Billy Graham Center

Collection 389- John Abram Huffman, Sr. T5 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (29 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the third and final part of the second oral history interview of John A. Huffman Sr. (CN 389, T5) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

This transcript, made by Robert Shuster and Katherine Graber and was completed in August 2014.


CN 389 T05. Interview of Reverend John A. Huffman by Bob Shuster on May 26, 1988.

SHUSTER: Testing...Okay, here we go. This is a second continuation of the interview with the Reverend [pauses] Huffman that took place on June 26th, 1988 and the time is now 4:20. Reverend Huffman?

HUFFMAN: By this time, I was beginning to get a feedback from our...various members of our alumni association who had gathered from across the country for the banquet that they, to which the Fuller board members were all invited and all were present except Charles Fuller to my knowledge, and as the president of the institution that was having its...its alumni banquet, I was asked to speak to the alumni...and student body and everyone that was there about the present situation between our school and Fuller, which had been leaked out as being rather problematic situation to say the least. To make the situation a bit more emotional, we had just lost one of our best students by drowning a week or so before, and in my ad-lib remarks, I paid tribute to this fine young man that was headed for the missionary field, son-in-law of one of the great missionary leaders of the moment, and we paid tribute to him. And then in a rather impassioned outburst, I simply assured our...alumni gathered there and all that were there that we held firmly to the doctrinal beliefs for which our school is founded and was...had been maintained for the past years, and that as president, I would see that we would be true to that commitment. Now, if Marsden had used the professional skill and caution that he is known for sufficiently to have made an appointment to review these things, he would not have said in his book what he did (because I respect him as an author). I know him to be not an inerrant. He does not believe in inerrancy. He doesn’t come from that school. And he certainly had a bias in this writing which didn’t show up much, but nevertheless, for him to...without checking further than [C. Davis] Weyerhaeuser certainly (or [David Allan] Hubbard and Weyerhaeuser) to try to make out that one man was responsible for budgetary need who was a...first of all a board member of a school that had taken over the entire ownership of another school and also he would have discovered that there was a standing order by the...Fuller board that if there were [train rumbles in the background] any need that there should be up to $100,000 made available by a loan against that portion of its campus just as they were getting money to run the other school needs. Plus the fact that we were at the end of a school season, and that my time had been for years devoted to raising funds and we always had met our obligations. He would not have fallen into the trap of making this out to be a financial situation. And what he really says there, that I had run Fuller into a debt of approximately 100,000 dollars in two years time, something to that effect when the fact of the matter is that we hadn’t drawn one cent on the provisional 100,000 drawing account nor had any money been borrowed on the campus. But they were in serious trouble on the theological....We did have a meeting of the board, my board, shortly after this within a few days. And we fell back upon an earlier board meeting in which grave concern was expressed by members of our board (the old Winona Board) as to whether we could long endure, reputably (as a school that had stood for decades on inerrancy as well as many other cardinal doctrines we believed of the evangelical faith) if we were...continued our identification with Fuller Theological Seminary. So we took action then that I was to be given the authority, in fact the request, to take any action necessary, even if it meant invoking the reversion clause, which we did, shortly thereafter. Now, I will say... [Shuster begins to say something] I’m sorry?

SHUSTER: Wasn’t Herbert J. Taylor involved too with negotiations to...?

HUFFMAN: Yes that’s....I referred to that earlier, but I’ll tie that in now as we climax this. That’s right. Now Hubbard and I got together yet, during the hours of the closing of our...of our time at Winona with the board on our campus, trying to work out a plan whereby this thing could be salvaged. The divorce could stopped. And we....[long pause] What’s that author’s name?

SHUSTER: George Marsden?

HUFFMAN: Marsden states in his book, positively, that a promise had been made to Hubbard that no action would be taken (at least until Ockenga got back and we could talk, something to that effect). I promised that I would try my best to resolve this situation without a crisis.

SHUSTER: Situation being the...?

HUFFMAN: The necessity of...of using the reversion clause, withdrawing our...our school from Fuller, which was a provision that either had by contract. But as time went on, things ballooned to the point that we took action. We did notify that we were...we were using the reversion clause. And because of the difference on inerrancy.

SHUSTER: What caused them to balloon? What caused them to balloon?

