Did Desmond Ford Receive a Fair Trial?

Listen to this story:

Should it take over three decades to clear one’s name?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2018/03/12/did-desmond-ford-receive-fair-trial

The parallels between the attitudes displayed by Wilson and the General Conference with those seen by the papacy at the Diet of Worms are striking. Both appear to have felt that promises need not be kept with those accused of heresy. I have little doubt that had this been the 16th century and it were in their power, Wilson and ilk would have made it a capital offense, demonstrated by their willingness to go to the maximum extent of what was in their power with the accused. On the other hand, I see some dramatic differences between Ford and Luther. Luther stood unyielding in opposition and willing to break from the church if need be. Ford, on the other hand, agreed with the Consensus Statement and the Dallas Fundamental Belief statement and was still stripped of his ordination. It seems that over time, regardless of how one feels about the purported issue of the investigative judgment, the real issue that is glaringly apparent is the degree to which the institutional church is willing to co-opt the individual conscience over matters of faith.

Our continual fine tuning of the Fundamental Beliefs and our apparent willingness to use them to deny employment to otherwise faithful members portends a very dark destination. Many joined this denomination before 1980. Are they now heretics because they question an after-the-fact creed imposed upon them? They entered into a pre-creedal, good faith agreement with the Seventh-day Adventist Church at their baptism. are they to be denied employment because of a more detailed contractual belief statement than the one they were first sworn to? Glacier View tells us that they should have no expectation that prior agreements be honored. That Colorado meeting may be as significant for the Adventist Church as Worms was for the Protestant Reformation…


“The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most rooted of papal errors.” EGW the Great Controversy, p.293

Taken from THE ADVENTIST CRISIS OF SPIRITUAL IDENTITY by Desmond and Gillian Ford, p.18.


It was mishandled and it could have been done much more simply - ask Des Ford whether he believes in key Adventist doctrines or not, and if not, forbid him to preach or teach in our institutions. Simple.

They let him go far too long. The Adventist church is too tolerant of pluralism in theology. It still allows those who don’t believe in a recent 6-day creation and a worldwide flood to teach at our schools, colleges and universities. We don’t need another Glacier View. We just need to stand up and expect our leaders to actually believe our doctrines. If they don’t, they can’t be leaders period.


If one puts MaryKay Silver together with Glacier View one has a clear view of power elite keeping control of both doctrine and policy. Des destroyed EGWwitha single blow.


Thirty eight years after Desmond Ford’s shabby, shameful treatment, and multiple decades after it was first formulated, Adventism’s Investigative Judgement dogma, has never been endorsed by any other Christian group, nor by any other theological seminary.

You need to have access to an IVY LEAGUE library, and a Harvard PhD, to
pinpoint the obscure, opaque, distant 457 BC date, the supposed start of the “2300 day prophecy “. Most Christians through the centuries since the crucifixion, were illiterate, blue collar laborers without these sophisticated resources.

How could anyone without a graduate degree, figure this opaque prophecy out, lacking these research repositories?

That lack of transparency alone makes it probable that this arcane, abstruse dogma is not legitimate.

Furthermore, Christ in the last chapter of Revelation, emphatically declares, three times : BEHOLD I AM COMING SOON !!

Had His Heavenly Father not informed him, that in no way could he come SOON, since he had some obscure duty to,perform in 1844, nearly two millennia later, hardly soon ??

Time for us to admit that this problematic position, peculiar to Adventism, should be repudiated and relinquished.


Let’s not limited it to the way Des way treated: The denomination sponsored books like Omega which encouraged members to regard their ministers with deepest suspicion. People who were deeply indebted to Des and feel a deep love for him, were not allowed to grieve his lost to the church, because if you grieved, you sympathized; if you sympathized, you agreed with him; if you agreed with him, you shared his fate. Ministers of that period–those who survived and those we lost alike–still bear the scars of what was done to them.


