In 2000 Dispute, Paul Charles Accused Adventist Church of Bias, Unfair Labor Practice

The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has confirmed in a communique sent to leaders of the denomination's thirteen divisions that Paul Charles, accused by church members in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) of falsifying his academic qualifications, has declined a call to serve as Associate Director of Communication for the General Conference.

During the 2016 Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee, Paul Charles was nominated to fill a vacancy for the GC Associate Communication Director position. At the same time allegations first surfaced in the South African daily newspaper The New Age that Charles presented illegitimate qualifications (doctoral degrees) to advance his career.

SID leaders published a statement conceding that Charles’ degrees came from unaccredited institutes (Freedom Institute in particular), that he would stop presenting them, and that he would pursue graduate study from accredited institutions. SID also stated that they saw nothing disqualifying Charles from serving as a pastor (his current position is SID Director of Communication).

See also “Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division: ‘Paul Charles Does Not Possess Any Accredited Qualification.”

The General Conference has said that in view of Charles’ decision to pursue academic study at an accredited institution, he will not accept the call to serve at the General Conference at this time.

Now information has come to light revealing that Charles’ qualifications have been a source of contention since a 2000 labor dispute that pitted Charles against the Adventist Church.

Documents obtained by Spectrum from January and February 2000 show that Paul Charles took the Seventh-day Adventist Church before the South African Department of Labour’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). In the dispute, referred to the CCMA on January 27, 2000, Charles stated that he received written and verbal notice of dismissal from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and alleged unfair dismissal, unfair labor practice, and bias on the part of the Adventist Church, his employer.

Asked to outline special features / additional information the CCMA should note, Charles wrote,

*Persons employed before me but qualified later *employment of unqualified persons *Moving of person to a pastoral position without experience et al. At the sacrifice and refusal to employ me

Charles alleged that bias also played a role and asked for his job back and for payment. From the CCMA documents:

Summarize the facts of the dispute you are referring. “Refused employment on bias basis”

Describe the procedures followed. “Discussed with the appropriate personnel from the Local Church Level → Conference Level → The Church Union Office.”

What outcome do you require? “Reinstatement and compensation”

In the Certificate of Outcome of Dispute Referred for Conciliation (adjudicated by commissioner Mr. Mchunu Bhekisisa and signed in Durban on 25 February, 2000), the following settlement of the dispute was recorded:

1.1 “The church shall work on improving the proposal made to Pastor Charles concerning Stanger area (Stanger refers to KwaDukuza municipality in KwaZulu-Natal province).”

1.2 “The conference shall arrange a meeting with President Dr Wakaba and informed [sic] Pastor Charles of the date by Friday next week.”

1.3 “The executive shall then meet on the 9th May 2000.”

Bernhard Ficker, a lay member of the Adventist Church in the Cape Conference and one who has been calling for transparency, states that Charles was employed not on the basis of his being the candidate most suited to the job but to resolve the labor dispute. Ficker states that at the time, an opening came up for an Afrikaans-speaking pastor of Afrikaans churches in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Freestate Conference. When a white pastor who spoke Afrikaans was appointed, Charles alleged discrimination. Charles argued that he was better qualified than the Afrikaans-speaking pastor as well.

Conference President Gustav van Niekerk, who gave Charles his first position in Kwa-Zulu Natal Freestate, did not check the validity of Charles' qualification because it was not required of pastors, Ficker said. Subsequently, when Charles was elected as the Union Education Director, Pastor Danie Potgieter objected to the appointment on the basis that Charles had illegitimate qualifications. His objection was taken to the Objections Committee but the president, F. Louw, refused to consider the objection, Potgieter says. Potgieter lodged a formal complaint that Charles had false qualifications. The complaint was submitted by the Conference treasurer Mervyn Mason to the Union, but the Union did not pursue the complaint, Potgieter says.

The Centrality of Charles' Qualifications Charles’ qualifications (graduate degrees) have always been a significant piece of his story. In the 2000 labor dispute, Charles’ key contention beyond bias was that he was overlooked while unqualified people (and people who became qualified later than he) advanced in the work. Qualifications have played a significant role in Charles’ personal narrative (he has been introduced to audiences as the holder of a PhD in missiology and a PhD in management with a third PhD in the works), and in his bio (he has been described in ASI program flyers for which he was a speaker as holding a PhD in Management). Finally, his qualifications have been the grounds for dispute with church members who insist Charles has deliberately misled the Adventist Church about his graduate diplomas (separate claims that he obtained a master’s degree and multiple doctoral research degrees—from questionable institutions—raise red flags for many).

SID leaders have framed the issue as a question of accreditation—the problem, as they have identified it, is that the institutions from which Charles obtained his qualifications were unaccredited (a potentially prosecutable offense in South Africa). The remedy they have proposed is to send Charles to an accredited institution to complete his graduate studies.