HUFFMAN: Well, here you had a whole...a whole alumni association. You had a faculty on[rustling of papers near the microphone] parts of the Fuller faculty. Also, you had... there was a... there had been a series of withdrawals from the Fuller board by long time Fuller members (Charles Pitts was one of them and Johnson, the big banker of Los Angeles was another one of Charlie Fuller’s best friends) and then resignation of the faculty members: Wilbur Smith as of a dated time, he didn’t immediately withdraw, but he notified he was withdrawing, Gleason Archer, Lindsell, and there was just a parade of people that for convictions’ reasons just withdrew both from the board and from the faculty. But our situation was...was here was a school that had been taken into a merger and had turned its assets over 100% and...and we were convinced that it was beyond the point of redemption. Well anyway, we did...our attorney did notify the Fuller attorney that we were, as of a certain date, that we were on record as...utilizing the reversion clause. And then...we made all of our plans to operate as usual on the Winona Lake campus the next season (‘54, I think it was ‘54 season, yes), and we did. But there was a time noted, a time period there within which Fuller was to return the campus. And at that time period, they asked for more time because it would mean calling a special board meeting and so forth. We granted that time, and we met at that meeting and our attorney was there. And we went into it at the...board meeting level and the legal ends of everything. But we continued without a break. The next year we had a fine student body. But an amusing little incident took place along about...well, some months after this board meeting on our campus. And after we had given the notice that we were using the reversion clause and the seminary, Fuller Seminary, had promised to pay up all the bills that were theirs to pay. And I should say this: that they...these bills that they talked about were bills that they had assumed and had promised to pay and didn’t pay, and we couldn’t pay because we were channeling everything through them.

SHUSTER: So these were bills that you had had at the time of the merger? Was there...?

HUFFMAN: No no no, these were bills that were...were accumulated. There were no bills at the time of the merger. That was debt free. These were things that accumulated during the period of time when we were operating as a department of Fuller Seminary. And with that budgetary...provision that I’ve talked about. And...there are always amusing things if you allow them to be. We got a notice from an attorney in Warsaw, Indiana (which is a few miles from Winona Lake) that he had been notified by his client that...that he should contact us because they had heard that we intended to conduct a school of theology at Winona Lake and that if we wanted to rent the Bethany property, the campus, he would be glad to arrange to rent it to us for some $4,000 plus rental which he felt was a just rental fee. Well, our attorney informed him that apparently he was unaware of the details of this. He’d be glad to enlighten him, but he assured him that under no circumstance would Winona Lake School of Theology pay rent on a property that legally should be its...back in its own hands by that time. Anyway, so we did. We carried on then for...that was...I think that was ‘64, ‘65, ‘66 ‘67, ‘68, ‘69. We carried on successfully until 1971. And the...we moved the...our...what we would call our graduate school (which meant above the BD-level [Bachelor of Divinity] students) to the University of Chicago campus center for continuing education...

SHUSTER: Now why did...why you move there?

HUFFMAN: Because Kantzer had at this time was...had developed....

SHUSTER: That’s Kenneth Kantzer?

HUFFMAN: Yeah. He was our vice president. And he had developed his school to the point where he felt that if we were closer to Trinity [Evangelical Divinity School] and had direct access to this huge depository of theological books within the greater Chicago area, it’d be...he would be better able to direct all of their summer students to Winona Lake School of Theology (which he intended to do, and they had no summer school at that point).

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: And that was one reason. And then that worked out so well that by the next year, we had at least one full floor of the continuing education building the University of Chicago campus...on the University of Chicago campus for that reason, used it successfully. So we had...we had some what, thirty or forty students in Chicago [train noise in background]. Then we had the rest of our students at Winona Lake. So I was commuting back and forth between those two campuses 150 miles apart. The next year, we consolidated the whole things, brought the whole school.... And I believe this was in sixty....I think this was...either ‘69 or ‘70. On...we had a whole floor of the Illini Union building of the University of Illinois Chicago campus. And we moved our library and everything and let the campus lie idle there.

SHUSTER: At Winona Lake?

HUFFMAN: At Winona Lake. We didn’t have title to it, and we couldn’t very well with any sense of...efficiency...carry on under those circumstances so...

SHUSTER: Title was still with Fuller?