My mind goes back to Martin Luther also and his loud cry of “justification by faith!!” His verdict was decided before the Diet of Worms. But they ordered him a trial and then pretended to give him a chance. They knew he was a great theologian and debater, so they cut it short when he began…“Well, do you wish that I recant all…?” Martin was too intelligent for them.

Such an injustice to a man of God (Dr. Ford) and his family.

Seems like the very thing that fired up the Reformation (works-based salvation) resurfaced in the Adventist church. “Let me help You save me, Lord. Your blood alone was not enough.” :frowning:


Ellen White wrote that “THERE IS NO EXCUSE” for believing that all of our expositions of scripture are without an error. Can anyone believe she would have written that about trivial error? Wasn’t she asking us to distinguish between “carefully dividing the word of truth” on the one hand and wild speculating on the other? On the antitypical Day of Atonement, there was NO JUDGING AT ALL:

he shall make an atonement forall the people of the congregation. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. (Lev 16:34,35)

How many Adventists believe that Wm Miller’s FIFTEEN SCRIPTURAL PROOFS that Jesus would return in 1843 are not an embarrassment? How many have even heard of them?

When will we get it through our arrogant heads that we were WRONG, not right?

Jesus did not return when we speculated. There was no investigative judgment when we speculated.


Thank God that even in the court of the land, one is allowed a defense. This article seeks to give only the accusation side of the argument while pretending to be the defense of Ford. I falls short of the very thing it pretends to be, a whole synopsis of the argument it purports to defend. The writer might be a good lawyer, I might even want him on my defense team if called upon in the last days, but do forget this article is written from a lawyer with only one side defended. (As lawyers tend to do).

I would like to have this lawyer defend the others who were so cruelly treated in Australia when they first warned of Ford’s apostasy. And these valiant brethren were defending so much more than Ford’s departure in the Sanctuary message. As a result they lost far more than Ford ever has done. The hounding they endured for example, left one sister to an untimely death in a similar parallel to Sister Magan. (See PC 85).

Where was Ford in all this? He was sending out messages to his followers still in the ministry, to keep in there and seek to change the church around to his thinking, and we still see the effects today.

Contrary to the article, Ford had it good for too long, doing a lot of damage. He even admitted he did not believe in the vital doctrines for years, yet was allowed to remain. Whether every procedure in Glacier View was down the minutest detail, in accordance with good practice, it differs with who tells the story; but it cannot be gainsaid that the damage caused is still with us today in ministers trained under him, or by those who were affected by his beliefs being in training positions.

One commented that he was somehow treated akin to Luther. Such is so far from the truth that I wonder the writer cannot see it. Did Ford, for instance fear for his life as it might be taken from him in an instant? Was Ford against any gospel tenent or faith that was contrary to Scripture anything like that which Luther fought against? We know that this was not so. One claiming that Wilson would have wanted a “capital offence” kind of punishment leveled at Ford. No, the parallel is so “out there” that we must reject it.


Isn’t it amazing, then, that our Adventist pioneers, a relatively uneducated lot, were able to ascertain the 457 BC date of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem? It is neither obscure nor opaque to those who earnestly seek. As for myself, a fledgling student of Bible prophecy, I was able to validate the date using a single resource, the wonderfully comprehensive “Chronology of Ezra 7” published in 1953 by Lynn Wood and Siegfried Horn. No Ivy League library or Harvard PhD required.


Did Desmond Ford receive a fair trial? It would be most surprising if he had, knowing what I know of the way Adventist leaders deal with personnel. Most often the end justifies the means.

Another issue concerning Des Ford’s modification of Adventist apocalyptic understanding is of more weighty consequence. No one can doubt that Des Ford hoped to achieve a most radical reinterpretation of Adventist apocalyptic understanding.

Fernando Canale has spent many years of his life to understand two significant yet opposing and different philosophical traditions - namely the Greek Parmenidean and the Mosaic-Biblical tradition. Classical Roman Catholic and Protestant hermeneutics is founded on the first of these. Canale would maintain that Adventist theology and hermeneutics should be squared founded on the second. The sanctuary message and the grand prophetic time prophecies of Scripture among other things fit with this second philosophical tradition but not the first. We do Adventist theology a grand disservice if we modify Adventist apocalyptic understanding to fit with a philosophical foundation it was never designed to fit.


