Members for Church Accountability Inc.
Fourth Quarter 2002
Section 1 - Financial Report
Summary financial statement for fourth quarter 2002:
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 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.
We encourage members to notify us when their address changes. We do appreciate those of you who have sent us your change of address. When you move and don’t notify us we are, of course, not able to continue sending you the newsletter, unless we are lucky enough to have a kind postman put the new address on the returned letter on those occasions when we send it first class.
We have mentioned in past newsletters the plans for engaging a paid fractional time researcher of conference activities. We are glad to say that Doug Hackleman will be working this task. Prior commitments still prevent the starting of this task just yet.
Section 3- 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 tar 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.
Jon Hardt writes (in part): Thanks for the current issue of our newsletter. It is always a pleasant surprise when it comes. I usually sit right down and read it through.
I am delighted that a book will be forthcoming about last year's conference, and hope it will be sooner rather than later. I know that it will be good, since I know Doug Hackleman and the kind of work that he does.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Thanks for your encouragement. Progress is being made on the book.
A former member writes: I thank you for your information, but we no longer belong to the SDA church, and care less how they throw away their money.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: It is always sad to see members leave the church. We don’t know why these folk left but we would rather it not be because of accountability concerns. Unfortunately, we believe that too many members are voting with their feet when they become convinced that that is the only voice they have left. We would like to think that MCA provides a way for church members to voice their concerns and still remain with the church.
Una and Tom Turner write (from Australia): Thank you for your last Church Accountability report. Always welcome and informative. Just to let you know that Bertha Cook - whose letter to Dr Paulsen you printed out in the last letter - has passed away and was buried last Friday. She was a wonderful Christian lady who stood for Truth and who although over 85 years of age (nearer 90 I think) she never missed an opportunity to speak about her convictions and only once that I can recall missed coming to Camp meeting. She will be sorely missed as she was well loved. Keep up the good work and may the Lord continue to bless you.
Virginia Butler writes (in part): ...We remember when we first received your letters back soon after the problem at LLU with two employees who are yet named in this newsletter. At that time, we were sympathetic, yet it seemed to us in those early communications that there was more than a drop of gall (understandably, speaking from a human standpoint!) in those letters. We wish to heartily commend you on the present one--the first we’ve seen for several years. We don’t taste ANY of that gall in this letter. It sounds like what Jesus would say, were He in our places. Oh, how something needs to be done, and whether it is effective or not--what is being done--it will surely give every opportunity possible for revival and reformation--WHEN done in the Spirit of Jesus, as this appears to be.
I have noticed the comment by Bill Mead and agree with him that there should be a listing of ALL MEMBERS WHO WISH to be listed (I do, speaking as an individual!) but, with the announcement that any who already are members will not be revealed unless they send in written permission. But, that any new members from such and such a date to be decided on--who DO NOT WISH to be declared make that stipulation WHEN THEY SIGN UP AS MEMBERS! Does this seem fair?
If we are willing to stand and work for something this important, it seems we have nothing of which to be ashamed. We need not work "in the dark". Yet, I do realize there is a great possibility of being misunderstood and creating needless prejudice by unwise revelations. So, while this is my opinion, I respect the opinions of others, and would like to hear more. In any case, certainly, no names should be revealed against any persons wishes.
May God hasten the day of justice--and it is difficult to believe it will happen--YET, such an effort as this group is making seems to me the most plausible solution yet. Getting the right people to subscribe is very important--AND then that our leadership who is involved incorrectly in these scandals KNOW who those are who are against what they are doing. Yes, surely there are yet "7,000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal". This is the Laodicean church, the LAST church, there is none other that is going through.
God bless you in all your efforts done with much prayer and thereby in His Spirit.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Perhaps it is because I know George Grarnes and Stewart Shankel that I have a hard time viewing anything they say as being "gall". Admittedly, it is easy for different people to read things differently. I read the early letters as relating a sense of profound astonishment (and disappointment) at some of the things that have transpired within our church - more a sense of this can’t be real, how can this be happening. At any rate, thank you for your kind words. I am confident that all of us want very much for everything to be done in the "Spirit of Jesus".
Yes, we agree that it would be a good thing to have a list of those who would like to let their names be known. The problem is that we simply have not had the time to get such a list together and keep track of it. If some member can spare the time to put together such a list we could give your address in this newsletter and anyone that wants to could send their name to you.
Jim Row writes: I write to tell you of the varied experiences I have when approaching the "Accountability" issue as it relates to church matters, more specifically, the SDA church, my chosen church.
