Members for Church Accountability Inc.
2001 Fourth 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 fourth quarter 2001:
Section 2 – Trustees’ Reports
Norm Smith - Secretary Treasurer
For any of you that would like to contact us by e-mail our address is: email@example.com. 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.
We include this information again about the October 20 MCA conference 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.
The participants in the recent MCA Conference held in the University Church Chapel on October 20 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.
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.
Gordon W. Thompson writes: As I read for my personal devotions in the New Century Version of the Bible, I came across this verse which I think would make a good masthead for Members for Church Accountability: Christ died so that the church would be pure and without fault, with no evil or sin or any other wrong thing in it. Eph 5:27 1.p.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: That is a good ideal indeed. I would not want to suggest that the church will not attain it. However, as important as it is for the church to be "squeaky clean", the objective that MCA is pursuing is more readily attainable if those leaders who have fallen off the wagon would get back on it. First, we would like the church to enhance its set of church policies to explicitly detail the ethical practices and regulations by which the church is to be run. Second, we would like the church to make its policy "book" widely available, aggressively enforce it and train its employees regarding it. Third, we would like arrangements in place so that church members can assure themselves that the church is operating ethically and so that they can correct the situation in a routine manner if it is not (that is, without showdowns at the OK Corral). I work for the largest US defense contractor and, believe it or not, they, though not perfect, do a far better job of enforcing ethical practices than the church does. If I did not attend the yearly mandatory ethics training classes, sign conflict of interest disclosures etc. I would be in big trouble even though I am just a "pip squeak" in this company. Reasonably good ethical practices are attainable.
Willard McGee writes: It is good to see and hear that some progress is made toward accountability. Thanks for the newsletter. Your work is appreciated.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thanks. Wouldn't it be nice if progress were more readily forthcoming.
Irene King writes (in part): Ever since the Members for Church Accountability association was formed I have been receiving the financial reports and other information put out in the association's newsletters. I have found these newsletters very interesting and appreciate their being sent to me. However, you are now suggesting that members use your web site in order to receive the association's news However, I do not have a computer, nor am I likely to acquire one, being 87 years of age...
EDITORIAL COMMENT: I am glad you appreciate the newsletter. We will keep sending it to you and to all our members (until the situation changes). We are not asking that MCA members use the web site in place of receiving the newsletter by regular mail. We are encouraging members to use the web site as a source of information (especially past newsletters) for prospective new members. Since so many do not have e-mail or web access, it is better for us to send it to all by regular mail than to have the expense of keeping track of who is to get e-mail and who regular mail.
Paul Shakespeare writes (in part): I have been a member of MCA for several years, but I seem to have misplaced the last two issues, and I'm wondering if my subscription may have expired... Please send me a summary of the "Shady Grove Hospital" situation in Maryland near the G.C. and also the David Dennis Law Suit & Rapheal Parez Suit with an estimate of the amount of tithe money spent on each. Your office is doing a noble service. Keep it up.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We will send the back issues. Please (everyone) understand that you do not have to subscribe to the newsletter. It comes with being a member. (I suspect Dr. Shakespeare is aware of that but was being polite about missing newsletters.) The missing letters will have a section about Shady Grove. Also keep watching for a book being prepared from the recent MCA conference which will have more details. Lastly, to my knowledge the GC is not willing to divulge how much they spend on lawsuits.
A writer asking not to be identified writes (in part): We have received and read your report for the Third Quarter 2001, which includes a report relative to MCA Conference of October 20, 2001: Very informative. We wish reports of this type were not necessary, but for now they seem appropriate. Another hospital that might be worthy of attention is our medical center in Orlando, FL, and its connections with the Disney World Facility...
I offer a few comments relative to Dr. Knittle. He identifies, and correctly I think, the source of many financial problems as being related to the fact that most of our facilities are managed by ordained ministers who have not had adequate training in financial management. Dr. Knittle, in the second paragraph of his paper, suggests that the primary cause of this problem is "because Ellen White counseled accordingly during her lifetime; and the church has never been inclined to accept the possibility that her counsels could never be modified through the centuries..."
This writer in his letter includes numerous quotations from Ellen White emphasizing the importance of adequate training for those managing church institutions.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thank you for your comments and for pointing out that Ellen White said some very positive things about adequate training for management. We are all in favor of good management. We would agree with Dr. Knittle (and you) that poor management is a great part of recent financial loses. However, we would emphasize that improving management skill in church leaders (as worthy as that aim may be) is not the primary focus of MCA. The situations we at MCA find most distressing are not issues primarily of management skill but rather of simple honesty, fairness and integrity. They are "no brainers" as they say. Cases of poor management are bad enough, but an attitude of tolerance for poor management or outright "mismanagement" are worse. We are also distressed by the frequent lack of simple candor on the part of leaders in letting members know what is going on in the church.