Thanks for asking about the difference between the two contrasting philosophical traditions. Before you dismiss Canale’s important and enlightening work and its vital import for Adventist hermeneutics and theology perhaps you should check Norman Gulley’s four volume systematic theology which is built on Canale’s work. And also John Peckham’s groundbreaking volume on the Love of God which as I understand it likewise is built on Canale’s work.

As I understand it the differences between these two contrasting philosophical traditions grow from their different conceptions of time and eternity. The Greek philosophers led by Parmenides conceived of eternity as timelessness because God dwelt in an eternal and impassibly serene present, unmoved by the passage of past, present and future. Such a sovereign God had little concern for a race of beings locked in time, and ultimately no ability to deal with such a race of sinners in that sphere.

On the other hand, the God of the Mosaic-Biblical tradition is One who has in Christ reached into time and will ultimate reconcile all things to himself.

The Parmenidean philosophical tradition ultimately has no use for a literal creation week, a literal heavenly temple where Christ our high priest disposes of sin in finite time, prophetic timelines also beginning and ending in finite time etc. It therefore should be anticipated that Des Ford should have matured in his theological wanderings as he has.

Des Ford has been a genuine friend of the Marks family since 1950 at least when he and my eldest brother were Avondale students together. He taught all of us seven Marks siblings except for my oldest brother and sister. We Marks sibs have reason to be grateful to Des. Both Des and my father originally hail from the small Australian tropical city of Townsville.

I have a hunch that even the old chestnut of the human nature of Christ would yield more of its treasures if studied within this context.

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I am somewhat intrigued about the specific evidence one would offer for the above statement from Jimmy?

I did Theology for four years while Des was at Avondale. There was never a hint in that time of anything but being down the line and strongly orthodox. He was certainly emphasizing justification because it was in the context of swinging the pendulum from the perfectionism of the Robert Brinsmead era to the balance of the centre. To do that - he had to focus on justification.

Certainly from what the general church population was feed, it was the official GC version of Glacier View - which would be why the writer of this article is now presenting the other side. For my money, and knowing many of the participants - a well balanced article.

An excellent article, the very last written by Dr Arthur Patrick, a participant at Glacier View, an academic with two doctorates, and a colleague of Dr Ford’s can be found at https://adventiststudies.com/2013/03/03/post-100/

Well worth the read. His very last post prior to passing away the next day.

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Adventist “gospel” of salvation never has made any sense - “…by faith are you saved, and not by works” (except for the Sabbath). Has 457 or any other date made a scintilla of difference to anybody’s spiritual experience… the only people who need to know “dates and times and seasons” are those who want to squeeze into a salvational relationship at the 11th hour - in which case the motivation is wrong anyway.

Knowing any of this timeline has no real meaning. The disciples expected Jesus to return in their lifetime; and the “pioneers” expected the same thing AND THEY WERE WRONG. We seem to ignore the fact that all those dates and the surmising were WRONG. To shift the significance of what happened, and WHEN , is totally irrelevant since judgment begins (or ends) when we die. How many generations have worried about 1844 and here we are. If we’re in the right relationship with the gospel, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE CHRIST WENT IN 1844.

By the way, did Miller realize that all the time permutations he made, needed to take into account that the manner of dating wasn’t the same in 457BC as when 1844 showed up on our calendars. It’s not a straight line from anything Hebrew BC to the 19th century calculations on the Roman calendar.


Did Desmond Ford Give a Fair Trial ?


