Members for Church Accountability Inc.
2002 Second 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 second quarter 2002:
Section 2 – Trustees’ Reports
Norm Smith - Secretary Treasurer
For any of you that would like to contact us by e-mail our address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our web site address is: http://www.advmca.org alternatively, http://members.aol.com/~advmca/home.htm. Again we would like to encourage MCA members to read this web site and to invite their friends to read it. If you don't have access to the web, perhaps you could ask a friend who does, to let you read it. We are NOT asking that our members get our newsletter from the web rather than regular mail. It is still better for us to send our newsletter to our members by regular mail since so many do not have e-mail, however, this web site is an economical means of spreading the word about MCA to prospective members. Mass mailings to prospective members are quite expensive by comparison. Information about a web site can spread quickly on the Internet. If each person mails the site address with their recommendation to several friends, and they in turn tell others, the word is soon passed to a large number.
We encourage members to notify us when their address changes. We do appreciate those of you who have sent us your change of address.
There are several items to mention this quarter:
Web site was down
Some of you have noticed that our web site was not available for some time. Thanks to those of you who brought our attention to this problem. What happened was that AOL simply deleted our file space. They were apologetic but they had no provision to restore the lost files. The files had to be reloaded from our own backup, file by file. This was a slow process. I live in a rural area with slow internet access speeds. We originally chose AOL because we supposed they would be a stable host for the web site. Perhaps that was a bad choice. As of this writing the web site is accessible.
Book being made from conference
As you know, in October 2001, MCA sponsored a conference in Loma Linda entitled Who Watches? Who Cares?. We have engaged Douglas Hackleman to bring together the presentations of that conference in expanded form along with additional information for publication in book form. Plans are for the book to be published in the fall of this year. The next newsletter should have more about this project.
On the subject of last fall's conference we would again mention that individuals that are interested in a set of audio tapes of the conference should write to the following:
Harold Warram, Audio Cassette Duplicating Service, 1556 Gould Street, San Bernardino, CA 92408-2978. The cost is $6.00 for the set of two tapes plus $2.00 for shipping for a total of $8.00.
Again, the participants in that conference are willing to hold similar conferences in any city or town in the U.S. The only requirements would be for the local church members to reserve a meeting place and arrange for pre-meeting announcements in the surrounding churches. Please notify Norm Smith by e-mail or letter if you have an interest in such a conference in your area. There is also the possibility of one-speaker presentations available for small groups with simpler arrangements ahead of time.
An MCA member has pledged some funding to allow MCA to engage a research worker to gather information on church accountability concerns. The funding is for only two years and is only enough to support a small fraction of full time work. The contributor's intent is to provide funds to initiate such work, in the hope that other members will join in to provide continuing funding at a higher level of effort.
Article V. A. of the MCA bylaws makes provision for such auditing activity. There, "investigative auditing" is mentioned. At the level of effort presently funded, it would seem something of an exaggeration to call the activity "auditing". "Research" would seem more descriptive.
There is an important notion to be emphasized here. Some have suggested that attempts at such "investigative auditing" will prove futile - that church leaders will simply refuse to cooperate. While there are indeed indications that this will be the case, there are also significant indications that this will not be the case (as in the next to last newsletter). We want to emphasize that whatever the case regarding church leader cooperation turns out to be, it is highly important to make the attempt to obtain information. If it should turn out that leaders refuse to cooperate, that refusal is in itself highly significant information for church members.
We are attempting to engage a highly qualified investigator to work in this capacity on a freelance basis. We are anticipating that this project may begin in the fall of this year. We would hope that this research effort does not in any way discourage the efforts of individual MCA members to investigate conference operations in their locality. The effort of each member in this regard is essential in making conference leaders aware that members are concerned about the manner in which the church conducts its business.
We have written a draft "statement of work" for this activity which we will likely include here once arrangements with an investigator are finalized. We want to allow the researcher considerable latitude in the direction that his work leads him. Initially, emphasis might be on determining just what information is actually available from the conferences and just where there are significant problem areas such as unaudited departments or potential conflicts of interest. Later, emphasis might shift to evaluating such information with the help of professional accountants. We would describe the work to be done in a manner that will allow it to continue even if less cooperation is forthcoming from church leaders than one would hope.
As you know MCA has no dues or fees, but contributions are always welcome. We want to continue to emphasize that there are no member fees or required contributions for MCA members. Simply signing up, as an MCA member is in itself a great help in the work of MCA. It is very important that MCA representatives be able to speak on behalf of a significant segment of church members, as they interact with church leaders.
