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February 12, 2007
Posted February 12th, 2007 by webmaster

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ADVENTIST NEWS Round up

Tommy Shelton Retires from 3ABN
Virginia church meets to address allegations of sexual misconduct

By Edwin D. Schwisow, for ATNewsbreak (09 February 2007).

Facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, Tommy Shelton, production manager at Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN) and brother of 3ABN President Danny Shelton, announced his retirement in a December 31, 2006 broadcast of 3ABN Live. Although not owned or operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, many of 3ABN's employees and volunteers are Adventist Church members. In a telephone interview with a representative of Adventist Today, Danny Shelton confirmed that his brother had left the employ of 3ABN for "health reasons."

Virginia Church Allegations

Tommy Shelton's retirement comes just four weeks after the Community Church of God in Dunn Loring, Virginia, held a December 3, 2006, business meeting to address accusations made by several young men that Tommy had molested them while he was pastor of the church. Following the meeting, church leaders read a carefully-worded statement, apprising the congregation of the accusations against Shelton and how they, as parishioners, should best respond. The church leaders prepared the statement under the advisement of their insurance carrier, Brotherhood Mutual, which had become involved after a young man came to the church with allegations that Tommy, during his pastorate, had molested him. The young was a minor when he says was abused. He is the third in recent months to come forward to Community Church of God leaders, accusing Shelton of making inappropriate sexual advances, according to Glenn Dryden, current pastor of the church.

A History of Allegations

This is not the first time Tommy has been accused of inappropriate sexual activity with underage males. During much of the 1980s, Tommy pastored the Ezra Church of God in his hometown of West Frankfort, Illinois. While there, he worked closely with a 12-grade school, whose property bordered the church. During this time, a teenage boy, who was a student at the school, accused Tommy of soliciting him for a sexual relationship. According to Dryden, who pastored the West Frankfort church in the 1990s, three additional boys also made similar allegations, prompting civil authorities to become involved. Following a police investigation, Tommy was not charged with a crime, but the allegations were serious enough to prompt Church of God officials to intervene. In a letter dated October 25, 1985, the General Assembly of the Church of God in Illinois revoked Tommy's ordination. They listed their reasons for doing so as "improper counseling procedures," "numerous charges of misconduct," a criminal investigation into sexual abuse charges by the local police, and controversy surrounding Tommy's ministry and lifestyle. Ultimately Tommy's lack of cooperation in the disciplinary process, Dryden says, led the Church of God in Illinois to drop the Ezra Church of God from its roster of affiliated congregations.

In the early 1990s, further allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against Tommy and in 1991 Tommy resigned as pastor of the Ezra Church of God, citing health concerns.

Allegations at 3ABN

Shortly after Tommy resigned his post as pastor, Danny invited him to join 3ABN as production manager. During his time at 3ABN, a member of Tommy's production staff, who was in his early twenties at the time, says Tommy made a sexual advance toward him. Shortly after what he calls his "uncomfortable situation," the former employee says he confronted Danny Shelton with what had happened. In response, Danny assured the young man that he would no longer have to answer to Tommy and that 3ABN administrators would "work things out."

In late 1992, Elder Bj Christensen, then president of the Illinois Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, approached two members of Danny's family, asking them to make a statement in regard to improprieties they had observed in Tommy's behavior. Elder Christiansen transcribed the statement and brought it to the attention of the 3ABN board, on which he then sat.

At a subsequent 3ABN board meeting, Tommy was terminated as production manager. Shortly thereafter, 3ABN outfitted him with a touring bus and sent him as a 3ABN representative, giving gospel concerts and promoting 3ABN to cable companies throughout the United States.

Connections in Virginia

During the time he was promoting 3ABN, he visited the Community Church of God in Dunn Loring. After learning that Tommy had experience with media ministry, the church offered him a position as a media consultant. Later he was hired as assistant pastor for media ministries. When the church's senior pastor left for missionary service in March 1996, Tommy was named as his replacement.

Further allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced during his tenure in Dunn Loring, and in 2000, members of Tommy's own family confronted him about what they saw as inappropriate activities between him and his adopted son. His family also shared their concerns about his relationship with an underage male from the church.