Peter, can you explain the difference between the Parmenidean and the Mosaic-biblical position, according to Canale? I’ve read some of Canale’s writings, but, I have to admit, to me he seems to adopt a hermeneutical position, which posits a claimed access to (a Hegelian) ‘absolute truth’. If I’m correct in my assumption, isn’t that a too ambitious ‘truth-project’?

one very strong recollection i have of my time at PUC as an uninitiated freshman was the adventist forum presentation des ford gave on our sanctuary doctrine one sabbath afternoon…considering the historic nature of that presentation, and in retrospect, i feel lucky i was there to witness it…i’ll never forget the way ford held up egw as such a massive plagiarist, we couldn’t possibly rely on anything she said for doctrine, but instead should use her only for pastoral comfort…it seemed lost on him that someone who wasn’t deemed trustworthy because she stole from others wouldn’t be looked to for comfort of any kind…i sometimes wonder whether he meant to be quite so harsh…perhaps he expected that others would hold egw in the same zone of cognitive dissonance he apparently did because he was telling them to do so…

des ford and egw just don’t mix…i’ve met many ford admirers in my time, and none of them have any time for egw…on the other hand, i haven’t yet met a real egw believer who holds a favourable view of des ford…i don’t think glacier view was so much about fact finding as it was a prelude to what needed to be done…ford and egw lead into divergent directions…they don’t fit in the same denomination…if egw is to adventism what moses was to israel, des ford obviously had to go…

ford now seems to be happy and successful with his good news unlimited ministry…he seems to have moved on, with no regrets…perhaps his followers should consider doing the same…

gillian, it occurs to me, especially in light of some of des ford’s subsequent explanations of his views of egw (and I’m thinking particularly of the 2013 youtube upload of the ankerberg show, seventh-day adventism: at the crossroads, desmond ford, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnO8BfYqbbg), that neither he nor you understand the impact his 1979 PUC AF presentation had on egw believers who were present, or who heard about it from those who were…

we believe our prophet was assaulted…des’ sola scriptura point, in terms of establishing doctrine, which is in fact egw’s point, was not what we took in…we saw his use of her plagiarism in the same light as we saw ronald numbers’ use of it in his 1976 book, prophetess of health…that is, we saw it as a means of discrediting her inspiration…my guess is that most of us saw des ford’s presentation as a direct fulfillment of egw’s prediction that the very last delusion of satan for the church would be the unraveling of her prophetic gift, 1SM:48…his invention and suggestion in his AF presentation of a “pastoral prophet” status for egw, which we understood as a carte blanche mechanism to contradict her visions, only fed into that suspicion…

the days and weeks following des’ AF presentation were an intensely sorrowful time for egw believers…many of us gathered at dr. anderson’s sabbath school classes - he was a math teacher at the time who always had numerous egw references spread out on his desk to address any questions we had…it really felt to us that the shaking was occurring, and that the time of trouble was about to burst onto the world…i’m guessing that our anguish found its way into the church outside of PUC on a very large scale, and that this is what motivated neil wilson to act so promptly and decisively at glacier view…

i think any reparations between des ford and the adventist church is going to have to involve an acknowledgement on his part of the suffering he wittingly, or unwittingly, caused…the way forward isn’t a reexamination of glacier view or any subsequent interactions between des ford and representatives of the denomination…nearly 40 yrs later, des ford is viewed negatively by egw believers because we all know what we heard and felt from his AF presentation…it’s beside the point to us what glacier view determined, although we generally support what we feel is neal wilson’s decisiveness and courage…

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Jeremy, the forum meeting has been published so people can check what Des said and what you have stated he said. Des has always had the highest regard for Ellen White and has known her writings like an encyclopaedia. The forum you are speaking about took place in 1980. Walter Rea and his writings came out in 1982. Anyway, the church has admitted EGW’s extensive borrowings.

I have some things to say about Glacier View in light of this article. Sorry it’s long, but the first version was longer. I know Spectrum doesn’t want people to write twice.

The Dallas Statement was rushed through in about March 1980 in order to have a benchmark to deal with Desmond Ford at Glacier View. Elder Wilson stated this clearly at the beginning meeting on the Sunday and said that Glacier View itself would not change the outcome. On the Tuesday of Glacier View Elder Wilson asked six people to write up a 10-point statement where Des differed with the Dallas Statement #23 on the sanctuary (which in his mind was the same as the traditional view). There was no evidence in it. Even most of the six participants would not have known how it was about to be used.

