Daily Archives: April 14, 2016

Ellen and Linda


In the past ten days or so I read two significant books that touch on my church—the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. The first of these two is published by Pacific Press, in California and is about Ellen G. White. [1] Yet another book about her? many might ask. Has not everything  what there is to say about Ellen White already been said? Apparently not. In this book the reader finds a series of essays written in defense of Ellen White. The initiative to produce this book lies with the Ellen G. White Estate, the institution that is responsible for the literary heritage of Mrs. White.

Unfortunately, the authors do not directly deal with the issues that were quite recently discussed in a book that looked at the ‘prophet’ from a somewhat greater distance and more critically. [2] Yet, this new book is considerably more objective than we often see in official Adventist publications about Mrs. White. For instance, there is much more attention for Ellen White’s role in the development of Adventist doctrine, her extensive ‘borrowing’ from historical and other sources in her books and articles, and the role of her assistants. It is acknowledged that Ellen White was a child of her times, also with regard to her (dated) scientific insights. Even though many questions remain, I found this book quite refreshing. Those who want to follow the ongoing discussion about the person and work of Mrs. White should get the book!

The second book is about another woman: Linda Shelton, the co-founder of the Adventist television and radio empire of 3ABN. This ‘independent ministry’, is the largest of the many independent ministries that claim to support (and at times to correct) the church in its task to proclaim the gospel in its Adventist packaging, as effectively as possible. The 3ABN organization has its studios and its offices in the southern part of the state of Illinois (USA). Its programs are broadcast worldwide by satellite, the Internet and a large number of cable stations. 3ABN is financed through gifts of viewers and listeners to the tune of some 15 million dollar per year.

Linda Shelton has written her autobiography which was published a few months ago. [3] In this book of over 500 pages Linda tells the story of how, after her first failed marriage, she met Danny Shelton, the founder of 3ABN, became intensely involved with the organization, and, after some time, married with Danny, whose first wife had died in a car crash. The book paints a very disturbing picture of the egocentric, megalomaniac president of the 3ABN organization and of the ugly manner in which he often treats people and the way in which he provides his relatives with jobs in 3ABN. Linda described Danny’ jealousy, when he saw the popularity of her programs and the way in which, as time went by, her marriage with Danny began to unravel.

A major part of the book deals with the unscrupulous way in which she was fired in 2004 from her functions in 3ABN, and with Danny’s attempts to divorce her. Needing to find ‘biblical grounds’ for a divorce, he accused Linda of adultery (he used the term ‘virtual adultery, whatever that may mean) with the Norwegian doctor who was treating Nathan (Linda’s son from her first marriage) for his drug addiction.  Danny never succeeded in providing any form of convincing evidence of Linda’s alleged misdoings. However, Danny secured a divorce with maximum speed and soon re-married with a person called Brandy, who by now was also a 3ABN employee. Whether the son  she brought with her from her previous marriage resulted from an earlier extramarital affair with Danny, has remained a mystery.

Indeed, it is a very ugly saga that still continues, for even today (eleven years later) the divorce settlement between Danny and Linda has not been finalized. The troubles around Mr. Shelton did, however, caused so much unrest that for a number of years he was barred by the 3ABN board from the organization’s presidency. However, in 2014 he was reinstated in his role—be it without Brandy, who left him a few years earlier. In the meantime all kinds of unpleasant things continue to happen that are intended to make life for Linda as difficult as possible.

For quite some time I had been aware of the problems surrounding the Sheltons and 3ABN, but this book fills in many of the details. I continue to be amazed that so many people are still willing to support 3ABN, often with large amounts of money, without worrying (of without knowing?) about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Danny must spend to pay for his lawyers in the many court cases he must face, and about the fact that 3ABN has its own jet, while leasing another one. It also greatly amazes me that the South-England Conference recently entered into an evangelistic alliance with Shelton c.q. 3ABN.

What I find more amazing than anything else is that the top leadership of the church does not clearly distance itself from Danny Shelton and the clique around him. Does life style and the way you treat other people not matter as long as your theology is conservative? It is hard to escape  that impression!

(If you want to purchase Linda Shelton’s book, you may order it via her website (www.lindashelton.org) or through Amazon.com.)

[1]  Merlin D. Burt, ed., Ellen White: The life and work of the most influential voice in Adventist history (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2015).

[2]  Terrie Dopp Aamodt, Gary Land en Ronald L. Numbers, red., Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (Oxford UK/New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[3]  Linda Shelton, Adventures in Forgiveness: an Autobiography (LLS Publishers, 2015).