In the face of the new allegations, Tommy once again announced he was having medical problems in 2002 and resigned as pastor of the Community Church of God, moving with his wife and family to Marion, Kentucky, an hour and a half drive from 3ABN. Later that year, Tommy was hired as 3ABN tape and masters archive librarian, without the formal approval of the 3ABN board of directors, a group that had fired him just 10 years before.

Pastor Contacts 3ABN

In the spring of 2003, Dryden, then pastor of the Ezra Church of God in West Frankfort, penned a letter outlining his concerns about Tommy Shelton. He distributed it to a handful of leaders of Church of God camp meeting associations, whom he knew, in the past, had invited Tommy to speak at their church meetings.

He later sent the letter to Dr. Walter Thompson, 3ABN board chairman, advising him that "at least six boys in our community were sexually abused" by Tommy. He told Thompson that Tommy's ordination was not in good standing with either the Church of God in Illinois or Virginia and offered to give Thompson the phone numbers of the family members of Tommy's purported victims so that 3ABN could follow up on the situation.

Thompson spoke with Dryden and then brought the letter to the attention of Danny Shelton. Danny brushed the letter off as 30-year old news, attributing it to a long-standing feud between Dryden and Tommy. After meeting with Danny, Thompson brought the letter to the full 3ABN board at its June 2003 meeting. The board, due to its belief that the events had happened many years before; Tommy's assurance that he had attempted to make things right; and the fact that no legal action had been taken against Tommy, voted to allow Tommy's relationship with 3ABN to continue.

Further Allegations

In the Spring of 2004, Roger W. Clem, a 32 year-old man who had attended the Ezra Church of God during his teenage years, released a letter he had written to Tommy, accusing him of sexual abuse. In his letter, which he later posted on the Internet, Clem claims Tommy had ruined 15 years of his life. He says that he is sick of Tommy's manipulative behavior, including his claims of illness to divert attention away from allegations of sexual misconduct.

On June 4, 2004, Linda Shelton signed a Separation Agreement with 3ABN, ending her employment with the ministry. Later that year, Tommy moved into her old office at 3ABN and assumed her role as programming director. During his time at 3ABN he traveled with his brother to 3ABN gatherings around the world, many times playing the piano as Danny sang. He also began playing the piano for the Kids Time show on 3ABN.

Late in 2006, Duane Clem, Roger's brother, shared with close associates that Tommy had molested him, as well. In a statement released in January 2007, Clem accused Tommy of initiating a sexual relationship with him when he was 19, at times using 3ABN buildings for their assignations. Clem says the growing number of allegations against Tommy prompted him to come forward with his claims.

Adventist Investigators

Much of the pressure that Tommy Shelton now faces has come from the efforts of a small, informal network of Seventh-day Adventist individuals. Many in the group categorize themselves as conservative Adventists, a constituency 3ABN has long relied on for key support. For the past five months, this unpaid volunteer group has investigated a number of allegations against Danny Shelton and 3ABN. Some they have found to be true, while others have proved to be false. Doing their work primarily via telephone and e-mail, the group has interviewed dozens of people who have had connections with 3ABN and the Shelton family over the last 20 years.

Two members of the network—Gailon Arthur Joy, a loan officer trainer from Sterling, Massachusetts, and Bob Pickle, a webmaster and Adventist apologist from Halstad, Minnesota—have posted the findings of their investigation on the Internet. Both men espouse belief in a historical, conservative Adventist theology, including the traditional church teachings about 1844 and Ellen G. White, and say that before starting their investigation, they had positive feelings toward 3ABN and its ministry.

"3ABN was an integral part of our home TV viewing for more than a decade. My family members have contributed heavily to 3ABN (financially)," says Joy. Joy spearheaded an effort as late as May 2006 to pass out over 6,000 copies of Danny Shelton's book Ten Commandments Twice Removed.

Joy and Pickle say they only began investigating when concerned Adventist friends urged them to help them verify or dismiss rumors of misconduct at the 3ABN. As they conducted their initial investigation, both men became impressed that what was happening behind the scenes at 3ABN didn't mesh with the rosy picture they had seen on their television screens.

