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Tommy Shelton

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3ABN Resolution—Is There One?

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-------- Original Message --------
From:  G. Arthur Joy
Subject:  Re: A 3ABN Resolution–Is There One?
Date:  Sun, 12 Aug 2007

3ABN Resolution—Is There One?
Gailon Arthur Joy, AUReporter

I recently received a copy of the following post and it certainly requires a reply.

When I read the above post by SE on another thread it struck me that I wasn't certain what this was all about. For those who feel that enormous abuses have occurred at 3abn, and I fall into that camp, what will it take for us to be satisfied that justice has been done? I was somewhat surprised to find that I wasn't really certain what the end game was.

The answer is a story of MicroEvolution.

The 3ABN Investigation began rather reluctantly for me. I had accepted at face value the assertion that Linda had gone off with some doctor to Norway and Danny was a hapless victim of a passionate interloper. I had many requests to look at various pieces of evidence and ignored them. Even when Danny announced his plans to remarry in a Knoxville meeting in early 2006, and many raised the eyebrow, I refused to take the bait.

When several of my friends from New England met with me and expressed concern about the loss of the 3ABN signal on Skyangel, I wondered what could be plaguing this ministry, but still refused to investigate. I did some background on Skyangel and noted it had recently taken on a CEO that was a lawyer and assumed some contractual issue was in debate between the parties and would self-resolve. I had no basis to suspect a breach of contract by 3ABN.

When they launched the Ten Commandments Twice Removed campaign in March and April 2006, a small group of us in the College Church embraced the project, took delivery in late April and passed out over six thousand books in about three weeks. Rey and I even went door to door in the spring rains some evenings after work to get it done before Ten Commandments Weekend.

My family, aunts, uncles and cousins had always been 3ABN supporters. Some even have appeared on 3ABN programs. Following the Ten Commandments Weekend I found a story a week arriving by Fax or e-mail and ignored them all. Then the ASI Meeting in Texas seemed to break open a wellspring of information regarding a number of issues from the remarriage of Danny and staffers, to lucrative and undisclosed book deals, to concerns about the charismatic leaning of some of the management at 3ABN.

It was not until about a week after ASI that Rey and I received an unsolicited fax known as the Dryden Letter and some supporting documents that seemed to indicate the production manager and Pianist Extraordinaire had a serious history of under-aged male gender relationships of a highly inappropriate nature. I immediately checked the various state and federal sex offender websites and found nothing. Shortly after receiving the fax, a compatriot of many a trench war within Adventism called me and asked if it was true I had just received a fax relating to Tommy Shelton. I admitted I had and declared it an obvious hoax. He took real exception to the hoax issue and said this required closer examination and asked if I would look much more closely at the evidence before I blindly cast it aside. I reluctantly agreed to at least follow-up on the available leads and the rest is a history of profound and compelling findings.

My first call was to a lady who told me that she had not believed the story at first but felt the evidence was now overwhelming and told a story of a thriving Ezra Church of God pastored by Tommy Shelton for several years complete with a community church school that even Linda Shelton's children had attended. She told me how the allegations virtually tore the church asunder as it separated into Pastor Shelton's supporters and an ever growing list of victims and their supporters. She explained that the victims had tried to file complaints but the Sheriff was a Shelton family friend and the DA had not moved on the allegations. And she told me that Dryden had attempted to resolve the issues but simply found himself overwhelmed with the process and took an opportunity to return to his home church in Dunn Loring, Va. She gave me a contact number for Dryden's now mature son and I left a message for him. Later that evening I received a number of calls from victims and a victim's mother and they gave me compelling stories of inappropriate relationships.

I was a bit bewildered and felt compelled to research these allegations. My witness list grew past a handful to dozens more voluntarily calling to give me their story or a story they felt I should investigate. The file became all consuming. Every day my work would be interrupted with callbacks from various witnesses and every evening I spent doing more and more interviews. I was so stunned by the variety of allegations I confided in a group of conservative colleagues and we pondered on how to proceed.

We had clear allegations of wrongdoing on the part of former pastor Tommy Shelton, now the production manager that had replaced Linda Shelton, and that Danny had pre-empted a prior board decision in rehiring Tommy after he was removed over a decade earlier.

I had allegations that seemed to indicate that Linda was the victim of UN-due process and a hyperactive imagination and collective corporate paranoia at 3ABN.

