Members for Church Accountability Inc.
Fourth Quarter 2002
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 third 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 now: http://www.advmca.org, alternatively, the old address is 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.
Those of you in the USA will notice that we are sending the letter by first class mail this time as we did once before. Sending it this way once and a while lets us find about some address changes that we would not know about if we sent it by bulk mail all the time. It is also a Post Office requirement to make some sort of periodic verification.
We encourage members to notify us when their address changes. We do appreciate those of you who have sent us your change of address.
Web site improved
Leonard Willett offered to rework our web site. He also registered a web address for us which is now "www.advmca.org" so that you no longer have to work with that long AOL address. You can view his improvements at that address. Thanks Leonard for your work on this.
Book being made from conference
The book being made from last year's MCA Conference is still in the works. The reason that it has been longer than originally thought is that the editor, Doug Hackleman, offered to spend the time to do additional research in order that it might be a much better documented work. Our thanks to Doug for doing this.
The plans mentioned in the last newsletter for engaging a paid fractional time researcher of conference activities, are still going forward. The most qualified person we know of to do this work has indicated a willingness to become involved. However, prior commitments have prevented the starting of this task just yet.
We frequently urge MCA members to tell their fellow church members about MCA and its work and to invite them to join us. In order to make this easier to do, a "flyer" has been prepared that we trust will be suitable for passing out to your friends. This flyer is included as the last two pages of this newsletter. We are hoping that many MCA members will make copies of this flyer and give them to your fellow church members with your recommendation. We intend to continue making this flyer available every now and then in the newsletter, depending on how the page count works out for each quarter.
We tried to make this flyer one that would calmly express our purposes and concerns in a positive manner. We realize that some MCA members would rather that we be more strident and direct in our statements. While we do indeed feel a sense of urgency about some of the trends in our church's operation, it seemed to us who prepared the flyer that for what we hope will be wide distribution, the flyer should emphasize responsible problem solving rather than strong persuasion.
The by-laws of MCA provide that:
"Trustees shall be elected or reelected by a simple majority of the responding MCA members. Separate votes with options of "elect" or "not elect" will be taken for each trustee under consideration. Persons may be nominated for election to trustee by a majority of the trustees or by a petition of ten percent of the MCA membership."
A majority of the current trustees have voted to nominate Richard Sheldon as an MCA trustee. Richard Sheldon has been working with George Grames and Stewart Shankel for several years in the General Conference Reform Group (now renamed - see below). He graduated from Loma Linda University as an MD in 1968. He is in the practice of Pulmonary and Critical Care with the Beaver Medical Group in Banning, CA. He is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Loma Linda University and is the Medical Director of the California State Respiratory Care Board. He and his wife Judy have two married daughters.
The by-laws also provide that:
"Nominations for trustee will be published in the next newsletter. The election will be conducted in conjunction with the newsletter one year later, in order to allow time for discussion in the newsletter if members desire."
A ballot will accordingly be included in a later newsletter.
Our bylaws are available on our web site.
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.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Perhaps this would be a good time to mention this. Readers might wonder why we do not print all letters in their entirety. Several types of material are usually left out and denoted by "...". Some of these are: Repetitive statements are generally omitted. Biblical or EGW quotations are generally omitted for the sake of brevity as some writers use rather lengthy quotations. Many strident characterizations are omitted. While they might have some truth to them, we are not experts in liable laws and generally take a conservative view of what we can print. Also we do not wish to pass on unkind characterizations that do not add information. At other times allegations are made for which we do not have any supporting evidence. While we like to pass on the concern about a given area, we hesitate to pass on the specific allegations without reasonable evidence. We do appreciate readers alerting us to situations even if we do not yet feel free to pass on that particular situation to our readers. Some of the concerns about conflict of interest mentioned below might fall into this category. Sometimes writers make allegations about situations which are of the type that conference leaders generally do try to correct. We are not in the business of reporting on every human failing in the church. Our main concern is situations of poor accountability that seem to be tolerated.
Norm Smith writes: We appreciate that many MCA members have a continuing interest in Mr. David Dennis' situation. Recently he has written another open letter in response to a publicly circulated letter from Elder Larry R. Colburn, Assistant to the GC President. Mr. Colburn's letter was in response to letters from at least two MCA members. We have not included Mr. Colburn's letter or Mr. Dennis' response in this newsletter, but intend to include more on this subject in the next newsletter.
