writings of a cluster of scholars move through and beyond the issues constructively; for instance, note the writings of Alden Thompson on Daniel, William Johnsson on Hebrews and Jon Paulien on Revelation. However, to mention the names of such trustworthy researchers in this context has a certain peril: their analyses must be viewed always as initiatives within a community of believers.

Thirdly, the entire agenda of 1980 was permeated with theological content. The way in which the Church has understood and defined its doctrine since 1844 is brilliantly illumined in the scholarly dissertation (as already mentioned) by Seminary student Rolf Poehler and within the copious writings of one of his principal mentors at Andrews University, George Knight. The Church also has available better guides on how to do theology well; for one comprehensive manual, see Fritz Guy’s volume published in 1999.[68] But in making such remarks we must be aware that enormous progress has been made in specific theological areas, such as that of Revelation/Inspiration, wherein the dissertation by Ray Roennfeldt offers a useful orientation. Clearly, in 1980, there was a great nervousness in Adventism that recognising particular problems in its investigative judgment teaching may move it toward an inadequate conception of the biblical theme of judgment or at least put it out of step with Ellen White’s position.[69] For many, this concern has now been put to rest by several authors, not least in the winsome writings of Norman Young.[70] Available are studies offering, with cogent clarity, portrayals of the faithful Judge who is Himself on trial in the cosmic struggle with “the accuser of the brethren.” Christ as Substitute and Surety is now portrayed with a biblical precision much lacking in the early experience of older Adventists.

Fourthly, the issues of 1980 had numerous pastoral implications. Those who lead the Church administratively are pastors to field ministers and members, the front line foot soldiers who deliver pastoral care and nurture are the Church’s evangelists and local pastors. There has been dynamic growth in the Church’s perception of what effective pastoral care includes and how it is best delivered. There is now a stronger sense of the value of relationships in the Church and a better appreciation that believers can respect, value and even learn from a variety of perspectives.[71] “This quinquennium must be the quinquennium of the local pastor and the local church,” in the thinking of the newly re-elected SPD leader.[72] Such a perception augurs well for the process of building a community that is nurturing and focused on its daunting mission to offer the Good News “to every nation, tribe, language and people,” (Revelation 14:6, NIV).

Finally, the crisis of 1980 was in a considerable measure fed by misunderstandings[73] over the content and implications of what is now a maturing discipline, Adventist Studies. Herein, Scripture is the foundation and Ellen White has special significance due to the way she leads to “the greater light.”[74] The Church has moved from an unthinking certitude about Ellen White through an era of painful conflict about her life and ministry toward a time of more effective consensus about how to understand and apply her writings faithfully.[75] Painful experience underlines the fact that the Church cannot control information in the computer age; rather, its role is to honestly interpret the entire body of evidence.[76] The writings of the Church’s reversionist and rejectionist critics are increasingly being exposed as inadequate or irrelevant in the light of the primary documents that illumine the way the Lord has led and taught the Church in the past.[77]

Such considerations could be extended readily, of course, but their essential implications are unmistakable: while there is absolutely no room for triumphalism, there is a realistic glow on the Adventist horizon that presages a brighter day as with greater understanding we walk by faith into the future. VIII.

Summary: An Analogy for Mediation and Application[78]

There are a number of ways whereby students from the south of Australia or overseas can travel from the Sydney region to Avondale College. The Great North Walk (an Australian equivalent of the Appalachian Trail) passes through terrain that offers days of challenge for experienced bushwalkers. Another, circuitous route was crucial during the earlier years of Australian settlement: the old convict road that leads from Richmond to the Hunter Valley and doubles back to Cooranbong. The former Pacific Highway, loved by those motorbike riders who delight in curves, meanders from Berowra to Doyalson, connecting with a two-lane road that passes through Morisset. And there is the F3 Freeway that took decades to construct but can be travelled in an hour, from the SPD headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga to the College campus.

On 27 October 1979 and in his Glacier View manuscript Desmond Ford suggested that to better fulfil its mission, Adventism needed a freeway through the historical, biblical, theological and pastoral landscape it must traverse on its pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. It was no dishonour to the pioneers of Adventism that for most travellers the North Walk and the convict road had been superseded by the Pacific Highway, or that a freeway seemed a necessity by 1980. After a quarter of a century we should see clearly that the Church needed to assess, with the help of every available source of knowledge, whether a road could be constructed that was more efficient in fulfilling God’s purpose for the Advent Movement.

