Filthy Lucre

Speaker: Categories: Mar 13, 2010


[46min, 26sec / 33min, 46sec]


What part/s of the Seventh-day Adventist historical past is/are best left unknown? When is it appropriateNOTtotell the whole story- or even hint that a story exists? Who is responsible for keeping the laity informed? Whose role is it to decide what should, what should not, be reported?

"During the final two decades of the second millennium,"notes the March SDAF presenter,"the institutional Seventh-day Adventist Church was rocked by many scandalous administrative and financial disasters - unnecessary losses that reached well into nine figures."

Seven of those stories have been elaborated by Doug Hackleman with copious documentation and strip-searched for causal clues in his recent book,Who Watches? Who Cares?- 379 pages and 1,184 endnotes of investigative journalism:

• The Pawtucket Nursing Villa, a 160-bed nursing home in Rhode Island, was funded in 1977 by Fuller Memorial Hospital in nearby Massachusetts, built through a limited partnership headed by the hospital's administrator, and then sold to the very hospital that underwrote its construction.

• During the 1960s and 1970s scores of Seventh-day Adventist union and local conference officers across North America loaned millions of dollars of church funds (primarily to construct post office buildings) to a 1940 graduate of the College of Medical Evangelists for very modest returns, while they simultaneously loaned him their own money for much higher - and sometimes exorbitant - returns. The millions of dollars lost, when the doctor's Ponzi-like business collapsed in 1981, were more than matched by the crisis of confidence generated among church members by such widespread (and widely publicized), self serving, clerical conflicts of interest.

• Harris Pine Mills was an integrated business that cured and milled lumber from its own Northwestern forests, and then cut the wood into pieces that were assembled mostly at Adventist academies into outdoor furniture that was then wholesaled to retail outlets. Donated by its founder to the Adventist Church in 1952, thirty-four years later it was driven into chapter 7 bankruptcy by its sole stockholder, the General Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists.

• The demise of the North American SDA literature evangelist work was precipitated over a five year period (1991-1996) by enormous misjudgments, highly delusional thinking, and inexcusable naivete that concluded in a conspiracy among the highest officers of the Columbia Union Conference to circumvent church policy in order to give a Canadian entrepreneur more than $324,500 of union operating funds.

• While the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital story did not involve a loss of money or assets, it provided evidence that greed was a motivator in the exorbitant compensation of Adventist healthcare executives throughout North America that continues unabated.

• The General Conference presidency of Robert Folkenberg demonstrated the folly of choosing the church's chief executive officer through the casting of lots. Nevertheless, no change in the process of nominating a GC president has been made in the twenty years since Folkenberg was first elected to that office.

• In 1906 eight Seventh-day Adventists gave the Southern New England Conference a small sanitarium they had developed on the most idyllic location imaginable - 45 lakefront acres surrounded by thousands of acres of perpetual wooded preserve twenty miles north of Boston. Over time the sanitarium became a state-of-the-art, 300-bed hospital, and an academy and a church were built on its land. In 1999 the hospital, the church, the school and the property that Ellen White a century earlier said had been"reserved for us"was lost to bankruptcy.

Since the May 2008 publication ofWho Watches? Who Cares?the author has ruminated on the failures of policy, oversight, and transparency that permitted these misadventures, and has begun to identify deeper, more profound (but perhaps less obvious) causes for the sudden accumulation of so many heavy Adventist losses during the last twenty years of the twentieth century. His tentative conclusions may help to explain why the oversight of Church institutions is so reliably abysmal and why opacity rather than transparency remains the self-defeating rule.


Doug Hackleman earned his MA in psychology from Pepperdine University in 1973. After teaching for several years at La Sierra College and Loma Linda University, he founded and published Adventist Currents. From 1988 to 2009 he worked as a consultant to authors and publishers, did some contract teaching, and wrote articles on a variety of topics for both Adventist and secular journals. His most recent publication isWho Watches? Who Cares?Misadventures in Stewardship(MCA, 2008). He is married to Jan Ziebarth Hackleman, a registered nurse and practicing marriage and family therapist. They are parents of two adult daughters. As of January 2009 Hackleman has been employed by Loma Linda University School of Dentistry as its director of marketing and publications.

He has shared his research, views, and convictions with SDAF on four previous occasions:

- 11/82State of the Art: Ellen G. White

- 9/83Adventism in the 80's

- 4/93Perverting the Process

- 5/02The Absence of Free Will- Implications of

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