The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention promises an appeal to the Supreme Court following its Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals loss to Will McRaney. However, a key NAMB defense is contradicted by an affidavit from the NAMB Trustee Chairman’s brother.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is sparring no expense to defend Kevin Ezell from allegations he lied, smeared and forced a state convention to fire its executive director or lose mission money—money given NAMB from tithes and offerings. Trustee Chairman Danny de Armas informed SBC leaders that NAMB would take its case to the Supreme Court.
Though the chairman warned the chances of an appeal being taken by the high court is low.
In a letter dated December 15, 2020, NAMB informed ministry leaders of the decision to appeal and the slim chances the appeal would be heard by the Supreme Court. The letter said, “We have decided to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court. That appeal will be filed early next year. Because appeals to the Supreme Court are rarely granted, we want to openly communicate with you about our reasons for this effort and about the risks to your ministries should our effort be unsuccessful.”
Risks to churches? The only risk to any churches, state conventions or an SBC entity would be if an employee slandered someone and attempted to harm them, you know, like Kevin Ezell allegedly did to Will McRaney. The legal case is not about the courts interfering in a church. The legal case is about Ezell allegedly violating tort laws and harming someone. The case and evidence shows SBC partnering churches and Associations and State Conventions need protection from Ezell and SBC leaders.
Also, NAMB is feeling the heat about the lies being promoted that the SBC has a hierarchy. NAMB Chairman de Armas writes, “We all know that the local church is the controlling entity in the SBC and will always remain so.”
What Danny de Armas did not say and neither has Russell Moore or Kevin Ezell is that all Baptist state conventions and 1,100 associations are fully autonomous, just like each Baptist church. NAMB has no rights over state conventions or any SBC partnering organization or church.
OK, so why did your lawyers claim NAMB has an absolute right over state conventions?
And, “Similarly, we all know that local churches, local pastors, local associations, state conventions, and national entities should be free to make ministry decisions free of government oversight and interference.”
OK, but that does not mean a pastor, SBC entity leader or a state leader is free to slander someone or impair their ability to find work after you allegedly blackmail the state convention into firing someone.
What does Ezell’s friend Jimmy Scroggins have to say about the legal claim and evidence that Ezell called him to get McRaney removed from speaking in Nov. 2016? Scroggins is the LifeWay Trustee who gave another one of his friends, Thom Rainer, $1 million without other Trustee’s knowledge as Rainer left LifeWay.
In fact, we should all agree that these church leaders should be held to a higher standard.
And, why did Kevin Ezell allegedly threaten the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware? Shouldn’t that convention be free from meddling by an SBC entity? It doesn’t seem very respectful or cooperative.
And to top it off, de Armas wants everyone to know NAMB is totally about Jesus and not about Kevin Ezell’s reckless and arrogant acts (you can read about Ezell’s vulgar and insulting actions to other state leaders.) He writes, “That’s what this case is about. It’s about protecting our ability — and your ability — to freely exercise our religious faith and ministerial decision-making.”
Except, there is nothing in the Christian faith remotely compatible with Kevin Ezell’s alleged actions in this case. It has nothing to do with the Great Commission or internal church governance—it was an attempt to use money and threats to force changes that Ezell wanted.
What a great way to honor God and steward those CP funds!
What should concern every Southern Baptist is that NAMB trustees lied about Will McRaney in this letter—Baptist Press amplified the lie. According to BP, “NAMB has stated repeatedly in court documents and official statements that board representatives have met with McRaney to seek resolution, and that McRaney ‘rejected or ignored several offers to meet and discuss these matters.’”
This is false. McRaney has never met with NAMB officials empowered to negotiate or settle the dispute.
In one meeting that was arranged, participant NW Baptist Convention Executive Dr. Randy Adams stated that NAMB representatives began the meeting by emphatically saying they had no power to negotiate a resolution.
NAMB and Baptist Press continue to make false statements unsupported with documentation and Dr. McRaney has stated that he was both willing to meet, Ezell has not met. McRaney even published evidence to support this claim.
Why is Baptist Press publishing falsehoods without even bothering to check with McRaney?
Oh, wait, Howe is known to publish propaganda for SBC insiders instead of the truth. Why does Ronnie Floyd and the SBC Executive Committee pay this guy?
NAMB is desperate to avoid discovery
The SCOTUS appeal is yet another a Hail Mary to save Ezell from facing the music for his alleged wrongdoing. NAMB risked taking a bad case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to save Ezell and establish a bad precedent declaring the SBC a hierarchy (and thus vulnerable to lawsuits over sexual abuse at local churches). Now, that they lost at the Fifth Circuit twice, like a gambler, NAMB is staking everything on an appeal to SCOTUS. Likely, this is only to drain McRaney of resources (he is self-funding his lawsuit, while Ezell, NAMB staff and attorneys are paid by SBC givers.)
NAMB is asking the Supreme Court to hear their case, yet the SBC Trustees serving to oversee NAMB have not demanded Ezell speak on the record or meet with McRaney. However, what if the gamble doesn’t work and the case is accepted, heard and judged by SCOTUS.
Does Ronnie Floyd and the SBC Executive Committee, its lawyers and the SBC entities want the potential of a very bad legal precedent set against them? Because, either a NAMB win (establishing “supporting organization and thereby” hierarchy”) or a McRaney win would be bad for the SBC and likely drive away SBC partnering State Conventions, Associations and churches.
Is protecting Ezell this important?
In addition to the appeal, NAMB asked the district court for a stay while it pursues the appeal. If that is granted, discovery is on hold. If it is denied, the next step could be a motion filed months ago by NAMB seeking dismissal. This forms a cornerstone of Ezell’s defense—namely, that McRaney signed a release with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and thereby that releases NAMB too. Based on this, NAMB is seeking a summary judgment against McRaney.
However, this is contradicted by the NAMB trustee chairman Danny de Armas’ brother. Attorney R. David de Armas filed an affidavit on behalf of McRaney explaining that the release signed by McRaney did not and could not be a release for NAMB. David de Armas was legally representing McRaney in his separation agreement with the BCMD in 2015.
According to the affidavit David de Armas said, “I personally reviewed and approved the Separation Agreement and Release signed by Dr. McRaney as part of the settlement with BCMD…As part of the process of advising Dr. McRaney, I confirmed that BCMD annually sent substantially more money to the North American Mission Board (“NAMB”) than the NAMB sent to BCMD…Thus, it was obvious that NAMB was not a supporting organization of BCMD. Indeed, it is BCMD which supported (and likely continues to support) the NAMB, not the other way around. Assertions to the contrary are misleading, at best.”
Misleading at best. You can read the 2018 affidavit here.
That is a strong rebuke of the legal tactics of the North American Mission Board.
Despite lies from NAMB and ERLC to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and NAMB being represented by 18 attorneys, McRaney won at the Fifth Circuit twice and the case was remanded to the US District Court in Mississippi.