Ray B. Cloete` writes (in part): I have felt compelled to write to you ever since I attended the [MCA Conference]. Half the solution to problems is in identifying and acknowledging them. To this end I believe you have been successful. The other part of the equation is in coming up with the appropriate strategy for prevention and rectification. It is in this regard that I write to you today, in the hope that you will find merit in what I have observed and believe to be the only formula for success, for unlike many, I do not believe that we should be running our institutions as we would a secular business. PROFIT IS NOT, NOR SHOULD FINANCIAL SECURITY EVER BE OUR MOTIVE. Our motivation and objectives are for the furtherance of God's kingdom and to promote His heavenly culture. BUT NOTHING THAN OUR VERY BEST EFFORTS SHOULD EVER BE ACCEPTABLE WITHIN THESE INSTITUTIONS AND HIS CHURCH! ... I have observed over the years that we as a people have become very obsessed with not only material wealth, but also seem to be driven by status, academic achievement and manmade accolades etc. ... We seem to ignore what should be the most important of qualifications for appointments within God's organizations - namely a personal relationship with our Savior (with fruits that are telling) and a spirit of absolute dependence and humility!! ... "We" have been appointing men because of earthly achievements, maneuverings and credentials and not upon their spiritual strength and God given wisdom.
...The church and many of its organizations and institutions are far, far from where they should be and WE (the members) NEED TO TAKE THEM BACK! Many of these institutions owe their very existence not only to the blessing "from above" but also to much of our (the member's) unfailing support. I find it remarkable, sad and staggering to see how "useless" the members here in the United States have become, as they have relinquished more and more power to the "leaders / politicians" - the results of which speak for themselves! Unlike the views expressed at the meeting, my feeling is that the examples of indiscretion, were not due to lack of competence or lack of accountability, but it is rather because of individuals basic love of things material and self serving...
I do believe, that when we are looking for more checks, balances and accountability, that we are looking in the wrong place. It is Christ alone that can change peoples hearts and minds, while we as fellow sojourns can and must inspire and encourage with the whole new set of heavenly values and modus operandi. ... God's eternal kingdom ... is not built or dependant upon any political maneuvering, or any material or academic recourse.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thank you for your thoughtful letter - I hope that I have not done injustice to it by my selection of parts to include here. I tend to agree with you that the primary issue here is not one of skill but rather one of character. (I am not asserting that everyone who has made a mistake, even a big one, has a character problem - I am suggesting that even then it is how the person relates to the mistake after they have made it that reveals character.) However, I would not agree that working to bring arrangements for accountability of church leaders to the church members is not of high value. Character is difficult to judge, but actions, if they are visible, can be judged more objectively. Character evaluation might be a greater factor if we members had a realistic role in the selection of church leaders. Unfortunately, we have little to say, short of a big face-off and showdown at a constituency meeting. (I personally think that realistic open election of executive committee members is the right way to head in that regard.) Without that, we must judge by behavior and actions. Again, we need to be able to know what is going on and be able to take measures to correct problems when needed.
Norm Smith writes: In the First Quarter 2001 newsletter I wrote about consideration being given by the Rocky Mountain Conference Executive Committee to a policy statement about "freedom of information" in the conference. I am happy to be able to report that the Executive Committee has adopted a policy very similar to what we had suggested (perhaps better stated than our draft suggestion). We applaud their courage in doing so. We would hope that other conferences will follow their lead in adopting such policies. If you are interested in promoting such a policy in your conference, why not try it the way we did. We did nothing special, we simply talked to our conference president, Jim Brauer, and he said we could propose something. He had the insight to see that accountability and freedom of information are legitimate concerns of church members. I don't want to tell you too much about this man and how I admire the way he operates or you may be trying to steal him away from us. Here is the policy adopted in the Rocky Mountain Conference, in case you want to suggest it to your conference:
Openness & Accountability Policy: VOTED to approve the following
Policy on Openness and Accountability:
Because the Seventh-day Adventist Church believes in the priesthood of all believers, and not in a hierarchical form of governance, the following policy and procedures are adopted to provide a clear understanding of the channels and methods for maintaining an excellent trust level between administration/governance committees and the rank and file membership in the local church. Administration exists to serve and enable ministry, not to dictate or "rule."
However, due to the nature of our society, there are legal issues which dictate the necessity for careful governance and compliance as a joint body of believers.
