JOHN A. HALFORD
A good man has passed away today. After a long battle with esophageal cancer this summer, Grace Communion International Pastor John Halford finally passed into the fullness of His Wonderful Kingdom. Those who were hoping that he would conquer this and even one individual very high up in GCI even suggested that there was a “Divine Appointment” a misdiagnosis of tumours but another pastor gave the grave news that it wasn’t so. During the ordeal, John Halford was handling this very well, even getting ready for certain divine appointment from Jesus: Today, you will be with me in Paradise. Nobody can ever have any greater “divine appointment” being with the Master in Paradise despite it is a sad thing for the rest of us because we will be missing him for a very long, long, long time.
Before Grace Communion International, there was the Worldwide Church of God—-a cult labelled by many evangelicals which eventually steered to orthodoxy in the early 1990s. John Halford was a long time minister in the historic Worldwide Church of God and yes, there are some who hold that against him. Some will say he was just a hireling with a superior sense of humour. He might have been a product of the environment and yes there was a toxic environment which I am acutely aware but I cannot deny that there individuals who were different, dared to be different and some even payed the price for being different (John was never raised to evangelist rank in the historic WCG) and I still can only conclude that he was truly a “voice of reason” through it all. Can anybody attribute that to then top evangelists like Gerald Waterhouse, Rod Meredith, Raymond McNair—-or even the founder Herbert W. Armstrong who could make Alice in Wonderland’s The Queen of Hearts seem rational and reasonable? I think not! These so-called top men who had nothing better to do to make stuff up (most of the time it made no sense) can never hold a candle to a man who always thought outside the box much to the chagrin of many—and did so until his dying day.
I remember his visits to Toronto in the early ’90s. His sense of humour could not be ignored. His cheekiness was somewhat to be admired where there was a multiple number of those who were “holier-than-thou” and literally believed that lightening up was a sin. I read his articles in The Plain Truth magazine back in the mid-90s and other church literature he written. A cut above the rest. The mid 1990s came and the historic Worldwide Church of God faced it’s massive doctrinal upheaval (New Covenant theology was “introduced”) in it’s then 60 year or so history. It made the 1973-74 debacle (Divorce and Remarriage policy and the so-called proper day of Pentecost) look like a Muppet movie. John Halford had a wonderful taped message called a “New Frontier of Faith”. It was positive, upbeat and futuristic oriented (John was a futurist like me while others were just simply joyless, dull fatalists) . I also appreciated his jab at what I would call “grace Nazis” in what he said, “Hey I live and believe the New Covenant but I eat like if I’m under the Old.” Some wanted to show ( I say bully) their righteousness by “eating pork” over the ones who are “weak in the faith”—which in my opinion is stupid and shallow to say the least and a poor measuring stick but that’s simply neither here nor there. In the late ’90s, John Halford had a video called Creation or Evolution. Some thought he offered no firm conclusions and that was a bad thing. I thought the opposite. It was refreshing to see somebody who seen no tension between science and faith or even believing in God and evolution simultaneously. It was time for people in the Worldwide Church of God TO ASK QUESTIONS about science! At the same time he was Regional Director of WCG in the United Kingdom and published their own version of The Plain Truth which was reported to be the number one Christian magazine in the U.K. I, for a while subscribed to it and even helped contribute to their magazine by converting what money I made into British pounds. I would do it over again, if I could and had a better job (so I would have given more)! It was that good that NT Wright could probably read an issue or two. I still believe that the UK Plain Truth back in the 90s should have been the standard one over the American evangelical Plain Truth hands down. Sorry, I take the Neo-Anglicanism of John Halford and his sidekick Jim Hurst—over the clap happy American evangelicalism any day. I will even dare to suggest that probably the Neo-Anglican route was probably the best, non-confrontational way for the then WCG to steer towards orthodoxy than the hot mess that the leadership imposed in ’95. If only…
Whether you agreed with his decision or not, John Halford decided to stay and lead the WCG into becoming Grace Communion International. He was sincere in his decision. I thought he should have started his own ministry back in the late 90s but he kept writing articles for Grace Communion International and advising congregants ministers and members alike right until the end. I thought this video would be an appropriate one of what he was all about during his later years. Rest in paradise,Mr. John Halford until we meet again!
Also, his nephew Ben Beath wrote a superb pre-obituary article here.