Twenty-five years later, some Adventists still prefer to persevere along the Great North Walk; others opt for the circuitous route through the Hunter Valley; yet others risk the dangerous curves of the Pacific Highway. But in the light of detailed surveys and careful assessments of all the available data, with the support of a host of specialists, it is clear that a freeway was both needed and could be constructed. That some of Ford’s recommendations needed further consideration, adjustment and change does not mean his contribution lacked profound significance for the Church. Indeed, some of the freeway sections he proposed (and other sections he did not envision) have already been partially completed as people of goodwill have patiently invested their spiritual gifts to enhance biblical understanding within their community of faith.[79]

Perhaps we can ponder and apply this analogy as we seek to travel more efficiently and directly in pursuit of Adventism’s twin goals: mission (the everlasting gospel to everyone on planet earth) and readiness for the consummation (Christ’s glorious return). In this process, a paragraph from Richard Hammill’s final chapter, entitled “Reflections on My Own Spiritual Pilgrimage,” offers fitting guidance:

Throughout the history of the Christian Church, believers have found it hard to accept this double-edged principle – that true religion clings to the old that proves to be truth but reaches out also for new, more appropriate understandings, even as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tried to explain.[80]

However, even more valuable are principles enunciated often by Ellen White, one of which she expressed pointedly in 1862:

 Greater light shines upon us than shone upon our fathers. We cannot be accepted or honoured of God in rendering the same service, or doing the same works, that our fathers did. In order to be accepted and blessed of God as they were, we must imitate their faithfulness and zeal, – improve our light as they improved theirs – and do as they would have done had they lived in our day. We must walk in the light that shines upon us, otherwise that light will become darkness.[81]

Author’s Note: 20 October 2005 

I gratefully acknowledge comments on successive drafts of this paper, offered in generous support of its basic outline or in a sincere attempt to correct it by pointing out minor and major errors. These comments are, in the main, from persons who are well informed on one or more of the perspectives relating to the matters under discussion; they include laity, administrators now in active service or retired, scholars who are specialists in the range of disciplines mentioned in the text and footnotes, participants at Glacier View, ministers, teachers and others.

 Thirty minutes are allocated on 22 October 2005 to make the essence of this script clear to a general audience, before questions/discussion. I am acutely aware of inadequacies in the above text: other papers could better illumine the “big picture” such as the 39 related topics that I listed for reference last Sabbath. Some of these subject areas are already developed into papers but others wait for the time when the relevant primary sources will be available to researchers.

In the interim, I hope and pray readers will sift the ideas expressed by these 13,380 words carefully, keeping such grains as are worth keeping and with a breath of Christian kindness blowing the husks away. Fortunately, effective scholarship is self-correcting, a matter demonstrated well in such disciplines as history, science and theology.

This draft is the one to be photocopied today for presentation on 22 October 2005 at the Sydney Adventist Forum. I hold open the option that I will revise these ideas and their expression in the future, in the light of further documentation or by reason of input from individuals who care enough to share their perspectives with me.

Therefore, I invite further critical analyses of this document.

Arthur Patrick, e-mail

Snail-mail: 49 Martinsville Road, Cooranbong, NSW 2265, Australia

Posted 7 September 2012



[3] Cf. Julius Nam, “The Big Five: General Conference sessions that have changed the direction of the church,” Record, 13 August 2005, 5-7, reprinted from Adventist Review. Adventists, perhaps more than most other Christian groups, find it is fruitful to understand themselves in terms of a number of dates: for instance, 1844, 1863, 1888, 1901, 1907, 1919, 1950, 1957 and 1980 are some of the years that may be cited as possessing special significance. Recently (2003) at La Sierra University I offered a month-long graduate seminar focused on four of the important Adventist dates: 1844, 1888, 1957 and 1980; the course outline offers bibliographical data.  My M.Litt. thesis (1984) and Ph.D. dissertation (1992) were designed to help me interpret Adventism and Ellen White in terms of what H. Richard Niebuhr calls “the double wrestle of the church with its Lord and with the cultural society with which it lives in symbiosis.” Since that time I have nurtured an interest in the history of ideas approach to historical study, noting in particular the way in which doctrine motivates and restrains the deeds of believers.[4]See the ten issues of “The General Conference Bulletin,” Adventist Review, 17 April 1980 to 8-15 May 1980. The relevant articles are indexed in the tenth bulletin, pages 30-32.

[5] For Adventists, the benefit of sociology in partnership with history is well illustrated by the writings of observers from without and believers within, such as Bryan Wilson, William Sims Bainbridge, John Knight (University of Queensland), Robert Wolfgramm (Monash University), Peter Harry Ballis (Monash University), Gregory Schneider (Pacific Union College) and Ronald Lawson (City University of New York). More recently, Michael Chamberlain, Bruce Manners and Rick Ferret have enriched this genre of literature with doctoral dissertations written within the context of South Pacific Adventism.

[6] The 2000-2005 quinquennium marked three decades since I was first appointed to the Biblical Research Committee serving Australasia. Since 1998 in retirement (that mythical period of inactivity beyond paid employment), I have valued continued engagement with several things. First, the opportunity to learn more about and attempt to alleviate some of the pervasive trauma in the Church, due to a range of causes, among them organisational and doctrinal matters and the issue of sexual abuse and misconduct, the latter now so constructively addressed by Adventist Support. Secondly, the privilege of assessing graduate-level studies and dissertations-in-progress that illumine the Adventist experience. Thirdly, from October 2001 to early 2002, I devoted perhaps 500 hours to exploring whether or not it may be possible for the Church to normalise a number of quite varied relationships that became tense during the 1970s and thereafter. Obviously, there is some cross-fertilisation between these three areas.

