Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why not make a week of it?

Why not make a week out of suggesting that the SBC could be helped by our entity leaders being open and transparent about their employment contracts, severance provisions, and compensation?

Here’s a personal experience:

I served as pastor in South Carolina for about 15 years. One year at the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention some of the brethren got stirred up about pay levels at the Baptist building. A motion was made that the complete compensation package of all ministerial level employees be published.

Needless to say, SCBC Executive Committee members argued strongly against the motion. I don’t recall the exact words but they indignantly rounded up the usual suspects: ‘disclosure would embarrass our employees,’ and ‘our pay scales are reasonable and fair,’ ‘trust us,’ etc.

Sorry, but you know how Baptists can be at times. The messengers were exercised enough to pass the motion.

After some months every SCBC church received a document that listed the pay of the Baptist Building folks. I recall looking through the thing and concluding that there was nothing out of line here. The head guy was paid well, though not excessively. The section heads were paid well, the lower level ministerial folks were paid quite modestly. No big deal. No shocks. No surprises. Employees didn't drag around in despondency that his or her compensation was made public and the South Carolina Baptist sky didn’t fall.

The folks who pay the bills wanted to know. They were given the information. That was that.

Sure, the SBC in annual session cannot force trustees of the entities to do the same, but trustees should voluntarily be open and transparent. Whatever Southern Baptists paid the two former NAMB CEOs is a secret, but it shouldn’t be. Kevin Ezell can easily avoid any problem here – just put it out for the people who pay the bills to see. No secret agreements. No confidential contracts.

I’ve read that research shows that when people don’t know what other employees are paid their speculation about it is almost always too high. Disclosure would avoid this.

So I say again that NAMB and our new CEO would help themselves with ordinary Southern Baptists, the ones who are being asked to increase our support of our beloved, if somewhat dysfunctional mission board. If we get openness and transparency one would expect that we would not have disenchanted employees who feel compelled to write about how NAMB is spending God's money.

I do wish that someone would at least make an argument as to why not being open and transparent is the better choice here.

[Just as an aside, Bill Mackey, retiring head of the Ky Baptist Conv was working for the SCBC when I was there. He is an example of a wonderful servant of Christ whom we as Southern Baptists have been blessed to have. He doesn't know me from Adam's housecat, but I wish him well in retirement.]


Les Puryear said...


I know you're going to be shocked but I agree 100% with this post. :)

Perhaps the SBC could begin being more transparent by opening the GCRTF tapes for public consumption.


Blake said...

Did they publish just salaries or also the net worth of benefits (e.g. insurance, travel, office supplies, etc)? I'd be curious to know how their pay compared to the pay of SBC personnel in a pioneer area.

William Thornton said...

As I recall, it was the compensation package.

The SBC had an opportunity to release the GCRTF tapes but voted against it. That's the way it works but it was a bad decision and I said so at the time.

William Thornton said...

BTW, I don't know what would prevent a future convention, say one less dominated by the GCR notables, from reversing that vote and releasing the tapes.

foxofbama said...

I was under the impression you were in SC for about 8 years.
If it okay with you, please give us ballpark years and the churches you served there.
I know you were in Union for a while, right?