State Baptist Convention leaders rebuke SBC Elite over lack of partnership. Make clear Elites must stop their autocratic ways or face the consequences
Six State Baptist Convention leaders fired a broadside directed at Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last week. The state executive directors allege in a letter that Ezell and NAMB are attempting to centralize power and ignore the state conventions. The letter makes clear what everyone in the SBC already knows, Ezell is an autocrat intent on centralizing power and using money to do it.
The letter outlines how NAMB is taking more money from the states and then refusing to fund joint projects as in the past. And the states included an implicit warning—unless things change, the states will take drastic action.
“We must be ready to do what is necessary to support the ongoing work of the churches in our home states who look to us for contextualized assistance in church planting, evangelism, and missions,” the leaders said.
The six state leaders are Randy Adams (Northwest Baptist Convention), Bill Agee (California Southern Baptist Convention), Joe Bunce (Baptist Convention of New Mexico), Randy Covington (Alaska Baptist Resource Network), Jack Kwok (State Convention of Baptists in Ohio) and Chris Martin (Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention), according to the Louisiana Baptist Message.
The six state leaders sent to Ezell, NAMB trustees and Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee members and SBC Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd the letter outlining the need for harmony in church planting and mission efforts; however, the letter asserts Ezell and NAMB do not seek unity.
“We work most effectively when working in collaboration and harmony, especially in our non-South states where the local context and cultures of our mission fields can vary so significantly,” the leaders say. However, NAMB ignores local expertise.
The spark was a new Strategic Cooperation Agreement presented to the non-South states by NAMB. The new agreement “leaves state conventions with little or no role in the assessment, supervision, or evaluation of church planters or statewide personnel.”
And the results of NAMB’s authoritarian push are horrible.
“We are convinced the results reveal diminished fruitfulness, and guidelines,” the state leaders say. “In spite of this, we have greatly reduced staff and state-directed ministry to provide Cooperative Program funds to the national SBC.”
This is the issue with the Cooperative Program—it is now taking more money away from states and yielding little in return. Baptisms are down. Church plants are down. The only thing that is up—expenses. The cost per church plant is up 531% under Ezell.
Ezell is facing a major lawsuit over allegations that his threats resulted in firing a state Baptist Convention executive director and that Ezell or people acting on Ezell’s behalf actively worked to keep that man from finding other work.
NAMB also has come under fire for spending tens of millions of dollars on questionable projects like the multipurpose project just outside Atlanta, Georgia—where about $15 million would be spent on a church renovation, building four soccer fields and a mixed-use retail center.
What the SBC must do now is a forensic audit of NAMB. It will be the first step to revealing what is going on and healing the divisions needlessly created by Ezell’s autocratic rule.
Will someone in the SBC have the courage to call for it? Or, has lucre polluted the entire organization?