[7] A minister, evangelist, Bible teacher, departmental chairperson, frequent speaker at Adventist gatherings, Ford held a B.A. degree from Avondale College, an M.A. from the SDA Theological Seminary and Ph.D. degrees from Michigan State University and Manchester University. According to a list I wrote down on 15 October 2005, comprehensive biographies of Ford and 21 other persons would offer a more effective platform for looking at Glacier View. As one example, note my paper on Adventism’s “Great Dane,” M. L. Andreasen.

[8] A. N. Duffy, “The Heavenly Sanctuary … Not One Pillar to be Moved,” Record, 10December 1979, 6-7.

[9] An early announcement was entitled “Teacher given leave to prepare doctrinal paper,” Adventist Review, 20 December 1979, 23. The six months “leave” was on full pay.

[10] Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment (Casselbury, Florida: Euangelion Press, 1980).

[11] In a mere five days of discussion, the Church may have made as much progress (while examining the material under study) as it has usually made on such topics in fifty years. Cf. the slow progress in clarifying “the daily” (Daniel 8) during Adventist history.

[12] The titles of the consensus statements were as follows: “Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary” and “The Role of Ellen G. White in Doctrinal Matters.”

[13] This widely known statement is variously titled; for example, as “Statement on Desmond Ford,” Adventist Review, 4 September 1980, 8-11; “The Ten Point Critique,” Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 72-76.  Its genesis is well described by Norman Young, “A Reluctant Participant Looks Back at Glacier View,” a paper prepared for oral delivery on 22 October 2005.

[14] Cf. Lawrence T. Geraty, “First Adventist theological consultation between administrators and scholars,” Adventist Review, 16 October 1980, 15-17; Warren C. Trenchard, “In the Shadow of the Sanctuary: The 1980 Theological Consultation,” Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 26-30.

[15] See “Postscript by the editor,” Adventist Review, 4 September 1980, 7.

[16] R.W. Taylor to Desmond Ford, 19 September 1980.

[17] Precise statistics relating to this matter are somewhat elusive: “Theology has consistently featured in exits, although it would be both incorrect and simplistic to attribute fallout exclusively to one set of theological issues or to assume that the conflicts occurred in a social vacuum,” Peter H. Ballis, Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999), 13-14. Therefore, Ballis uses a range of descriptors (“complex,” “subtle” and “difficult” are amongst them) and suggests that “social factors and organizational processes interacted with sectarian beliefs to generate loss of confidence in Adventist bureaucracy, disillusionment with sect ideology, and loss of commitment in ministry, which have contributed to the most rapid and massive exit of Adventist pastors in the movement’s 150-year history,” 22, 27. All these factors deeply impacted people who remained as employees as well as the ongoing fellowship and mission of the Church. Cf. other presentations by Ballis: “‘Wounded Healers’—Adventist pastors and expastors,” Adventist Professional 4, no. 3, 28-32; “Adventist X-Files: ‘The Truth is Out There’,” Adventist Professional 9, no. 1 (Autumn 1997), 19-23.

[18] William Johnsson, Adventist Review, 4 September 1980, 4-7; see also, Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 75-76.

[19] Indices in the June and December issues of Adventist Review (1980) facilitate access to many other relevant articles. For a more comprehensive coverage of the wider period, see the Seventh-day Adventist Periodical Index in its printed or on-line forms. Note “Ford document studied; variant views rejected,” Adventist Review, 28 August 1980, cf. the letter by F.E.J. Harder suggesting that Raymond Cottrell’s reporting gave the Church “the normative description” of the “ unprecedented and historic session” at Glacier View, Spectrum 12, no. 2 (December 1981), 64. Observe, however, the sensitivity of Cottrell’s task, a matter well illustrated by the exchange of perspectives between Ford and William Shea, Kenneth Strand and Cottrell, Spectrum 11, no. 4 (June 1981), 54-63.

[20] Note the studies intimated during meetings of the San Diego Chapter of the Association of Adventist Forums, all of which addresses are available on cassette from SDAF, PO Box 3148, La Mesa, CA 91944-3148, United States of America, or (via e-mail) Observe also wistful memories after a quarter century by Gregory Schneider, “Twenty-Five Years after Glacier View and Who Cares?” Spectrum 33, no. 1 (Winter 2005), 5-8, and the later reflections of an unnamed correspondent, Spectrum  33, no. 3(Summer 2005), 78.