It is expected that a trust level already exists, but if and when that trust should be broken or even worse, violated, it is equally as imperative for the membership of the Rocky Mountain Conference to understand their privilege in seeking additional information and holding the appropriate administrators/governance committee accountable.
1. Current electronic methods of communication will be used to actively disseminate records of conference activities and decisions. Due to issues of financial privacy and personnel issues, not all decisions can be placed on the public forum.
2. The Monthly statement of Financial Activity will be placed on the Conference Web Page.
a. Members wishing a more detailed printout of the statement of financial activity should contact the conference treasurer for a fuller printout.
b. If any request is denied by the Treasurer, please see 3a.
3. Executive Committee Minutes will be posted on the Web page. If there is any hint of a negative connotation, no names of individuals will be included, and there may be some voted actions not included. *
4. All records are available upon specific written request. Conference officers will be of assistance in helping people to know which documents would most directly answer their questions.
5. When answers to questions are not forthcoming, members are encouraged and reminded of the currently available channels for appropriate accountability:
a. A letter in writing to the Executive Committee with copies to each of the members outlining the nature of the original request to the officers, the reasons given by the officers as to why the request was denied, and finally, the reason why the information is important and necessary to still know now.
b. If the Executive Committee turns down the request for information, the constitution provides for individuals to seek through the local churches to call a special constituency meeting. (Include specific language from constitution)
c. If needed the constitution could be amended to provide additional channels for information being released without having to call a full constituency meeting.
Letters regarding David Dennis:
EDITORIAL COMMENT ON THE FOLLOWING LETTERS: The firing in 1994 of David Dennis the former head of the GC auditing department and the lack of response from the church leadership regarding issues he reiterated at that time, has been a matter of great concern to many members of MCA. Indeed, the MCA organization grew out of activities seeking an honorable treatment of this situation. MCA as an organization has always taken the position that we are not opposed to the church's prerogative in firing an employee for just cause and that we as members do not presently have information that would allow us to reach a judgement in the matter of Mr. Dennis (even though as individuals we may have strong opinions in the matter). What we are able to say with certainty is that there were serious allegations of misconduct on the part of certain church leaders and allegations of glaring violations of good auditing practice imposed on the auditing department, that were reiterated by Mr. Dennis at the time of his firing. It is also certain that the lack of accountability of church leaders to church members in this matter has been starkly clear. To our knowledge, Mr. Dennis has never asked that any facts in his case be withheld from public disclosure. Indeed he brought his case into public court where it has only recently been withdrawn. MCA's position is that when the head auditor was fired amid his allegations of misconduct by other leaders, the church members have a right to a full and complete accounting of what is going on. This is the case quite irrespective of any charges made against the auditor.
Earlier, Elder Folkenberg was said to support a "blue ribbon commission" to investigate the matter, however, the conference declined comment claiming that comment might affect the ongoing litigation in the case. We greatly disagree with this reason for lack of full (or any) disclosure. We believe the importance of trust of the church membership far outweighs any effect disclosure would have on litigation. It would be better to settle the suit and inform the members. (Indeed, some have estimated that the conference spent over twice the 3 million (US) dollar value of the suit in legal costs fighting it.) We understand that the judge ruled in favor of the church simply on the grounds of their claims of church state separation rather than on grounds of their position in the situation itself. Mr. Dennis has declined further pursuit of the case. Now that the litigation is over, George Grames, Stewart Shankel and Richard Sheldon have written to Elder Paulsen asking about the "blue-ribbon commission". We are looking forward to his reply. We hope to have more about this in the next newsletter.
The following are open letters to Elder Paulsen from Donald G Morgan, President of the International Laypersons Action Committee for Concerned Adventists, and from David Dennis. These letters represent the position of these men and are not necessarily the position of MCA. They are indeed clear statements of the strong beliefs of these men. We think that they reveal aspects of this situation that many may have had questions about and so we are printing them for our readers. These are clearly very strident and provocative letters. David Dennis's letter clearly reveals the hurt he still feels as a result of this ordeal. Given that MCA is attempting to promote accountability in the church and some degree of cooperation from church leaders will be needed if this is ever to occur, it is legitimate to ask whether the inclusion of these letters serves a positive purpose. We are an organization that is all about accountability, openness and candor. We believe that these letters are relevant and important information and we do not want to play politics with what information we pass on to our readers. We would be happy to likewise share statements from conference leaders regarding this matter, if and when we have them.