Now, however, we are asking that members give consideration to being involved in the funding of this research project. I am informing you of this opportunity to become financially involved and I am inviting you to give it serious consideration. I realize that you do not yet have all the information about the effort that you would likely want before making a decision As you consider this option, you might also consider financial support on a continuing basis.
If you do decide to contribute to this research/auditing project, please remember to mark your check as being for "research/auditing". Otherwise, it will go into the general operating funds.
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 which appear to be written for inclusion in the newsletter (please say so if you do not wish your letter to be printed). We will print the shortest letters first. Where it seems appropriate, the editor will make comments in response to letters.
Norm Smith writes: I am putting this note first even though it is longer than some of the following, since it relates to the above subject. I am writing here as an MCA member, rather than as treasurer - just giving my opinion about contributions to MCA research/auditing. I, of course, encourage such contributions. It is my understanding that the church spends a significant fraction of the tithe income on internal auditing services. In the description of one union conference's expenses it was shown as 6 percent. The auditing function is to give assurance that the church's financial dealings are conducted honestly and in accordance with church policy. Unfortunately, at present these auditors are responsible to the upper conference leaders. They are not directly responsible to the church membership. I personally regard attempts at investigative auditing and research into church finances by a group of members such as MCA as an extension or completion of this auditing function. It is an attempt to get the auditing information to the church members to whom I believe it should be due anyway. The question clearly arises of whether it would be right for MCA to accept money that might be diverted from money that members would have given as tithe. Personally, I would not find fault in such. As MCA treasurer, I would raise no objection. However, I would emphatically refuse to make any recommendation to another believer on this clearly highly personal matter of conscience.
EDITORIAL NOTE ON THIS QUARTER'S LETTERS: An unusual fraction of the letters this quarter were from members outside of the USA. We are happy for the increased interaction.
Phyllis Christensen writes (in part): Thank you for your newsletter. Particularly David Dennis' letter to GC President... Wish you wouldn't hold meetings on the Sabbath. Some of us feel that is wrong, but we approve your ministry.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thank you for your letter and for voicing your concern. That is surely something for anyone arranging a meeting to think about isn't it. For myself it would depend on what is being addressed at the meeting. While there is bound to be a variety of thoughts on the subject, it would seem good to accommodate everyone's conscience in the matter if possible. I am sure that those making arrangements for the last conference considered that honesty in the church is something the Lord would be happy for us to think about on the Sabbath.
Charles Gaitskell writes: I was handed a newsletter of yours by a friend. Thank you for your dedication to demanding a faithful record be kept and not being silenced. Can you obtain a copy of the investments, shares, bonds, deposits, etc. that the church has invested in? With names of companies, Nr of shares, values etc.? I saw a copy that was put out 20 yrs ago but no disclosure of Nr of units or values. Do share registers have a public disclosure where all owners can be traced? I hope you can help with this info.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We do not have that kind of information now. We would hope that the information that a researcher such as mentioned above would gather together would be of help in a couple of ways with inquiries like yours. First, if such holdings related to a possible conflict of interest, we would hope to find that out and make the information available. Second, the researcher would be determining just what information is available from the conferences and would be letting us know where to obtain it. Also, if the researcher had tried to locate information of this type but was refused access to such, then we could be aware of such refusal.
Karl Hafner writes: Your last newsletter was appreciated. Having over the years witnessed the various scandals in the church and their similarity to each other, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that will work is with-holding of funds and a very directed giving approach. Till the GC and other church offices feel the pinch they will not be willing to make the changes that you are requesting (and badly needed). Thanks for the work. Keep doing it.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: The approach you suggest has been considered by many. It may be worth repeating that MCA itself does not make a recommendation in this regard. Certainly this is a matter of individual conscience. I personally am of the belief that the number of church members who are redirecting their contributions away from the conferences is very large. This belief is based on the small sample of church members whom I know. I believe that the loss that the conferences are now sustaining is huge. I think that most of this redirected money ends up in local churches and independent ministries. (I make no comment on whether that is bad or good.) My thought is that all of this is so unnecessary - that confidence could so easily be restored by openness, candor and honesty. (I must also add that not all conferences are lacking in these qualities.)
MCA has a service for those who would like to take another option. We have member holding accounts for those who would like to see their contributions finally go to those who would have gotten them if there were no problem. This provision allows members to make their contribution in the current tax year and obtain their tax deduction, but "escrow" the contribution until they can in good conscience forward it to its intended destination. As you can tell from our financial statement, not many have chosen to use this provision, and MCA certainly is not urging members to do so. Since it is some work for our bookkeeping, we do ask that members only use this provision if they have accumulated a years contribution.