[21] For convenience, the climactic year 1980 may be used as a way of signifying the period of related conflict, particularly that occurring in Australasia from 1974 to 1983. For a succinct introduction to the North American context, see Gary Land, “Coping with Change, 1961-1980,” in Land (ed.), Adventism in America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 208-230. It should be observed that the Australian situation had important variations from that of the United States. Ford has been blamed for attempting too much, in that no human being can be competent in all the areas his manuscript covered. The same might be said of some of his sharpest critics. Thus it is fruitful to acknowledge the wide range of disciplines that are crucial for the task in hand, such as the recovery of the authentic text of Scripture, its translation and exegesis; the formation of biblical, systematic and historical theology; the discipline of Church history in general and that of Adventist history in particular; Adventist Studies and its subset, Ellen White Studies, plus a cluster of other areas of investigation.

[22] Non-specialists founded the Advent Movement, including two farmers (William Miller, Hiram Edson), a teenage girl (Ellen Harmon), a retired mariner (Joseph Bates) and a schoolteacher with 29 weeks of formal education/training (James White).  Profound respect is indicated for these pioneers in that the five biblical landmarks they perceived remain crucial after sixteen decades: Second Coming, Sabbath, Sanctuary, State of the Dead, Spiritual Gifts. We do not detract from the role of such sterling leaders when we consult specialists in a range of relevant disciplines any more than we denigrate the Adventist health message by consulting a heart specialist. Cf. the stimulating insights of Jonathan Biggins , “Breathtakingly, awesomely average,” Good Weekend: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine, 13 August 2005, 36-7, with Arthur Patrick, “Mount Exmouth and the Adventist Journey,” Record, 27 October 2001, 2.

[23] The vibrant discussion of Consultation II (1981) and its outcomes provides a partial Adventist context for such biblical exploration. See Alden Thompson, “Theological Consultation II,” Spectrum 12, no. 2 (December 1981), 40-52.

[24] Each of the observations in this paragraph is intended as a doorway into a library of information. For instance, Ronald Lawson (one of many sociologists whose writings illumine Adventism) has given more than forty major presentations (such as conference addresses, many subsequently published as journal articles) that are important for understanding this particular sentence.

[25] A physicist, Lynden Rogers, wrote two papers during 2001/2002 that merit consideration, one offering perspectives on the effects of the conflict on the Church and the other suggesting reconciliatory options. They are entitled “The Cost of Glacier View” and “Some Perspectives on Dr Ford, Glacier View and the Current Reconciliation Initiative.”

[26] A reader of a draft of this document asks which perspective I adopt for this presentation. My focus is not one of those listed in this paragraph but I do offer an historian’s view in the context of the quote from Coleridge.

[27] The Standish brothers have documented their assessment of Adventism in some forty co-authored volumes as well as in periodicals such as The Remnant Herald.

[28] “Why this special issue,” Ministry, October 1980, 2.

[29] Some data came to notice from Francis Nichol’s defence of Ellen White (1951) and during the writing of the SDA Bible Commentary series (see, for instance, the volume Problems in Bible Translation). Also in sharp focus was the interpretation of last-day prophecies (including Armageddon); the relationship of Adventism to Evangelical Christianity; the human nature of Christ in relation to the 1888 General Conference and soteriology; how to understand the Book of Genesis in terms of creation and chronology. Specific data is offered by Raymond Cottrell,  “Architects of Crisis: A Decade of Obscurantism”  (see Research Centre DF599-1-a) for a copy of  one of some 400 papers (Cottrell once told me) that he had retained in his files. Cottrell’s papers that I have read and checked against primary historical sources have a high level of integrity. I usually devote a few lectures to the period from 1950 to 1980 in Adventist heritage classes at baccalaureate level, but the data is better explored with graduate students undertaking “Development of SDA Theology.”

 [30] To understand the era and the intense pressure under which Church administrators functioned, it is necessary to assess a range of other conflicts relating to doctrine (evidenced in the experience of Ronald Numbers, Walter Rea and others); the employment and ministry of women (demonstrated in events at Pacific Press and elsewhere); financial malfeasance (involving Donald Davenport and Church employees), as well as other dilemmas like the Chamberlain trial in Australia. The lies told about the Chamberlains outside the Church were somewhat matched within the Church by untruths relating to Ford and others who came under suspicion.  Within two months of 15 August 1980 the Church was aware of “rumours, falsehoods and exaggerated reports in circulation,” “Why this special issue,” Ministry, October 1980, 2.

[31] Note the roles of key leaders such as Robert Pierson and Willis Hackett within the North American Church from the 1960s onward; cf. Land, “Coping with Change,” 208-230, and Cottrell’s  “Architects of Crisis: A Decade of Obscurantism.”

[32] In this presentation, Parmenter is in focus rather than his colleagues. However, consideration of the roles of perhaps seven other Church leaders in Australasia facilitates a more balanced understanding of the time. See also Arnold Reye’s report, “The Nineteen Eighties from the Perspective of the Conference Presidents,” Adventist Professional 9, no. 1 (Autumn 1997), 5-15.