What I have experienced, I’m fairly certain, is not unusual for anyone who has had discussions on the matter. Some reply that it should be a case of let him who is without sin". Another is that "God will take care of His own." Yet another is "When did God appoint you or any one else to look after sinners and their actions?" And, of course, you have heard it said that what happens to the money I give to God is God’s business, not mine. This all falls into the realm of those "hearers" misconstruing what I have attempted to present (by way of urging others to be looking at the web site) as casting darts at fellow Christians rather than simply asking for "accountability" when it comes to both financial and business practices. Having accountability would eliminate the need or possibility of anyone needing to cast darts. When a human is assured that misdeeds can be traced, he is much less likely to participate in questionable activities. And when this deterrent doesn't work, quiet changes can be made to stop those activities being done again, at least by the same person(s).
If only those in a position of leadership (?) could realize that so much more could be done if they were indeed "squeaky clean".
On the other hand, I recently visited a medium (medium to large) mid-western city where the SDA church has come under the possible mis-management of local leadership. The result has been the leaving of the church by large numbers of people. Where have those who have left gone? They have formed new churches. New SDA churches! Praise the Lord who has the ability to apply the mis-direction and mis-administration of a few into the further spreading ot "His Church" into even farther corners of this city. The mis-management of the local schools has resulted in the gaining of strength for the boarding academy up the road a few miles. I'll end on this particular avenue by saying that God has abilities we have not yet even imagined to turn bad situations into blessings of more people. Now more people than ever are nearer to an SDA church, more evangelism is taking place, more health teaching programs are taking place than ever before, etc.
Now back to MCA. There are those who may, or may not be in violation of the principles of integrity. They may or may not be "squeaky clean". What ever the case, what is happening is that many, me included, are going around the established organization in the spreading of the good news (not the good news of SDAism but the Good News of what Jesus has done for each of us) and are doing it on our own with the help (both physical and financial help) of other interested parties. When the work assigned to mankind is done, it’ll likely not be done by a political entity such as "big wigs" from the GC. But it’ll likely be done by little people like you and me who are willing to sacrifice time and funds in areas where we can be accountable for what we do, what we spend, how we do it, what our motives are, etc.
This is not to detract from your goals. However, I applaud you, not for your unheard pleas for fairness, honesty, forthrightness, openness, etc. But rather I applaud you for bringing to my attention the lengths to which an inbred organization will carry on to protect their own hind sides and the hind sides of their cronies.
Thank you for again making me aware that it is up to me, and to you, and to our brothers and sisters to "GO" as Jesus commanded. We can do it without help or cooperation from the GC or its subsidiaries, the local conferences, or even from our paid pastors. Speaking of which, why not take a look at the cost of paid pastors and consider independently financed pastors who work for a living and pastor as their part of "finishing the work". Let’s see - - the disciples were tent makers (the home builders of their day?), fishermen, one time soldiers, teachers, etc. Why not have pastors follow that path rather than accepting mileage, home allowances, discounts for educating their kids, salaries, etc. etc. If they were independently financed or self financed, they would be freer to express themselves at meetings rather than laying that burden at the feet of those who are being kept in the dark as to certain conditions that may or may not exist within the organization. I know whereof I speak for I have been approached by pastors to be a spokesman on certain subjects needing addressing. This has been done because the raising of some of these questions would, could, or might endanger the livelihood of said pastors.
To put this all another way, MCA is looking for accountability. I look for the same but I also look toward a revision of organization. What worked for transportation in the middle 1800s does not work today. Times, needs, equipment, etc. have all changed. What worked for church organization 2000 years ago and 150 years ago may not be the best way to go today either. I am not suggesting that it wouldn’t, I simply raise the question.
Keep up the good work of MCA! It needs to be done and you do it well though so far, unsuccessfully as far as outward appearances are concerned. My prayers go with you as you strive to keep God’s church on the "straight and narrow"!
EDITORIAL COMMENT: As mentioned earlier, when church members consider conditions in the church to be simply not acceptable and they believe that their voices do not have any effect, some may decide to vote with their feet and leave the church. Others may vote be redirecting their resources and energies in ways other than through the church organization. This is, of course, a highly personal choice. What we object to is the ridiculous situation that pushed them into needing to make such a choice in the first place. How is it that we have become so used to the way things are that everyone isn’t saying "what’s wrong with this picture?"