Tom and Una Turner write: We met David Dennis and his family around 1973 in Durban South Africa when we were pastoring the Durban Umbilo church and found him and his family very pleasant indeed - we are sorry this has happened to him and feel the Administration acted very unfairly on his behalf.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: I am sure they appreciate your expression of confidence.
Glenn Lewis writes: Some years ago, the conference presidents met at Pine Springs Ranch in S. Calif. They recommended that there be a reorganization of unions in N. America to 3 unions. 2 unions in US and 1 in Canada-potential savings of 20 million dollars.
Why must we continue in a horse and buggy organization with the modern technology that we have? It's time to take some lessons from American business and do some merging. Yet there seems to be little lay people can do to change the union hierarchy.
Hope you can use your influence to bring about these changes. Thank you
EDITORIAL COMMENT: There are many important decisions the church leaders make that involve a lot of money. MCA does not itself presume that this organization should be involved in these decisions. One of our claims, however, is that you as a church member should be able to be involved. You should be able to influence such decisions through a church government that is representative in practice as well as in name. You should also have the right to access information revealing why important decisions were made and why various actions were taken. You should have this information without having to make an unpleasant scene or undue effort to get it. Again, you should be able to influence such changes. MCA is interested in helping you get that influence. We are just a group of ordinary church members who believe that if enough of us spoke with one voice, we could obtain the right to be heard in such matters. MCA does want to influence decisions itself when matters of honesty, integrity and fairness are at stake. Even then it is the responsibility of the groups organized within MCA to take such action. Perhaps you would consider becoming active in the General Conference Reform Group organized by George Grames and Stewart Shankel.
Ernest Takeuchi writes: Thanks for the David Dennis affair item that Shankel, Sheldon, and Grames had shared their correspondence with Paulsen. This brought back painful, unpleasant memories that I had experienced during the Davenport, Rhea, and Ford era. These experiences had shaken my confidence in church and my faith in the Lord as it came into conflict with what my faithful mother had taught me to respect the Lord's servants. The Davenport matter was supposed to get a complete investigation and public airing in the official church publications. Months after the investigation came to its conclusion there was no promised disclosure. There was only an explanation as to why nothing was to be disclosed-only that the responsible parties were to be punished. The Rhea matter was more personal as he was our family's pastor during the time I was at the Alhambra SDA Church for four years. I was in the Rhea's Sabbath School class when he first publicly shared his investigation of Mrs. White with us. The church's reaction towards him was swift in my opinion. The Ford situation was a more drawn out affair which influenced members of my family, close friends, and colleagues to leave the church for good. So when I read the correspondence and replies from Paulsen, I have come to a conclusion that our church will NEVER change its attitude or response in dealing with bureaucratic bungling or ineptness no matter how outrages or ridiculous it may be. But let the matter contain a hint of spiritual heresy and its reaction and retribution will be swift to those involved. Thank you for letting me express my observations.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We at MCA are trying hard to not be as pessimistic as the outlook you expressed. We still have to believe that there is a mostly silent majority even within the church leadership that would like to see change. It is, however, easy to understand your feelings and perspective in the situation. The bottom line is that many of us are so reluctant to give up on the church that working for change is our only option. Yes, we repeatedly hear the recommendation that we just leave it to God to take care of. We wish that we could think that to be a viable option. It appears to us, however, that God usually expects humans to take some action despite the apparently poor prospects. What if Joshua had said, "God will knock down the walls, I am going to stay in bed"? What if Gideon had said, "I am staying home - God will fight the enemy"? Suppose David had said, "Let God fight the battle, I am not going out there with that guy." In each of these situations God did take care of the situation, but He expected his humans to be involved.
Bertha Cook writes (in part): Open Letter to be Shared World-wide Among God's Children - Dear Pastor Paulsen, Last week, during the evening of the 27th June, as I was listening to the review of world news on the radio, bankruptcy was mentioned more than once. Following that, there was an interesting talk about auditors: the difficulty in helping large institutions to avoid becoming insolvent. Even the possible need for an audit of auditors! Ever since that broadcast of world news, two things have been on my mind, namely: auditors and honesty....
Auditors are not mentioned as such in the Bible; but there are texts which seem to apply especially to their work as honest men of God - men who must expose that which confronts them as they examine accounts and the doings of men in authority. Here are several scriptures we need to keep in mind today: [quotation of numerous texts follows]
Pastor Paulsen, the story of David Dennis is a chapter in our church history, which honest church members maintain, will never be settled properly, until an open, independent investigation examines the allegations made by Brother Dennis, who was an honest auditor of the General Conference. When confronted by dishonesty, he had to expose it. He was given unjust treatment. Please initiate, as soon as possible, and independent investigation into the David Dennis story. Only thus can you clear yourself from being seen as one consenting to the unjust treatment given to an honest auditor. Act now.