The two consensus statements, which were carefully written by the group and written up and published in the Ministry Magazine of September 1980 were not considered in the judgment of Des. They were essentially a sop to the scholars. They actually went towards Des’s position in 7–12 areas, some of them key. But in the Friday afternoon meeting with PREXAD, the brethren did not understand this. Elder Wilson followed his own truth; he stated what they were going to do. He did it, and he stated that he had done it in the Ministry Magazine. Very cleverly done, a genius at administration. And when the scholars objected, singly and en masse in petitions afterwards, he said we have done what we have done. And it’s clear they did what many in the church wanted. That was how they did it. They just worked out where Des differed. And they fired him over that.

Apart from that there were the accusations about Des: not listening, refusal to change anything in his document, poor scholarship. I could say something about these, but it won’t change anyone’s mind. I have detailed all this elsewhere. But a main point raised in the Friday afternoon meeting with PREXAD and representatives of the Australasian Division was the accusation about our supposed collusion with Robert Brinsmead. The background of this was not and has never been told us officially except in a vague reference in a letter from Elder Parmenter to Des in about September 1978.

John Brinsmead, angry with his brother Bob in late 1978 went down to visit Elder Keith Parmenter at the Australasian Division and stated that Des and Bob were plotting to overthrow the church. John said that Des and Bob were acting separately and later would join forces. Des could say he was not in cahoots with Des because I was the mediator. This accusation was completely unfounded, but the brethren clearly believed it. They did not disclose their source.

In that Friday meeting, Elder Wilson accused Des specifically of colluding with Bob to send out 50,000 cassette tapes of his October 1979 Forum meeting. We believed Elder Wilson when he said that Bob indeed sent out these tapes., though we knew nothing about it. Twenty-seven years later, I did a history paper on who sent out the tapes. Bob didn’t send them out at all.

The brethren also said that Des leaked the GC Ms. and that they might have been able to negotiate with him better had he not. That rumour went around; we didn’t hear about it at GV. Well Des hadn’t lent it to anyone, but amusingly, a former GC president in a nursing home lent the ms. to a doctor who had a pretty spiffy copy machine.

Several things to say.

  1. Des was told by a G.C. lawyer that he had the grounds to sue shortly after Glacier View. He was told the same by a contract lawyer who did much work for the church in Australia. He would never sue the church. And really, they treated us kindly. And remember, Neal Wilson said, Des behaved like a Christian gentleman.

  2. You can read the interview just after Glacier View with Adrian Zytkowskee and Des in Spectrum 1980. Marvel at Des’s attitude towards the brethren. He forgave them at the time. He doesn’t need an apology. Des tells me he was born to go to Glacier View, ready to sacrifice his professional life and standing.

  3. Three years later, in a 1983 meeting you have probably never heard of, two of the GC brethren apologised to us about the way Glacier View was handled. Elder Parmenter insisted on a decision that week. You won’t read that anywhere, but there were witnesses.

  4. Though Des has a lot of enemies, he has a multitude of friends. Very few of them changed towards him after Glacier View, and Des gets letters of appreciation from all around the world all the time.

  5. Our interest and energies have been in promoting the NT gospel, and the only thing that matters in this discussion is that the church needs to do the same. We will know this has happened when the nasty tone in some of the letters changes.


Jeremy, your advice is a tad tardy. Hundreds of my peers have already moved on. Most of them found a church where the gospel is preached and practiced.
None of us divorces ourselves completely from our past. A few of my peers still take a peek at your comments and disagree.


Peter, sometime you should read the bombardment of hate mail Raglan Marks wrote to Des Ford. The fact that Des treated you and your siblings with Christian grace is a testament to his genuine Christian character. It was as if Des was saying, “Father, forgive Raglan for he is a perfectionist but he and his children may come to know the gospel.”