More About Our Organization
This page gives information on four topics. This section contains some general information about our organization. The second section contains a brief description of what we are trying to accomplish. The third section is a description of the manner in which we are trying to accomplish our objectives. That is, it describes the general guidelines for how we intend to behave ourselves as we work toward our objectives. The fourth section describes how we want to accomplish our objectives with regard to plans for activities.
A few years ago a few individuals (that we know about) were searching for ways to bring greater accountability on the part of the SDA church regarding its dealing with the firing of David Dennis (the former Director of Auditing of the General Conference) and similar concerns. Dr. George Grames and Dr. Stewart Shankel took the initiative to write a petition to Elder Folkenberg, the General Conference, the officers of every church division in the world and every local conference in North America asking for accountable actions regarding the firing of David Dennis and the allegations he had made. They gathered the signatures of over 450 church members in support of this petition.
They received no response to this petition from Elder Folkenberg or the church leadership. Their only response was from a General Conference lawyer, Robert W. Nixon, who claimed that because David Dennis had filed a lawsuit, "trial counsel for the church have mandated that we not comment". We believe this claim of necessary silence to not be valid for reasons described elsewhere. (See The Case for Accountability Reform.)
When the petition failed to bring a response from the church leadership that Dr. Grames, Dr. Shankel and their supporters believed to show accountability in this matter, consideration was given to further steps to be taken. It was clear that efforts to bring accountability to church affairs might be a long term endeavor.
It was also clear that even when church leaders would show accountability to members, some sort of monitoring group independent of church leadership was needed. There were discussions between Dr. Grames and Dr. Shankel and a few of their supporters concerning these needs. It was decided to form an organization which is now Members for Church Accountability Inc. (MCA).
There were some clear concerns in forming an organization such as MCA. First, there were concerns that the organization be of benefit to the church rather than do it harm. Clearly, there would be those who would think that any open effort to deal with problems in the church is harmful to the church.
The organizers of MCA do not believe this to be the case. We believe that reasonable people (which we believe our church members to by enlarge be) will expect any large organization with human involvement such as our church is, to have some problems. We believe that reasonable people will not consider a responsible effort to correct these problems to be detrimental.
On the other hand, the organizers saw legitimate concerns about keeping such an organization beneficial. Church leaders had not so far shown an eagerness to cooperate with efforts to bring accountability reform.
How could an organization work to bring needed change in a situation of less than full cooperation from church leaders, and avoid becoming simply a faultfinding and attack group? The bylaws of the organization would need to include means to minimize the effects of any who might try to use the organization to bring harm to the church (in addition to the harm already brought by irresponsible actions by some church leaders).
There were other concerns in forming such an organization. How could creating yet another organization to possibly distrust, be avoided? The organization would be formed because it was thought that church leadership was not accountable to church members, but how could one avoid creating yet another organization with leadership that might not be responsive to its members?
If leaders of the organization were to need to get a vote of the members every time they take any action, it was thought that little might be accomplished. Little might be accomplished if the organization were in effect one large committee. Still leaders need to be accountable to and directed by members.
For an organization with the limited objectives of MCA, the organizers believe that a workable solution to such concerns is available. MCA is organized as an "umbrella" organization.
Within the umbrella of the MCA organization itself, a number of separate groups of members can be formed to work toward the common goal of accountability reform. Each group can have a leader or leaders who have the discretion of taking actions that are within the guidelines of the umbrella MCA organization.
Members can in effect vote on the actions of the group leaders, by joining and supporting those groups whose actions they approve. If some members do not find any group whose approaches they support, they can start a new group within the umbrella MCA organization.
The umbrella MCA organization provides support to the groups in limited ways. It provides the legal corporation. It keeps the financial records. It maintains the member list and a record of which groups each member supports. It publishes a common newsletter.
The group leaders are the focus of the actual activities directed at bringing about accountability reform in the church. It is believed that this type of organization will prevent the development of yet another bureaucracy whose leaders are not accountable to its members.
At present there is only one group that has been organized within MCA. It is the General Conference Reform Group. Its leaders are Dr. George Grames and Dr. Stewart Shankel. The focus of this group is in bringing financial policy compliance accountability reform to the church.
We are not presently seeking for another group to be formed, however, if members are dissatisfied with the approaches of this group or simply if they wish to form another group, they are free to do so. These men will tell you that there is a great deal of time and effort involved in leading the activities of such a group. The membership of MCA is currently well in excess of 1000.