Church members see it differently. The fact that Charles has for many years passed himself off as the holder of many legitimate qualifications, only retreating from those claims recently after intense media scrutiny, points to questions of character, not accreditation, they say. Charles’ dispute against the Adventist Church before the CCMA in 2000 is further cause for concern.

Paul Charles has not responded to repeated request for comment. Several emails with specific questions related to this story went unanswered. Instead, SID legal counsel Boyce Mkhize has fielded some emails on behalf of Charles and on behalf of SID President Paul Ratsara. But rather than responding to pointed inquiries, Mkhize has asked church members to stop emailing.

In response to an email from a church member requesting the full report of the SID-appointed committee that looked into allegations of fraud against Paul Charles and requesting the composition of the committee, Mkhize wrote the following on May 5:

I am kindly urging you to please respect church protocol in terms of your communication. It is not normal and acceptable practice for a local member to write to the General Conference, SID and SAU. Please refrain from unduly littering the inboxes of our esteemed officers at the General Conference, SID and SAU. Please acquaint yourself with our church practices.

You are aware that the SID is handling the matter and your continued bombarding of our higher organization offices is both unjustifiable and unacceptable. If you do not see light in this polite request, we will have no option but to block your messages.

I trust you will heed this call with Christian decorum.

Kind regards

Boyce Mkhize SID Legal Counsel

For those in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division who want forthrightness and transparency from their leaders, the ongoing Paul Charles story has left much to be desired.

Paul Charles CCMA Labor Dispute 2000

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7454

Sounds familiar:
“I am Oz, the Great and Powerful. How dare you approach me?"

Not normal or acceptable church protocol for a member to write to a church administrator?! This email disturbs me more profoundly than the tawdry fiasco about degrees. This arrogance is unimaginable, except perhaps from dictatorships. It’s inappropriate beyond description coming from leaders of Christ’s flock, & who thereby pronounce themselves unworthy of such positions.

Aren’t we a church with representative governance? If I can’t send you mail, then I don’t send you my tithe.

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It scares me to think that anybody can even make attempts to defend something that is so gross by all accounts. When SID states that there is nothing that disqualifies brother Paul Charles from the ministry, how do the explain him having e termed into the ministry through illicit and illegitimate means? The fact that he does not have a junior degree or even a diploma as a requirement for entry into ministry renders his claim to the ministry fatal. To argue that he has a Master’s and two Doctoral degrees from unaccredited institutions, has no legs to stand on because nowhere in the whole world can it be said that a person is qualified when he does not have an entry qualification but has faked senior degrees instead. Right at the point of entry, he created a storm causing administrators fear legal consequences and thereby ignore all requirements and just employ him. His career throughout has been dogged by deceit, lies and unadulterated dishonesty. The SID does not want to subject him to due process for him to explain himself before an independent tribunal. All these point to one conclusion: there is something highly sinister that the SID leadership is hiding to the church membership in the whole scandal.

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The South African context always poses layers of complexity.

This story certainly puts Paul Charles and the actions of successive church administrations at centre stage.

But watch out for a loaded meta-narrative that is just rearing its head in this article. It probably is true that Paul Charles was framing his claim for unfair labour practices in terms of the race politics of the day. No dispute there. Maybe it was opportunistic.

But note that this plays into a far bigger historical conflict that exists in South African church around race. Spectrum is relying on Bernhard Ficker to tell the story. Bernhard is an academic himself and he has justification to raise issues around Paul Charles’ qualifications. But anybody who has lived in the South African church context will know that he has been a consistently strong voice against the movement to dismantle Apartheid structures in the church. Often he would be a spokesperson and leader of this reactive sector in the Southern African church. Here is at least one article where he features in a newspaper report following one of the most dramatic Conference sessions in this history: http://mg.co.za/article/1996-10-25-adventists-vote-for-segregation. Compare his statements in the historical report to his narrative in the Spectrum article above. There may be an attempt to settle a bigger score(?).

Why was Paul Charles’ qualifications not challenged in 2000 when he took the church to the CCMA? His strongest claim against the church was the fact that he had these qualifications. It should have been easy for the church to challenge this case and send Paul Charles back to school. It may be that the Conference executive committee was anxious about race issues. Gustav van Niekerk was the second president of a newly merged conference. What was his view of the bigger political context in which he functioned? It was a difficult position for him to be in and he himself might have felt beleaguered by the racial complexities that he had to deal with. In anxious times, the church tends to choose the most defensive course of action. An opportunity could well have been missed to hold a zealous but misguided young worker to account. The commissioner in charge of this CCMA procedure was himself an Adventist (who almost certainly wanted the newly merged conference to buy into the post-Apartheid project to re-engineer society in South-Africa.)

