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Open Letter to Dan Jackson (NAD) - Oct. 2013
Open Letter to NAD
President, Dan Jackson
sent in October  2013
  Requesting NAD to clarify
the process for reinstatement 
when the charges were
changed only four days
prior to the hearing
                                                                                                              Message # 128
                                                                                                               October 17, 2013
Dear Dan Jackson:
 I am writing to you because the Greater New York Conference will not address my request and when I brought it to the Atlantic Union Conference the response was to block my e-mails and my messages remain blocked since Sept. 5th. Don King does not take my phone calls or respond to my messages. Therefore, I am bringing the question to you. I am not asking you to consider an appeal of a decision made by the Atlantic Union Conference because obviously they do not want to deal with this matter, I am coming to you because the Church Manual gives members who have been disfellowshipped unfairly the right to seek fairness, and it is 'NOT FAIR' for the local conference and the Union Conference to avoid a valid question about the proper procedure needed to appeal for re-instatement of membership in the SDA church.
". . . Let no man feel that his position as president, either of the General Conference or of a State conference, clothes him with a power over the consciences of others that is the least degree oppressive, for God will not sanction anything of this kind. He must respect the rights of all, and all the more because he is in a position where others will pattern after him. Your position binds you under the most sacred obligations to be very careful what kind of spirit you entertain towards your brethren. They are acting a part in God's cause as well as yourself. Will not God teach them and guide them as well as yourself? You are not even to allow yourself to think unkindly of them, much less to climb upon the judgment seat and censure or condemn your brethren, when you may be yourself, in many respects, more deserving of censure than they. Your work is bearing the inspection of God.  
 Manuscript Release # 998 published as 12MR  375.2
 This quotation is taken from a letter Ellen White wrote in 1888 to Elder Butler, General Conference President.  It is also published in Christian Leadership, page 30, par. 2 and 1888 97.2.  For more information about guarding the rights of members see http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/2915/ 
  I am aware that the 59th Session of the General Conference approved several changes to Chapter 7 of the Church Manual regarding 'Discipline' to make it more difficult to remove a member from the church unfairly. Unfortunately, if the church administrators will not uphold the church manual these new rights and procedures are not enough to prevent disfellowship of members by unfair practices. 
 You are probably aware that the First Lithonia Church in Atlanta disfellowshipped 21 members at a meeting on Feb. 23, 2013. The church asked an Atlanta Police Officer to stand at the door to the business meeting to prevent 21 specific members from attending the business meeting where the congregation was asked to remove these 21 names from membership.  I am not advocating for these former members, I am just pointing out that the 59th GC Session made substantial effort to write new protections and rights of members into the church manual, yet unfair practices still exist in the NAD. 
 Whatever past problems prompted the 59th General Conference session to protect members from unfair discipline practices, violations of proper procedure still result in removal of 'God's children' from membership in the North American Division. These changes to the church manual were not enough to prevent 22 members ( that I know of ) from being expelled from the church unfairly. Therefore, I suggest NAD leaders look outside the church manual for a solution to the obvious fact that membership in the Seventh-day Adventist church is not secure because of what the church manual says, it is secure only if the church administrators are willing to uphold what the church manual says. The solution could lie in creation of an NAD working policy or policies that define responsibility of church administrators to uphold these proper procedures. 
I ask the NAD take an interest in the situation at Manhattan Church, enough to help the appeal process move forward by answering the question of;  What are the charges to be considered at the appeal. I ask that the church allow the appeal process to play out so that flaws in the process can be revealed and solutions can be applied to restore fairness.
 I have asked pastors in other denominations about their process to discipline members, and I was pleased that on paper the Seventh-day Adventist denomination does have a process designed to prevent a local church from “railroading” a member out of the church without a fair hearing and a fair process to appeal for re-instatement of membership. On paper the SDA church seems to have the fairer process, but loses credibility because administrators neglect to deal with injustice and ignore appeals from members asking administrators to uphold the church manual.  There is a class of faithful believers who love God and want fellowship with other believers, these brothers and sisters want re-instatement of their membership. God is aware of their trials and suffering and I know that church leaders who love God will also love these brothers and sisters and seek to improve the process by which they can appeal for re-instatement. In my case, it may be as easy as deciding what is the charges for the appeal.
