Members for Church Accountability Inc.
1999 First Quarter
This is the quarterly newsletter of Members for Church Accountability. The objective of this organization is to promote accountability within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. MCA itself is primarily an umbrella organization within which representative/agents and their supporters can work to further this objective.
Section 1 - Financial Report
Summary financial statement for first quarter 1999:
We are not showing this statement in the web display because we have not yet figured out how to not have it scrambled in html.
Section 2 – Trustees’ Reports
Norm Smith - Secretary Treasurer
Section 3 - Amendments and Elections
Section 4 - Member Letters
This section is for printing the letters that members send in. It provides the means for members to communicate with one another. It is also one way that representative/agents can communicate with those in their group. Needless to say, these letters do not speak for the MCA organization itself. So far as time and budget allow, we intend to print all letters from members. We will print the shortest letters first. Where it seems appropriate, the editor will make comments in response to letters.
This quarter we have received several hundred letters, a larger number of letters than we can afford to print and mail. Most of them were simply requesting membership. Over 50 also contained short notes expressing appreciation for MCA and of encouragement for its work. We will not reprint all of these letters. We also received about 30 letters that were longer and voiced opinions about church accountability. We don’t think we should include all of these longer letters in the newsletter this time. We have deleted sections and have left some out. We expect this not always to be the case. We also received letters stating additional accusations about leaders. We appreciate such information but do not necessarily print it unless there is a well-documented problem. Generally, our objective is to bring about a responsible investigation of such "tips" rather than to publish them without documentation. We are not yet in a position to do even this. We hope we have selected for printing those letters which will be of the most general interest to our readers.
Often we receive letters from folk who have clearly just become acquainted with this organization. In these cases and at other times, it is difficult to know whether the writer intends the letter to be printed in the newsletter or not. We have had to make some guesses. We hope that we do not print letters that were not intended for publication.
Here are three of the short letters. We will not show the names since we suppose that these folk didn’t know that we might print their letter.
Writer 1: I received your letter in the mail. Thank you very much for the information. You are correct that we need to restore accountability to the leadership of our church organization. This kind of behavior is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. I plan to share this information with as many as possible. I know there are others who feel the same way.
Writer 2: I read with interest your letter of Feb.16. While I am not interested in getting into a bashing frenzy, I am interested in legitimate information and in promoting openness and honesty, as well as accountability within church leadership. Please add me to your mailing list… May God keep us humble as we seek purity in the church and in our own lives.
Writer 3: Thanks for the letter re. financial abuse in the organization. Nothing undermines the confidence in our church leadership like financial foolishness. It pushes us closer to congregationalism. I was a pastor for 17 yrs., took medicine, currently teaching at the university level. I’m an elder in our church and a SS teacher. I love this church in spite of its failings – so does God. Others at … have developed a congregationalist attitude because of the church’s financial shenanigans.
Here are excerpts from some of the longer letters:
Doris E. Parmele writes (in part):
Please tell me how our leaders can be inspired to give accountability to any inc., if they can’t be inspired to be accountable to the God of heaven! …
Howard F. Rampton writes (in part):
I share with you my concern for the integrity of the church and its leaders. The recent findings about our late GC Pres. only add to the concern developing over recent years. I wish the GC would clear the air by revealing more of the details, as that which has been revealed in the REVIEW articles only raised more questions.
James D. Ware provides an interesting quotation which he attributes to Robert Folkenberg:
"When leaders project a clear vision to the church, fewer people will feel that they must go outside of the church to fulfill their dream. When leaders build confidence in our church by openness, honesty, integrity, and involvement of all groups, the resources that presently flow out of the church will then flow through the church to accomplish our mission. The members’ trust in the leadership is indispensable. – Adventist Review, July 19, 1990."
Ernest Takeuchi writes (in part):
I read you note several times over and over to get the full impact of the message. I did evaluate the situation of the GC president on the Internet. I tried to find the case on the Internet without success despite diligent searching…
Where does this lead us? Because the majority of the delegates are on church salary, thereby controlling the administration, there is little that can be humanly done either through reform, or through protests, letters, and threats. I feel that we probably will need to unite with each other in intercessory prayer that Divine intervention be done and that wisdom and guidance be given as to who and what should be done.