I had allegations that Danny Lee Shelton had inappropriate relationships or had made inappropriate advances with a number of ladies, including the current spouse.

I had allegations Danny had rerouted 3ABN funds to pay Brandy after it was determined it was best that she be relieved of her 3ABN duties and allowed to work for Danny directly.

I had allegations of a host of inappropriate property deals, including a thwarted effort to transfer very valuable land and buildings across from the DLS homestead to Brandy prior to the marriage.

I had allegations DLS had enriched himself at the expense of 3ABN and its donors from undisclosed book royalty deals.

I had allegations that five staffers of the 3ABN Trust services department were victims of retaliation and some had clearly been discriminated against by 3ABN Management.

I had allegations of personal inurement by Danny Lee Shelton and his family via the abusive use of the corporate jet, and the use of a variety of gifts given by donors to 3ABN.

And I had a post office employee misappropriation story where Danny avoided a postal audit with a strong bout of forgiveness by DLS for what was assumed to be at least a quarter million dollar claim against the US Postal System.

I continued to work my way from the outside in so that when I spoke to Danny Lee Shelton, Tommy Shelton and Linda Shelton, et al, I would have as clear a picture as possible of all the allegations as I was certain I may only get one chance to interview, based on the experience of AToday and others. At some point I discovered the collateral investigative efforts of Robert Pickle and we exchanged notes.

I did open a line of communication directly with Danny Lee Shelton and continued until he refused to answer e-mails and blocked me. His very first communication included the threat to turn me over to his lawyers. The communications continued for some weeks as he discovered I was undeterred by the fear of litigation.

I also opened a line of communication with 3ABN Board Chairman Walter Thompson and found him far less forthcoming, other than to parrot Danny's position. Many times I discovered that both Danny and Walt's information was factually challenged or not corroborated by other witnesses. In Walt's defense, it became apparent he was operating from the disadvantage of being a third party to much of the actual evidence and seemed to simply follow Danny's lead.

After I had covered every reasonable base at the time, I then accepted the offer to speak with Linda Sue Shelton. I had pages of questions. The interview began at 9:00 pm and went until 4:00 am EST, a full seven hours, and I can safely say she answered every blunt question and every accusation leveled by Danny and Walt Thompson graciously, factually and with a clear, upbeat, Christian attitude. Seven hours of interview gave me much to compare and I quickly discovered that what she told me was largely corroborated by other witnesses. I also discovered she had no idea what went on regarding 3ABN business and this was confirmed by several staffers and 3ABN General Counsel, Nicholas Miller. She was engrossed in programming, albeit under the watchful eye of Danny and his minions.

Since the very first concern that was documented related to Tommy Shelton, I sent an e-mail to 3ABN directors calling for an investigation. There was not a single reply. Bob and I continued to investigate the allegations and he even agreed to make a trip to 3ABN to view the Linda Evidence and was denied at the last moment. That was clearly the very first objective, to get the board to take its fiduciary and oversight responsibility seriously. Our effort clearly failed.

At some point I received a call from a Vice-President of the General Conference whose plea was that the investigation and reports therefrom not do harm to the cause of SDA Ministry. He had been a witness at the May 2004 3ABN camp meeting attended by Arild Abrahamsen and Pastor Johann Thorvaldson who had arrived to address the Board of Directors regarding allegations of an inappropriate telephone relationship. The Shelton posse and Danny Lee Shelton ordered them off the property and were confrontational, making it clear they were not welcome to return to testify before the board on Sunday, and this after a trip of more than 4,000 miles. (So much for due process once again.) The VP gave me a statement that clearly contradicted several assertions by Danny Lee Shelton and led me to believe it was clear to the VP that Linda and Arild were not guilty of any purported adultery, spiritual or otherwise, but he had hoped the marital issues would not end in divorce. He then promised to work toward an ecclesiastical solution to the allegations. From this and a couple other discussions came the concept that the church had no authority but ASI did. ASI was asked to help to mediate the allegations. The rest is ASI history, or infamy.