The Morgan letter:
Dear Dr. Paulsen: December 1, 2001
The recent revelation of corruption among some officials of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and reprisals against anyone who dares to accuse them are matters of serious concern to a growing number of Seventh-day Adventists.
In the case of David Dennis vs. General Conference Officials, reprisals from G.C. officials took the form of what appears to be fabricated pharisaical tales of adulterous behavior allegedly committed in the 1970s by David Dennis, chief auditor of the General Conference, who had the courage to expose corruption among some G.C. officials. He was tried in the church's system of justice without due process and by the friends of those whom he accused.
Unable to receive a fair trial within the Church hierarchy and anxious to prove his innocence and seek redress of grievances against G.C. officials for defamation of his character, he took his case to the Civil Court of Montgomery County, Maryland.
On Tuesday, September 19, 2000, I met David Dennis for the first time. On that same day, I sat in the Montgomery County District Court of Maryland and listened to the team of constitutional lawyers and G.C. officials as they skillfully manipulated church policies and applied the constitutional clause of separation of church and state to convince the sitting judge that Dennis was an official of the Church and therefore the State cannot intervene in the case. On the other hand, when the plaintiffs are church officials representing the Church they do not hesitate to take their case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
Convincing the judge to dismiss the Dennis case on constitutional grounds is no victory for the Church, for the truth has been suppressed. Church officials apparently knew that they did not have the evidence to convince the court that Dennis had committed adultery so they opted instead to apply the constitutional clause of separation of church and state. It is a defeat for and an embarrassment to the Church. During the hearing and much to my astonishment, I heard Neal Wilson, a former president of the General Conference, and Kenneth Mittleider, a former vice president of the General Conference, assure the judge that no official of the Church accused of adultery has ever been retained or reemployed in an official position of the Church. Certainly, this is the most incredible statement I have ever heard from church officials.
We have come to a new low in church administration where church officials sympathize and provide legal defense at the church's expense for those involved in corruption but punish the whistleblowers. This is what the Apostle Paul speaks about when he says: "... For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, ... against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)
This case is not whether one is for or against David Dennis. It underscores a fundamental principle of integrity, fairness, and democracy in the SDA church government that affects all Seventh-day Adventists. The need for reform is very urgent! Dr. Paulsen, you have demonstrated that you are unable or unwilling to initiate the necessary reforms. It is time for the laity to wake up and become more proactive in the administration of the Church. I must, therefore, turn to the laity and ask, Is there a Martin Luther out there?
Donald G. Morgan,
President, International Laypersons Action Committee for Concerned Adventists
The Dennis letter:
Dear Dr. Paulsen: October 30, 2001
Two months ago, based on the advice of my attorney, I asked for the dismissal of a lawsuit against former GC President, R. S. Folkenberg, and certain of his business and political cronies, after the late District Court Judge, James C. Chapin, had ruled in favor of Folkenberg et al, thus allowing him to hide his corruption behind First Amendment privilege. I was asked by friends of the present GC administration to defer correspondence pending the possibility that you would take a Christian approach to resolving my grievance with the former leader which, based on absolute prevarications, slandered me before the world body of Seventh-day Adventists. Like Pilate, you have, it seems, preferred to simply wash your hands of the matter.
On the 19th of October, you chose to publish an ANN Bulletin in which you have repeated the old hurts, lies, and generally omitted the real facts of the case. For example, the tone of your message gives the impression that somehow you had won something in Court. Nothing could be further from the truth. You simply convinced the late judge (or had arrangements with him) that as a religious entity, closely patterned after the Church of Rome, your tortuous actions could be hidden behind the protection of the First Amendment. You have chosen to throw down the gauntlet. I am responding. It has been said that the "pen is mightier than the sword". From personal experience I can testify that the personal damage inflicted by character assassination is more hurtful than physical assault. For the present, however, I shall limit my efforts to use of the pen.
When Robert S. Folkenberg tendered his unprecedented resignation as President of the General Conference on February 8, 1999 his mother was quoted as saying that his ignominious fall from such a high position of church leadership, for moral and financial corruption, was more difficult for her to bear than the then recent death of her husband. I was present for the beginning of his tribunal at the Marriott Hotel near the Dulles Airport that cold January day. I could sympathize with his mother’s hurt, for I know how his actions in orchestrating the false accusations against me some seven years ago brought pain to my own dear mother who, as a loyal church member, will soon celebrate her 99th birthday. While there are many similarities between our terminations from church office, the differences are striking.
