Members for Church Accountability Inc.
1999 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 1999:
Section 2 Trustees Reports
Norm Smith - Secretary Treasurer
For any of you that would like to contact us by e-mail our address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our web site address is: http://www.advmca.org. 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. This is an economical means of spreading the word about MCA. Mailings 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 have had no response from Elder Paulsen to the letter sent to him asking for permission to audit church records and to have some sort of "freedom of information" in our church. We printed this letter in our last newsletter. We have the postal receipt for delivery of that letter from November 30, 1999. Again we are not so naive as to think that such audits would be allowed without careful consideration. If they are not yet allowed, we have taken the necessary first step in working toward this goal. We will keep our members and readers informed should we receive a response.
We have begun efforts to get the owners of other SDA related websites to include links to the MCA website.
Section 3 - Amendments and Elections
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.. We will print the shortest letters first. Where it seems appropriate, the editor will make comments in response to letters.
Ruby N. Smith writes (in part):
You wrote an excellent letter to Elder Paulsen. I have doubts that he will accommodate MCA with an excellent letter.
Margaret Cooke writes (in part):
Honesty amongst the leadership seems to be a thing of the past. I believe that the majority of our members who sit comfortably in their pews from week to week have no idea of what is going on 'behind the scenes' and need to have their eyes opened. Then hopefully, they too will raise their voices in protest. But it seems to me that our members have developed a very R. C. way of thinking, and believe that the 'priests' can do nothing wrong, and it suits our leaders to have them to think this way.
Henry Pryor writes (in part):
I am concerned for our leadership and our people. May the Holy Spirit guide us in doing the right and all of us in doing the Lord's will. I pray that the Lord will resolve it.
Norm Smith writes:
Even though it is not a surprise to not receive a response from the general conference to the letter MCA sent them, it is rather disappointing that the conference will not at least give some answer to a letter from an organization of almost 1700 concerned church members. For now at least, it appears that they will just ignore us. One might expect that they will keep on ignoring us until enough church members become concerned about church accountability. Keep talking to your friends and passing the word about MCA and what it is trying to do.
On another topic, perhaps most of our members are already aware of events concerning the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville MD. The Washington Post has reported on the large severance packages of a few officers of this troubled hospital who have recently departed the hospital. A couple of these packages have been in the 3 and 4 million dollar range. I am not suggesting that these large packages were illegal or improper, but it is significant that we don't know. It is my understanding that the various "Adventist" hospital systems are legally independent of the church itself. It is also my understanding that the boards of directors of these hospitals are very heavily populated by church officers. I have no information on exact numbers but I have heard of several cases of church officers migrating to the hospital system for employment at much higher salaries. Again there is nothing necessarily illegal in this.
What troubles me is that we may have allowed a situation to develop in the relationship between the hospital system and the church that is very unhealthy for the church, and also for the hospitals. I understand that years ago people trained as ministers would often be placed in hospital administrative positions for which they were ill suited. Changes were made to hire trained hospital administrators. These administrators were paid much higher salaries than they would have gotten under the denominational wage scale. Also as the hospitals became very large businesses the legal separation between hospitals and church was made clear to protect the church from liability. These changes doubtless solved some pressing problems but they may have created new problems in the process.
First, we have the problem of Adventist ministers, church officers, sitting on the boards of directors of the hospitals giving direction to hospital administrators who have salaries many times larger than the ministers. This can't help but be a very tempting situation for the lower paid ministers to look for ways to share the wealth. At the very least it would not seem to be a situation that would help the morale amongst the ministers. Second, there is the potential conflict of interest for the church officers sitting on hospital boards, to be overly generous with the hospital officers, knowing that they themselves may someday be seeking positions as hospital officers. In government circles this is known as the "revolving door." For example, government officials who oversee the governments dealings with drug companies or with military suppliers are sometimes very lenient with those companies, then suddenly they are given lucrative positions in the companies they once regulated. The government has now established strict rules to prevent this practice, although many think they are not strict enough. It would seem that this possibility would be a great concern to the church also.
I am not suggesting that the members of MCA have all the answers to the many complex issues in the relationship of the hospitals to the church. I am suggesting that MCA's goals of full accountability of the church and all its dealings, to the church members is very relevant here. At the very least the relationship between the hospitals and the church should be open to full view within the church. Church members should be well informed about church wage scales and hospital administrative wage scales and the disparity between them. Concerned members or groups of concerned members, such as MCA, should be allowed full access to all records relevant to the dealings between the church and the hospitals. The potential for public exposure is one of the best deterrents to conflict of interest. The goal of MCA in making church officers more directly accountable to members through reforms in church election and governance bylaws is also relevant in this regard.
We must be very careful about accusations of impropriety on the part of church and hospital officers. What is glaringly clear, however, is the flagrant lack of accountability of church officers to the church members regarding the dealings of the church with the hospitals. Why should church members ever have to be surprised by first hearing of a problem through a public newspaper. Any problem areas that might develop should be clearly and openly laid before the church membership well before they would attract the attention of a public newspaper. Church officers should welcome independent investigations into all their activities rather than simply ignoring groups such as MCA.
There are those who believe that MCA is overreacting to problems within the church. I very much disagree with this view. To me, honesty, truthfulness and candor are so essential to representing Christ in this world, that complete assurance of the integrity of all the churches dealings should be a major concern of every church member. I find no indication that God promises to take care of such matters without our involvement.
We include the following blank for use in recruiting new members. ( Make lots of copies to pass around. )
MEMBERS for CHURCH ACCOUNTABILITY, INC. (MCA) APPLICATION (nl1Q99)
/__/ I wish to be a member of the General Conference Reform Group
You will receive the MCA newsletter.
Send to: Members for Church Accountability, Inc.
PO Box 1072
Morrison, CO 80465