Why ASI withdrew from mediation process in Jan 2007

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steffan
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Why ASI withdrew from mediation process in Jan 2007

Postby steffan » Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:14 am America/Denver

Why ASI Chose to withdraw from Discussions

To Those It May Concern:

Answering a request last fall from Three Angels Broadcasting Network's Board of Directors (afterward referred to as 3ABN), ASI agreed to explore the possibility of forming a commission “. . . to evaluate and determine Danny's legal and moral right to divorce and remarry . . . [excerpt from 3ABN minutes].

ASI's Executive Committee spent considerable time and effort from late September 2006 until early 2007 exploring that assignment. ASI's Executive Committee met January 4 to review progress on establishing a commission. After a full discussion at that time, the Committee voted unanimously to withdraw from the process they had agreed to consider. A brief announcement was made by ASI, without stating any of the reasons for our withdrawal. We received questions from both ASI members and several Church leaders. All wanted to know the reasons for ASI's action to withdraw. The Committee met again on January 9, 2007 and authorized the following explanation:

Reason for ASI's Withdrawal

ASI's decision to withdraw was not based on the merits of the divorce and remarriage issues or any of the other issues we were urged to consider. ASI's decision was based solely on the barriers we encountered in attempting to reach agreement between the parties on a process whereby the commission would study the issues.

ASI's Initial Considerations

ASI believed it could develop a process that would be fair to all parties, utilizing a panel of ASI members selected for their spirituality, fairness and intelligence. The parties would be chosen through a panel selection process.
ASI proposed a process to assure a fair due process to all concerned.
ASI believed it was essential that it have the active involvement of all parties in this process.

Danny and 3ABN Accept

By December 10, 2006, Danny Shelton (afterward referred to as Danny) and 3ABN had accepted the process proposed by ASI.

Unexpected Barriers

Linda [formerly Mrs. Danny Shelton] (afterward referred to as Linda) did not participate personally in discussions to develop an agreed upon process.
Linda identified Gaylon Arthur Joy (afterward referred to as Joy) as her representative. Joy, in turn, introduced Bob Pickle (afterward referred to as Pickle) and Greg Matthews (afterward referred to as Matthews) as his team members.
Linda’s team:
Did not accept that ASI was capable of providing a fair forum to decide the issues
Insisted on including issues involving allegations of mismanagement and corporate misconduct at 3ABN
Would not accept the ground rules for the panel's procedures
Would not cease harassing e-mail contact with Danny or other 3ABN representatives
Would not cease, when requested to do so, circulating distracting comments about the process under discussion with ASI
We never learned whether Linda approved of the positions asserted by her team. At no time did Linda respond except to say that Joy would be her representative.

3ABN/ASI Relationship

ASI was open to whatever conclusion the facts would reveal, and we were disappointed that our efforts did not result in a resolution of the issues we had agreed to consider.

The ASI Executive Committee believes that 3ABN is a God-inspired and God-led instrument for the effective spread of the three angels messages to the world, and that it has been, and continues to be, a blessing to the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church.

ASI is an organization of member businesses and ministries that share a priority for the spread of the gospel in their marketplaces. 3ABN was introduced to ASI in the mid-1980's at our ASI Convention in Big Sky, Montana. At that time their television idea was just a dream. ASI was intrigued by their audacious plan of a lay-operated ministry providing a worldwide radio and television network with "straight" Seventh-day Adventist programming, 24/7. That meeting was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship, resulting in the growth of both 3ABN and ASI and in positive media exposure for hundreds of ASI members. Both Linda and Danny Shelton were viewed as capable leaders, deserving our respect and involvement with ASI.

In addition to great sadness for those who know them, the breakup of the Sheltons' marriage and subsequent events brought much public comment that came to the notice of ASI, Church leadership and 3ABN's viewers. Soon after: "The 3ABN Board of Directors voted unanimously on September 24 [2006] to request ASI to set up a commission to evaluate and determine Danny's legal and moral right to divorce and to re-marry" [excerpt from 3ABN minutes].

Attempts to Establish the Commission Panel

As ASI leadership was considering 3ABN's request, an e-mail message dated, October 3, 2006, was received by ASI's president from Joy, hitherto unknown to ASI, saying in part:

". . . Dr. Thompson [Walter Thompson, 3ABN Board Chair] has informed me that ASI has agreed to be the appropriate platform upon which to hear allegations regarding 3ABN. While I agree to that in theory, ASI is the appropriate platform and clearly has some jurisdiction here, and by voluntary assent would have full jurisdiction to hear the allegations and make appropriate findings, I also recognize there are some clear and serious conflicts that need to be clarified."

Joy's memo included messages from others (unknown and unidentified to us) who seriously questioning whether ASI was an appropriate organization to be involved. As stated above, Joy himself was unknown to ASI leadership at that time. It was not known what his interest was in the matter until Linda later identified Joy as her representative. Joy then introduced Pickle and Matthews as part of Linda's team. Since that time Joy, Pickle and Matthews always were included in any correspondence sent to Linda.

October 25, 2006: The ASI Executive Committee took an action authorizing the exploration of becoming involved in the process and asked Harold Lance, past ASI president, to represent ASI and lead out in the commission's process.

October 31, 2006: ASI circulated a document entitled "Procedural Suggestions" [see below] to Linda, Danny, their representatives, and to 3ABN.