EDITORIAL COMMENT ON THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE BY DAVID DENNIS: As we mentioned in the last newsletter, 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 did not included Mr. Colburn’s letter or Mr. Dennis’ response in the last newsletter. Rather than publish a continuing sequence of letters that only give a fragmented insight into these events, we invited both Mr. Dennis and Elder Colburn to write more comprehensive treatments. Mr. Dennis responded to our invitation but Elder Colburn did not. Since he did not, we thought that we might at least include his response to MCA member Bill Mead (others apparently received a similar response). In doing that it would only seem fair to include at least parts of Mr. Dennis’ open letter of response to Mr. Colburn. We have not included the entire open letter by Mr. Dennis. This all is fairly lengthy. To those members who are not highly interested in this situation we apologize for the length of this newsletter, however, the editor thought it would be well to present the whole situation in one issue rather than it being the focus of many issues. So be forewarned that the rest of this newsletter is about Mr. Dennis and the General Conference. First, the letter to Bill Mead from Elder Larry Colburn:
Thank you for your recent letter to Elder Paulsen. He has requested that I respond to you on his behalf.
Regarding you request for additional information concerning David Dennis, I must inform you that there is adequate evidence from the church that David Dennis cannot be reinstated. He appealed to the court, but the court ruled that his charges cannot be substantiated.
Perhaps you are not aware that even the independent ministries, after recruiting him to help them, realized there were serious problems. Please note the enclosure.
While I am sorry to have to provide such a negative response, hopefully this will help you understand the situation a bit more fully. Thank you for your query.
May the Lord bless you in your daily work and witness.
EDITORIAL COMMENT CONTINUED: The enclosure was a statement published in "The Remnant Herald" April, 1999 in which they said a group of self-supporting workers had reviewed evidence confirming the charges against Mr. Dennis. They said the evidence was "considered" indisputable. They did not present the alleged evidence. They did not address the charges Mr. Dennis made against the conference leaders. It is interesting that the church leaders are evidently willing to share the alleged evidence against Mr. Dennis with the independent ministries but that they evidently do not wish to even provide a response regarding the matter to MCA upon our recent invitation. We have stated repeatedly that our primary interest in this matter is not the allegations against Mr. Dennis which we doubt we shall ever be in a position to accurately judge. Our’ primary interest is in the charges Mr. Dennis made about church leaders and operations. Still, the reluctance of the church leaders to communicate with the concerned members of MCA (and for that matter the unwillingness of the folk we have contacted in independent ministries to communicate with us), leads one to question the motives and agendas of these groups. Next the abridged open letter from Mr. Dennis to Elder Colburn:
...Your letter of September 12 came as a bit of a surprise since you had written me exactly ten months before, on November 12, 2001, and, theoretically at least, on behalf of Dr. Paulsen, had asked me to "leave this difficult chapter behind and move forward". I had done, exactly that. I trusted you would do the same. Now I find you engaged once more, as during the seven years of my legal battle, in guerrilla-style warfare. One can only speculate regarding how many other such missives you have sent out. Perhaps you could begin by telling me why I am not allowed the opportunity to meet with Dr. Paulsen or a proper representative group of selected individuals to openly discuss the facts of my destruction by certain church leaders and in proper Christian understanding resolve the matter, rather than continuing your organized smear campaign? Are you even aware that my request for a policy-provided Grievance Committee was refused in writing? Certainly, I would have accepted a fair and balanced review of the charges against me in lieu of taking out litigation.
Clearly, your attempts to vilify me are designed so that you can ignore questions regarding internal corruption in the church. It does seem strange that after spending the last 18 years of my 34 1/2 in church employ at the General Conference suddenly I am as hated as Osama bin Ladin. You speak with great authority concerning my acts of evil. This, too, is quite amazing since you have known me for at least 34 years. What "evidence" have you had of my personal alleged philandering? At one time I was foolish enough to think I could have used you for a character witness. Again, you have listened to someone else’s statements and may not even be aware of the "guilty until proven innocent" approach that was taken in my investigation.
Let's do a little analysis of your letter. You state that there is "adequate evidence" of the GC assessment of my guilt. This is, indeed, an incredible statement! A question someone needs to answer is, IF there is so much "evidence", pray WHY did the GC spend millions of dollars in the courts of Maryland over a seven year period just trying to keep this evidence from going to trial? I have never yet seen a response to that key question. You may be able to soothe the hearts of some with your authoritative rhetoric and slander, but any thinking person will know the case was dismissed from the court because of a technicality: in the U.S. currently, it seems, the church, any church, can hide its misdeeds and torts under the guise of First Amendment. It baffles me that as church members we have been taught to fight for the separation of church and state. Why? So church leaders can become corrupted and answer to no one?