I would like to propose that the newsletter be available via e-mail to save on postage costs and to have it available instantaneously. I would like to propose a list of concerns of appropriate seriousness be e-mailed out daily so people on the list can pray simultaneously. And if there are answers to prayers, that the results be shared that day via e-mail.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: The church organization has been more informative about the Folkenberg situation than about the David Dennis situation. However, we view the leadership response as falling far short of a complete and candid disclosure.
The suggestions about e-mail are welcome. The past newsletters are available on the web site. However, many members do not have e-mail service and those with web access might not check the web site regularly. Because of this, we think that it is still good to send the newsletter by regular mail. If we are going to mail it to most, we would just as soon mail it to all. The suggestion of e-mail correspondence among members has appeal. We have considered the benefits of operating an e-mail reflector for MCA members. Your secretary treasurer just doesn’t have the time to take on such a project. If one of the members would be able to operate such a reflector, it would seem to be a great benefit.
Scott Johnson writes (in part):
We received you letter today, and read with great interest your concerns of the church’s leadership. I was baptized into the church 24 years ago and have come to similar realizations since hearing and reading about Folkenberg’s activities. I have been a church school teacher for 10 years and am only now beginning to realize that I have no voice in church affairs concerning our leadership.
One of my concerns is, that of the tens of thousands of dollars I have spent in tithes and offerings, why I have not once had a vote on any kind of leadership election. This is a matter of non-representation and has begun to bother me. If I pay into the church that kind of money, I feel the church has an obligation to let me participate in electing its leaders. Not only me, but all tithe-paying church members. Church leaders would then be accountable to over 11 million of us! We are members, and thus deserve the right to vote.
A second concern I have is that I have heard that Folkenbergs’s actions were known 6 years before he resigned. If this is true, who were these people that know and why did it take 6 years to stop him? Was there anyone defending our institution? … Is there a sane person who could try to convince the members of this church that nobody else in SDA worldwide headquarters knew anything about what he was doing? To me, it sounds like a conspiracy. Who is investigating these stories for us? Who is following up and trying to uncover the truth for us? …
Now, in summary, this is all very odd. If somebody told me when I was 19 years old that I would join a club, pay tens of thousands of dollars into it, spend the prime years of my life working for this club, and yet, not know how the leadership is elected, nor be allowed to participate in the election of leaders, and as an added bonus the leaders would be accountable to no one, I would have said you were NUTS! But this is what I have done by joining the Adventist church…
One member writes:
I am trying to better understand the extent to which your organization is working to change from within vs. taking a highly adversarial position. If you are intent on staying IN the church but aggressively attacking corruption and promoting change in a constructive and practical manner, then I’m all for supporting your efforts. I would appreciate any SPECIFIC ideas you’ve already constructed on what individual members or church congregations can do. Obviously, withholding tithe is an individual but not congregational option. There must be some specific steps we can do as individuals and congregations to force change. To merely write letters, publish damaging evidence, etc., will only make the entrenched leadership more defensive. I don’t think they will change themselves. The organizational structure itself will have to change, in my opinion. What is that new structure and how do we drive the process of getting there in an accelerated manner (outside of whatever slow process might occur through evolutionary development and GC sessions)? I’m desperately seeking answers right now, and my own involvement in the church is dependent on whether I see any hope beyond the mess we’re in right now. I’m asking for personal reasons as well as corporate, as you can see. So, do you have any publications? White papers? Etc.? I’ve thought that maybe the way to do it is to interest the key officers of each congregation (elders, treasurers) and form "committees of correspondence" that can communicate and drive change. What do you think?
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Check out our web site for further clarification of the approaches used by MCA.
Rich Hannon writes:
It is unclear, from your letter, what activities these concerns will pursue, but since I have long had an interest in these matters, let me comment a bit. I have had multiple opportunities over the years to participate in church governance – Nevada-Utah Conference Committee, Pacific Union Conference Committee and, most relevant, the Pacific Union Restructure Committee that took place during the mid 80’s. I’ve therefore watched and participated, and seen the pros and cons. I’ve drawn some opinions from all this, mostly diagnostic.