George Grames and Stewart Shankel write: The GC Reform Group has undergone a change, that is, a name change. The new name is the Southern California Chapter of MCA. Those of you who were members of the former group are automatic members of the new chapter, even if you reside outside of the region, or even outside the state of California. As an alternative, you may elect to be a member of MCA without being a member of a chapter. If that is your desire please so inform Norm Smith. However, what would be most beneficial to the health of MCA would be for a number of members to form local chapters in various regions throughout the world. Since there is no minimum prerequisite on the number of MCA members required to form a chapter, even one MCA member could initiate and form a local chapter of MCA. Let us hear from you.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We know that George Grames, Stewart Shankel and their group will continue their involvement in matters of concern to the whole world church. Their efforts in the past have benefited the rest of us greatly. Their encouragement of the forming of other MCA chapters is appreciated. I would remind members that while chapters or groups within MCA can indeed have a regional emphasis, they can also be organized with a focus on some concern of interest to everyone. Each member can be a part of one or several chapters, but they are not required to be a part of any. The provision for organizing chapters within MCA is to help groups of members within MCA with a particular focus, to work together more effectively. The idea was to minimize the leadership role of the central MCA organization in favor of leadership and initiative from the chapters. It is true that even a single individual who intends to be actively involved in church accountability is welcome to form a chapter if it will be beneficial to their initiatives, however, we are not urging the wholesale establishment of single member chapters without a clear goal in mind. Again, our bylaws are available on our web site.
Bill Mead writes: As a new member of MCA it is very strange that I cannot get a list of all the members of your group. I've heard all the 'reasons' why the revealing of the list would be bad, etc. But still not being able to see a complete list of a group you belong to is very strange. How many members are there?
THE EDITOR WROTE BACK: There are about 1700 members of MCA. We have considered the possibility of making a list of those members who don't mind their name being published. So far we haven't had the time to tackle that project. We are not a large operation. I don't know if not giving out names is the wisest thing, but since that is what we said would be the case, it would not be right to change without getting the consent of the members.
Clara Kiehlbauch writes: Thank you for the information in your letters. Please continue this work.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thanks for your encouragement. There are mornings when I wake wondering if it is crazy to be spending time on this work. I am sure that others who work on MCA wonder the same. We continue because in light of what we have seen happen, we don't know how we can do anything else. We can walk away from problems or we can try to correct them, but what we can't do is support and encourage the continuation of the situation causing these unacceptable problems. Your encouragement is a blessing.
Gerald Buck writes: With a bit trepidation, I read the letter you posted from him [Mr. Dennis]. After the initial shock, I felt outrage that he could be treated, in this matter, the way he was by those that present themselves as followers of the Christ. I fear that all those that standup against this sort of injustice may very well receive the same. When I find the place to sign up for the newsletter, I plan to do so.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We share your concern about reprisals for church employees who would openly question the treatment of Mr. Dennis. We can certainly understand why not many members currently employed by the church have joined MCA. There appears to be, however, a large number of retired and former church employees who have joined MCA.
Dennis Mambanje writes (in part): I sincerely appreciate the MCA newsletter that you send to me periodically. I really am worried by the lack of sensitivity that has affected our leadership at all levels. Here in Zimbabwe the situation is equally bad... As for the David Dennis scandal as it has come to be known, I always weep inwardly as if it was done to me. How could Dr. Paulsen, the world church leader for the Seventh-day Adventist be so naive... We need a courageous leader who takes action and in this particular instance right action that ensures evil does not go unpunished. We must continue to pile pressure on Elder Paulsen until something positive happens. By continually refusing to take action, Elder Paulsen could be sending a wrong message... Does he also want to create his own scandal and seek the same protection that Folkenberg sought? If not, then he should act and do speedily.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Opinions vary about the use of punishment, but we are all interested in prevention. It is on the connection between punishment and prevention that views differ. Incidentally, I apologize for any errors in transcribing your letter. Also, Mr. Mambanje, we are not sure we are reading your address change correctly.
Charles Gaitskell writes (in part): Thank you for your newsletter (2nd quarter 2002). Therein you said a researcher would be able to examine if any share holdings held by the G.C. could have a conflict of interest. I thought any shareholdings at all, would be a conflict of interest for an organization that is preaching ( or alleges it is preaching) that all things are coming to an end. I thought it was self evident that such investments are a conflict of interest. When the world is starving for the truth, when one church has 1 Bible for 200 members and no SOP books, ... and the GC is concerned about its share portfolio! Tithe money is to finish the gospel proclamation, while the money and time allow.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We did mention the goal of checking on conflict of interest. Whether or not the required information would be available or not is still a question. There are many forms of conflict of interest. It can occur in the sale or purchase of church properties. It could occur in contributions made for the benefit of a particular church employee. It can occur by the acceptance of "finders fees". And yes, it can occur in the management of stock holdings, although we did not mention that specifically in our last newsletter. I work for a large corporation that takes conflict of interest very seriously. They make employees sign conflict of interest statements and have strict policies concerning it. I wish it were evident that our church took the matter as seriously.