[33] To this end, I value three pages written by Pastor Ronald W. Taylor and e-mailed to me 18 October 2005, now filed with the archival copy of this paper. Taylor is an important witness in that as Division secretary he was Parmenter’s closest associate. Taylor compliments my “literary style and impressive collection of footnotes” but not the content of the paper due to what he identifies as “ bias.”  “Usually one expects from an historian more than one side of an issue,” he says. I also appreciate Taylor’s attitude in remarks such as the following: “The church owes a great deal to Keith Parmenter. He was a very loyal and committed Adventist. He had the difficult task of steering the Adventist ship through very stormy waters. On one side the academics of the church with personal stinging venom attacked him strongly. Your paper still reflects this personal attack upon a man who was genuinely trying to lead the church through a difficult period.”

[34] After months devoted first to the recognition and then the discussion of a particular document, the committee finally acknowledged that the data cited and the analyses made were accurate. It then voted that all the documentation studied and the conclusions drawn should be confidential to members of the committee.

[35] Robert J. Wieland, “Ellen White’s Inspiration: Authentic and Profound,” Record, 31 May 1982, 9.Within seven years it was evident that Wieland’s figure needed multiplication by 15,000 to accord with the findings of the Veltman study that selected fifteen chapters from The Desire of Ages for detailed consideration. See Arthur Patrick, “The Desire of Ages Under the Microscope,” Record, 15 April 1989, 6-7, as well as reviews of Lewis Walton’s Omega including those in Spectrum 12, no. 2 (December 1981), 53-62.

[36] This observation can be assessed by reading Record from December 1979 (note the Duffy article referred to above) to 8 September 1980 in the light of correspondence from the period. The files of the Research Centre offer a diary-like account of the years of conflict. See also R.W. Taylor, e-mail to Patrick, 18 October 2005.

[37] A core problem noted in 1980 was Ford’s “criteria that exclude the writings of Ellen G. White as being doctrinally authoritative,”  “Parmenter-Ford Correspondence,” “Appraisal of the Parmenter-Ford Correspondence,” and “Events Since Glacier View,” Ministry, October 1980, 10-15. However, observe that by 1982 the Church was giving extended consideration to ten “Affirmation and Denials” that clarified how it understood such matters.  See “The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings: A Statement of Present Understanding,” Adventist Review, 23 December 1982, 9; Australasian Record, 22 January 1983, 6; Ministry, February 1983, 24. Note Jonathan Butler’s “Historian as Heretic” narrative in the context of my paper, “Historians of Adventism,” in the At Issue section.

[38] This stance tended to elevate tradition as normative above Scripture. Cf. comments (“excessive concern for denominational tradition” and “guardians of the tradition”) in Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 63, 65.

[39] Early in the first phase of the Robert Brinsmead agitation (1961) a minister in New Zealand faced the threat of dismissal because he could not, in good conscience, state six words, “Robert Brinsmead is of the devil.” A large factor in Ford’s later dismissal (1980) derived from his unwillingness to make a categorical declamation against Brinsmead. That Ford did not have an unhealthy or improper theological (or conspiratorial) relationship with Brinsmead (as alleged) is evident after 25 years. That the alleged Ford/Brinsmead “nexus” was a crucial factor in the Church’s decision re Ford is explicit in the documents of the time. See, for instance, Ministry, October 1980, 4, 5, 15. After Glacier View, Ford declined all offers to link with dissidents who wanted him to develop an alternative church organisation; such offers (if accepted) may have had a dramatic impact on Adventism.

[40] After reading the 14 October 2005 draft of this paper, a scholar/administrator of long experience e-mailed his comments that (in part) are as follows. “What was the difference between those of us, on the one hand, who recognised the issues and stayed and, on the other hand, those of us who were terminated or chose to leave? I sometimes feel almost guilty that I did not share the fate of some of my colleagues. Is it valid to ask whether those who remained had less sensitive consciences, a lesser need to confront ‘hot’ topics, kinder administrators, or a view of the church that saw the church as larger than the views of a sub-set of members and saw the work of transformation from within as a legitimate activity?” I believe that it is essential to ask why forty per cent of ministers in Australasia became ex-pastors but also why sixty per cent remained. For me, as for many of my colleagues, the four considerations offered are relevant but the final one embraces a stabilising vision of the Church.

[41] Cf. the review of Ballis’s published volume by Robert Wolfgramm, Adventist Professional 10, no. 4 (Summer 1998), 25-6.

[42] To understand the Forum address of October 1979, it is necessary to examine the nature and content of the related discussion of the time in California and other parts of the Adventist world. Unless this specific context is understood, the remarks made by Ford cannot be evaluated objectively. If industrial noise impairs hearing, one also needs to ask how Ford’s “hearing” may have been affected by the noisy criticism directed at him during the previous decade.

[43] Cf. William Johnsson, “Looking beyond Glacier View,” Adventist Review, 16 October 1980, 14.

