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Tommy Shelton

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The Actual Lawsuit
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Round Two: Harold Lance

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Due to the abrogation of the confidentiality agreement by Harold Lance, the following communication is provided for your perusal.

Ten weeks after the 3ABN board had voted on September 24 to limit the investigation to just Danny Shelton's divorce and remarriage, word is finally received to that effect in this communication. Ten weeks? Why was nothing said earlier?

-------- Original Message --------
From:  Harold Lance
To:  G. Arthur Joy, Gregory Matthews, Bob Pickle, Linda Shelton,
Deb Young, Ron Christman,
Walt Thompson, Danny Shelton
Subject:  Comments re the process
Date:  Sun, 03 Dec 2006 18:06:59 -0800

Good Morning Friends;


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 membership.

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 in place:

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. A prohibition of all sides from unilateral contact with the panelists.

  6. Findings of fact by the panel that are based upon the information provided in the process and not from any private undisclosed sources.

  7. Recommendations of the panel that are relevant to the facts they find to be true.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 our purposes:

  1. Direct and cross examination by legal counsel.

  2. Subpoena power to compel attendance and production of documents and things.

  3. 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.

  4. The use of orders, judgments or decrees.

  5. The creation of a record by electronic recording or a reporter.

  6. 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 intrusive.

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 either.

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.

Harold lance

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