The moral question of whether our church should even have stock holdings is an important one but is one that is in itself rather beyond the scope of MCA's limited area of involvement. Our limited goal is to make sure that whatever is done is at least done honestly and fairly. However, I might note that many people set up trusts with the church in which they clearly expect that the money will be invested in some asset. The church benefits from such trusts but is not free to do other than invest those funds. Whether any significant fraction of tithe money is or should be put into investments is another question. Many would think that some sort of reserve to even out operating levels would be appropriate. If you have knowledge that a large fraction of tithe money is being used for investment in stock holdings, that would be of general interest.
Harry Holeswrth writes (in part): It is so refreshing to see members pick up the pen and straightforwardly address serious ethical questions that we, in our Heavenly Father's Remnant Church, are faced with in the area of finances, favoritism and covering of facts regarding expenditure of monies members give to God's work through official channels. Bertha Cook's letter to Jan Paulsen, G.C. President is a good example. This letter is forthright, to the point, and is not the first of such sincere pleas he has been sent to right the wrongs that are so evident in the administration of God's church. David Dennis is a prime example. ... The main engineer of this unchristian treatment, ..., instead of suffering punishment ... is now being pushed into the limelight.
Robert Folkenberg has been on salary and working as the Carolina Conference Global Evangelism Coordinator, as presented in the September Southern Tidings and also Carolina Action. Is this how a known ... should be treated while a true Christian man [who has been] ... defamed, demonized and told untruths about is relegated to remain in the Adventist Church trash can? I do not wish to be in Paulsen's shoes when God takes over the reins and sets this disgusting matter straight, that could be so easily corrected by our church officials.
If Paulsen does not take steps now to return our church by-laws to the pre-Folkenberg & Wilson by-laws we can all see that he wants and covets the dictatorship rules for his own pleasure and not to our Heavenly Father's pleasure for His Church on Earth.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: I hope that this writer will please pardon any misspelling of his name if I did, I had only the signature to go by. We would agree with this writer that direct speaking is a positive thing. However, we are not ready to claim as this writer does, that we know all the facts in the case of Mr. Dennis. We, of course, have read the allegations against Mr. Dennis and also the allegations that Mr. Dennis has made against some conference officials. At this point most of these remain simply that, allegations. What we do know for sure is that the GC leaders have done a miserably inadequate job of addressing these allegations over the years since they were made. We believe that the church membership deserves better than this. This writer's strong feelings are an example of how many members feel.
This writer makes some important points. There does indeed seem to be a huge discrepancy between the church's treatment of Mr. Dennis on the one hand (even if the charges against him were true - which we still have no basis to be convinced that they are), and the church's treatment of Mr. Folkenberg, on the other hand. Doesn't the present leadership at least owe the members an explanation for this discrepancy? Another point that the writer makes is that members should be concerned about changes in the church bylaws that have occurred over the last couple of decades. Do any of our readers know how to have access to a reliable history of the changes that have been made?
MCA Activity: Members of the newly renamed Southern California Chapter of MCA have been working with Jim Walters and representatives of the Southeastern California Conference to establish a dispute resolution process. Adventist Today had a write-up on this activity that we reprint here. ( Since we are reprinting this from Adventist Today we might remind our readers again that MCA makes no comment on the theological position of any Adventist Today editorials. Indeed, MCA is not involved in theology other than the theology of honesty, fairness and accountability. )
Dispute Resolution Process in Southeastern California
Since the state of California is increasingly allowing ecclesiastical institutions greater latitude in resolving internal disputes, the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) believes it is wise to institute an orderly method of fairly resolving disputes.
