NAMB trustees end investigation involving former state convention leader

by Tammi Reed Ledbetter/TEXAN |

(by Joni B. Hannnigan)NAMB trustees approved a recommendation by officers indicating their satisfaction with a review of the Southern Baptist entity's relationship with the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, June 13. NAMB president Kevin Ezell is seat on the left.

ST. LOUIS (Christian Examiner) — Following an unanticipated two-hour, closed-door session labeled as a "workshop," trustees of the North American Mission Board meeting in St. Louis June 13 unanimously approved a recommendation by officers indicating their satisfaction with a "thorough examination and review" of the Southern Baptist entity's relationship with the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network (MABN).

"Representatives of this board have conducted a thorough examination and review of the dealings between NAMB leadership and the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network and have fully reported those findings to the full Board of Trustees, who discussed the findings at length and considered them when making this recommendation," the board was told as a part of background information before the vote.

"In addition, the trustees were kept informed about challenges regarding the relationship between NAMB and MABN as the challenges developed, and NAMB's executive leadership sought input from the chairman and other officers of this board regarding such challenges."

The motion approved by trustees without discussion during their June 13 meeting a day before the annual Southern Baptist Convention convenes indicated by the action that officers "are satisfied that this matter has been reviewed thoroughly and consider this matter concluded." Board members applauded the action, which was taken at the close of a series of routine reports.

NAMB is one of a handful of SBC entities that do not allow media access to committee meetings, opening the doors to plenary sessions where most voting takes place without discussion. Following the two-hour plenary session, spokesperson Mike Ebert emailed two earlier statements from NAMB indicating affirmation of a strong relationship with Maryland-Delaware Baptists (see below).

The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, previously known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, called Southern Seminary professor Kevin Smith as its executive director a week ago, replacing Will McRaney, who stepped down a year ago and subsequently fired off an open letter criticizing the manner in which NAMB handled cooperative agreements with state Baptist conventions.

In the Feb. 5 response to McRaney's charges, which he shared with trustees and eventually the public, NAMB board chairman Chuck Herring indicated a desire to keep the matter internal, however McRaney released the response on his personal website months ago.

Herring wrote in his response, "Rather than engage in a line-by-line rebuttal of Dr. McRaney's portrayals of how Kevin and other NAMB leadership navigated through this challenging situation, it is sufficient to say that his letter is both factually inaccurate and misleading."

In addition, Herring said the relationship and partnership with state Baptist convention partners is highly valued.

In a March 24 letter, NAMB clearly related how a new strategy is working with an increase of church planting funds, resulting in 20 new churches in 2012 and double that in 2015.

Following his departure, McRaney posted more than 100 pages of documents related to MABN's relationship with the North American Mission Board during his tenure, alleging his resignation was forced by Ezell.

In addition to serving as an assistant professor of church history and Christian preaching, the new executive director was teaching pastor at the church where NAMB president Kevin Ezell previously served before joining NAMB in September of 2010.

Michael L. Trammell, president of the network's General Mission Board, told Baptist Press that Smith was "thoroughly vetted by our Executive Director Search Committee, the Administrative Committee of the General Mission Board and by the full membership of the General Mission Board," calling him "a scholar" and "a tremendously gifted leader."

NAMB response to Will McRaney's Letter of Concern (February 5, 2016)

NAMB affirmation of strong relationship with Maryland-Delaware Baptists (March 24, 2016)

Tammi Ledbetter is special assignments editor for Southern Baptist Texan which is on the net at Texanonline.net. This article was first published here.