In this letter I ask you to consider the question that Don King will not consider, a question that is key to the appeal for reinstatement of my membership by Manhattan Church. By monitoring this appeal you may also discover the need for a new NAD Working Policy that enhances the church manual protections against the improper practices that can remove members from the church unfairly. The Church Manual has failed 22 members in the North American division who have been unjustly separated from fellowship. I am just one of them.
I believe the information I present below shows the need for NAD policies that help prevent members from getting ‘railroaded’ out of the church by unfair practices and to improve the process for reinstatement when this does happen. I use the phrase “unfair practices” because the word “fairness” was added to Chapter 7 of the Church Manual regarding 'Discipline' as the basis for appeal. Of course, if such policies exist, then this is a easy question, it is just a matter of informing me and Don King about existing policy. By answering the question: What are the charges to be considered at the appeal, you will help the appeal process to move forward.
                                                Presentation  of  the  Question
I start by pointing out that the section about the fundamental rights of members has been changed by the church at the 59th GC Session, on page 197 of the 17th edition it said,
"It is a fundamental principle of justice that every member has the right to be heard in his/her own defense and to introduce evidence and produce witnesses. No church should vote to remove a member from church membership under circumstances that deprive an individual of this right, if one chooses to exercise it.  Due notice should be given by the church to the member of its intention to consider the problem, thus giving the opportunity for the individual to appear." 
Church Manual ( 17th Edition ), page 197
  The 59th GC session changed parts of this, on page 64 in the 18th edition it says,
Fundamental  Rights  of  the  Members 

Members have a fundamental right to prior notification of the disciplinary meeting and the right to be heard in their own defense, introduce evidence, and produce witnesses. No church should vote to remove a member under circumstances that deprive the member of these rights.   Written  notice  must  be given at least two weeks before the meeting and include the reasons for the disciplinary hearing.
        Church Manual, page 64 - 65
 This is a clarification to the 17th edition in regard to “due notice” and offers an opportunity to members who want to defend themselves. It is clearer now, that they have a right to proper notification and defines a time period of not less than two weeks for them to gather evidence, line up witnesses and prepare a defense
  I point out that the "due notice" that the church should give has been changed to notification that the church “must” give the member along with a reason for the disciplinary hearing and a fair amount of time to prepare a defense, to gather evidence and line up witnesses. I also point out that the two weeks time period is not found in the 17th edition text.
 Prior to June 2010, notice of a disciplinary hearing did not have to be given in writing and “due notice” was not defined with a specific time period. When the hearing should happen was only implied on page 197 (17th edition), “Members may be disciplined by the church for sufficient cause, but only at a duly called business meeting of the church.”  Which needs an understanding of the process to hold a “duly called business meeting” - it is now clear that at least two weeks time is given to the member to prepare for the hearing.
  In addition to the changes to page 64, substantial changes were made to the section that allows a member to appeal for reinstatement. Page 200 of the 17th edition starts with the words, “In a case where the church officers refuse to consider the application for reinstatement . . .” The 59th GC Session approved the following addition giving members two rights that they did not have before. Page 67 in the 18th edition reads, 
"While it is the right of the church to administer discipline, this does not set aside the rights of members to seek fairness. If members believe that they have been treated unfairly by the local church, or not had the right to be heard fairly . . ."
         Church Manual, (18th edition) page 67  
 This is what was added by the 59th GC Session. Notice the two new rights that were not in the 17th edition: the right to seek fairness and the right to be heard fairly. Therefore, it is my opinion that the 59th Session made considerable efforts to address problems of members who were disfellowshipped unfairly, yet these changes are still not enough to prevent unfairness in cases where a church board decides to ignore the rights of members that are stated clearly in the church manual.  
I believe that the appeal for reinstatement should be monitored by conference administrators because the appeal for re-instatement is clearly based on fairness rather than on evidence. Claims that there were violations of the church manual procedure, actually means a claim of unfair practices, and any controversy about procedure needs to be addressed by the conference so that the appeal process can move forward with fairness.