Folkenberg’s closest friends from around the world gathered to review the documents shared by his comrade, James Moore. The documents and testimony were reviewed with the group he had selected to compose his panel of judges. I recalled the sham meeting that was set up to hear the charges against me, in December, 1994, assembled by his good friend Walter Carson, together with his Gestapo-styled associate, K. G. B. Mittleider, who still seems to be in charge of the open slander campaign against me. They were anxious to force me from an office I had held for more than 18 years. At my hearing the group was carefully chosen for the "kangaroo court" without my input and I was denied the presence of an attorney. In stark contrast, Folkenberg had two attorneys flanking him at the Marriott. I met them.
Another distinction between Folkenberg’s treatment and mine is the generous financial provision he has received. Full salary and benefits have been continued until an appropriate position is found for him. He has not missed a single pay period. He has received full service credit toward retirement. All this in addition to the undisclosed sums which he appropriated to himself from the church coffers. In my case I was fired just before Christmas. I received an official letter advising that I was "terminated immediately", but my salary and health care coverage would continue for an added ten days, through the end of December, 1994.
A rather penetrating article appeared in Spectrum magazine, Vol. 27, Issue 3, 1999 detailing Walter Carson’s collusion with ex-president Folkenberg in his financial shenanigans. Mr. Raymond Dabrowski, was another of Folkenberg’s hand-picked comrades at the GC. You worked with Dabrowski in Europe. You will recall that Dabrowski was considered a communist sympathizer in cold war East Europe. He now serves as the director of General Conference Communications. In the Spectrum article, Dabrowski was asked to comment on the "wet noodle" punishment of Attorney Carson. He stated that "we prefer to err on the side of ‘mercy’." I certainly did not feel "mercy" when I was cruelly and publicly maligned by top officials of the Adventist organization. A number of articles, likely ghost-written, have appeared over your name in the Review in which you advocate loving treatment of others, with mercy and forgiveness. Clearly you do not practice what you preach.
After the allegations presented in my original legal brief relative to Folkenberg and many of his associates’ corruption, had been proven true, I spoke with Robert Rawson, a former friend and co-worker in the mission field, and now Treasurer of the General Conference. Rawson denied that he had been aware of Folkenberg’s pilfering. I offered to meet with you and other new officers to resolve my long-standing legal case. Rawson promised to get back to me, but he did not. Rather, I learned of slanderous statements he had made about me to his fellow GC officers. Then I realized he, as chairman of the Risk Management committee, which had permitted the raid on GC insurance monies to cover up Folkenberg’s embarrassing criminal activities with James Moore, still felt beholden to Folkenberg. Naturally, both you and he would feel politically obligated, since he had personally chosen both of you as his close confidants.
Some have suggested that had I resigned I would have been treated more kindly. That, of course, is open to speculation. It is curious that I was told that if I would resign I could retain my credentials. When I was fired, however, these credentials were taken away. Why? It is a fact that most people believe a resignation, regardless of the duress imposed, is an admission of guilt. For example, the fact that Folkenberg resigned caused most observers to believe he was guilty. And guilty he was! I was not guilty of the nasty charges and the lies brought against me. I refused to resign. Early in the process of my termination I stated that if Folken-berg had simply asked me to resign because he did not wish to work with me I would have proffered my resignation immediately, but I could not do so on the basis of the false accusations brought against me.
If I had pandered to certain leaders they would not have attempted to have me ousted from office at the Indianapolis Session in 1990. If I had ignored corruption, including Folkenberg’s taking of illicit funds from the Columbia Union in 1991, I likely would have enjoyed peace and harmony to a normal retirement. Because of his personal animus against me, Folkenberg was unwilling to meet with me after the charges had been leveled against me, and, in writing refused to allow me a policy-provided Grievance Committee to resolve this within the confines of the church structure. I was not then, nor am I now, prepared to sell my soul for a mess of potage. The job was not worth the sacrifice of my personal integrity and dignity.
In Montgomery District Court proceedings, GC-engaged attorneys convinced the judge that the Director of GC Auditing was considered a "high ranking officer" of the church. Former GC Secretary, G. Ralph Thompson, testified that the Adventist organization is patterned after the Church of Rome. And former President N. C. Wilson, who has known me for many years but who would not acknowledge a friendship with me, stated for the Court records that I received this ill treatment because I "lacked people skills". Is that another way of saying I was "not political"? If so, I am proud to say I have never been political!
Much has been said to publicly defame me. A great deal of this, of course, I have not even heard. Details have been twisted, stretched and magnified beyond all reason. That’s the nature of gossip. I have been slandered, in a methodical and continuous way, before the world church in writing and on the internet. Some have solicited speaking appointments and met with workers and members of the church solely to try to destroy me and any credibility I might have once enjoyed. Folkenberg and his allies have gone to the public media. They have interviewed with the Washington Times and the Los Angeles Times. The belief seems to be that if I can be vilified badly enough it will take the focus of the guilt off church leadership.