In fact, the following sentence, an absolute falsehood, states that the "court ruled (the) charges cannot be substantiated". You know, and I know, and you know that I know, as do many others, there is NO such ruling by the court. The truth is that we were never able to get one shred of documentation from the GC, who filed appeal after appeal to have the case dismissed. Strange. It would have seemed only logical, IF your charges against me were even remotely factual, that you would have coveted an exoneration through a jury trial, which is all I asked for. After days of foolish and tiring depositions of me and my family, the very leaders who had been engaged by Folkenberg to find a basis to have me fired, refused to provide any information. By stark contrast the record shows, I provided the court with responses to every question raised and all the documents requested.
Your letter continues by directing the reader to documents you provide from the "independent ministries". Again, this I find unthinkable, except that in desperation you look for any possible way to prove my firing justified. I was first fired, then for the next eight years you have sought for a way to demonstrate the correctness of your actions. Unlike the GC, I stand ready at any time, to face charges leveled against me. I was asked sometime ago to meet with members of certain "independent ministries" to discuss charges brought against me. (told them I would gladly do so, but that my attorney had asked me not to make any statements until the litigation was over. I did not attend the meeting where apparently my character was assassinated in absentia. Some of those present have since sent me letters of Christian apology for being part of such a malicious group. Others listed as present, have subsequently told me they did not cast a vote. Ironically, at the time of the meeting a member of the board of the host ministry was living in open adultery. I have never seen any action recorded against him, even though he voluntarily withdrew from board membership and started his own ministry. It is not my purpose to promote the work of these ministries, but I find it puzzling that for years you have sought ways to stamp them out of existence. Some years ago, while still at the GC, I was invited to a committee where a book was being edited to try to destroy the influence of these groups. Indeed, the book was printed and circulated widely.
When I was pressured to resign from the GC, in October, 1994, I was told it was likely I could keep my credentials. When I was fired, in great hostility, my credentials were taken away. May I ask, if I could keep the credentials when resigning what changed the gravity of the crime if I was fired instead? My esteemed ex-friend, I chose not to resign because it would have been tantamount to an admission of guilt. I was not guilty of the ghastly charges brought against me by an emotionally troubled individual who suffered from false memory of some 12 years earlier. Every time I hear ... is the special speaker at a camp meeting or other public event I cringe. He was once elected to lead the ministerial association of the General Conference. You may wish to look into this, but I believe he not only did not lose his credentials for known guilt, but he never missed a day of pay. Today he is involved not only in speaking at the sacred desk, but also is considered a role model for young people. Numberless other similar cases fill the protected files of your offices. When did you last write someone a letter exposing the evils of the likes of ...? Why, my ex-friend, was I singled out for this uneven treatment?
Some say you (corporately) hate me because I exposed the financial shenanigans of those in high places. May I just state for the earthly record (as the heavenly one will corroborate) that I was only doing my job. In spite of the furors created, I do not believe any professional would challenge my responsibility in the way I dealt with observed corruption as the director for internal auditing for the world church, a position I was elected to and re-elected to fill. Others state that I am hated because I dared to bring a lawsuit. I personally believe there is a flaw in our justice system. As American citizens we have the "right to a trial by jury". Why should anyone, a church included, be able to deny us that right? Why, at the time I was under such attack, was the church allowed with impunity to sue Rafael Perez in court for his humble little group of believers in Florida?
Church leadership has failed in its commitment to provide a definitive investigation of the charges I brought in public documents in February, 1995. His Highness has placed his signet on a letter, dated February 25, 2002, stating that he has washed his hands of the case and it is closed....
EDITORIAL COMMENT CONTINUED: In our letter to Mr. Dennis asking for a more comprehensive treatment we suggested that he consider addressing the allegations against him, his response to these allegations, his allegations concerning the conference and its leaders and a section with suggestions about the kinds of problems in church operations for which church members should be alert.
Our letter to Elder Colburn of January 18, we invited him to present the conference’s view:
Dear Elder Colburn:
I am the editor of the quarterly newsletter of Members for Church Accountability. There have been several open letters written lately regarding the termination of Mr. David Dennis from the GC and the allegations he made upon leaving office. Our readers have a continuing interest in this situation, especially in the picture of church integrity Mr. Dennis presents. Rather than merely to continue to pass on to our readers the sometimes fragmentary insights provided by these open letters and other letters passed on to us, we thought that it would be well to ask both sides in this area of concern to present their view of things. This letter is to invite you or whoever is the right person to do so, to send us an official statement or summary of the churches position with respect to the charges of misconduct in the church that he has made, such as those in his lawsuit documents. We do hope that now that his case is no longer in court, whatever reasons the church felt they had for not making statements about this situation no longer apply. I am aware that in a letter of February 25, 2002 Elder Paulsen did not make further statements about the facts of the case and declined to initiate an investigation. Not withstanding, it seems right to make this invitation.