So far we have clearly succeeded in keeping the umbrella MCA organization small. There are five trustees of the parent corporation whose job it is to ensure the proper running of financial activities and to ensure that the groups follow MCA guidelines in their activities. The trustees are:
- Jerry Lastine
- Daniel C. McEowen
- William Nelton
- Jane Smith
- Norm Smith
The secretary treasurer is Norm Smith. The accounting is done under the direction and supervision of the public accounting firm of Gordon, Hughes & Banks, LLP of Lakewood, CO. So far the actual bookkeeping, the newsletter publication and mailing, the member list maintenance, the mail response and the development of this web site has been done by the secretary treasurer with a generous degree of help from Jane Smith. So far this level of effort has been maintainable except that recently membership additions and mail responses have taxed their resources considerably.
MCA is registered with the US Internal Revenue Service. Contributions are fully tax deductible (USA). There are no fees or dues for being a member of MCA but contributions are welcomed to help with our expenses. We would ask, however, that if possible members accumulate their contributions on their own for some appropriate period until they make infrequent lump contributions.
The bookkeeping is done on a volunteer basis and just writing all the receipts and making the associated book entries can be quite taxing. All contributions are valued and welcomed, but your consideration regarding frequency is appreciated.
MCA does not pay any of its leaders or members for their labor. General contributions go to defraying the CPA firm expense, accounting supplies, and the major expense of newsletter publication and informational mailings to church membership. Members can contribute to member holding accounts as explained elsewhere. Contributions can be made to a fund for independent church auditing activity. Group leaders also can establish funds for group expenses and mailings.
We, of course, welcome new members. A membership blank is included in this web site.
A detailed and precise statement of the MCA objectives is given in the MCA Bylaws (link below). Here we only state the essential intent of the objectives.
The essential objectives can be simply stated:,
We believe that member knowledge about their church and all its activities is the best deterrent to problems from misconduct on the part of church officers. Yes, we believe that God takes care of His church, but we believe that He usually works through the church members and depends on their cooperation and vigilance.
To achieve this member knowledge, it is our objective to open all church records and activities to audits by responsible auditing firms, which audits are independent of church officers and are therefore initiated and paid for directly by groups of interested church members. Knowledge alone, however, will not ensure proper conduct, hence, the following additional general objective.
We believe that God directs His church by directing the will of the general church membership. We believe, therefore, that responsibility for setting church policies and electing church officers to carry out those policies, rests upon the general church membership.
We see the current church regulations to be nominally in accord with this view of responsibility. However, we believe that in actual practice this is not altogether how it in fact works.
It is our objective to bring about reforms so that church policies are in fact set by the church membership and all church officers are in fact chosen through the church membership. (Again see The Case for Accountability Reform. in this web site.) We believe that further discussion and prayer need to occur within the membership to determine exactly how this shall be arranged, but the goal is clear.
We do not view our organization as a shrill voice seeking every opportunity to find fault and criticize the church organization. Rather, we view ourselves as an organization responsibly urging consideration of a situation in our church that needs correcting.
We do not consider ourselves outside the mainstream of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We would like eventually to function in a minor role in the life of the church helping to bring some degree of "checks and balances" to the accountability aspects of church.
To do this the organization must of necessity be independent of the church organization. We would like to work with church leaders, to whatever extent they will work with us, in bringing about a system of genuine accountability.
The MCA organization provides for multiple groups to function separately within the general organization, as described above. At present there is only one such group. The bylaws refer to the leaders of these groups as "agents" of the group.
These group leaders are not under the explicit control of the MCA trustees, in order to allow for a variety of approaches within the MCA organization. The bylaws do however state, "Agents shall employ only those methods and activities and make only those claims which are completely honest, candid and above reproach. Agents who violate these criteria in the view of a majority of the trustees shall have their agent status revoked." We are not expecting any problem in this regard.
It is our intent to use the quarterly newsletter to set the tone for the groups within the organization. There is at times a delicate balance between reporting true facts that members need to know on the one hand, and being unnecessarily critical on the other hand. We would intend to achieve this balance by reporting those items which are both significant accountability concerns and known to be true.
For example, in the case of the allegations Mr. Dennis has made against some church leaders, we know the truth of the fact that Mr. Dennis has made the allegations, but we do not have dependable knowledge of whether some of the allegations themselves are true. We would report that he has made the allegations and what they are, but we would not report the allegations themselves in a manner that would imply that we know them to be true.
How we Work
It is one thing to have a group of members who see a need for accountability reform. It is quite a different thing to actually bring about the needed changes. People have asked what our plan of action is in MCA. This, of course, is an entirely fair question.
We see some methods available for bringing reform, none of which, unfortunately, bring assurance of success. Before describing these means, a couple of things should be mentioned.