A similar analysis of the events around the Union session that saw Paul Charles appointed as education director could go a long way to explain why a robust investigation of his qualifications were rejected at that time and follow-up attempts were ignored. The church had found somebody with the right mix of energy, chutzpah, race, and qualifications to boot (by now a second PhD had been added!), that would move the reform process in the church a step further. What chance would the objections of a lone voice (also an Afrikaans voice, who could easily be interpreted as having vested interests to maintain a particular order) stand to bring about a change in this course of events?

15 years later, the South African situation is still complex, but now there is a growing disillusionment about the power-structures in the church and the allegations of mismanagement and lack of transparency that come with it. Is this what the church has become as a result of the project to mirror broader societal change? Listen to how the defenders and accusers in this debate draw on political language that has currency in today’s South Africa. Could some Girardian insights come in handy here? Has the system generated a scapegoat? Scapegoats are often found where the system is at its weakest, where defenses crumble most easily. Should we be suspicious of the ease at which very unlikely alliances are being formed between people around this “uniting” issue?

Personal responsibility is important. It would be wonderful if we could see some of that in this story. But sometimes we think we live our lives as individuals and that we are the masters of our own fate… but when we stand a bit further away, or look in hindsight, we realise that we were actors in a drama that we had not entirely scripted ourselves.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/girard/#H3

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Wow! Lisa! Great insight. Thank you very much. I love this part and I concur wholeheartedly, “But sometimes we think we live our lives as individuals and that we are the masters of our own fate… but when we stand a bit further away, or look in hindsight, we realise that we were actors in a drama that we had not entirely scripted ourselves.” I think this is very much what has happened with this story. It is amazing that people from opposite ends of the tug rope in 2000 have now joined forces on this matter. It may be common cause but definitely different interests.

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This is nothing, Betty and I live in an upscale senior center. The chef has a degree from one of the top culinary school and we generally eat in our tiny apartment… The issue is not the degree but the falsification of it. What was the mix of his alleged degrees and his quality of his former work product. The separate question is his candor. tZ

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The third question is : How was he selected to receive a promotion to the General Conference Communication Department?

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Had he not declined, would the GC have rolled the red carpet and welcome him to the headquarters? Did someone in the GC not consider withdrawing the offer?

What a convoluted story we have here. Just like raising children, negative behaviors are enabled by poor parenting.

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Well it appears that now the whole story (or at least most of it) is out there, the church has finally gone into damage control. The idea that Paul Charles has “declined the call” to the General Conference is amusing.

Clearly he has been told that he must decline the call - there is no way that someone with his track record of dubious self-promotion would “self select” to NOT go and live in the DC/MD area of the United States. Many phone conversations and emails will have been exchanged between the GC and SID regarding this matter, and Paul Charles has no doubt been “tapped on the shoulder” and told that his next calling is to a period of study to obtain some “accredited” qualifications.

The question will rightly be asked by some: “Why is he simply not being fired?”

The answer is that Paul Charles is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Too many officers in senior positions have “unaccredited” qualifications. Some are from colleges and schools which though not accredited, made an honest effort to make a difference in the world. Others though, are simply from “degree mills”, and might as well have been obtained as toys in a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

And some have degrees from accredited universities, but perhaps obtained these with unauthorized assistance (such as ghost writers for dissertations.)

Nobody in the church system has the will or the temerity to try to figure out which is which. So, far easier to persuade Paul Charles to decline his call to the GC.

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This may be the most off-putting part of this whole mess. What a truly offensive email. Contrary to what the email indicates, Boyce should familiarize himself with how email works around the world: In that, if you are a church leader and publish your email, then you should expect it to be used. And you should respond to those who email you, especially church members regarding church related topics. There is no ‘church protocol’ in existence that suggests otherwise.

Boyce might be accurately reflecting an internal attitude within the church hierarchy. I’ve send email to my conference leaders (rather bland email, and not controversial, asking questions) and never ever received a response. Either our esteemed leaders are too dimwitted to understand basic expectations regarding how to manage email, or they’re just rude. I’m not sure which.

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He likely “declined”, once he realized he had been discovered. Or, it was the euphemistic term the G.C. used; just as having a “call” far away is often used.

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“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

-Sir Walter Scott-

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Robert, I share your suspicions that Paul Charles is not the only Seventh-day Adventist Church officer in the world who has claimed degrees that are fraudulent. I suspect that the willful acceptance of fraudulent degrees is just one of many accommodations we have chosen to make to third-world Seventh-day Adventists. It is hard for me to imagine that GC officers are so dimwitted that they did not notice from the very beginning upon reviewing the resume of Paul Charles that the degrees claimed therein are fraudulent. And nobody knows the Church better than Ted Wilson. I dare say he could recite from memory the names of all of the GC officers, division officers, and GC Executive Committee members and identify which ones are legitimately credentialed and which ones are fraudulently credentialed. At a minimum, a risk management officer at the GC should review all relevant resumes and privately suggest revisions.