In case you ace not aware of it, we have a web site at www.members.aol.com/advmca/home.htm now being rehosted as www.advmca.org On this web site you can view past MCA newsletters and some statements about MCA’s position on this matter. Briefly, we have always taken the position that we can not make an evaluation of the charges made against Mr. Dennis because we do not have access to such information, nor do we ask to have access to such information. We do, however, think that our continuing interest in his case is justified for several reasons. First, is the fact that Mr. Dennis was the head of the GO auditing department. Merely the fact that a man in this position is fired should rightly cause a high level of interest among church members. Second, is the list of accusations against church conduct that Mr. Dennis made in bringing his case to court. It seems to us members that any accusation made by a church auditor should receive a high level of member attention. Third, is the fact that although we make no evaluation of the specific charges by the church leading to Mr. Dennis’ firing, the uncommonly harsh treatment of Mr. Dennis and other reports we have heard, would support the notion that this was essentially a political lynching within the church. We have repeatedly asked for an independent investigation of the charges made by Mr. Dennis. If Mr. Dennis’ charges were shown to be false in such an investigation and if it were apparent to all that the investigation was fair and independent, it would go a long way toward dispelling the notion that this was a political lynching. We would invite you to again state the church’s position regarding such an investigation as part of your response.
We would hope for a response that does not exceed three or four pages for use in our newsletter. We would gladly receive a more lengthy and thorough response in addition to a summary for our newsletter if you chose to provide it. We will be preparing our next newsletter in about a month. We would appreciate, if you would be so kind, an indication in the near future of whether or not you intend to respond.
EDITORIAL COMMENT CONTINUED: Elder Colburn has not responded to our letter, even to indicate that he intends to respond. Mr. Dennis did respond. Below is his article. In Mr. Dennis’s article he mentions several names. We have substituted " ... " for several of these names, others we have not. I would like to explain why we omitted some names but not others. Mr. Dennis mentions allegations of sexual misconduct by other church leaders. His point in doing so does not seem to be to expose such misconduct, but rather to show that the treatment he was given, even it the allegations against him were true, was very unusual. We agree that Mr. Dennis had no special insight into such matters of sexual misconduct or any special oversight responsibility in that regard. Therefore, we have not printed the names of these individuals. However, Mr. Dennis as head auditor for the GC was indeed given a special responsibility regarding the financial conduct of the church. Because of his former position, allegations of financial misconduct that Mr. Dennis makes are of special importance to the church and we believe it is appropriate to pass on to members the names of those of whom the allegations are made. Even here, however, we have made a distinction between major public figures within the church and those who have not accepted such a visible role. We have not included the names of these less public individuals in an effort to be conservative in our mention of names.
INSIDE THE GENERAL CONFERENCE - An Auditor’s Perspective
Eight years ago my eighteen-year service to the General Conference (GO) as Director of Auditing came to an abrupt and destructive end. In these intervening years, and continuing to the present time, I have suffered a great deal of hateful and vengeful treatment at the hands of those with whom I had once worked and enjoyed fellowship. Some say this reaction is because I chose to take my case to a secular tribunal after the door closed to my appeal for an official grievance within the church system. This may in part be true, but there is a pervasive attitude within the leadership of the church against perceived "whistle blowers." There was further conflict over the question of to whom the auditor is responsible. It has been my firm conviction that first and foremost, the auditor is responsible to the constituents, rather than the administration of the church.
The Termination Plot
Soon after Robert Folkenberg was elected to succeed Neal Wilson as GO President in 1990, he began an overhaul of Church Governance to secure total presidential control. This reorganization included removing the independence of denominationally employed auditors. We had fought many battles to gain a level of independence that made auditing free of controls that would inhibit our work. We had only recently found it necessary to report on the conflict of interest between Folkenberg, McClure, and the leadership of the Columbia Union. I was asked if removing the independence of auditors was a concern to me. My response was that as long as I was in charge of auditing there would be no fear in reporting our findings. Folkenberg's solution was to remove the auditor!