With ASI slowly and reluctantly working to establish this first-of-its-kind ecclesiastical process to utilize Alternative Dispute Resolution to deal with the allegations at 3ABN, we became deeply concerned by the failure of the 3ABN Board to show an ounce of interest in dealing with the allegations themselves. Robert Pickle actually met with Illinois Conference President Denslow, an ex officio board member, who later virtually dismissed one of the allegations as foundationless after picking up the phone and calling 3ABN to affirm or deny. Following several efforts at discussions it became clear the board was blind to any wrongdoing, refused to become involved directly in any investigation, but did pawn it off to ASI in the hopes they would deal with it and relieve them of any culpability. This was clearly a gross abrogation of the fiduciary and oversight responsibilities of the 3ABN Board. And this abrogation was a pattern alleged by several victims over 3ABN's twenty-three year history. It was this refusal to look at any allegations that led to the elimination of other founders and even Sheltons who were concerned with maintaining a modicum of generally acceptable accounting principles required of a public ministry soliciting funds from Seventh-day Adventist parishioners. This issue clearly required a closer look.

When we recognized just how pervasive the problem is at 3ABN, just how engrained into the 3ABN culture and management, and realized that there was simply no accountability for Danny Lee Shelton to his hand-picked directorate, regardless of the allegation and scope of the problem, we had no choice but to conclude that the real issue was governance. A governance that has no accountability to the people that make it all happen day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year is ungoverned. It is simply autocratic with no real accountability.

A corporation has accountability to the stockholders that put up the money to create the business. The donors are defacto stockholders in the ministry that solicits funds from the parishioners and we respectfully refer to them as the stockholders in the pews. Therefore, given the breadth of the support solicited and the source of the vast majority of the support rendered over the years, it is my simple premise that the major issue that must be addressed at 3ABN, and other ministries now and in the future, is that of governance. A constituency that represented the parishioners of the Seventh-day Adventist church that would select the directors and officers of 3ABN would have been a significant deterrent to many of the issues at 3ABN.

Governance with accountability to the stockholders in the pews is a minimum requirement. It is the standard adopted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church a hundred years ago and we so quickly forget.

The other very clear requirement is as simple as logic. If a ministry is allowed to solicit funds from the stockholders in the pews, then the stockholders should know that the auditing firm that audits the ministry should report to the stockholders. No ministry should be allowed to solicit support from the parishioners of the Seventh-day Adventist without submitting to an audit by the General Conference Auditing Department. If it is mandatory for churches, then it should be the more mandatory for ministries.

As to the frequent questions of what we demand to settle such a case, i.e., what is the end game?:

It is not our place to demand repentance, public confession and reformation. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit calls for this then we warn against grieving that Spirit and do believe it would be most cathartic if done properly.

If offenses have been committed that require some form of payment for their debt to society, that is the problem of society to render such a judgment. It is the duty of the Illinois Attorney General to investigate complaints of abuses for non-profits in Illinois. It is for the IRS to investigate violations of Federal Regulations for 501(c)3's and for the IRS or a Federal Court to determine if the 200% penalty for undisclosed personal inurement of officers or directors needs redress. The victims need to band together and determine just what their options are regarding Tommy Shelton and pursue those options with vigor.

It is not our place to demand that Linda return to 3ABN. It is not even likely that it would be possible in a properly governed entity. And we have never set that as a goal of this investigation. As to whether she deserves compensation for the alleged defamation and other damages she may have incurred from this hideous lack of due process, we leave that to some proper jurisprudence, whether conciliation, ADR or a court of competent jurisdiction. The simple point is it has never been our purpose to reinstate Linda. It has been our purpose to expose the truth that she might have a chance at pursuing her own ministry in whatever form.

We most certainly do not intend to take over the ministry. It would be impossible and probably highly undesirable. It belongs to the parishioners and to the parishioners it should be returned. That is my uncompromising goal.

The most important point is that 3ABN needs a new constitution that grants the parishioners the accountability they deserve, that gives them the power to select directors and officers and that requires an audit by the GC Auditing Department with a report to the representatives of the parishioners. I sincerely believe the core problem is governance. Resolve governance and the rest simply falls into place. 3ABN will have a real constituency that will support 3ABN and return it to its position of its special mission to a seriously defective and lost world. Until this issue has been addressed it has not earned the right to exist as a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and does not deserve the parishioners support.

Beyond these issues, we simply report the allegations that come our way and take liberty to editorialize as it relates to specific issues. We are writers and reporters. We simply assert our right and duty to report what we have discovered. It is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and a right we demand to exercise unimpeded by a poorly governed ministry. Yet it is a right 3ABN seems determined to take away as vigorously as they can despite the rule of law. But it is a right they will regret having tampered with.

Gailon Arthur Joy

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