In spite of years in court, and a startling decision in our favor by the highest court in the State of Maryland, we were never able to proceed to a jury trial. With the help of millions of tithe dollars the GC repeatedly delayed the judicial process and blocked the discovery phase to keep from us documents we had requested showing to some degree the depth of corruption within the leadership of our church. The deposition of the guilty parties under oath was, likewise, circumvented. Rather than try to speculate about information we never received, let’s look at a few of the known facts.
High Level Corruption.
For starters, GC spin doctors and attorneys have "strongly denied" the allegations made in my original law suit, filed in February, 1995. Folkenberg’s ouster from office for abuse of power and moral and financial corruption came as a shock to many people. Strangely, I had gone on record exposing much of this same information years before. Church leaders could have spared considerable embarrassment by a proper and timely investigation of those charges. By contrast, the investigation of James Moore’s charges were much more quickly reviewed. In the Moore case, I suppose, it was not possible to hide under the protection of First Amendment. I had pointed to some of the same personal business ventures in which Folkenberg and his close friends were involved, such as the personal deals with ADRA concerning the computer sales operation, the MCI fund raising, and the serious collusion with ADRA Vice-President, Ray Tetz. Still further was the personal financial benefits Folkenberg and his brother had arranged through Global Mission. Folkenberg was not anxious to have his brother’s rip-off land deal of the Sun Belt Health System opened to public view. Many are still asking how much money was required to compensate the attorneys for making certain the Los Angeles Times did not disclose that deal. Most of these ventures still beg for openness. Surprisingly, many church members fail to comprehend the meaning of the immediate resignation of Robert S. Folkenberg’s brother, Donald, as the CFO for Global Mission, when he was deposed as the SDA world president.
I had pointed to the deal Folkenberg had worked out with Ron Wisbey, in payment for his efforts to launder money through the Columbia Union for his personal financial benefit. There were those who chose to ignore this strong charge. It was only when the Washington Post revealed Wisbey’s compensation of $446,000 in a single year that many were shocked to suddenly realize that what I had said in my original complaint, some five years earlier was, indeed, an understated truth.
Wishing to spare himself any political embarrassment at the General Conference Session in Utrecht in 1995, and using the power of the office of the president, Folkenberg assigned vice-president Mittleider to find something (anything!) against me and thus force me to resign before the General Conference Session in Utrecht in 1995. Mittleider had been given this assignment more than a year earlier. "Moles" had even been brought into the auditing offices to assist in this diabolical task. Mittleider correctly prophesied that if I refused to resign it would "get nasty".
The Court never allowed any free exchange of information as to what inspired and motivated a lady, ..., who we understand now resides somewhere in ..., to bring these lurid accusations. She had come to live with us for a short time when we resided in Singapore in the early 1970’s. She had suffered from psychological maladjustments and her teacher and parents were unable to deal with her. In the early threatening stages of this orchestration, contrary to the counsels of Matthew 18, my wife and I were not permitted to meet with her. There are many questions only she can answer. Why did she go into psychological therapy in Ohio? What really happened at her alleged rape on the Oregon campground? What are the actual truths behind her declaration that she had been raped on various occasions? What is known of her present life-style? Since we have never been able to meet with her we are not able to make any educated judgment as to her real problems or motives, nor can we anticipate any further assistance from the Court, since the facts are obscured by the First Amendment ploy.
Contrary to the charges leveled at me, I have been faithful to my marriage vows. I have not been guilty, as publicly charged, of sexual misconduct. I read a statement to the GC Committee, declaring unequivocally my innocence of the charges Folkenberg had brought. After reading the statement, which the executioners chose to totally ignore, I was ushered from the committee room. I was not allowed to answer, nor even hear, the eloquent and lengthy presentations of Folkenberg’s chosen hatchet men.
While I have no knowledge of the letters to or from ..., who is presently living with her third husband in ..., we know they were provided by Folkenberg’s personal bodyguard, .... Some years ago he was investigated by a special committee at the GC for having a sexual liaison with .... We know that another of Folkenberg’s business associates, ..., was the first to bring him the story that ..., who was in psychological therapy in Ohio, was prepared to share her filthy story. For those with whom her sordid document has not been shared (Walter Carson has published it on the internet), it seems worthy of note that the imagined events took place some twenty years in the past. Since, at heavy legal costs, you have been able to shield ... behind the First Amendment, the real truth about ... remains obscured.