Recognizing that a sure way to destroy a church employee is to conceive a sex scandal, Folkenberg engaged a vice-presidential associate, Kenneth Mittleider, late in 1992 to find a way to so scandalize me that I would not only be terminated from my post as head auditor, but that the effects of the reports over which I was responsible would be forever destroyed. With the assistance of GC attorney Walter Carson, a false document was prepared and signed as an affidavit, by ..., a resident in the state of ..., but who at that time was undergoing psychotherapy treatments in .... She had, at one time nearly 20 years before, been a ward in our home.
... signed the document, alleging that as a teenager I had molested her and had engaged in illicit sexual activities with her as an adult. The document was entirely false. We can only assume that her participation and charges were a manifestation of False Memory Syndrome, caused by extensive life-long psychological counseling. Alas, this woman provided Mittleider and Carson with a solution to their assignment. When I refused to admit to these lurid charges I was urged to resign, with a promise that they would make it "nasty" for me, if I did not. Believing that a resignation is tantamount to an admission of guilt, I could not and would not resign. So, after heavy lobbying efforts by Mittleider, Carson, and Folkenberg, the GO Committee voted, with a bare policy-required two-thirds margin, on December 22, 1994, to terminate my services, benefits and credentials "immediately."
Response to the Charges
I have yet to see any credible evidence to substantiate and prove the charges. In fact, at the time of my dismissal, Attorney Carson admitted that the GC could not prove my guilt. The approach taken by Folkenberg and his collaborators was that I "was guilty until proven innocent." They had a clear opportunity to prove my guilt in court, a venue that they chose to avoid at considerable cost. It is nigh impossible, and totally contrary to fairness and justice, for the burden of proof to be placed on the accused. I have found an incredible lack of consistency in dealing with similar allegations brought against other church employees, such as ..., ..., ..., ..., and many more. It is recognized by the Honorable Congressman, Roscoe Bartlett, a life-long loyal Seventh-day Adventist, that church leaders are master "Spin Doctors." Rather than producing "evidence" they have written letters, only a limited few have I seen, and spoken to countless souls giving their side of the story. Never once has my position been allowed to see the light of day through any church committee or publication. Even a statement I made to the GC Committee the day I was fired was scuttled, despite my request that it be entered in the official minutes of that meeting.
But, here’s the clincher: IF the General Conference leaders felt they were in possession of such "conclusive evidence", then why were they totally unwilling to have it presented in a court of law? Obviously, nothing could have so completely exonerated the GO of possible mistreatment of an employee with nearly 35 years of service than a favorable decision by a jury of unbiased individuals. You would expect them to covet the opportunity! To proceed to a jury trial would have been the most logical and least costly manner to resolve the charges I had brought. Yet, the GO spent undisclosed amounts of church funds over a period of seven years, fighting to preclude the discovery phase of the court proceedings, the obligation of depositions, and in preventing the case from going to trial! So far no church official has provided an explanation for this strange behavior. In the absence of an official explanation, I can only conclude that their silence confirms my innocence of the charges, or they were defenseless against my allegations of high-level corruption.
Over the years I had been encouraged to leave church employ by well-meaning friends and fellow-professionals, because of my perceived inability to effect any significant changes in the denomination’s business practices. However, I resisted the temptation because I believed that I would have greater influence in bringing necessary changes to the church administrative structure from a position within the church, as an "insider". All such attempts were considered by church leadership to be meddling, and more importantly, a manifestation of disloyalty. An example, was the attitude of certain officers when, in 1990, the auditing offices, at my request, performed an unsolicited study of the costs for operating the union offices in North America. The study, which was never seriously reviewed, showed the annual operations cost an aggregate of $39 million dollars. I was chastened for performing the study. Without a critical mass of laypersons demanding church accountability and laypersons playing an expanded role in church governance, meaningful change will never become a reality.
After nearly 35 years ot uninterrupted full-time employment with the denomination 1 was terminated without financial compensation in the form of health insurance, severance pay, and retirement benefits. Then followed outright character assassination and open slander. As a result, I filed a lawsuit in the District Court in February, 1995. In that legal brief I presented what I considered motives for these actions. To my knowledge these allegations have never been addressed. Certainly no admission was ever made to me, and there has been no church directed attempt to correct the underlying problems. It is a fearful fact that too many church members simply accept as fact and truth what they are told by church leaders without ever having their concerns properly addressed.
