Editor's note: in this previously unpublished interview, Trevor Lloyd talks with William Johnsson about his insider's view of the Glacier View conference, which took place from August 10–15 1980. It has been called the most important event of its type for the Adventist Church since the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis.Johnsson was a former associate dean of the Adventist Seminary, editor of Adventist Review for 24 years (1982–2006), founding editor of Adventist World, and co-editor of the main Consensus Statement of the Sanctuary Review Committee at Glacier View. He died on March 11, 2023, at the age of 88 and is remembered for his lifelong contributions to the Adventist Church.
this is a fascinating interview…but did Johnsson really believe that average church members would yield to scholars’ assessment of “progress” in doctrinal understanding if it were presented in an “appropriate” way…the Consensus Statement isn’t an inspired product…why would anyone view it definitively…
An interesting article. Bill is more honest here than before. I don’t want to comment at this time when his family is hurting over his loss. But I want to say that whoever I called on Friday night, I DID NOT call Australia. I never did call Australia while there. I only called friends on the west coast and possibly Calvin Edwards at Andrews. I was accused of a number of things which were not true. People will find this article informative. So I wanted to make that point (very minor to you, but big to me).
By the way, Bill died on the same date Des did. Just four years later.
This is another assertion made without evidence which can be rejected for no reason other than that.
When you can achieve the impossible-that is, positively affirm a statement in the negative; e.g., prove that unicorns do not and cannot exist-your argument might be worth consideration.
Until then, the quote can be seen, by your definition, as merely a continuation of uninspired rationalization and incessant argumentation.
As to the importance of the topic of discussion or the Consensus Statement, ever since EGW died, the SDA church has been without its spiritualistic moorings.
Until she is resurrected and “is shown” what the church’s official position on GV and Desmond Ford should have been, for example, the chances of Adventism recovering from the mortal wound inflicted upon it by her death seem insurmountable, in the extreme.
This seems to happen frequently to men who realize too late that they have lived too long to prove themselves to be good men by dying young!
Give the guys a break. By the time these people have lived long enough, and figured out what’s going on, they have absolutely no choice but to convince themselves of the benefit of not rocking the boat. It’s not only their jobs they would lose but a whole way of life, including friends, even family. Is it worth saying, “I don’t believe this stuff any more”? I speak from experience, even though I have been just an ordinary church goer who kept gradually retreated to the back of the church, one row at a time,
until my feet caught up to my ever questioning mind and I was out the door.
Even as a lowly Academy teacher/principal I had to find a way to justify keeping my job. It’s easy enough if you focus on the kids, and not pay attention to the guys with suits that shown up once in a while to “assess”. At that point in time I didn’t have to swear on the “Great Controversy” that I believed every word.
It’s been a long retreat. The high points of my journey took me to “Itasca Park” in Minnesota (on two occasions) where we had the great privilege to spend time with Des Ford, and years later, in New Brunswick, Canada.
Thank you for this. Most interesting! I was at La Sierra University as a graduating senior in 1979 or 1980 when Dr. Ford made (one of?) his last Week of Prayer appearances. He spoke on righteousness by faith, not the sanctuary, and brought his series home on Friday with a message about how those saved by faith will behave, including their healthy lifestyle practices.
I would love to see this article’s headnote updated with the location and date of the interview. I had to read a long way to find “Looking back on Glacier View after 40-plus years …” and “more than four decades have passed since Glacier View …” On that basis, I assume that the interview was conducted in the 2020s and (presumably) in Loma Linda. Or was it conducted via email?
Thank you so much for this article. I had no idea the consensus statement made those significant changes to our traditional view. Basically agreeing with Des and then no real communication to the members - shameful. He helped me understand the gospel - I am forever grateful.
I also want to know when it was done. I heard about it from someone who talked to Trevor this year. I suspect it was done by email since the person who did it was about Bill’s age and older, and Trevor has done a lot of interviews about Glacier View (mainly in the 1990s). He even interviewed Neal Wilson. When he interviewed Jack Cassell, it was all done by FAX, so this was possibly by email. Those interviews are housed at Avondale Archives. Possibly in 2020 Bill did an interview with Peter Dixon on SDAQ&A ZOOM but he disclosed more here. This is a fascinating interview because it tells you what Bill thought back in the day—e.g., that he objected to putting the ten-point statement in the Review (either Aug 27 or Sept 4 1980 ahead of the Consensus Statement as though it was more important when the latter was the work of the group, and the former was done by a small group on the request of Neal Wilson. Another thing was Bill disliked the Ministry articles as did Richard Hammill. Well, well, well. Who knew? I am glad Bill did the interview because I always thought Bill didn’t know what was going on. Now I know he did.
