Friday, February 24, 2012

NAMB in the bullseye

In the old days, hapless seminary students learning greek would be required to look at a New Testament verse in their Greek New Testament and parse the words - masculine, singular, nominative, whatever. Ah,the memories.

Now it's all done for you, clickable on innumerable internet sites. Alas, I was born a couple of decades too soon.

Here's something to parse, though, that isn't done for you:  

State execs form NAMB study committee
State convention executive directors have appointed a special committee to evaluate relations with the North America Mission Board.
Uh oh.
May I select a few quotes for my dear readers to parse:
Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and president of the fellowship for 2011-12, said the committee was established "to evaluate how state conventions and NAMB can maximize cooperation during the transition process of implementing the new NAMB initiatives."

Members of the committee are David Hankins, chairman, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention...
This wouldn't be the same Emil Turner and David Hankins who notably, publicly, and loudly said when the present head of NAMB was to be voted on by trustees that "Southern Baptists who want to lead a denominational entity “ought to have a track record of supporting those entities.”
Well...I suppose it was the same two.
Turner said the NAMB study committee is important to evaluating and understanding the future work of state conventions with NAMB.

"Evaluating" and "understanding" beg for parsing here.
Following the establishment of the committee, Turner said he contacted Ezell to reassure him the action "is not to be or do anything adversarial, but to seek understanding and cooperation."

You bet. A calming phone call should always be given to someone who might think some action could possibly be interpreted as adversarial but really isn't because you got that congenial phone call.
Mike Ebert, NAMB's vice president of communications, said it is NAMB's "desire to be good partners with our state conventions," adding, "[We] are always open to anything that would move us toward penetrating lostness in North America. We are ultimately accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention through the NAMB trustees, and we are confident in the direction in which we are moving."

 NAMB's spokesman pointedly speaks such that when NAMB and accountability appear in the same sentence, state conventions receive no mention. 

I'd call that a shot across the bow.

State convention executives had a pretty tough year last year. The Georgia Baptist Convention let a bunch of people go because revenues were down by millions. Other state conventions have been feeling the pinch also.

I doubt any of them are in a mode to promote any increase for NAMB and are in crisis management mode to try and deflect any further cuts of the bouncebacks in funds NAMB has been giving to the states through those mysterious Cooperative Agreements. (I call them mysterious because I've never seen one, cannot get my hands on one, and have been refused permission to view them. If any of my dear readers happens to have a copy, I'd love to see it.)

Kevin Ezell already has the hardest job in the SBC. Looks like this year will be a bit tougher. 


Anonymous said...


I will make an effort next week to see if I can get a copy of the Cooperative Agreement between NAMB and NC.

I'll let you know.


Josh Collins said...

For new work states, I know the NAMB cooperative agreements were a good thing, and hopefully with the Send North America strategy more funds will be going to those states with/without the Cooperative Agreements.

For other well-established state conventions, the cooperative agreements appear to have been a clever accounting trick where they can tell the folks in the pew that they are forwarding all this money to national missions, when in reality a big chunk is getting handed right back to pay state employees.

Anonymous said...

never seen
cannot get
refused permission to view

A top-down response to a once bottom-up movement. Accountability is what a person says when he wants to take control. Non-accountability is what he practices when he gains control. SBC, despite thinking we are special, we really are so common.

Howell Scott said...


I enjoy your take on the NAMB/State Conventions kerfuffle, even if I disagree with some of your conclusions. Without getting too specific, I can tell you that the creation of the study committee was not done without thought. Whether one thinks that the old cooperative agreements needed to be radically overhauled (you) or one thinks that these agreements could have been revised and implemented in the 4-7 year transition period per the language of the GCRTF Report, one thing that is clear -- partnership is a two-way street.

If one partner begins to dictate the terms of the partnership agreement in such a heavy handed fashion that leaves very little room for cooperation, then you get to a point where you need to evaluate your relationship. That this was done, not just by one or two State Executive Directors, but on behalf of the entire Fellowship of State Executive Directors, is quite telling.

There has been a shot fired across the bow, but I tend to think that the State Executive Directors were forced into a position which, with better cooperative skills (not a strong suit of megachurch pastors and certain entity heads), they would not have responded as they have. I, for one, applaud their courage to form the committee. Thanks and God bless,


William Thornton said...

Do you favor the revisions so long as they are phased in? If so, then we're just talking about timing.

It was clear in the GCR process that if we expected NAMB to have success they needed to be in control of their budget. One need only recall the reactions when these agreements began to be widely discussed. Millions sent to NAMB and they turn around and spread it right back in these old line deep south SBC state conventions?

I'm not sure what ammunition the state execs have here, aside from persuasion. NAMB likely doesn't expect much from the declarations of states to move to 50/50, the math doesn't wprl there and states can hardly argue against churches supporting Annie Armstrong.

We will see. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

For years now there has been uncertainty about home missions, even some leaders advocating the elimination of the agency.

Perhaps the time has come for states with strong conventions to take over their missions programs completely. A greatly downsized NAMB (or as a part of the IMB) could aid weaker states with the participation of stronger states.

You know, like "smaller federal government."

Jonathan said...

This is the legacy of a tone deaf (perhaps boneheaded) leadership culture. For years, we've been told that the solution was to give more. Then years of poor leadership and scandal. Then there was the move to have all SBC agencies become single member corps essentially eliminating all real accountability...outside of the funding stream from churches and states.

Then a NAMB leader was appointed who had a poor track record of support from the church he led...and all criticism was roundly (and disrespectfully) ridiculed (Dr. York in a bathrobe was the classic picture).

Then came the GCR with its grand plans that were going to be paid for by significantly reducing state conventions from the funding stream.

The only lever the states have is the funding they forward to the SBC.

I like what Ezell has done so far. He seems to be a very good manager and leader. But when you back state executive against the wall and treat them as expendable, don't be surprised at the push back.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I think part of the idea of eliminating or redoing the Cooperative Agreements was that the states, like Georgia where there are about 5k SBC churches, could and should manage missions within their border without using a lot of NAMB money.

Of course, someone's money has to be used...