In limited circles it was known that Robert Folkenberg had subscribed to corrupt business practices, a mafia-style of leadership, and abuse of the powers and influence vested in the highest-ranking official of the church. Mind you, there were many who wished to ride on his coat tails, including, but certainly not limited to, Alfred McClure, then recently elected vice president for North America, Ron Wisbey, president of the Columbia Union at the time of Folkenberg's elevation to office and who was recently "dismissed with honors" from the Adventist Health System for milking AHS profits for his personal use, ..., a GC departmental secretary, with whom Fo(kenberg had a life-long friendship, Ralph Watts, ADRA director with his associate, ..., Kenneth Mittleider, and Walter Carson, with whom Folkenberg had a shady personal business relationship. While this should have been followed up and reported on to the church consistency, it was largely swept under the rug with the dismissal of Folkenberg from the GC presidency.
One of the most blatant conflicts of interest existed with the operations of the office of Global Mission. GC President, Robert Folkenberg, was the dictatorial CEO, who single-handedly raised funds and decided on their destination. His brother, Donald, who was slipped into GO employ through ADRA, rather than with approval of the Personnel Committee, was chosen by his brother to be the CFO. Donald had been left unemployed after his development ventures in the South had ended in bankruptcy. Through the president’s spokesman, vice-president Robert Kloosterhuis, the Auditing Service was advised that Global Mission was off-limits for auditing. In fact, even the GC treasurer, Donald Gilbert, was forbidden involvement in the operations of Global Mission. During Folkenberg's sojourn at the helm none of the millions which flowed through this entity were audited by anyone. Brother Donald publicly admitted to carrying quantities of these funds to Eastern Europe in his pocket.
There should have been a full disclosure of the findings of the Family Enrichment Resources (FER) organization. Many high level officials of the church were involved in both the scandal and the cover up. Such names as general vice presidents ... and ..., personal cronies of Folkenberg, were involved in the activities of FER, as was ... president of the Columbia Union, and ..., for whom Neal Wilson covered up many questionable activities.
Cover up of The "parsonage exclusion" scandal Ordained ministers have long received a special treatment by the IRS with a "double dip" deduction on expenditures relating to their personal residences. Special exemptions began to be provided to an expanded list of "ministers" under the issue of women’s ordination. However, this benefit was to be extended only to "ordained" or "commissioned" clergy. Late in the 1980’s the Pacific Union, with the approval of ..., president, ..., treasurer, and the blessing of Alfred McClure, began using this tax loophole to recruit new employees and grant the benefits of the exclusion to those not even recognized as in the church "ministry". My staff came under fire for reporting this questionable practice. To my knowledge it has not been appropriately resolved.
The Wisbey factor. At the 1990 General Conference Session in Indianapolis there was considerable political competition over the replacement for Charles Bradford who was retiring as the vice president for North America. Eventually, by a thin majority McClure won. Among the losers was Ron Wisbey, who had been one of the promoters as well as a personal benefactor of investments with Dr. Davenport some years before. He was, at that juncture, president of the Columbia Union. To win back the friendships that had been strained during his campaign for the NAD presidency, Wisbey organized a fund raising to help both McClure and Folkenberg who were coming to the affluent North from the poor South. Appealing to certain wealthy donors he had funds deposited to the Columbia Union Worthy Student Fund and then passed on to the new presidents in the form of an interest-free unsecured home loan and "salaries" to the unemployed wives of the two presidents. The plan was upended, due in large measure to the auditors’ disclosures (something I was never forgiven for), but as a reward for his charity Wisbey was given a position in the Adventist Health System. When my lawsuit pointed to his earnings he immediately gave "strong denials". It was only upon the investigating of the Washington Post that it was revealed my estimates of his earnings were actually understated. The Union and General Conference officers close to the AHS situation publicly lauded the "outstanding service" of Wisbey when he was forced to disappear with his golden parachutes.
Folkenberg’s resignation was used to cover a multitude of other personal benefits he had been receiving. Like so many other points in my original lawsuit this, too, has been covered over. In addition to his personal bodyguard at denominational expense, his lawn service, appliance maintenance and renovations to his personal residence were covered by employees of the General Conference. He was operating a sales operation, using his cronies at ADRA, and a buddy from Inter-American days, ,,,, to profit from computer systems sold by companies in which he had financial interests to ADRA. He had cut a deal with a local automobile dealer to profit from sales of Hondas made to employees of the General Conference. Folkenberg advertised for the dealer through the GC Communique, a weekly publication sent to all members of the GC staff. He was earning commissions from promoting MCI to denominational interests. Clearly, he was open to personally profiteer from anything that presented itself, whether ethical or not.