Charlotte and I remain loyal to the message of Adventism and are church members in regular standing. Hopefully Carson will not bring one of his "trademark lawsuits" against us for using the name. We continue paying a faithful tithe. We have no intention, however, of paying it into the coffers which are used to fund the lawsuits against us and other committed SDAs. You will have a difficult time, I fear, twisting the Biblical command of Malachi to prove that the "storehouse" is the conference office. I guarantee, if sincere Adventists really knew how funds were mishandled in church offerings, such as to ADRA and Global Missions, they would stop the "channel" approach to their giving. I should know—I was, after all, the director of auditing for over 18 years.
This is the reason Folkenberg wanted me out of his way and wanted to destroy my name and reputation. It didn’t matter that, in the process, he was willing to destroy the credibility of the Auditing Service and thus prove the church incapable of monitoring itself. How can the auditor be independent if he is a recognized "officer" of the church—a real case of the "fox guarding the hen house". Unless one is familiar with the political processes it would otherwise seem odd that the new Director of the Auditing Service, Eric Korff, would appear in Court to confirm that he is an "officer" of the church. No wonder my successors in auditing were willing to overlook multi-millions in losses to the Family Enrichment Resources (FER) organization in the very next audit of that entity.
Folkenberg knows, and I know, and he knows that I know just why he wanted me out of his way! You, as his successor accomplice will never allow disclosure of the total costs of this long legal battle. Certainly, you will never allow a truly independent investigation, such as the earlier promised "blue ribbon group", to report on the facts presented in my original lawsuit. You and I both know that millions in tithes (and other church offerings) were expended just to keep full disclosure out of Court, and from the knowledge of honest church members.
Adventist Leaders and Sex.
I was terminated and publicly defamed in the nastiest possible way, based on phony statements, false evidence, suspicions and trumped allegations. The prosecutorial approach was that I was guilty until I could prove my innocence! Tell me, Dr. Paulsen, did you ever try to prove a negative? Church records are filled with allegations of moral falls of ministers and church leaders. We received statements from family members of an acknowledged open adulterer, who had served in high denominational leadership. Yet he was not terminated. He was not suspended and his ordination was not revoked. His salary and service records were not interrupted. Today he pastors a nearby SDA church and is teaching the youth at our Columbia Union College. He is often considered a favorite camp meeting speaker. Why, I ask, was my case "different", as stated by Thomas Wetmore, a GC Attorney assigned to defend his legal colleagues.
What about the individual who was discovered by local police to be sexually involved with a student in California? Rather than punishment and public humiliation, he was promoted to the presidency of a North American Adventist College. Remember Folkenberg’s own body guard? What about the supervisor in the offices of Risk Management who took unto himself another’s wife? Do you recall the case of the pastor who had sex with a female colleague? Court documents in my possession show that the conference defended him in the ensuing litigation, even after he acknowledged his guilt. He is presently pastoring a California church. Folkenberg had a close personal ally, a CPA who was an adulterer and Folkenberg knew it. Over my objections he sent him as a "missionary" in financial matters to the world. He esteemed his accounting counsel so highly that he continues to serve on many high level committees of the church. You may have heard of the retired minister, who was accused similarly as in my case, and Mittleider, ran for legal help to defend his friend from the allegations? What about the recent appointee to leadership at the GC, whose past has been checkered by adultery? We shall all be watching, with interest, how all of you will try to cover up the recent high-profile sex scandal at Southwestern College. Have you looked lately into such matters in the law offices? There are many many others, which I shall address in future responses.
Why I Chose to Call for Secular Justice
A question many sincere hearts have asked over the years, is why, even after repeated efforts to resolve this conflict within the confines of the church, I brought a suit in the secular courts? First, and of high importance, is the matter of my name. The Scriptures say "a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches". It was impossible, not to make every effort to silence those who were publicly assassinating my character and that of my family. Nevertheless, my human efforts, like the David for whom I was named, seemed pathetic and inadequate against the might and millions of church dollars you threw, in Goliath-like fashion, at the escalating number of lawsuits with which the denomination is involved. We still look back in amazement that you found it necessary to engage three of the most expensive law firms in Washington, D. C. to represent you against our small claim for simple justice, mercy, understanding, and honesty!
