Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ezell answers Plodder's questions about NAMB

Well, actually, I've never had a conversation with him but he has spoken often enough since his nomination and election as the new CEO of NAMB to have answered some of the questions I wrote down on September 2nd.

1. NAMB, the SBC’s poster child for dysfunction, has come close to losing my trust completely. What will you do in the first 100 days to assure Southern Baptists like me who funnel the $134 million to Alpharetta that NAMB is now on the right track and worthy of our trust?

Well, he has taken steps to pare down NAMB personnel by 25% and this as a “first step.” In a semi-cringeworthy statement he has implied that NAMB does a lot of things but few (maybe none other than disaster relief) things well and that he will refocus NAMB on planting churches.

Sounds good to me.

2. Trustees are to be blamed for both the Reccord debacle (they said on their hands while he wasted millions, branded himself, and mistreated employees) and the Hammond disaster. What will you do to address trustee failures?

Hasn’t said much here and I don’t suppose he can. We will see how he handles things the first time there’s a conflict. I get the sense that he has enough allies to manage trustee critics.

3. Will you be among the few high-profile SBC entity leaders who refuse to be secretive and closed to rank-and-file Southern Baptists who pay the bills? Or, will you be open and transparent and begin by disclosing your compensation package, employment contract, and any severance provisions?

No comment, though it would be a great move for him to do this. Imagine the stature he would gain if he called Baptist Press and said, "Here is my compensation package and employment contract. I want people who pay the bills to know that I will be completely transparent and that they have a right to know where their money is going."

4. How will you assure the average Southern Baptist pastor and church, the average grind-it-out church where the pastor looks out over 100 or less faces every Sunday when he preaches, that your megachurch background will not ignore their gifts, support, or methodology?

He has said that he wants to “connect with churches of all sizes.” OK. Fine. Let’s see.

5. Will you stand up to vested interests and decline to squander our Annie Armstrong millions on a thousand projects in states with abundant numbers of SBC churches in favor of more needed projects elsewhere?

His actions as pastor and statements thus far say answer “yes” to this, that he will stand up to such interests. Good. Do it early and often.

6. Will you refuse to be a cheap cheerleader for the status quo?

Status quo seems to have been left behind. Good.

7. You don’t have a record of great Cooperative Program support. How will you address the lack of credibility that comes from that record while, at the same time, encouraging churches to increase CP support?

I just got around to listening to his podcast of September 21 B21. In it he says that his church didn’t give to Annie because they partnered with NAMB to plant churches. I don’t know why he did not say this early and often to his critics. I don’t have a problem with a low AA offering if a church has the resources to go to NAMB and say, “What do you want done and where and how and we will do it.” I assume that this partnership had some degree of formality and wasn’t just his church spending money and saying that they were doing what NAMB would have done with it had they sent it through the AA offering.

As for the CP, he doesn’t really have a good answer other than his church didn’t like the way the Kentucky Baptist Convention spent the money. On this he is left with little to say other than that he hopes to change NAMB into something that churches are more interested in supporting.


Dave Miller said...

I was deeply disappointed. After his initial "bloggers in housecoats" comment, I exchanged a few emails and thought he asked for my cell phone to call me and answer some questions. But, evidently he decided that Voices was small potatoes and changed his mind about talking to me.

Anyway, I see little evidence that the secrecy issue you raised, which I consider important, is going to be a big priority with him.

Norm said...

Norm: As I have formally and academically studied organizations over several decades, I have learned that secrecy issues are of little concern to some leaders, whether they be leading large institutions, e.g., mission organization, or small communities, e.g., blog. Some leaders prefer to deal with managerial criticisms about self in private (who would not, but that is not really the point or the need) rather than have their managerial decisions, correctly or incorrectly perceived, and how and why such were derived be a matter of public record/scrutiny. That is, some in the strategic apex of an organization want to hold others accountable, which by virtue of their position is justifiable, just not be accountable themselves to said people, which by virtue of baptist ideology, accountability to the body is also justified. That is, some leaders place the preservation of their ego and status in the system above the needs of the community and the community’s right to know the processes and decisions to which it has bound itself. Such is in contrast with leaders that have learned the value of transparency and the benefits of relating to individuals as responsible adults that value mature and viable communities. The more that is secret in an organization or the less that its managers must account, you can be sure that injustice and irrationality will be present at higher levels than it might otherwise be. One need only peruse the news to perceive that religious organizations seemingly are no more immune from this than other organization.

