By AT News Team, August 6, 2015: With the retirement of Pastor Jim Gilley on July 20, Danny Shelton was again appointed president of Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN). He was the founder of the independent ministry and served as president for 24 years until he stepped aside in 2008 due to a number of problems in his personal life and with the organization.
Gilley is 74 and has served as president for more than seven years after retiring as a vice president of the Adventist denomination’s North American Division (NAD). He was a pastor, evangelist and conference president during his long career.
Shelton promptly announced in an interview with the Adventist Review that evangelism campaigns in large cities will be a priority for the broadcasting ministry, starting with a project in London next year. “I believe the best way to receive God’s blessing on our ministry is to cut costs anywhere we can except evangelism,” the leading Adventist journal quoted Shelton. It has been ten years since 3ABN conducted a major evangelism campaign outside the United States, the report said.
Bruce Fjarli, a business executive from Medford, Oregon, was voted chairman of the board for 3ABN. His father, Merlin Fjarli, had been a board member and major donor with the organization until his death last year. Fjarli is a partner in Southern Oregon Builders, a construction firm, and a board member for Light Bearers, another independent ministry supported largely by Adventists.
3ABN started in 1984 with the goal of providing a more hard-hitting alternative to the denomination’s established media ministries. Shelton was employed in construction and did gospel singing as well as serving as a lay preacher on occasion. The organization has grown to a 24-hour-a-day television and radio network carried by satellite to 120 local stations around the world with production centers in Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Russia, as well as at its headquarters near a small town in southern Illinois. Official reports show that it has about $68 million in assets and received $13.6 million in donations during the most recent year on record (2011).
Shelton told the Adventist Review “that he intended to keep 3ABN focused on its core mission of sharing the three angels’ message about Jesus’ soon coming from Revelation 14.” When he relinquished the chief executive position in 2008 and became co-chairman of the board with Gilley, donations had slowed due to concern on the part of some supporters that the organization was operating two executive jets and rumors of Shelton’s micromanagement leadership style. In June, 2004, he had divorced his wife of 20 years, Linda Shelton, who was a popular host of shows on the network.
There were concerns about the way Linda was fired from 3ABN and whether there were real Biblical grounds for the divorce. Shelton married Brandy, his third wife, and she filed for divorce on March 1, 2010, before a financial settlement had been finalized in court with Linda. His annual income for 2009 was reported through legal documents as $155,688 or more than three times that of an ordained minister in the Adventist denomination.
Shelton hired his older brother Tommy, a Church of God pastor, to take Linda’s job as production manager at 3ABN despite the fact that the elder Shelton brother had been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct with men and boys. The same kind of charges were later made by at least one employee at 3ABN and Tommy was eventually jailed in Virginia over similar problems.
Two supporters published a large archive of the legal documentation related to these problems on a web site which 3ABN took control of through litigation. It has recently been released again at www.save-3ABN.com and www.save-3ABN.info. Adventist Today published stories on these issues as well as the positive impact of 3ABN in some local areas in the January-February 2004, January-February 2006, March-April 2007 and May-June 2007 issues of the magazine.
The current board of 3ABN includes Pastor Kenneth Denslow, assistant to the president of the NAD; Ellsworth McKee, chairman of the board for McKee Foods, Inc., the manufacturer of Little Debbie brand cookies; Pastor James Stevens, president of the denomination’s Texico Conference (which includes west Texas and New Mexico); Dr. Walter Thompson, a retired physician and former board chairman; Pastor Max Trevino, retired former president of the denomination’s Southwestern Union Conference; Carmelita Troy, a professor in the School of Business at Andrews University; and five employees of the organization, including Shelton. It is one of the largest independent ministries to be a member of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), the association of businesses and nonprofits not directly affiliated with the denomination but controlled by members of the Adventist denomination.
It is unclear what the actual impact of 3ABN is. There are reports of perhaps thousands of converts to the Adventist faith who were engaged or nurtured by the media ministry. But surveys of the general public have never found more than a very small percentage of non-members who have ever seen or heard of the network. No ratings data has ever been made available and many of the local stations in the United States are low-power licenses that have very limited range and very small audiences. Just as the “History Channel” on cable television is tuned in only by those who have an interest in history, the very concept of an Adventist channel limits viewership almost entirely to those who already have some interest in the Adventist faith.
In the interview with the Adventist Review, Shelton, who is 64, stated that 3ABN is preparing younger staff members to take over leadership. He mentioned Greg and Jill Morikone “as well equipped to take the presidency” of the organization. Greg came to 3ABN as a college intern 16 years ago and was promoted to production manager last year. Jill is administrative assistant to the network’s president and a host on some programs, as well as an author and columnist for the Adventist Review.
Shelton told the Adventist Review that he has no plans to continue his role for “another 10 or 12 years.” He is quoted stating that “this ministry is bigger than any one person. I’ve never seen it as my ministry. It has always been the Lord’s ministry.”