Members for Church Accountability Inc.
Fourth Quarter 2003
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 2003:
MEMBERS FOR CHURCH ACCOUNTABILITY INC.
For any of you that would like to contact us by e-mail our address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. We get the usual flood of unsolicited e-mail at this address, so it would be well to title your letter in a way that will make it distinguishable from the junk. Our web site address is: http://www.advmca.org. 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 not able to continue sending you the newsletter. Your newsletter, of course, is still sent to the old address and is then discarded. We know nothing about your address change until we do a first class mailing (required every so often by the P0 for bulk mailings). At that time we either get your newsletter back with your current address or if the “P0 forwarding order” has expired, it is sent back with no current address. We then have to remove your name from our mailing list.
Richard Sheldon has now been elected as an MCA trustee. :
Work continues on publishing the prior MCA conference in book form.
Section 4 - Member Letters
This section is for printing the letters that members send in. It provides the means for members to communicate with one another. It is also one way that representative/agents can communicate with those in their group. Needless to say, these letters do not speak for the MCA organization itself. So far as time and budget allow, we intend to print all letters from members which appear to be written for inclusion in the newsletter (please say so if you do not wish your letter to be printed). We will print the shortest letters first. Where it seems appropriate, the editor will make comments in response to letters.
Norm Smith writes: As noted above most conference treasurers did not bother to respond to our letter inquiring about obtaining a financial statement. I do appreciate those who did respond. While disappointed at the general unwillingness to share information, I have to view the willingness to respond to a letter as a major step better than the lack of response we sometimes get from the GC. I thought readers might be interested in reading a response. The letter from G. Thomas Evans, the treasurer of the Mid-America Union was one of the more thoughtful responses. His letter follows together with my letter back to him.
Generally speaking, it appears that conference treasurers are willing to share some information with a member of their own constituency provided it is on an individual basis. Perhaps they feel that individual inquiries can be more easily brushed aside. The thought of interacting with an organization of concerned church members seems to be more than they wish to deal with. What strikes me the most is that almost all conference treasurers (and presumably presidents) seem to have no appreciation of the enormous absurdity of this whole situation. Church leaders expect that members should contribute ten pIus percent of their income to the church, yet they seem insulted when members attempt to verify that the church is operated with a high ethical standard. Even when a significant number of members have joined in an organized effort to obtain accountable behavior, they amazingly do not seem to be asking "what is wrong with this picture?"
Albert C. Koppel writes: Perhaps an effective means to nudge conferences who are not willing to be transparent would be for MCA members who wish to send their tithe to conferences that are transparent and at the same time inform their un-transparent conferences that as soon as they become transparent they will again send their tithe to them.
A denominational employee recently permitted me to read the news letter that I believe accompanied his sustentation check. That news letter reported that tithe in the United States was down to approximately 30% of the membership returning tithe.
What will it take to get leaders to wake up? Why is it so difficult for them to reason from cause to affect?
EDITORIAL COMMENT: MCA as an organization has not taken a position on recommending that church members change their tithe paying patterns. This is such an important individual matter. However, I personally find myself in sympathy with your suggestion.
Dan Lopez writes: Today, 1-17-04, a friend of mine who lives in the Sacramento area phoned me to tell me she had learned that the Georgia Cumberland Conference had no money to pay their employees.
Statements like this one create a lot of "rumors", but no one seems to have a way to prove them.
I am in your mailing list. I not only read your letter, but share it with concerned friends who have faithfully supported the Church for years.
Could you please, tell me what the situation is?
Norm Smith responded: Thanks for your letter. Your mentioning this situation is the first that I have heard. That is not surprising as I have no special connections to hear anything in conference affairs. I appreciate knowing but I must admit that I wouldn't know what to do about it if it is true. Would you like me to print your letter in the newsletter?
Dan Lopez wrote back: I have no problems with that. I was just hoping that people who are better informed than I would have had an answer. I am sure that by now you know about Florida. Thanks for your concerns for our Church.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Since this exchange of letters, additional information regarding troubles in the South Central Conference and the Northeastern Conference has come available. These conferences are involved in lawsuits that allege misdealing and conflict of interest in the purchase of certain health care facilities. This has the appearance of being an important affair for these conferences. We will not comment further at present but rather wait until we have more complete information.
Debby Winters Marlin writes: 1) I greatly appreciate those of you trying to encourage more openness in the SDA system and I really appreciated the information in the 2003 Third Quarter newsletter. Norm Smith's work/responses are the thoughts that have been floating around in my brain for years, leading me to make contributions to Independent Ministries (forbid...). I am saddened that the Adventist system has become so closed to the concerns of the members, but encouraged by the few like Elder Evans who may be willing to dialogue. It must be remembered that this may be the "good 'ole boy" system" where your job is on the line if you go "outside the corporate box."
2) My family has known David Dennis and wife for many years. I appreciate the work David has done and those who have supported him in words and deeds. [This writer describes additional insights recently acquired.] Let's not hold David up as more than he was: An apparently honest GC treasurer.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: In this newsletter we have always admitted our limited knowledge of events resulting in the firing of Mr. Dennis. Our claim is that when the church's head auditor makes allegations of misdeeds on the part of church leaders, these claims should be thoroughly investigated and full public disclosure made to church members. This is true whatever the circumstances of his firing.
Michel Aimonetti writes: I found my name in your newsletter about an article I wrote in 1997 when I was treasurer of the south France conference (cf Peter Van der Paal letter). I never met Van der Paal but I persist in my declaration: Nothing has to be hidden to the church members and I always work for that point. Surely, they have to be competent to understand accountability and in our conferences in France we have lay members who could answer everything they want to see in the records and accounts without restriction. It is an ethical position and I don't know if there is official SDA policy on this matter. I only know that it is a biblical position! (Ezra 8: 34 Exodus 38:21).
I support your action for the improvement of the accountancy of the church and for a better transparency and participation of the "laic" members in management of the church in all the levels. God bless you!
Una and Tom Turner write: Dear Friends - I really appreciate the newsletters coming through from time to time and wish there was more we could do to solve some of the problems - but then it must be left to the few who care enough to put out newsletters such as you are doing.
It must have been disappointing to get such a poor response from the Accountants and Treasurers in their various fields re accountability in their areas.
Thanks again for the newsletter and may the Lord continue to bless you all who are concerned with writing and producing it.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: I would not say that we were surprised by the responses (and lack thereof) from most of the conferences. Although we rather suspected this might be the case, we thought that we should make certain that this was the case. Thanks for the encouragement. We each do what we can. I do hope, however, that there are a number of MCA members who can and will do more than leave it to those writing newsletters, and will take the initiative themselves to push for change in their hierarchy of conferences.
Leonard Willett writes: The response to the requests for financial statements was rather sad.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Indeed.
Gideon Haas writes: No doubt some unethical things are going on in some places. If some MCA members could serve on Conference Committees, they could see and judge what is going on. I know some auditors personally, and I think they are very knowledgeable and reliable. I do trust our Colorado leaders - fine men. Some of the stories you have printed here, none of our group could prevent. They are local problems.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: I certainly agree with most of your comments. However, I would not minimize the importance of local problems. Most problems are local. We need to change the environment of tolerance for such events in our church. Not all tolerate such situations, of course, but too many of us tolerate the lack of openness and transparency in many conferences that allows such things to more readily occur. I might also mention that one of the primary reasons for calling attention to both local and wider problems is that many church members are simply not aware that there is any reason for concern.
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