HUFFMAN: They still held the title. So that was what I referred to earlier, that one man who through all this, kept his balance and his convictions and kept in pretty good friendship with both factions (because there were factions now) was Herbert Taylor. And he had...I don’t know because there were....I was still on the board and I had...I offered my resignation even at [the] Winona board meeting [coughs] which they refused to take because Herbert felt that I should stay on and urged me to stay on and others did. Ockenga felt that I should and I stayed on only because I was...stayed on to protect our school and its property because I knew the thing was...was unsolvable. Then four years passed by. And they made no effort to return the campus, and we had no borrowing...borrowing power on the campus because we didn’t have title to it anymore. After our attorney told it...the Warsaw attorney representing Fuller that Winona Lake School of Theology wasn’t about to pay rent on a campus that is theirs, they never bothered us. We were never interfered with in our program and that isn’t...we didn’t leave there because they kept us from being there. We just felt that the school is developing to the point now that we’d do better in this area. By this time then...well back to Herb Taylor. Herb Taylor then wrote the board a very strong letter in which he said, “Remember, this is a school that has weathered the storm of the Depression, the Great Depression, has never vacillated in its doctrinal position through all this.” And he said, “Rather than trying to hurt them and to put them under...” (And he commented on my leadership of it through much of this time), he said, “I’ve watched it very carefully, and the blessing of the Lord is upon it. I think we should give it our blessing and be helpful rather than hindering.”

SHUSTER: Let me say too we have copies of all the correspondence of negotiation in Taylor’s files.

HUFFMAN: Did you check any of that to see or do you assume that you have it because you have all of his files?

SHUSTER: No, we do have the materials....

HUFFMAN: Okay, that’s very interesting. Then he sent that telegram, and he put the pressure on there that he just...Jesus told him that this was what he wanted done. And that’s what I referred to that he....

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: Now, you asked me the other time that I talked what my friendship was with Ockenga through all of this. The strongest letter I ever wrote in my life I wrote to Ockenga. When I asked him “Is this the same Harold Ockenga that urged us protect any possible situation arising in which the Fuller movement of the school could be injured by...any defections upon...defections on Fuller’s part.” And all that I got as a way of an answer or rebuke to was a pretty...letter...pretty warm letter. I mean, I told him I loved him and admired him, and yet I couldn’t understand how he could stand aside and let this thing go without raising a finger of protest. He simply said that he’d talked to some of his closest advisors, and they advised him to proceed as we wanted to with the ending up of this thing as fast as possible. And he was disappointed in me as were a number of the people on the board. Something to that effect. I think Marsden may have something on that in the book. I’m not sure of that. But anyway, the school continued until 1971. Kenneth Kantzer came to me...perhaps in late ‘69 and said he was being put (or maybe ‘68) he was being pressured by his faculty and his board to have a year round program at Trinity [Evangelical Divinity School]. The teachers wanted twelve month contracts, students wanted to speed up their seminary programs...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: they could do a three year program in less time. And he could no longer assure us that we could get the...the Trinity students at Winona Lake School of Theology wherever it was located. ...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: ...So we...I guess the finest faculty and program we ever developed was the last one which never happened. It was during the Billy Graham campaign in Chicago and that I think was ‘61.

SHUSTER: ‘62 and ‘71.

HUFFMAN: I mean ‘71, ‘71. Yes. And...but it just got to the point that we felt that we should close up shop. So we did....

SHUSTER: Why did you feel that?

HUFFMAN: Because seminaries across the country were taking the same position that Trinity was. They were running their summer programs now and encouraging their students to come to their own summer schools. They were feeders to us through all these years, because there were no schools doing that. So we seemed to be the time to quit. So a result of (I’m going back now Taylor’s thing) as a result of Taylor’s letter and telegram, quite to our surprise and to our joy, we got information they were ready to settle. Now, we had proposed a compromise settlement way back there at the board meeting when our attorney was there. He said, “On the basis of my legal knowledge of the situation I consider, John Huffman, you don’t owe Fuller anything. Not anything.” But he said “I propose that Winona Lake School of Theology pick up the...[pauses] all of the obligations incurred over this period of time that they...” (I guess it was a two year period of time), “except the...the improvements made upon the property.” Something to that effect. ...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: ...And we did that. So four years later we settled with Fuller on easier terms than we had made to them at that meeting when our attorney advised us to compromise the thing...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: ...and ended up with (I don’t want to quote figures here) but something in the...somewhere around $50,000 that we put into the thing and they probably...the total picture lost about that much.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: $100,000 figure is about what it ended up with, and we split it.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: So that’s the end of the reading of that one.