(An identical letter posted to the President the same day.)
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Happily, the matter of the David Dennis allegations and of his treatment still has the interest of members. As individuals we have our own opinions as to what a truly independent investigation of this matter would reveal. The writers of this letter and the next share their opinions. As an organization, we should make no prejudgment about the outcome.
Dale Martin writes (in part): [regarding Elder Paulsen's letter - see our last newsletter] I have heard many people speak highly of Dr. Paulsen, and I am surprised and saddened that he apparently chooses darkness over light in this matter. It appears that rather than to get to the bottom of the story and learn the truth, he would rather keep truth in the dark and hope that the entire episode will quietly go away.
If half of all that I have read is true concerning the "Dennis" affair, I think the man has been treated extremely shabby. If Dr. Paulsen is the man of character and man of God that he should be, he should be happy to let the truth come out. Doesn't he know that it will one day anyway? Perhaps he underestimates the stamina and perseverance of the laity, and just as David grew weary, is banking that the majority of the laity don't know and won't care about this and the issue will slowly fade way.
Looking at it from Paulsen's side of the table, I have tried to find valid reasons why he would be reluctant to appoint this talked about "Blue Ribbon Committee". Let see, now..... we (as a church body) have spent untold thousands (anyone know how much?), to keep this lawsuit from the courts. This must have been something really important to spend all this money just to keep 12 honest men from hearing David Dennis's story. Now we won't spend just a little bit more time and money to get to the truth? Now, he says that investigating Dennis's story and getting to the truth will do more harm than good and detract from our mission? Getting to the truth will do more harm? I ask, to whom will the truth harm? Dr. Paulsen, you should try to understand that the members in our church know we are not led by saints. Getting to the truth will do nothing less than to begin to restore confidence amongst the members. Hiding the truth is what makes us question.
Since I have only been exposed to what Dennis and his supporters say, it is quiet possible I do not have the whole story and do not know the truth. To correct this, I would welcome an honest inquiry into the matter and can’t see how the entire cost would take much more than a few thousand dollars for travel. There would, most likely, even be some "seekers of the truth" willing to serve at their own expense. If the findings of this committee were to show that what happened to Dennis was the result of a few "not so good" men, the truth should come out. If it was found that he was fired and unfairly treated by his church without good cause, then it is real simple. The wrong must and should be recognized and to the degree possible corrected. Of course, nothing can or could be done to undo the harm to this man and his family.
"Coming clean" should have some very positive results. If an unbiased inquiry were to show that Dennis was railroaded, not only would a good man’s reputation be restored, but this could stimulate some long overdue changes in the way our church operates. Right now, it appears to me that our church is structured where one man has too much autocratic power and control over committees and jobs. We need leaders that are more accountable to the laity. Sadly, it appears that our church has been moving the opposite direction with leaders accountable to other leaders. This Dennis story seems to underline that point to me.
Dr. Paulsen, right now it appears that you are the man where the buck stops in our church. I would ask that you pray again about this matter. Then use the power that you have to establish an unbiased and independent committee of laymen to investigate the charges made by David Dennis. If the church has made a mistake and unjustly persecuted this man, it should be publicly acknowledged and somehow made right. There is far more shame in hiding the truth than in admitting the mistake. It appears that you have the unique opportunity to begin the restoration of one man's reputation and bind him and his family again to our church, while at the same time begin the restoration and confidence of many laymen in the organization of our church and leaders.
And you Dr. Paulsen, apparently have the power to do that at you fingertips. I will be praying that you seek God's will in your decision.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thanks for expressing your concerns. Just two comments. First, the guesses that I have heard of the cost to the conference of preventing the Dennis lawsuit to from going to trial have been in the millions. This is another example of information to which church members should have access. Second, members must be careful about an independent investigation if the GC were to surprise us and actually initiate such a study. We must look to see how independent it really is. It would be clearly possible to form a panel of people who already have their minds made up that Dennis was guilty, that his charges were invalid and that all is well. If the same panel that originally ousted him were given the task of judging his charges, one could be afraid that the outcome would be fairly predictable.
We include the following blank for use in recruiting new members.
MEMBERS for CHURCH ACCOUNTABILITY, INC. (MCA) APPLICATION (nl2Q02)
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Send to: Members for Church Accountability, Inc.
PO Box 1072
Morrison, CO 80465