[44] My use of these three terms derives from a presentation (entitled “Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Biblical Period: Some Reflections on an Elusive Category”) made by Robert M. Johnston of Andrews University to a meeting of the (then) Andrews Society for Religious Research circa December 1981. Johnston drew on cogent sociological insights (as expressed by T.M. Ludwig) that suggest when new information inundates a group, “three typical kinds of response” are apt to occur: “alienation, reversion to the old tradition (as a sort of nostalgic backlash), or transformation of the tradition.”Johnston adds: “Only the last option tries to bridge the gulf between the new situation and the religious tradition, to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Normally the third process is continuously happening, but in times of drastic disjunction it cannot keep up with events, and there is danger that one of the other two responses, which are basically destructive, may come into play.” These are instructive insights. Johnston should not, however, be held accountable for the verbal adjustment or the application that I make of this schema.

[45] I have documented perspectives on this topic and sources that help to illumine it in a paper delivered at the Ellen White Summit, entitled “Ellen White in South Pacific Adventism: Retrospect and Prospect,” February 2004. See also other papers prepared for United States and Australian audiences/readers: “Reflections on Unfinished Business: Ellen White Studies in Historical Perspective,” January 2003; “Learning from Ellen White’s Perception and Use of Scripture: Toward an Adventist Hermeneutic for the Twenty-first Century,” February 2003; “From Certitude Through Controversy Toward Consensus: An Historical Perspective on Ellen White Studies Since 1950,” May 2003; “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice,” July 2003; “Being Christian, Being Adventist: Why I Thank God for Ellen White,” January 2004.

[46] President Wilson stated: “We do not believe it is Christian nor morally just to condemn or assign guilt by association.” He also declared: “The church is not embarking on a hunting expedition to find pastors who teach variant doctrines.”  See Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 66, 67. If these comments are valid, data in the Ballis dissertation seem to indicate that the Church did engage in a “hunting expedition” in the 1980s and that its actions were both unchristian and immoral.  Further, even the dismissal of Ford may have so contravened Australian law that the Church could have been open to costly legal redress. However, Ford refused to pursue what a substantial number of persons (at the time) saw as his right.

[47] Richard Schwarz’s Light Bearers to the Remnant (1979) was revised as Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2000). See pages 627-647.

[48] Richard Hammill, “The Sanctuary Review Committee and Desmond Ford,” Pilgrimage: Memoirs of an Adventist Administrator (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1992), 183-198. This chapter may be read fruitfully in tandem with Hammill’s unpublished appraisal of the major biblical/theological issue involved. Hammill was well aware of the perspectives of his scholarly colleagues: see, for instance, “Ford Dismissal: Reactions and Response,” Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 61-67.

[49] The stimulus given by Robert Brinsmead to the Adventist understanding of Righteousness by Faith needs to be better understood than it is at present. However, to do the subject justice, an entire paper of this length would be necessary.

[50] “The Dynamics of Salvation,” Adventist Review, 31 July 1980, 3-8. This document was reported in Record, 8 and 15 December 1980.

[51] C. Mervyn Maxwell aided my attempt to break into the field of Church History. In his classes and with reference to his doctoral dissertation, I first became aware that Adventist historicism (despite its value for interpreting biblical apocalyptic literature) required extensive re-working in the light of cogent historical evidence.

[52] Hebrews had often been portrayed since 1844 as an Adventist tract. It is a New Testament tract with profound meaning for Adventists. Note the RSV and NKJV renderings of Hebrews 9 and the Sabbath School lesson pamphlet “The Book of Hebrews: Sanctuary Themes,” July-September 2003. This pamphlet, in association with William Johnsson’s lectures at the 2003 conference (entitled Hebrews for Aussies) sponsored by the Avondale College Church, convinced me there is no reason for Adventists to continue destroying each other over the content of Hebrews. The same can be said of the 2004 lectures on Daniel by Alden Thompson compared with Daniel: Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, October-December, 2004.

[53] My reviews of five volumes published during 2004 and 2005 (see, for instance, “Prophets Are Human! Are Humans Prophets? Spectrum 33, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 73-74) claim a new tipping point has been reached in Adventist Studies if McMahon’s findings are interpreted in the light of Brand’s research design.

[54] Concepts that were judged as dangerous heresy in 1982-1983 were deemed adequate for sharing with ministerseight years later; see Arthur Patrick, “Does Our Past Embarrass Us?” Ministry, April 1991, 7-10. Note the pro and con correspondence that the article evoked. Such presentations are now more standard within mainstream Adventism.

[55]The exploration of this reality was part of the endeavour of the Being Adventist in 21st Century Australia conference convened by the Avondale College Church during September 2002. See Arthur Patrick, “The ‘Being Adventist’ Initiative and the Future,” Adventist Today 10, no. 6 (November-December 2002), 6. Three other annual conferences (2003, 2004, 2005) have sought to build on this foundation through explorations of Hebrews, Daniel and John.

[56] Typical of many letters written at the time is “An Open Letter to President Wilson,” dated 10 September 1980, bearing 39 signatures. For this and a few of the many others, see Spectrum 11, no. 2 (November 1980), 61-67.