SHUSTER: Let me ask you one final question. You’ve described how when you came into Fuller Seminary board, it was with one exception totally....

HUFFMAN: We thought it was with one exception totally.

SHUSTER: You thought it was totally...

HUFFMAN: We thought...

SHUSTER: Inerrant...

HUFFMAN: With one exception...

SHUSTER: Supporters of inerrancy.


SHUSTER: And you’ve described in some detail the process that followed. And I don’t, you have to describe that in detail again but just in summary, why do you think the board was unable to enforce their will? Why do you think although there were strong supporters of inerrancy on the board, they were not able to...?

HUFFMAN: Because, two things: A number of the board members left, remember, at this time. Johnson left. Pitts left. A number of the board members left. They were replaced. And they were replaced in every instance, I believe, by people who the powers that be were pretty sure of, that they would not insist...that they were not...they weren’t people that would stake their life on inerrancy, let’s put it that way. Then, the size of the board was increased. And now I want to say one thing about Marsden. He does a pretty objective job. And I’ve gotten reports as late as three weeks ago that Fuller is not very happy with the book that Marsden wrote. And that Marsden has not received, as of a certain date, any kinds of compliments or thanks from Fuller for having written it. And apart from the personal grievance I have with his handling of our situation, maybe everybody involved there has a feeling about...some feelings about what was said. Having been in on this thing from the beginning, I mean all through the heat of this, right on the inside, I think he did an amazing job of stating facts as they were. And I’ll go since we’re going to kill this thing or at least tie it up for a while, I’m going to say this: I sat there and saw Billy Graham stand up at a board meeting and say “Mr. Fuller, you pled with me to come on this board. And I came on this board, much against the advice of my closest advisors because you appealed to me to be on this board so that when in the years ahead you’re gone I could protect this board from any kind of... of betrayal...” (I’m using my own words here but)

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: “...of its theological commitments. Now I find myself embarrassed to be protecting Fuller Seminary against you.” Have you ever heard that in any, from any source?

SHUSTER: Yes, when you mentioned it a few weeks ago...

HUFFMAN: Alright.

SHUSTER: ...but I hadn’t heard that before.

HUFFMAN: That happened. And I also may have told you....was that off the record when I told you that before?

SHUSTER: Yes, I think it was.

HUFFMAN: Another thing, since this is all on the record [laughs]. I heard Charlie Fuller (and I’m sure I may have told you this) say the close of a board meeting’s day, that if Fuller Seminary in any way fails to live up to this statement that we have as it is, if it deviates in any way [emphatic tapping on desk] every dollar that Fuller foundation has given to Fuller Seminary will have to come back to the foundation. And then I saw him come back the next day with tears in his eyes practically. I’ve told you this. And say, “The Lord has reproved me, rebuked me for what I said,” and he just undid everything he did.

SHUSTER: You mean he took back that statement about...?

HUFFMAN: He took back that statement. Well, Dan had worked him over, and I’m sure his wife had. And he....I admire Dr. Fuller. He’s one of the dearest friends I ever had in the world. And I had personal contacts with him again and again. And when we...turned the deed over to Fuller Seminary, Dr. Fuller said, “Now we are really a world seminary.” By that time we had a school in Japan, we had our flying seminars going, and that was his reaction. And he was just a man between...well, in a very difficult situation.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: And he was human.

SHUSTER: As we all are.


SHUSTER: You had mentioned that the reason the board had not been able to stand firm, you said there were two reasons: One, many people left, and the second reason was...

HUFFMAN: Well, they kept adding new members to the board.


HUFFMAN: And every new member that came on...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: ...came on with tongue in cheek on this inerrancy thing. They continued to publish this...the inerrancy...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: require the inerrancy signing for some time after this. But...and still on occasion will. But God only understands. I don’t understand how a person can with mental reservation sign anything. ...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

HUFFMAN: ...I don’t understand that. Anyway. I have a hard enough time understanding things that are more important, I guess.

SHUSTER: Okay well, why don’t we stop there then?


SHUSTER: And conclude this tape.

HUFFMAN: Now, about this...


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