In late 2006, Joy, who has experience as a legal clerk, was asked by Linda Shelton to represent her as she negotiated the ground rules for an inquiry by Adventist-laymenís Services and Industries (ASI) into the propriety of her divorce from Danny Shelton. Harold Lance, a retired attorney and former president of the self-supporting organization, Outpost Centers Incorporated, led the inquiry. In early 2007, the ASI-brokered negotiations fell apart early, due in part to the inability of the two parties to reach an understanding on the manner or scope of the inquiry. Lance, who had been asked to head up the inquiry by the ASI Executive Committee in October, summarized the dissolution of the inquiry in an e-mail statement on January 5.

"For approximately three months ASI has deeply considered itsí involvement in issues involving 3ABN in three special Executive Committee meetings called for that purpose and multiple other contacts." Lance wrote. "It now appears that it is not appropriate for ASI to be involved."

Joy has registered a website at www.save3abn.com that contains documents and statements from various sources involved in the group's investigation of Tommy Shelton. As of press time, the site had received more than 1,900 hits.

Joy and Pickle have a growing list of e-mail contacts, many in church leadership, to whom they plan to send periodic communication, chronicling what they see as areas in which 3ABN must be held to higher accountability.

Adventist Today offered Dr. Thompson, in his capacity as 3ABN Board Chairman, an opportunity to confirm, disconfirm, or provide additional information concerning the accuracy of the parts of this report that cover areas about which he had direct, personal knowledge.

In an e-mail to the Executive Editor of Adventist Today, he stated that in view of a conversation that he had had with Danny Shelton, he would "withhold further comment at present." [To comment or inquire about this story, e-mail AToday]

Southern Illinois Hometown City Leaders Laud Danny Shelton's Support

By Edwin D. Schwisow, for ATNewsbreak (09 February 2007).

Danny Shelton, 3ABN president, is very willing to lend a helping hand financially to the civic needs of his boyhood town of West Frankfort, Illinois, say several prominent people there. "If our city had a meaningful project we needed to have a joint relationship financially with Three Angels, I anticipate that wouldn't be a problem," says Larry Warren, mayor of West Frankfort.

Warren goes on to describe how Shelton used 3ABN to promote the Roan Center, a home for abused women and children. On a November 24, 2006, broadcast of 3ABN Today, Shelton interviewed Sara Bond, one of the Center's founders about mission of the organization and asked his viewers to send in donations to help Bond accomplish her goals. Shelton also pledged $5,000 from 3ABN to help Bond with her project. Bond recently thanked 3ABN in an article published in the February 1 edition of the West Frankfort Press American. In the article, she said that the broadcast had raised $4,490 so far and that she continued to receive consistent donations from 3ABN viewers. "We have had donations from Oregon, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arizona," Bond said in the article.

Franklin Community High School (FCHS) in West Frankfort has received thousands of dollars from Shelton as well according to Richard Glodich, athletic director at the school. "Danny Shelton and 3ABN are an asset to our school. There's no doubt about it," says Glodich. "Any time we're in need of help, Mr. Shelton is always willing to help." Glodich estimates 3ABN has donated $30,000 to the athletic department of FCHS alone during the 10 years he's been athletic director. He says that Shelton donated several thousand dollars to the school to help modernize their weight room and donated money towards athletic fields at the local junior high school. 3ABN donated close to $10,000 in prizes for the school's Red Ribbon Week, Glodich says. He says they brought cameramen out to videotape the event so it could be publicized locally.

According to Glodich, it was a donation by 3ABN and Shelton that was the catalyst for a peer-mentoring program to begin on campus. Dubbed Alpha groups, the program enables juniors and seniors at the school to spend an hour each Thursday visiting with students in the freshman and sophomore classes, building friendships and urging them to stay clear of alcohol and drugs.

Danny Shelton is also a regular at FCHS Cardinal athletic events, especially men's varsity basketball games Glodich says. "Oh yeah, we see him all the time, probably at least 10 times a year, he's here for games."

For many in West Frankfort, Danny Shelton is a man to admire. His philanthropy and personal "rags to riches" story of establishing 3ABN has endeared him to many admirers in the town his hometown. Interestingly many in the small city of Thompsonville have very different sentiments. Their viewpoints will be explored in an upcoming edition of Adventist Today.

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