Concerns of Church Members
The following are a few of the general and repeated issues, which should serve as caution indicators to lay members of the church and those who may serve in leadership or on important committees and boards:
Conflicts of interest - Due to the inherent closed nature of church leadership, special attention must be given to self-dealing. The Davenport debacle is a good example. Top church officials were receiving personal favors and benefits from Dr. Davenport, while at the same time overseeing the continuing investment of large sums of church assets with the doctor-turned-businessman.
Off limits activities — Despite progress made in auditing during my years of church employ, there were still areas where auditing was forbidden. As mentioned, Global Mission was off-limits to the auditors. Also, we were prohibited having access to audit the records of ADRA. ADRA did have an audit performed by external auditors of its headquarters operations, but much of its overseas activities totally escaped audit scrutiny. Harris Pine Mills (HPM) is another example that comes to mind. GC Auditors were prohibited, on orders from Neal Wilson, from looking at the records of HPM. However, officers and the board refused to engage independent CPA’s to perform the function. In fact, at the time of HPM’s bankruptcy, the entity while privately-held and while managed by the church, had never been audited. Nothing should be allowed to substitute for proper audit reports and monitoring of present-day church auditors has to be continued.
Lack of openness — One of the legacies inherited from the Neal Wilson dynasty was the "presidential system", which of course was refined by Robert Folkenberg. Under such a system many decisions are made in secret and without any board approval. Church members must be vigilant concerning previously undiscussed items that appear as expenditures on a financial report, as well as new acquisitions. An example here is the fact that no accounting has ever been given, either in private nor to church constituents at large, of the funds spent, both tithe and non-tithe, by the General Conference just in fighting to keep my case from going to court. Estimates by knowledgeable professionals are that the cost significantly exceeded six million dollars—a bit more than the widow's two mites, yet it has been kept in a shroud of secrecy. Clear answers are required and members should not be conned into accepting explanations that are anything other than candid.
Be careful of "smoke screens" — Due to financial failures, the Northeastern Regional Conference, in New York, began withholding tithe funds to the Atlantic Union. The auditors reported this deviation from church policy. Northeastern then refused to let "white auditors’ in to perform the audit. This "smoke screen", accusing the auditors of racism, kept fraud covered for a number of years. The constituency should have insisted that the audit reports be mandatory.
By David D. Dennis (Director of GC Auditing from 1976-1994)
Norm Smith writes: In this newsletter I try to make a separation between reasonably objective commentary included in "EDITORIAL COMMENT" and strictly personal opinion which I include under my name in a note like this one. The question can be legitimately be asked of how long do we intend to keep "beating this horse" about the firing of David Dennis and his allegations of misconduct by GC leaders. Or again, is Elder Paulsen right in asking that we put this matter behind us? Do we realistically expect to accomplish anything by continued attention to this case? What would the GO need to do to put this matter to rest?
I would indeed like to be certain of what really happened in the case of Mr. Dennis. I would like to see restitution made for any wrong done to this employee of the church. However, the primary action the church needs to take to put this matter behind us is to radically change the lack of openness and accountability in the church operation. I must admit, however, that I see little chance of either of these ever happening. How should one react to this pessimistic prospect? If Mr. Dennis can find it possible to remain a church member even in light of the past, should I not be able to do the same? I believe the answer is yes I can remain a church member. However, I would hasten to add that I do not see how I can remain a silent church member until I see convincing evidence that the environment and modes of operation that allowed this case to happen and allowed his allegations to go unaddressed, has been changed. I could not live with abandoning this church for numerous reasons. However, I can not live without doing what I can to protest a situation with such a potential of evil for the church and for such reproach for our Lord. When the Lord has been so gracious as to accept me as His friend (as He promised in the Bible) how then could I turn around and say let the Lord look after His own reputation and that of His church, I need not be involved. Yes, I indeed do think this is a terrible diversion from our task of helping our fellow men, but I can’t see any other option.
Certainly it is the Lord’s Spirit that will need to change the attitudes of leaders, but I have to hope that groups of concerned church members such as MCA can make a difference too. I have got to hope that leaders are capable of change if they would but wake up to their appalling behavior. I can’t imagine, when such serious allegations about how our church in fact operates have been raised, how any honest church leader would not go to extreme lengths to convince and to demonstrate to church members that we do not have an environment conducive to corruption. How can they keep such silence if for no other reason than their own reputation. I don’t personally know many GO leaders, however, I do know several lower level church leaders. I just can’t imagine the leaders I know being content to let this situation of doubt continue. I have got to hope that there are some such leaders at the GO also. I know I will get letters saying I am naive for hoping this. What can members hope to do if leaders do not respond? That is a whole additional discussion that is probably best left to another time.
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