Basic Concepts

ASI identified several basic concepts necessary for the process to succeed:

The involvement of Linda, Danny, and 3ABN was essential in order to reach a successful agreement regarding a fair process and then to come to a resolution of the dispute.
Widespread distracting interchanges on web sites and forums led us to believe that the discussions between ASI and all parties attempting to establish an agreement on the process (Linda, Danny, their representatives, and 3ABN) needed to be conducted with confidentiality.
Both "sides" (Linda's and Danny's) needed to stop direct critical comment with each other.

Procedural Suggestions

ASI suggested the following procedural/process concepts:

The panel selected to hear and decide the issues should be chosen by ASI in consultation with the parties [Linda and Danny].
Because of the sensitive nature of the issues, the proceedings should be private, in the manner of an "Executive Session" within a board of directors of the Church or a corporation.
Issues for consideration needed careful definition and mutual agreement.
Parties would formally state in advance of the hearing their position on each issue and their expected outcome of each issue.
Each party would, in advance of their appearance before the panel, furnish the identity of witnesses and their expected information, as well as provide copies of any documents [evidence] to be presented to the panel.
All costs connected with the proceedings would be paid by 3ABN.
Proceedings would be held at a neutral site as convenient as possible for all parties.
Input from both parties would be welcomed to establish the ground rules on the process to be followed.
Questioning would be conducted by the panel under the direction of its chairperson, with opportunity for the parties or their representatives to suggest questions.
The decision of the panel would be based upon information presented by the parties at the hearing and not from outside sources.
The proceedings would not be conducted as a trial, with a judge, lawyers, cross examination and typical court-like processes.
Within 30 days after the conclusion of the proceedings the panel would announce its written findings on the issues, the factual reasons for their findings, and recommendations to the parties, which document would be available to the parties and the interested public.

What happened? Why didn't the process succeed?

There was significant interchange between Linda's team and ASI, and between Danny, 3ABN and ASI that lead to the creation of two additional documents presented by ASI to the parties that contained details and revisions to the proposed process that the parties had suggested.

We continued to have no contact from Linda other than a single memo to an ASI officer stating that Joy was her representative.

By December 10, 2006, Danny and 3ABN had accepted the process as proposed by ASI.

On December 13, 2006, ASI received an email from Joy advising that Linda was preparing a careful, thorough response to the process proposals, along with a list of questions that he and Linda were preparing for their own clarification. This response and list of questions never came.

Interchange between ASI and Linda's team

Discussions between ASI and Linda's representatives centered around:

Whether the proceeding should be open to the public or private
Whether ASI could be neutral and provide a "level playing field"
Whether the proceedings should be video taped/recorded/broadcast
Whether the issues considered by the panel should extend beyond the Sheltons' divorce and Danny's remarriage to include, for example:
That Danny and the 3ABN Board of Directors were guilty of malfeasance
That Danny should be removed as president of 3ABN
That the Board of Directors of 3ABN should be removed
That 3ABN should be restructured to create a constituency-based organization (though they knew that the existing structure is lawful)
That any person who has contributed to the support of 3ABN should be a constituent and entitled to a voice in the selection of the Board of Directors and management of the ministry (donors were referred to by Linda's team as, "stockholders in the pews")
That the 3ABN corporate by-laws needed to be changed to allow for censure, discipline, and removal of officers or members of the Board of Directors. [NOTE: In fact the corporate by-laws already provide for those possibilities.)

At least 22 other issues were raised in Forum site references by her team and urged for inclusion in the ASI process.

From the beginning last fall, Linda was provided with all necessary telephone and e-mail contact information for involvement with the discussion. She was sent copies of all communications from ASI (as were Danny and 3ABN). In the two-plus months of ASI's attempts to reach agreement on a fundamental process for the panel, she did not respond (except to name Joy as her representative). We do not know if Linda shares in a belief with Joy, Pickle and Matthews that the agenda should include the matters asserted by her team (above). She chose not to participate.

It became clear that Joy, Pickle and Matthews had interests far beyond the issues that ASI had agreed to consider.

The Beginning of the End of Discussions

We affirmed to the parties that even though ASI supports the ministry of 3ABN and wishes for it to succeed and prosper, ASI would be fair and objective in considering the issues related to the Sheltons' divorce and Danny's remarriage. We also believed that the panel selected by ASI, in consultation with the parties involved, would be people who possessed qualities of spirituality, intelligence and fairness. We affirmed to both parties that ASI had no stake in the outcome, and that ASI would be comfortable with whatever conclusions were reached by the panel. However, we never reached the point of choosing a panel.

A week or two into the process, Danny and 3ABN ceased exchanging messages with the other side. That was helpful. Because ASI declined to consider issues beyond those of the divorce and remarriage, Joy, Pickle and Matthews continued their negative contacts with Danny, Dr. Thompson (3ABN Board chair) and others associated with 3ABN. Though couched in spiritual language, their messages were persistent, confrontational, argumentative and harassing. ASI's efforts to stop their direct communications were unsuccessful.

Final Assessment

We believe that ASI has no jurisdiction to consider internal issues of 3ABN management or the changing of its corporate structure. Those issues must be left to its governing body, the 3ABN Board of Directors. We believe our inability to resolve the fundamental issue of the divorce and remarriage is disappointing to many. We felt that without agreement on the fundamental process, and with no likely agreement in sight, it was necessary for ASI to withdraw. The two parties are the losers in what could have been a healing clarification of a divisive issue for all those involved and concerned.

We confess that if we would have known how bring resolution to the matter, we would have done so. We don't, but God does. We urge that all who have a concern over these issues and over the future ministry of 3ABN (and of Linda and Danny) be respectful, restrained, and apply the Golden Rule as you would wish others to do for you. And pray for one another without ceasing.


The ASI Executive Committee
by Harold Lance
January 24, 2007

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