In Schmoll vs. Chapman University (1999), a case involving a chaplain who was supposedly unjustly fired, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, ruled in part: "In this case of first impression, we hold that establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution bar judicial review in a lawsuit alleging a church-affiliated university modified the terms of employment of its campus chaplain in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act Government Code section 12900 et seq." In conclusion the appellate judges approvingly quote from a relevant 1989 California Appellate Third District decision: "Secular courts will not attempt to right wrongs related to the hiring, firing, discipline or administration of clergy. Implicit in this statement of the rule is the acknowledgment that such wrongs may exist, that they may be severe, and that the administration of the church itself may be inadequate to provide a remedy. But the preservation of the free exercise of religion is deemed so important a principle as to overshadow the inequities which may result from its liberal application. In our society, jealous as it is for separation of church and state, one who enters the clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities in terms of job rights."
Three years ago leaders of the SECC were interested in studying the concept of a judicial commission. They invited Dr. James Walters, professor of religion at Loma Linda University, to draft a proposal for such a commission, one that would enable persons who have conflicts within the church to resolve those disputes fairly and thereby avoid the necessity of settling such matters in secular courts. This proposal would draw on the experience of other Protestant churches.
Over the past several months, Walters and four colleagues from the Members for Church Accountability, Inc., (MCA), a nonprofit organization concerned with the financial integrity of the church, have prepared a document to be reviewed by the Constitution Committee of the SECC. The group has held three meetings with conference leaders. The SECC leaders were so attracted to the proposal that Secretary Gerald Penick suggested that a "trial commission" be established to fine tune the system before it was presented by the constitution committee to the next constituency meeting in 2004. The next meeting of the working group is planned for October, and the group hopes that the trial commission can be operational early in 2003.
The current suggestion is that there be 10 commissioners on the judicial commission (plus one chosen from the leadership of the SECC). The delegates to the constituency meeting would choose the 10 commissioners from a slate of 16 presented by the nominating committee. The nominating committee would compile the list of 16 from nominees forwarded by the constituent churches in the SECC.
The following excerpt is from the working document:
"Church members who [have a problem that requires resolution] are advised to follow Jesus' advice and seek to resolve the issue at the most personal level possible. Hence, the need to address the responsible individual(s) first. If there is no resolution, then the local pastor should be asked to intervene, who may request assistance from the Board of Elders. If this intervention is unsuccessful, then the final congregational appeal would be to the church board. If need be, the relevant conference department may be brought into the discussion.
"The judicial Commission would provide a mechanism to review unresolved disputes between church members, as well as problems between members and the SECC or other SDA organizations. The commission's recommendations would be forwarded to the SECC Executive Committee for final disposition. If the investigation involves an action of the SECC Executive Committee and remains unresolved, the findings and recommendations shall be forwarded to the next regularly scheduled SECC Session. If the matter is of sufficient urgency in the Judicial Commission's judgment, it could call for a special constituency session. Such sessions are likely to be rare." Interested readers who have constructive suggestions are invited to contact:
• Members for Church Accountability, Inc., PO. Box 1072, Morrison, CO 80465 E-mail address: email@example.com
• Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, P. O. Box 8050, Riverside, CA 92505 FAX: (909) 509-2391
• Editor, Adventist Today E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Committee for Church Accountability presented a major symposium on issues of church accountability in October 2001 (See AT Nov/Dec 2001). As a follow-up to that symposium, the formation of a judicial commission for the purpose of resolving internal disputes in the Southeastern California Conference of SDAs has been recommended. The proposal has been presented to conference administration and is currently being evaluated for possible action at the conference's next constituency meeting scheduled for the fall of 2004.
volume 10 issue 5 Adventist Today 5
On the next page is the flyer we mentioned above.
We would like to introduce you to
Members for Church Accountability - MCA
Greetings. We would like to tell you about an organization of Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) members whose purpose is to prevent financial debacles within the SDA church and prevent mistreatment of any of its employees. Our goal is to use constructive and responsible means to bring greater accountability of the SDA church to its members.
In these days of seeming rampant malfeasance in the world of public corporations, it is only natural to be concerned whether financial improprieties can occur even within the church. It is not our intent here to list the sequence of debacles that have indeed occurred within the SDA church over the last few decades, but many alert church members are aware of them, despite their low level of coverage in the church media. We believe that God has an intense interest in the church. However, He is dependent upon human leadership to direct the affairs of the church under the guidance of core Christian principles. We believe that the church membership has the responsibility of monitoring the performance of church leadership. Specifically, church leadership should be accountable to the membership they are dedicated to serve. MCA was created for the purpose of providing one way in which members can exercise this oversight in an organized manner.
It is our belief that the great majority of church leaders and employees are indeed dedicated and honest workers. We have noticed that problems occur when a leader allows his or her enthusiasm for the church to become somewhat colored by personal ambition or desire for gain combined with a willingness to employ methods, which lack honesty, integrity and fairness. We have not observed a universal pattern of discipline for church leaders that have betrayed their sacred trust.
