Why should Southern Baptists trust the trustees when there are so many questions that demand an answer?

SBC By-Law 15(6) “No person and no person’s spouse shall be eligible to serve on the board of any one of the above entities (1) from which the person receives, directly or indirectly, any form of payment or financial benefit except for reimbursements for reasonable and authorized expenses incurred in the performance of the duties of a trustee, or, (2) which provides funds for which he/she has a duty of administration. When such conditions become applicable, that person or that person’s spouse shall be considered as having resigned and such vacancy shall be filled in accordance with established Convention procedure.”   

1. Was Jimmy Scroggins paid for his books published by LifeWay?

We know thanks to reporting from the Baptist Message, that Scroggins published a book in 2016, 2020 and another title releasing in 2021. Also, Scroggins was elected a LifeWay trustee in 2014. His first term running 2014-2018. He was re-elected to serve 2018-2022. He served as LifeWay trustee chairman 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

Even if Scroggins were not paid, it raises questions about other benefits such as helping someone build their brand within the world of Big Evangelicalism.

2. Did former LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer play a role in decision to publish Scroggins?

This is important. Since it appears Scroggins played a decisive role in the decision to grant Rainer the secret, $1,000,000-plus sweetheart severance package that included a car, it raises a host of questions about the propriety of someone being published by LifeWay and then also crafting the severance package of those approving the publication of his works.

3. Does publishing a book by a trustee violate SBC by-laws like the one cited above?

It appears that any type of financial benefit would disqualify someone from serving on the board of an SBC entity. Even if one were not paid, are there not significant financial benefits from having a book published?

4. Does publishing a book by a trustee, who later plays a decisive role in awarding an executive a secret, $1,000,000-plus severance package violate Tennessee and US law regarding conflict of interests for non-profit officers and trustees?

The IRS has a handy reference about the importance of having and enforcing a Conflict of Interest policy for non-profits. The IRS website says, “A conflict of interest occurs where individuals’ obligation to further the organization’s charitable purposes is at odds with their own financial interests.” So, it is worth considering if the situation at LifeWay created a conflict of interest.

5. Is this the best the Southern Baptist Convention can do?

Finally, is this the best the Southern Baptist Convention can do for its people? Shouldn’t those entrusted with the highest fiduciary responsibilities strive to be above even the appearance of a conflict of interest?

New LifeWay CEO Ben Mandrell, in recorded remarks to LifeWay employees, said that former CEO Thom Rainer’s compensation package should’ve been approved “by more eyes.” Why wasn’t it? What is wrong with the Trustee system? And why should Southern Baptists trust the trustees?

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