-------- Original Message --------
||G. Arthur Joy, Gregory Matthews, Bob Pickle, Linda Shelton,
Deb Young, Ron Christman,
Walt Thompson, Danny Shelton
||Comments re the process
||Sun, 03 Dec 2006 18:06:59 -0800
Good Morning Friends;
CONFIDENTIAL-FYEO DO NOT REDISTRIBUTE
Thank you for your involvement in discussions aimed at achieving an
agreeable process for issues involving 3ABN and some of its' personnel. I
have read with interest the ideas and background information sent by Mathew
and Bob. Art and I have had 2 extended conversations that have helped me
appreciate some of your concerns and perspectives. We are all committed
Seventh-day Adventist Christians who have a good faith interest in resolving
our issues. I appreciate each of your willingness to work in confidentiality
to attempt agreement on a process.
I wish to confirm that those of us from ASI have no predetermined "ax to
grind", except to be used in a process that will hopefully bring resolution
to some obvious problems. I am a newcomer to the public discussions that
have been swirling around. My initial reaction to Debby Young when she
contacted me about possible ASI involvement was: "Don't get involved"! As we
have reflected on it further we believe the issues, including the impact on
the Church, are of such importance that it is essential that we make our
best efforts to assist. In the last 32 years ASI has only gotten involved
in "external" issues two or three times. In each instance it resulted in
benefit to our members and ASI.
I know there are many issues being discussed. I have counted at least 23 in
the last few weeks. Some issues are already the subject of ongoing
litigation. The request from the 3ABN Board of Directors to ASI was:
..."request to ASI that it establish a commission to evaluate and determine
Danny's' legal and moral right to remarry". ASIs' membership criteria
includes a component that requires the applicant or its leaders to be in
regular standing with the SDA Church. We check that factor in every
application. Membership in the SDA Church is the exclusive province of the
local church (except for membership in the "Conference Church", not involved
here). The rather unique situation of the Church associated with 3ABN
creates a different perspective from the typical SDA Church on matters of
All of us know ASI has no jurisdiction to act as a court with authority to
make orders and awards that disputants are required to follow. What we may
have that could be of assistance is some stature and credibility that would
make its' findings hard for the parties to ignore. This can only have a
possibility of succeeding if the parties support and respect that potential.
Because of ASI's membership requirements there is some logic for ASI's
involvement on issues that directly reflect on 3ABNs' membership status in
ASI. We believe that ASI could properly focus on issues revolving around the
biblical appropriateness of the Shelton's divorce and Danny's subsequent
remarriage, issues relating to Linda's and Danny's employment status at 3ABN
and actions taken concerning Linda's membership in the local SDA Church.
Because of my career as a trial lawyer I have familiarity with court
process. There are some basic concepts of fair play and order that we can
borrow without becoming involved in a court trial with all its grinding
impact on all involved. The following are some fundamentals I think we need
A clear statement of the issues we are addressing and
the basis of all decisions reached by the panel i.e. What are
biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage as expressed in the
SDA Church Manual?
A fair and predictable time table of requirements and
schedule of events. For example who will proceed on which issues
and how will the available time be allotted?
A process that requires each side, in a timely fashion,
to identify those who will give information and the essence of
their expected facts, including authority for the panel to refuse
to consider offered information that was not previously disclosed.
A mutually required disclosure of documentary information
furnished simultaneously to all sides. The right of each party
to request of the other parties documents relevant to issues
on reasonable time tables i.e. within twenty days after the request.
A prohibition of all sides from unilateral contact with
Findings of fact by the panel that are based upon the
information provided in the process and not from any private
Recommendations of the panel that are relevant to the
facts they find to be true.
A private hearing environment that is for all parties
and panelists fair, orderly, comfortable, and free of intimidation.
The primary questioning of people appearing before it to be done
by the panel under the direction of its' chairperson. The parties
or their representative will have opportunity to submit to the
panel written questions and lines of inquiry not covered by the
panel. We expect that the hearing process will involve much prayer
for wisdom, discernment, and truth.
In the hearing meeting an opportunity by the parties
or their representative to provide an introductory statement
orally or in writing as to their position on the issues, their
supporting facts and the outcome they expect. During the hearing
any Information not relevant to the agreed upon issues will be
excluded. After the presentation of all information the parties
or their representative will have the opportunity to make comment
on the information presented and why it supports their position.
Panelists selected by ASI, with input from the parties,
will be persons that are fair, intelligent, and spiritual, without
preconceived opinions as to the outcome or any stake personally
or philosophically in the outcome.
The timely, perhaps within 30 days, rendition by the
panelist to ASI and the parties of its factual conclusions and
recommendations for action.
I believe the items mentioned (and perhaps others should be included as
well) are directly transferable concepts from legal process without the
labels and jargon. There are other court practices that I don't think fit
Direct and cross examination by legal counsel.
Subpoena power to compel attendance and production of documents and things.
The use of a "judge" to direct the process, trial counsel representing the parties, and a jury to find the facts and apply them to the law.
The use of orders, judgments or decrees.
The creation of a record by electronic recording or a reporter.
Taking of depositions or discovery interrogatories.
ASI functions almost completely through volunteers, except for a small staff
of three or four employees at the NAD/GC facilities. The current officers
do not have the availability to become involved in this matter and carry on
their other commitments to ASI and their ministries or businesses. Except
for the current officers and those ASI members who are excludable by # 10
above would be eligible for consideration as well as other qualified SDA
church members. We expect that there will be a gender balance. We are open
to proposed panelist completing an agreed questionnaire that would be
revealing of their background and biases. Keep in mind that the panelists
will be volunteers and would not likely accept an assignment that is unduly
You may have learned that it is the ASI position that there needs to be a
balance between the process of being open and on the other hand be
respectful of the legitimate privacy concerns of the parties. Government,
worldly businesses, charitable organizations and the Church all recognize
this need. When sensitive personnel matters are under consideration Boards
typically go into executive session for such discussions. Accordingly we
expect that this process would do the same and that information and
documentation would be received and held in confidence by all of the parties
and their representatives. At the conclusion of the matter the Panelists
findings of facts and recommendations would become publicly available.
I have requested that all of the parties select a representative to work
with me in not just deciding the process but to make it happen. I have had
no direct contact with either Danny or Linda and to a very limited extent
with Dr. Walt Thompson on behalf of 3ABN. I also asked him to convey my
request to Danny that he consider the selection of a representative and that
public discussions cease as I believe they are counter productive to our
focus. It is my preference that I work with a selected representative for
each party so that we have a defined way of communicating needed
information. If any of you would like further information on my background I
will respond. I can clearly state that I have no preconceived opinion of
the facts or an outcome.
I have been asked about what is meant by a neutral site in the area. I know
it shouldn't be at 3ABN, but should be convenient to where most of the
involved people are located. Whether that is 50 miles or 500 away from
3ABN, I don't know, but I don't think it should be across the country
I realize that our proposals don't meet all of your expectations, but I do
think it will work, that it will be fair, and the results will be better
than what's out there now.
I suggest you look this over prayerfully and carefully. Give me your ideas
and if looks like we are far enough along I'll revise my initial proposal
and distribute it.
Thank you for your willingness to address this important matter.