Des told the PREXAD men in the Friday afternoon meeting that the consensus statement went towards his viewpoint in 12 places, seven of them key. They did not believe it; they thought the ten-point statement (saying where Des differed from traditional Adventism) was the same as the Consensus Statement. Afterwards as we were getting into the lift to go downstairs, Neal Wilson asked Des for a list of the twelve points which Des then wrote down, and I still have. The Ministry Magazine (Nov. 1980) said that this was just in Des’s mind or similar. Neal Wilson knew the outcome of Glacier View before it happened. He told the group at the beginning that the church had come up with the 27 Fundamentals at Dallas, and that they would not be changing anything at Glacier View. Doctrinal changes are only made at General Conferences. This way they bypassed dealing with Des’s ms. The consensus statement (purpose) was to show where the invitees could find agreement with Des—where they had common ground. It showed a lot of agreement on the problems Des had mentioned. Bill, for instance, largely agreed with him on the problems though he had some differences on his interpretation of the Book of Hebrews. The scholars did not necessarily agree with Des’s solutions, but as Jim Cox pointed out, they had no solutions of their own. Sometimes this was because they were more liberal than Des and used the Preterist method of interpretation (which treats the Bible as a historical document and does not accept the supernatural—how you have to write if you go to a State university). That pretty much does away with future prophetic events.
I was at the seminary during the Glacier View events and after. Bill Johnsson was the “artful dodger”. He evaded any and all questions asked by his students regarding Ford, preferring to stick to safe subjects. When the orders came from on high to cleanse the seminary, he played the wallflower and went along with the purge quietly, and if I remember correctly, actually sat on the committee for inquisition which rooted out the heretics (yes, there was one, including a number of names very familiar to readers of this forum). Academic freedom died during that period, to the extent that it ever really existed. His acquiescence was not unique. Many/most of his colleagues bowed their heads and only after retirement began their atonement of honesty.
i’m not really confused on this point, even if you are, and think i should be, as well…to my knowledge, and in harmony with available facts, the Glacier View Committee isn’t claiming to have been a consortium of acknowledged inspired prophets and apostles with direct revelation in the form of supernatural visions, dreams, or trances for the Church, as occurred at the Jerusalem Council in 50AD, for example…instead they were systematic scholars with likely varying assumption sets, presumably doing the best they could with the tools they had 40 yrs ago…and while we can call their agreement interesting, and possibly reflective of the time, this is the most we can reasonably claim…even if God answered their prayers and blessed their efforts, as Johnsson appears to presume, even he doesn’t call their statement inspired, which he certainly would have, had he thought it was…and if anyone in the GC believed it was inspired, i think they would have thought it their duty to disseminate it to the Church, which they didn’t…
but if you feel the acknowledgement of these facts is somehow deciding for God what he should inspire, call it inspired…make yourself happy - it’s a short life…
I consider you have hit the nail on the head when you said, “as Jim Cox pointed out, they had no solutions of their own.”
May I propose there is a way forward, but it requires the various parties to accept the above comment applies across the board.
Unless the parties are prepared to accept there are key areas of Scripture that have been ignored, as well as an unwillingness to correct faulty applications of History, there does not appear there is any chance of the various parties moving forward in the near future.
Thus the question, what are the chances of a genuine desire by the various parties, at any level of the church, to consider the possibility there is a way forward?
I don’t think anything about GV was inspired by God, actually. It looks like that outcome was going to happen regardless what the “conclave” decided. You might call it show or a ruse. I’m relatively sure, some of the attendees believed they were there to make some decisions, guided by inspiration; and I’m sure they prayed about it, knowing one or two of the men involved (just curious - do we know if any women were involved in the deliberations?)
My reaction to your off the cuff decision about anything being “inspired” or not came across as presumptuous, you setting yourself up as the arbiter of what is or isn’t as a matter of fact.
The fact that you would be more inclined to accept the Consensus Statement if it had claimed to be of divine authority, or if the participants had insisted that their work was a compilation of supernatural origins, is all one need know in order to realize that you are the dilettante you accuse virtually everyone other than yourself of being, who understands little or nothing about the nature of divine inspiration and that a rational conversation with you in regards to what is and is not inspired is pointless.
