Former General Conference President Folkenberg Dead at 74
REDLANDS, California—December 31, 2015—Robert Folkenberg, former president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, died on December 24, 2015, at the age of 74 from recurring colon cancer. The Avon Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Florida will hold a memorial service for him on January 10 at 4:00 PM.
His death, however, has brought his resignation from his presidency in 1999 back into focus.
On February 8, 1999, Robert Folkenberg resigned from his position as General Conference president after a lawsuit against him which also named the General Conference Corporation, the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, and also Walter Carson, a member of the General Conference legal department among others made headlines in the Los Angeles Times.
The lawsuit was brought by Folkenberg’s long-time business partner, an entrepreneur in Sacramento, California, named James Moore. Folkenberg and Moore had formed several corporations together over the years to hold money which they made in a wide variety of land and other business deals.
The lawsuit was complicated and tedious, and it involved the failure of a corporation of which Folkenberg had been president until he was elected to the General Conference presidency to pay Moore’s foundation a promised percentage of a certain land deal. The story of the suit and of the Adventist organization’s quick attempts at damage control was reported in detail by Adventist Today, an independent Adventist journal, in its January/February and March/April, 1999 editions.
Nevertheless, Folkenberg’s resignation was enforced as the organization’s officers and directors met and realized that Folkenberg’s now-exposed business dealings were a moral and ethical liability to the Seventh-day Adventist organization.
Interestingly, Moore was the vice-chairman and director of Vicariatus Urbis Foundation, Ltd., which is “a non-profit organization of the Roman Catholic Church, Diocese of Rome, Connection Office,” Adventist Today reported (Jan/Feb., 1999). Incidentally, “Vicariatus Urbis Foundation” means “vicar of Rome Foundation”. It was this foundation which failed to receive a promised sum from Folkenberg’s foundation, Sharing International, Tennessee.
Significantly, after Folkenberg resigned he was never removed from the General Conference payroll. After a few months of paid personal leave, Folkenberg was given a position with the Adventist Global Communication Network. Eventually, Folkenberg returned to the limelight and became the founder and director of Adventism’s global evangelism program Share Him.
The suit with Moore was settled out of court, and the Adventist organization worked to make the problem go away and helped rehabilitate Folkenberg as a leader within Adventism.
The Adventist news releases about Folkenberg’s death have whitewashed the story of his resignation. While there is no purpose in resurrecting the details of that time, it is important to remember that Folkenberg had a long history of dubious business dealings on the side, and the Adventist organization, knowing of them, objected only when they became public and threatened the reputation of the organization. While he was pressured to resign, Folkenberg was never thought by the organization to have forfeited his qualifications to be an administrator and an evangelist in Adventism.
Editor, Proclamation! Magazine
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