First, we would hope that members do not mistake us in the MCA organization as being folk who "have all their ducks in a row" as the (USA) saying goes. That is, we don't have everything all figured out.>
Rather we are people who thought that we must start working toward accountability reform even before we know how things will work out. Second, this web site is written on behalf of the general umbrella MCA organization itself, as described above.
The primary initiative for actions to bring about reform belongs to the member groups working within the MCA umbrella. The emphasis of chosen means may vary from group to group (in the future). Nonetheless, a discussion of available means is included here.
We see three general means which offer possibilities of bringing about accountability reform. We are taking about human means here, realizing that the Lord has means we don't know about. The first of these is simply to ask.
There is always the prospect that church leaders who presently have the prerogative of initiating needed changes may indeed initiate those changes. We can be optimistic enough to hope that there are yet many church leaders who will listen to members requests and act upon them.
This was the first means attempted by Dr. George Grames and Dr. Stewart Shankel in trying to bring accountability in the David Dennis case. The (lack of) response from church leaders to that petition does dim our optimism somewhat about bringing change by this approach. Nevertheless, it would seem to be the least disruptive and easiest means if it would work.
It would also seem that if there are possibilities for change by making requests and petitions, those chances are increased as the number of members making the request increases. This is a reason why efforts have been made to inform church members of problems that have occurred and to ask them to join this organization. When MCA group leaders petition church leaders for changes in church accountability, the more members they represent in doing so the better will be the prospects for a positive response.
The second general means to bring change is to vote for change. Even though democratic processes in the church often seem to be manipulated and circumvented by some church leaders, there are still possibilities for voting change.
The local conference constituency meetings offer one such possibility for at least beginning change. A major problem here is that conference leaders in practice control the agenda for these meetings. Here again there is a great value in large numbers of concerned members, both for getting reforms placed on the agenda and for voting their passage. As membership in MCA increases, it is hoped that many members will be added who are intimately acquainted with the church political system who can be of great help in getting change through the political process.
The third general means is one that has considerably less appeal. It is a means that has potential for harm as well as good. It is a means that the MCA organization would like to relate to only with great restraint and care. This means is the possibility of working for change through the influence of ones church financial contributions.
In a real world financial contributions or the lack thereof do have influence. Contributions can be allocated differently, delayed or even diverted to other ends. Actions in this arena have very serious consequences, of course.
The position of MCA in this regard is that what one does with ones contributions is entirely an individual choice. This is said not just to state the obvious but rather to agree with it. There are those who believe that God has asked them to simply turn their contributions in to the church and the church will decide what to do with them, while their individual responsibility to God ends once payment has been made.
There are others who believe that God places on them as individuals the responsibility for ensuring that the contributions they make are used in ways that at least meet certain minimum standards for integrity. MCA recognizes that each member will in fact make up their own mind in this regard.
MCA has some provisions to be of service to those of its members who decide to one degree or another, to employ the influence of their contributions. One such provision is the member holding account. Such accounts are described in detail in the href="organization/bylaws.php">bylaws (included in this web site).
In essence this provision allows members (USA) to delay or "escrow" their contributions for disbursement at a later date while still taking their current years tax deduction. We offer this provision to be of service to our members and for another reason.
We believe that there are many church members who have already taken the course of diverting their contributions to ends outside the church. This has resulted in an enormous financial loss to the church work. Those who have chosen this course have had only two general options that are convenient, keep giving as usual or give to another charity. (Perhaps giving to the local church only, could be considered a third.)
Funds given to other charities are permanently lost to the church. MCA offers the member holding account as another alternative. Funds in a member holding account can later be directed to the church. This offers members the possibility of employing the influence of their contributions while not permanently loosing these funds to the church work.
Delayed funds, in addition, would seem to have greater potential influence than diverted funds. MCA is certainly not selling or pushing these member holding accounts. They are offered because some members wanted this option available.
It should be added that some of these members were not so much motivated by employing the influence of their contributions as they were by the thought that in their view, they could not in good conscience again give their contributions to the church until some minimum reforms were in place regarding the honesty with which those contributions are used.
In concluding this section on means or plan of action, we need again to voice the notion held by some MCA members. Even if things were going along with no problems in the church, careful thought would reveal the need for reform in church accountability.
Accountability reform is the right thing to do in any case. However, things have not gone along without problems. Events of recent years have lent a high degree of urgency to the need for accountability reform. This urgency compels us to start working toward accountability reform even though we do not have a plan of action completely figured out. (For some that is a normal way of life, for others it is not.)>
We are not a group of professional activists. We are simply "run of the mill" church members who believe that something must be done. We will try to do no harm, but we must start the ball rolling in some manner. We realize that church leaders are similarly human and may not always have their act together either. We invite them to join with us in working toward genuine accountability reform.Bylaws in Plain English