[57] Note the way Ellen White and early Adventists cherished the concept of “present truth.” As a case study of this phenomenon, see Alden Thompson, Escape from the Flames and note my review of Thompson’s volume, Record, 21 May2005, 8.

[58] Cf. Guy’s paper entitled “The Future of Adventist Theology: A Personal View,” (Berrien Springs: Andrews University, 1980), with the way these ideas are presented in his 1999 volume Thinking Theologically. In 1980, as he reflected on the “the activity of theological reflection and construction” within Adventism, Guy commented: “This activity consists of an ongoing consideration of the bases, definition, and implications of beliefs such as those listed above, and may include (1) reformulation, as eternal truth is understood afresh in the language of each different culture and each new generation; (2) clarification and specification, as new questions arise and require a more careful investigation and more precise answers; (3) elaboration, as the church enlarges its thinking by probing deeper and looking farther; (4) application, as the ongoing course of human history produces new situations; (5) reinterpretation, as further study and the witness of the Holy Spirit indicate that the Biblical revelation means something slightly different from what it has been understood to mean.” I suggest an historical context for understanding this process in “Re-Visioning the Role of Ellen White for Seventh-day Adventists Beyond 2000” and other papers on in the At Issue section. Note the way in which Bert Haloviak’s review of Adventism and the American Republic in Adventist Today 10, no. 2 (March-April 2002), 22-23 credits Morgan with presenting a viable perspective on the development of Adventist thought.

[59] See Rolf J. Poehler, “Change in Seventh-day Adventist Theology: A Study in the Problem of Doctrinal Development” (Th. D. dissertation, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, 1995), since published in edited form as two volumes. I have reviewed and applied Poehler’s work in “Doctrinal Development Studied,” Record, 15 March 2003, 10, and  “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice,” a paper presented at the San Diego Adventist Forum, July 2003. Cf. my article, “The Reality of Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine,” Adventist Today 11, no. 5 (September-October 2003), 16-17.

[60] Arthur Patrick, “History for a New Generation,” Adventist Heritage 17, no. 2 (1997), 46; note also the extensive list of Knight’s published volumes that are available in institutional libraries.

[61] For perceptive analyses of post-modernism as both problem and promise, see Adventist Society of Religious Studies Papers, 18-20 November 2004, especially the presentation by Jon Paulien; cf. Richard Rice, “The Challenge of Spiritual Individualism (and How to Meet It),” Andrews University Seminary Studies 43, no. 1 (2005), 113-131.

[62] Coincidentally, an article by Gary Land on the maturation of Adventist historiography appeared before the issue of Spectrum that carried the Glacier View reports. See above and Spectrum 10, no. 4 (March 1980), 89-100.

[63] See Edwin S. Gaustad (ed.), The Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid-Nineteenth Century America (New York: Harper and Row, 1974) and note the way in which the “Bibliographical Essay” (pages 207-317) became available in microform; see Jean Hoornstra (ed.), The Millerites and Early Adventists: An index to the collection of rare books and manuscripts (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1978).

[64] See Gary Land, “The Historians and the Millerites: An Historiographical Essay,” in Everett N. Dick, William Miller and the Advent Crisis of 1831-1844 (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1994), xiii-xxviii.

[65] For one example, see Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler (eds), The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987).

[66] Kai Arasola, The End of Historicism: Millerite hermeneutic of time prophecy in the Old Testament (Uppsala: K. Arasola, 1990). I reflect on this type of research in a paper entitled “Eschatolgy for the New Millennium: Is Millerism Shifting Sand or Solid Rock? (2000); Alden Thompson offers cautionary comments that help to maintain balance in such articles as “Daniel 8: Let’s Not Lose Our Nerve,” Adventist Today 11 (January-February 2003), 12, and  “What’s Up With 1844?” Adventist Today 12, no. 5 (September-October 2005), 10-11. A reader of a draft of this paper comments on the footnotes in this section: “Yes, but who is reading this material”; and another reader laments more generally that he has never before heard of many of the items cited in the paper’s footnotes. Such comments underline the enormity of a problem the Church faces: how to develop effective awareness of such research.

[67] Cf. footnote 5, above. I contextualise some of this research in “Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific: A Review of Sources,” The Journal of Religious History 14, no. 3 (June 1987), 307-326, a review article that now needs significant updating. Under the editorship of educators like Trevor Lloyd and Arnold Reye, for more than a decade the content of Adventist Professional offered some of the best summations of the process of maturation. As an example of the contribution of just one scholar, note Valentine’s books on Prescott.

[68] Fritz Guy, Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1999).

