Former Adventist Review editor William G. Johnsson is among three 2015 recipients of the Charles Elliot Weniger Award for Excellence, considered one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by a church entity.
Johnsson joined former Adventist Church chief archivist Bert B. Haloviak and Adventist religious liberty champion Bert B. Beach in receiving the award for their contributions to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Anything that I have done or accomplished is only by grace. I have been incredibly blessed,” Johnsson said Thursday.
He called his induction into the Weniger Society “a great honor,” but said he could think of many other men and women who were equally if not more deserving of receiving the award.
The Weniger Society was established in 1974 by the late U.S. Representative Jerry Pettis and the late dentist Clinton Emmerson, former students of Charles Weniger, to honor people who demonstrate the servanthood and compassion associated with Weniger (1896-1964). A noted scholar and public speaker, Weniger taught and held leadership positions at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and other church educational institutions.
Lawrence T. Geraty, chair of the Weniger executive committee, conferred this year’s awards to Johnsson, Beach, and Haloviak at a ceremony in the Loma Linda University Church on the afternoon of Sabbath, Feb. 21.
Haloviak, who served a record 35 years at the General Conference’s archives department, including as director from 1998 to 2010, described his tenure as “a huge blessing for me and hopefully for others.”
“Perhaps my own most exciting discovery came by following leads that led to the recovery of the actual justification by faith sermons of both Alonzo Jones and Ellet Waggoner that clearly identified what was new about Seventh-day Adventist theology in 1888,” he told the ceremony, according to a transcript of his remarks.
“But,” he added, in a nod to his old job, “that discovery also led to further surprises that called for much additional research of these issues.”
His daughter, Kendra Haloviak Valentine, associate professor of New Testament Studies at La Sierra University, said Thursday that her father’s example had inspired her to work for the Adventist Church.
“During my growing-up years, our family met dozens of fascinating Adventist workers and graduate students whose studies took them to the archives for research,” said Haloviak Valentine, who offered the closing prayer and benediction at the ceremony. “And dad’s own research interests have blessed us enormously. Because of his work and my mother’s work in the secretariat of the General Conference, my brother and I always thought of church employment as the most exciting possible careers.”
Johnsson, a native Australian, served as Adventist Review editor for 24 years until his retirement in 2006. Before becoming editor, he taught as a theology professor at India’s Spicer College, Andrews University, and the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. He also has written numerous books, including Jesus of Nazareth: His Life and Teachings, which will be released this year.
Beach worked 45 years for the Adventist Church, including as director of the General Conference’s religious liberty and public affairs department, an observer of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, and secretary of the Annual Conferences of Secretaries of the Christian World Communions from 1970 to 2002.
About 160 people have received the Weniger award over the past 40 years. Last year’s recipients were La Sierra University professor Elissa Kido, who led the four-year CognitiveGenesis study on Adventist education; La Sierra alumnus and former California state Senator Bill Emmerson; and Australian theologian and historian Arthur Patrick, who was awarded posthumously.