Therefore, I ask for clarification about what is the charges to be considered at the appeal. An answer to this will allow the appeal process to move forward in a way that church leaders can learn how to further improve the discipline process to insure fairness in the future.  I also believe that a decision by church administrators on this one point can benefit the members of Manhattan Church members greatly, the members only heard the second charges, and they will probably become confused about the charges once they learn what the original charges were. I believe that all the members will be confused by the question of which charges will be considered at the appeal.
A decision about the charges will allow my appeal to proceed fairly because the church members were told by the conference representative at the hearing that the charges read to them were proper. Since the local conference did not correct the mistakes made by their representative at the hearing, the church members still have a mistaken understanding of what the proper procedure is. Correcting this would greatly benefit this case and relieve the confusion by the members and embarrassment to the church board in the future.
 What I asked the local conference to decide is:  What is the charge to be considered at the appeal? The Church Board sent me the proper two week notice of their recommendation to discipline me and the reason for the discipline. However, they changed the charge. And mailed me a second notice of this change only four days before the hearing. The new charge was the only charge read to the church at the business meeting and the only one prosecuted by the church board, unfortunately, my prepared defense addressed only the original charge.  I am able to defend myself against the second charge, but since they did not reset the clock and delay the hearing to give me the required two weeks notice, I did not have enough time to prepare an adequate defense against vague accusations that I knew nothing about until three days before the hearing.  The Greater New York Conference sent a representative to the business meeting and I thought he would uphold the church manual and inform the church of this violation and the hearing would consider the original charge which I received the proper two week notification (actually it arrived 15 days prior to the hearing).
The administrators of the Greater New York Conference will not correct the mistakes made by the representative that Earl Knight sent to the business meeting, and Gerson Santos informed me of this decision on August 14th – I then focused on the question of What is the charge? – and they still would not address this. 
Since it is my right to seek fairness, on Aug. 24th I brought this same question to Don King and when I clarified the message on Sept. 1st  – I learned that my IP address was “blacklisted” and all my e-mails to anyone at the Union Conference office were blocked and bounced back to me. I remain 'blacklisted'  to this very day. 
Here is a copy of the request to Don King which has been blocked. 
http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/2830/  The details and arguments related to this question can be seen by opening this page.  The reason this is on the internet is because I asked my friends and any concerned Adventist to contact Don King and send him the information that I was blocked from sending.
I posted an appeal for help asking them to forward this message to him. I received confirmation from many concerned Adventists that they sent him this information and that their e-mails did not bounce back. Therefore, Don King has received this information and has decided not to deal with it and not to deal with me. On Sept. 17th I made another appeal asking concerned Adventists to find out why Don King blocks my e-mails and will not take my phone calls or return my messages.  
Here is the on-line appeal   http://www.diggingfortruth.org/article/2856/ - Unfortunately, Don King did not respond and I am coming to you because I have the right to seek fairness, I am seeking fairness from you because the local conference and the union conference will not consider this key question.

 I am requesting that you will consider the question, What is the charge that should be considered at the appeal? So I can write an appeal to Manhattan Church and include recommendations from you regarding what charges should be considered, the first charge or the second charge?
In conclusion, please allow me to share a quotation from the writings of Ellen White that impressed me.
Why are believers formed into a church? Because by this means Christ would increase their usefulness in the world and strengthen their personal influence for good.  In the church there is to be maintained a discipline which guards the rights of all and increases the sense of mutual dependence. God never designed that one man's mind and judgment should be a controlling power. He never designed that one man should rule and plan and devise without the careful and prayerful consideration of the whole body, in order that all may move in a sound, thorough, harmonious manner. 
Published in  {3SM 16.3}  and  {TSA 90.2} and  {MR311 53.3}  
 I agree with Sister White that a discipline which guards the rights of all members must be maintained by church administrators.
 I want to be returned to fellowship and I intend to appeal to the church as it is my right to do so, but the errors in procedure need to be addressed so that the church members know what should be the charges considered at the new hearing.
I hope I hear from you soon
In God We Trust