[69] One source that needs to be consulted on this issue is the SDA Encyclopedia, from its first edition to the revised edition dated 1996, observing the reliance upon Ellen White’s writings. Note the constructive address (Bible study) by Richard Davidson, NNSW Camp Meeting, 11 October 2001 (Research Centre LL6). Davidson, concerned by Adventism’s 1940s/1950s pictures of the Investigative Judgment, has torn pages from his books of that era so his children will not see them. Davidson offers a coherent biblical doctrine of assurance (the Gospel) in the setting of Adventist forensic theology.

[70] Young’s presentation at the 2002 Being Adventist conference left me convinced that further warfare over the judgment was unnecessary if the biblical data is faithfully assembled. See also Kevin Ferris, “What We Really Believe About the Judgment,” Adventist Review, 9 June 2005, 8-9. Ferris believes “It’s About Calvary” and that “atonement-based judgment” rather than “judgment-based atonement” grows naturally from the language of Fundamental 23 with “no truth sacrificed.” He adds (e-mail to Patrick, 12 October 2005): “We Adventists fit right in there, but we’ve never noticed it. Merging our cornerstone doctrine into this concept, with its implications of restoring Calvary to all its fullness, requires no committee, no edict from above, no repercussions. It’s already inscribed in Fundamental 23.”

[71] Cf. Alden Thompson, “Conversations with the Other Side,” Spectrum 31, no. 4 (Fall 2003), 54-59. Note the way in which the writings of many scholars are indexed (and are often available in full text) on websites.

[72] Nathan Brown, “President calls for renewed focus on local churches,” Record, 17 September 2005, 2.

[73] Romans 8:28 remains instructive for the situation. A journalist’s venture into Christianity led him to opine: “The Christian matrices form a code to be translated afresh in each new situation, so that Christian history is a constant process of struggle and rebirth—a succession of crises, often accompanied by horror, bloodshed, bigotry and unreason, but evidence too of growth, vitality and increased understanding,” Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976), 515-516.

[74] Repeated visits over decades to heritage sites of Mormon and Christian Science believers and listening to their interpreters has helped me define the difference between the perceptions that followers of Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy cherish versus the Adventist’s perception of and relationship to Ellen White.

[75]See my review, “Summit on Ellen G. White Writings, Adventist Today 12, no. 2 (March-April 2004), 11, and note my contention that a new tipping point in Ellen White Studies (as a crucial subset of Adventist Studies) has been reached in the publication of five recent books: “Prophets Are Human! Are Humans Prophets?” Spectrum 33, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 73-74. Observe the constructive way in which the SPD has (since 1999) developed and updated a strategy document relating to the ministry of Ellen White.

[76] Note the comment on the Ford and the Folkenberg crises in Bruce Manners, “Publish or Perish: A Study of the Role of Print in the Adventist Community” (Monash University: Ph.D. thesis, 2004).

[77] The extensive literature produced by such writers as Samuel Koranteng-Pipim and the Standish brothers illustrates related problems: an attitude that is highly critical of the Church, the elevation of tradition over Scripture; the failure to pursue factual information adequately. Note, for instance, Pipim’s recent use of a chapter by Bruce Price, “Are the Churches Really Growing? Church Growth Experiments in Secular Australia,” in Pipim (ed.), Here We Stand: Evaluating New Trends in the Church (Berrien Springs: Adventists Affirm, 2005), 23-35. Note Price’s comment on Russel R. Standish and Colin D. Standish, The Greatest of All the Prophets (Narbethong: Highwood Books, 2004) in relation to my unpublished review of the Standish volume.

[78] It is my hope that the oral discussion that will follow the presentation of this paper may assist in the process of drawing together a cluster of related conclusions, among them: the peril faced by the Church when a small group of persons circumvents the analyses of a representative group like the Sanctuary Review Committee; the inadequacy of research that determines outcomes before it engages in its investigation, as is the case with most reversionists and, to some extent, publications of the Adventist Theological Society; the value of expressing fundamental beliefs versus the negative outcomes of creed development; the ease with which tradition (especially as expressed in the ten-point statement) can be rated above Scripture during a crisis, a matter illustrated by the stance of selected administrators and local church activists during the years of conflict.

[79] Avondale College would close promptly if it insisted its students must come to the Cooranbong campus via the Great North Walk. Similarly, the Church will falter in its mission within Australasia if it fails to hear and respond to the demand of Western society for both evidence and meaning.

[80] Pilgrimage, 233. Rick Ferrett’s dissertation, currently under consideration by the Sydney College of Divinity, offers useful reflection on this tension that is pervasive in the lives of individual believers and Christian communities. For an earlier, insightful perspective by a noted American historian, see Robert T. Handy, “Liberal and Conservative: An Inescapable Dichotomy in American Church History?” Encounter XXXII (Summer 1971), 208-216.

[81] Testimonies for the Church, I, 262. Adventist identity was formed with this attitude during the early years of the movement; Seventh-day Adventist identity will be maintained within the more complex world of the 21st Century in proportion to the extent that it implements this attitude.


About adventiststudies

Arthur Nelson Patrick, DMin, PhD, is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale College of Higher Education, New South Wales, Australia
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