Secondly, was a sincere desire to see the corruption cleaned up in the General Conference and within many of its subsidiary organizations. In the nearly two decades of my association at the headquarters of the church I could see how the organized church is slowly being strangled by its own bureaucracy. My study a few months before my dismissal, which showed that the administrative overhead for just operating the structures of union offices in North America, is costing the church nearly forty million tithe dollars each year, though greatly unappreciated, is most revealing. I am convinced change within the church can only come from two sources: (1) lay people, through voice and financial boycott making their concerns heard and demanding a greater level of accountability; and (2) the political timidity, which currently frightens church employees away from speaking out, will have to give way to an internal revolt, demanding change. Where were church leaders, yes GC officers, during my long struggle? The silence was deafening.
Finally, the most pervasive reason for bringing the legal complaint was a sincere attempt to bring disclosure to the continuing cover-ups of high level fraud within the denomination. There must be open clarification of the FER scandal that personally benefited many church officials. There should be a full disclosure of the personal deals Folkenberg had with the likes of Carson, Watts, Wisbey, Tetz, Maxson, McClure, and Moore.
The Tragedy of This Experience
Many unfortunate results will and have accrued from this experience. For example, this was treated as a "test case" to see how brutal you could be to an employee of the church and still hide behind First Amendment protection. Therefore, what incentive will there be for young people to commit themselves to the service of the church, if, at the whim of an offended leader, the employee can be terminated, the contract of service broken, unemployment compensation unavailable, his retirement benefits arbitrarily reduced or denied, and then publicly humiliated before the world church?
Such experiences, as in the Piankowski and Oxentenko cases, continue. Mike Piankowski, one of this generation’s brightest young ministers in the denomination, was fired from his post as pastor of the Takoma Park Church in 1995 because he paid his tithe (a double-tithe) into the local church. More than a year ago a story, similar to my case, was circulated that Mike Oxentenko, of the Sligo Church, and his wife were abusing their children. He was forced from office. Rather than allow the judicial system to litigate, you hid behind the First Amendment and refused to allow discovery of the truth. I wonder how widely these abuses of the First Amendment are known, since Adventists have been taught to treat the separation of church and state as a "freedom". Frankly, the church has treated me and unknown others to injustice far greater than I have ever suffered from the state. Now, apparently, you and your corrupt associates, heirs to an "old buddy system", will enjoy unlimited immunity from any secular justice.
Frankly, it came as a surprise to my family and me to learn that the self-acclaimed "Caring Church" practices shunning. I have spoken to many who have left the roles of Adventist employ who confirm that once you fail to meet the expected level of obedience and political control of certain church officials, you are totally cut off from the love and support of those you once thought of as friends and brothers. Remembering how we joined the world church in praying for you and your family after your son’s tragic accident it seems incongruent that you have never reached out a hand to us, knowing of the estrangement we feel after having spent 34 ½ years in service to the world church. During those years I was never accused of "conduct unbecoming to an ordained minister". Rather, under your leadership, Folkenberg’s message continues to get published by official GC media.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Folkenberg’s future, of course, is secure. He will continue receiving full pay and benefits from the very coffers he corrupted, while proceeding with his real estate and fund raising ventures in Virginia and elsewhere. He has stated that he is working under your supervision. Recently he was featured in a union publication peddling high tech equipment around the world. In due course, he will be offered another high level position with the denomination. It is reported, with a degree of credibility, that his name was suggested for the presidency at a recent conference constituency.
For me things are different. God has blessed me with the ability to hold a real job and work for a living. It had been our plan to retire in August this past year, with 40 years of denominational service. Purely, as a matter of stubborn and hateful revenge, I was refused a request to allow use of my "severance" pay to extend my service six months to provide the required credit of 35 full years and, thus, I was cheated out of this significant retirement benefit. One of the things we had looked forward to, in retirement, was the opportunity to serve the church as volunteers. The doors to most such possibilities have been closed to us. Ron Watts, president of the Southern Asia Division, and a close Folkenberg ally, refused our offer to help with the work in India.
I feel quite certain but few expected, with our meager resources, we could keep our case alive for nearly seven years. At a mediation meeting sometime ago the arbiter told me that your paltry offer for a settlement was limited by your "constituents". If as they should be, members of the church, what input did they have in the decision to expend millions just fighting to keep the case out of court? We will have to accept your unwillingness to address our case, on its merits in court, as a strange sort of exoneration. Much we would have preferred an honest exchange of the evidence before an unbiased jury, rather than simply allowing you and your spin doctors the use of church assets and legal immunity to share your defamatory message to the world.
Charlotte and I do not cherish bitterness or hatred. We will not allow you or your predecessor to steal our crown. We pray God will forgive you for what you have done to our family and for your salvation. We rest our case in the hands of the righteous Judge, who knows not only our actions, but the motives of every heart.
David D. Dennis
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