Further, having said that, Ezell probably has some reason for concern, given that some outlets do not seem to be very discriminating (present blog, however, typically gets it or respectfully tries to get it right) in how they present information. When information is presented as opinion, rightly or wrongly, its integrity has a lower threshold to cross before it is permissible dialogue, but when information is presented as fact and such cannot be supported, but clinged to nonetheless, well, who would wish for a relationship with said outlets that willingly print or permit lies or, as we call it in religious organizations, false witness? And the message we then give the world, “Although we believe that faith in Christ and the Christian life is important for the well-being of all people, don’t expect us to model such for you.”

Several years ago, Gibbs wrote of supportive and defensive communication climates. I would encourage leaders of any enterprise to review such and find a mechanism in which others in the organization may review and discuss such, too. All might learn something, and better yet, some might even change based on the new knowledge.

Norm said...
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Norm said...
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Norm said...

William, what is the character limit for posts to your blog. Thanks.

William Thornton said...

Stephen, I deleted your comment. Let that be the last time you bring a conflict with someone here from elsewhere.

Norm, I don't know the character limitl. Some of your comments were recently put in a spam folder I didn't know my blog had. It probably had to do with inadvertantly repeated postings. I don't know why and haven't changed any of my comment settings.

Anonymous said...

Since he is hired by the board and his salary set by the board or a sub-committee on the board, I see no reason for him to give you his salary package. This issue of complete transparency gets old in a hurry. Trust the people that you put into positions of authority. Not every Southern Baptist on earth has a right to see his package.

William Thornton said...

Anonymous, since he is hired by a board of trustees that come indirectly by a vote of SBC messengers, and since SBCers give the money that sustains that board, Ezell's compensation, and NAMB work, I see not reason for him NOT to give us his salary package. The issue of lack of transparency gets old in a hurry. I can know what Obama makes. I can know what the UGA football coach makes. I can know what the CEO of Microsoft makes...but what one of our entity head makes has to be a secret? Ridiculous.

Every Southern Baptist has a right to see his package.

I remind you that Robert Reccord spent our money flying to London to see a movie, wasted millions of our dollars and then had us pay for executive placement services when he was exposed and forced to resign. We wouldn't have known about that and he may have continued such behavior if word did not lead out through concerned employees.

You have no argument here and I certainly don't blame you for posting anonymously.

William Thornton said...

Norm, you had the same post about eight times on my Friday blog. I don't know why but assume you didn't do this purposefully. I deleted all but one of them. That was the cause of your comments going to a spam folder and not being immediately put in the comment stream.

Norm said...

My post was removed, and given the screen I kept receiving, I thought there was a software glitch. It appears the post was too long, given that after I reduced its size, it did fine.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

William - thank you so much for being one of the few pastors that I know of in the SBC who dares to call for leadership in our convention to be transparent about their compensation. You probably won't get an answer, but there are so many lay people who are happy that at least ONE pastor in the SBC sees the importance of transparency in financial matters.

foxofbama said...

Thornton: I trust you are watching PBS God In America. The fan of Jonathan Edwards you are, Anne Hutchinson trial by John Winthrop Monday segment was captivating. Resonances of Ezell's parishioner Al Mohler and his experience with Molly Marshall.
Also, Hope I haven't fast forwarded to the Friday Roundup prematurely, Dan Vestal's former Parishioner, Chris Johnson, at the Conservative SBCImpact.net and I are having some intrigue about Hermeneutics that have great implications for Ken Ezell and the groping for consensus ideology in the unhinged, unmoored SBC.