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all’s well that ends well…persuasion from the GC to paul to recuse himself from consideration for the position of Associate Director of Communication, even though he didn’t engage in fraud, is the wise way forward…no doubt the value of accredited degrees, although they are achieved more arduously than unaccredited degrees, will be part of the calculations taken by aspiring south africans, and others, in the future…

although PhDs aren’t enumerated in 1 Tim 3:2-12 or Titus 1:6-9, they’ve become a cultural expectation for executives in our general conference in the same way that a genderless ordained ministry has in many parts of the world…it’s a question of maintaining principles while keeping up with the times… this entire episode with paul charles is a mere blip in our collective journey towards a fuller understanding of what is appropriate in our time…i see no cause for concern…

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This has NOT ended well until Paul Charles is no longer working for the church. This guy is a grifter and a disgrace to the clergy of the SDA Church. Someone needs to give an account of why he is still on the church’s payroll.

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The only way that he almost got away with it us because he is one of several or perhaps many with fraudulent degrees in the service of the church. Distasteful as it may seem, it would seem incumbent on Spectrum to do a survey of all who claim to hold PhDs at the GC office and see who isn’t quite telling the truth.

This may only take a day or two given the Internet and if there are others would take the spotlight off of poor Mr. Charles and illuminate what may well be a glorious mess.

One finds upon entering the GC Building that it is not all that different from Martin Luther’s first visit to the Vatican.

So excellent work so far. Now time to lay bare the corruption and bring about some purification.

As to the arrogant blowhard lawyer Boyce Mkhize, a Google search turned this up involving either him or another South African attorney who shares his name who was implicated in a corruption scheme.

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RE: Our love of Degrees is the root of this problem

Over the years, I have watched individuals seek PhD’s while pastoring a church. From my viewpoint, it resulted in less time in home visitation, caring for the poor and community involvement. My second observation was that once obtained they sought to secure larger congregations or Conference Office positions commensurate with their perceived qualifications. They moved in higher professional circles paying little regard to the common folks or pastors of small churches. At Conference gathering they honor the entitled and highly positioned and paid little regard to individuals that did not further their ambitions. At Conference gathering, just look at whom they endeavor to sit next too.

“The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat [high elected/honored positions]…all their works they do to be seen by men [as educated and talented]…they love the best places at feast, the best seats in the synagogues [to be a featured camp meeting speaker], greetings in the market places [author of a famous book, especially about their conversion from a pagan to a righteous life] and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi [Dr.- President].” Matt 23

Have we forgotten who Jesus surrounded himself with or whom he gave his relentless reproofs? Instead of being the Remnant Church are we headed in the opposite direction due to our love for Degrees and the privileges they grant lifting us above the poorer working classes. Instead, “Blessed are the poor” has it become in our church “blessed are the highly education, the positioned and famous guest speaker.” Who cares at all what the Janitor thinks or the single working Mom with a high School degree (only Jesus would)?

To: Jay L. Perry: The fault lies with your Conference President. He should have declined the position on experience alone. It is like becoming a director of a Navy Seals team without having been through basic training.

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I was just reading this month’s Adventist Review’s article on PC. The story talks about PC having a rough childhood and was placed out of home at a young age. As a child, his future was uncertain and for a while he lived off the street without an adult to provide hope and a template for growing up. Most likely he incorporated his “street-smartness” into his personality and turned out the way he is. Having said that, before being “promoted” to continue his education at accredited institutions, he should at the very least consult with psychotherapists the likes of @GeorgeTichy @cincerity @pattigrant @ageis711Oxyain @frankpeachamvt (who else are psychotherapists-in-residence at Spectrum?) to get better understanding of how he turned out the way he is and to acquire socially adaptive coping skills. I doubt very much that in his heart he intended to be a “grifter” nor is he a “disgrace to the clergy of the SDA church” anymore than anyone of us. That is except the LGTarians.

Part of his unfortunate situation was most likely enabled and fostered by the SID where he was “allowed” to earn his stripes similar to poor parenting enabling disruptive behaviors in children.

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Yes, it does appear that he “was his own parent” which obviously has had mixed results.

Not that I condone everything that he has done…but he has promoted himself quite successfully and has done what he could to achieve it. In the secular world he might even be applauded for his apparent “aplomb”.

I must say also that he very nearly reached the top of his career ceiling and to do so he needed, at the very least, the cooperation or the blind eye of the SID. He most likely did not act upon all of this without some of their cognizance. If he managed to do without it- then it really is a sad commentary about the SID (as parent).

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I think you’re right, Lisa. Look at how long the American version of apartheid churches has held on in the form of regional conferences.

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