It is interesting that you quoted Peter Drucker in your letter. One of the most useful insights I’ve had from reading him has to do with the nature of various organizations. Churches fall into the category of Bureaucratic Organizations. The term is not necessarily used pejoratively, just descriptively. It indicates that the organization is not subjected to a true market test – as your typical business would be. Revenue is decoupled from goods and services. It is received via a taxation-like mechanism. Examples of other organizations under this model are government and higher education. The interesting point in all this is that when revenue is not tightly bound to the satisfaction level of the goods and services delivered, there is a corresponding drop off in accountability. As long as the revenue is not much affected by performance, the accountability is more likely to be directed toward self-preservation.
In a church setting, certainly in the Adventist setting, the problem is exacerbated by the attitude in pew of the "remnant" – a church raised of God (presumably with Him at the helm) and "going through to the end". Now while I can accept this, properly defined, it seems to me that a more typical Adventist interpretation adds the unfortunate, implicit implication that God will prevent leadership from erring. Or perhaps it’s a case of "my church, right or wrong, my church". At any rate, coupled with the inherent nature of a church organization, this is a double whammy. The major responsibility for accountability failure, in my view, centers in the laity. We have failed to infuse accountability into a structure that is inherently unaccountable. We have been lazy. And there would (will) of course be resistance. Fear does that. But I’ve frankly seen more mediocrity and lack of "street smarts" in the laity that I have in administrators. So I can understand some of their concern. It is a complex issue.
I would interested in better understanding where you wish to go with your organization. Given the reactionary nature of the church, typically, it would be easy to veer off on a course where the fear-mongers would discredit you and minimize your chances for effecting change.
Frank R Lemon writes (in part);
I have abhorred the thought of beginning some kind of revolution in the church but there seems little hope of change otherwise. I hope we can keep, with any reform effort, a redemptive spirit. If you think that I can help in anyway, please ask. I will do what I can to the limit of strength and ability.
This will need a lot of unrelenting publicity. It will die without it, maybe with it. I would think that a continuing newsletter as follow up to this first one would be necessary to begin to focus everyone on a program. I hope that Shankel or Grames might accept an appointment at the San Diego SDA forum if I can get one for you. This seems like an appropriate discussion piece for this activist group.
Our biggest enemy will be apathy which has become a hallmark of the current church both by those who pay the bills and those who don’t. It has its own inertia and will be hard and time-consuming, most likely, to overcome. But, as they say, all journeys begin with a first step.
I have two nominations for specific program emphasis and have been agitating them for a while. As a refugee from two conference committees on which I served, and a GC Annual Fall council in which I participated during the Figuhr regime, I know the manipulative system. These ideas, put in place, would, cause a desirable "shaking"—not the prophetic one, I hope.
You have of course placed your fingers on a main problem within the church. That is a buddy-buddy, "oleboy", system that has grown up over the years; closed the system to outside involvement and rendered accountability a fiction. While change in that can be achieved, I think, within the present constitutional frameworks of the various levels of the church, it will be a very slow and difficult progress against entrenched opposition, impeded by membership apathy, ignorance and division. If church membership could come together on the subject it could be quick. That is very hard given the emotional and mutually supportive power levers that the "leadership" own – so to speak—and use to cow local leaders and church memberships.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: The MCA organization itself neither advocates nor opposes the notion of congregationalism. MCA objectives are restricted in the bylaws to those involving accountability. However, the above member’s discussion of congregationalism as a means to bring about accountability was deemed appropriate for inclusion in this newsletter. One should not imply that this is the position of other MCA members.
George Grames leader of the General Conference Reform Group within MCA writes:
Members for Church Accountability
April 21, 1999
The following are the quotations from either Elder Folkenberg, spokesmen for the General Conference (GC), the Summary Statement of the Ad Hoc Group’s Report, and Adventist Today. The settlement of the $8 million lawsuit filed by James Moore raises serious questions.
1.. Carlos Medley, News Editor for the Adventist Review, stated that "the General Conference Corporation has never had any dealing with Moore. Attorneys for the church regard the lawsuit as frivolous and without merit."