Many of us admire our church auditors and greatly appreciate their work. Their noble work is seldom publicly recognized. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that in the present scheme of things, these auditors report their findings to the church leaders rather than to the general church membership. The careers of these auditors are under the control of the church leaders; they can be fired at the initiative of the church leaders. It does not take great insight to understand that the work of these auditors will be effective in correcting impropriety on the part of "low level" church employees, but that they will not be effective in correcting impropriety on the part of the "high level" church leaders who are their superiors and employers.
We believe that it is appropriate for the general church membership to be "looking over the shoulders" of church leaders in an ongoing and organized manner. In order to fill this role, the membership needs, first, to have free access to information about church operations. Secondly, the membership needs the organizational means and mechanisms to bring change and corrective action when it is needed. In practice, only by exceptional and determined effort can a member gain significant insight into church operations. Even the attempt is a demanding effort for which few individual members have sufficient energy and resources. MCA was created as one means to help combine the energies and resources of members to accomplish this task. Regarding corrective action, it is fortunate that the SDA church is nominally under the democratic control of its members. Unfortunately, in practice the membership does not usually exercise significant oversight of the leadership. We greatly appreciate that some leaders eagerly welcome input from members. However, it is often only by making a grand spectacle at a constituency meeting that members can even attempt to oppose the actions of the local conference leaders, when appropriate, and church members have no meaningful input at the Union and General Conference level.
One might well wonder just what it is that MCA realistically hopes to accomplish. We can provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information among those with similar concerns for the church's welfare. Our quarterly newsletter provides a means for such interaction; MCA conferences are another. We can put our resources together to work at making more readily available to members, whatever information on church operations is available through diligent effort. Likewise, we can work together in obtaining evaluations of the financial health of church institutions from qualified experts. We wish that when a "whistleblower" steps forward drawing attention to a situation that needs correction, someone would be there to listen and respond with a qualified, responsible investigation. MCA does not yet have the size and resources to do as much as we would eventually hope to do in this regard. As we become a large association of concerned church members we would have more influence with leaders than as individual church members. Finally, we can work together to convince our fellow church members of the urgent need for the oversight of church actions.
We do admit that we have encountered those who object to what we are trying to do. There are those who say that we should not be involved - that "God will take care of His church." A review of church history simply does not support a contention that God overrules human neglect. There are those who would do nothing because there will always be misconduct and there will always be politics in the church. We admit to the reality of this claim, but we do not agree that it is acceptable. It is not okay for a church employee to be treated unfairly because of church politics. It is not okay when a church institution for which members have sacrificed for a hundred years is lost through incompetence of leadership. It is not okay when there is a conflict of interest in the sale of church properties. It is not okay when church auditors are forbidden access to records of certain church operations. In fact, we don't see why God's church should settle for anything less than being "squeaky-clean". Others object because they simply don't want to hear about church problems or for it to even be admitted that problems are indeed real. To these we can only say that while we totally disagree with their position, we do respect their right to have it and we still want to count them as friends. Still others object that our efforts are futile, that church leaders are so jealous of their authority that they will never allow any effective member oversight of their activities, even if a significant fraction of members were concerned. That would not speak well for church leadership. We believe that there are a significant number of church leaders who would welcome effective church member oversight, and some would welcome it enthusiastically.
We do indeed believe there are needed changes in the manner in which the church leadership is accountable to the church members. We do not, however, see the activities of MCA as anything that could be construed as a "rebellion" of the church membership. We are simply trying to correct the lack of member oversight. We are attempting to do so in a responsible and constructive manner.
Please take this note as an invitation to join MCA and share in its efforts. There are no member fees. However, we do welcome contributions from those who wish to share financially in our efforts. More importantly, we wish for your personal assistance in raising the level of member awareness of the need for member oversight of church operations. By becoming an MCA member you also join in our voice urging conference leaders to improve accountability to church membership. As a member you will receive the quarterly MCA newsletter in which MCA members share their concerns, ideas and views. To join, fill out and send in the following membership application form. MCA allows for different working groups to be organized within it. You can find out more about MCA by visiting our web site at: http://www.advmca.org. Our e-mail address is email@example.com.
MEMBERS for CHURCH ACCOUNTABILITY, INC. (MCA) APPLICATION
Send to: Members for Church Accountability, Inc.
PO Box 1072
Morrison, CO 80465