I’m convinced that we can hear the echoes of our makers inspired voice everywhere and at all times but if you, on the other hand, can play Fur Elise or Orange Blossom Special on your violin
then tell your audience with a straight face that the piece definitely was not inspired by god because the composers were, respectively, a drunk and a diagnosed schizophrenic rather than acknowledged prophets or beatified saints, we have nothing in common on this issue and further conversation isn’t going to change that.
I’m not saying that everything everyone says or does is worthy of canonization. I mean, I hope you accept that not all of EGW’s life was or should have been recorded for posterity and future Adventist edification. For example, I’m fairly certain we could both agree that her while her decision on what time to go to bed on any particular night may have been inspired at some level, you’d concur that this information did not need to be noted for future reference by the congregation.
But to my mind the notion that our maker’s expressions of his affection and affinity for his creatures is limited to no more than the writings of a handful of humans over the past few millennia is to arbitrarily limit what is, in fact, a virtual Niagara Falls sized cataract of inspiration to an occasional drip from a nearly dried up faucet in the desert.
In regards to GV, it occurs to me that this was Adventism’s First Battle at Bull Run where they won the skirmish, and apparently put Ford in his place, but ultimately lost the war because their cause has little or nothing to do with god’s desires. But I was already on my way to becoming an ex-SDA at the time and hadn’t studied much about the conflab until I read this interview. So I-just like most of the world’s population-find the topic of marginal interest, at best, and for me personally, it is just one more piece of evidence that supports my decision to request being disfellowshipped.
BTW, @gford1, I’d like to say thanks to you for supporting your husband’s work in this regard. While I didn’t leave Adventism because of it, or due to all of the nefarious activity surrounding EGW and her purported inspiration, the questions raised were a factor in my ability to step back from the faith of my parents and grandparents and obtain a somewhat more objective opinion in the matter. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for the two of you to be railroaded in the manner described, or what it was like trying to pick up the prices afterward, as my own exit from the church was relatively painless and accompanied with no more angst then one might experience in removing a band aid that had served its purpose.
The sanctuary doctrine was wrong, but useful. It enabled the fledging church to recover from the tragic disappointment of 1844, by inventing a new, but fragile doctrine, that gave hope in the darkest hour of the new movement. Without it, the SDA church might not exist today.
But a strong, honest, and developing church should truthfully reflect on the sanctuary doctrine as an important part of the church history, from which it now can confidently move forward.
Just like the gory sacrifices of the Old Testament were permanently banished by Christ, they were important stepping stones. In that spirit of on-going revelation, let us celebrate this evolution of our faith.
Here is my proposed revised article of faith:
The Freedom of the Sanctuary: I believe that the beautiful symbolism of the sanctuary points to the dramatic sacrifice of Christ, freeing us once and for all from the fear of sin and death, and giving all generations comfort in a just and loving judgment.
i’d agree if there was some chance this consortium was about delivering an inspired, and therefore definitive, result…but there wasn’t that chance then, and there isn’t that chance now…the one and only inspired figure our Church has had, where something definitive could be expected, has been dead and buried 108 yrs ago…i don’t view stating what is obvious as presumptuous…it’s the way it is…
our Church is enduring a period where our best judgement is all we can generate…obviously God doesn’t think we need direct divine guidance at this time…i think it’s good that Glacier View at least tried to do something about some of the loose, unresolved aspects of one of our signature doctrines, but i don’t expect complete resolution until we need it, perhaps as we enter the ministry of a future prophet, no doubt during the Latter Rain, leading into the close of IJ…
i’d definitely put more weight on the Consensus Statement if it not only claimed to be inspired, but could be demonstrated to have been inspired…the reality is that Johnsson et all may have been or are fine people, but we know they weren’t or aren’t inspired…therefore none of us need accept anything they’ve said as definitive, even though we can certainly respect their yrs of study, and consider what they’ve agreed on as perhaps one more data point in our on study, or not…
why shouldn’t we be curious about mundane facts of the life of the only case of inspiration the world has seen since apostolic times, that we know of…i actually wish the White Estate would release everything they have about egw yesterday…why do we have to wait for incessant drips here and there of new information…while no one in their right mind is going to hang anything on her egw’s wardrobe or menu choices, i think we’re interested in the kind of person these things reveal she was…
lol…why do you think you feel a need to constantly remind us that you’re ex-SDA…i actually think you’re fooling yourself, no-one else…once an SDA, always an SDA. like it or not…there’s a reason you’re contributing to this site…there’s a vast difference between you and someone who truly isn’t SDA…