2.. Summary Statement of the Ad Hoc Group’s Report on issues relating to the Presidency of Robert S. Folkenberg:
a.. "The group made no attempt to consider these issues from a legal perspective."
b.. "There is no indication in this material that the General Conference itself has been implicated or that the lawsuit presents a serious threat to the Church."
c.. "Elder Folkenberg secured financial support from generous supporters of the Church and its mission to help cover Mr. Moore’s personal business expenses. A total of one-quarter million dollars of personal and raised funds appear to have been forwarded to Mr. Moore to help cover his business expenses."
d.. "Elder Follkenberg provided introductions to overseas church and world leaders for the purpose of promoting private business ventures."
e.. "A number of the activities referenced above were carried with the assistance of General Conference legal counsel."
f. "Documents reveal that Elder Folkenberg was advised to terminate his long-term business relationships……He failed to do so."
3.. Elder Folkenberg’s speech to the General Conference Executive Committee on March 1, 1999. "I have felt that Mr. Moore had a right to be angry due to a decision that was made in September of 1996, by which an organization with which he was involved seemed to be deprived of an asset. I am simplistic enough to believe that taking something that belongs to another is wrong, regardless of the conduct of that individual. However, so many of my colleagues disagreed with this position, that I reluctantly acquiesced."
4.. Adventist Today quoted on March 11, 1999 an anonymous source at the General Conference: "the GC would like to know how Folkenberg was able to use a GC insurance policy to settle his claim with James E. Moore." Folkenberg and his attorney, Mr. Prochnower, did not go through Adventist Risk Management to obtain the insurance settlement. When a GC representative called the insurance company to inquire about the money paid to Folkenberg, the claims representative refused to speak to him. The representative said that the GC would have to speak to Folkenberg’s attorney. The GC representative replied, "What do you mean, you can’t speak to me? We pay the premiums on these policies!"
5.. Adventist Today reported on February 26, 1999 that there was a meeting of members of the GC, James Moore, and World Comm-MCI. "The deal, however, involved the idea of getting church members to switch phone services with resulting profits benefiting World Comm-MCI, Moore’s interests, the Adventist Development Relief Agency, and Robert Folkenberg personally. Parties representing each of these interests signed a document. The plan was never implemented, much to Folkenberg’s disgust, as it would have aided the GC president in paying off an indebtedness to Mr. Moore."
These disparate statements raise the following questions:
1.. Is it true that the General Conference Corporation never had any dealing with Moore?
2.. How could the Ad Hoc Group not consider these issues from a legal perspective yet make the statement that the General Conference has not been implicated or that the lawsuit presented no serious threat to the Church? How could the activities be carried with the assistance of General Conference legal counsel and yet not implicate the General Conference?
3.. Did the financial support from generous supporters of the Church totaling one-quarter million dollars for Mr. Moore’s personal business expenses pass through the Church for tax purposes? How could the General Conference not be implicated?
4.. Why would a frivolous lawsuit without merit ever be settled?
5.. Why would the GC insurance company be willing to become financially liable if their client, the General Conference Corporation, was not culpable?
6.. Who are the many GC colleagues of Elder Folkenberg who disagreed with him that taking something that belongs to another is wrong?
7.. Who were the colleagues of Elder Folkenberg who advised him to terminate his long-term business relationships?
8.. Since Elder Folkenberg’s activities were known to his church colleagues, why was he not investigated and removed from office years prior to this civil action?
Until these and other questions are answered there will a cloud of suspicion and distrust over the leadership of our church. The evidence is overwhelming that there is a need for an organizational change with a system of accountability that would preclude the misuse of church funds as well as, "conflicts of interest, inappropriate business associations, and misuse of the presidential office for business advantages."
We include the following blank for use in recruiting new members. ( Make lots of copies to pass around. )
MEMBERS for CHURCH ACCOUNTABILITY, INC. (MCA) APPLICATION (nl1Q99)
/__/ I wish to be a member of the General Conference Reform Group
You will receive the MCA newsletter.
Send to: Members for Church Accountability, Inc.
PO Box 1072
Morrison, CO 80465