Why does an SBC entity use untraceable gift cards? It looks like an accounting nightmare that makes Bob Reccord seem parsimonious in comparison.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention is using gift cards to buy loyalty, according to a bombshell allegation included in an 8,000-word story by legendary Baptist reporter Joe Westbury.
According to Westbury, NAMB provides gift cards worth hundreds of dollars to church planters. NAMB confirmed it used them but refused to specify the value range. Westbury’s digging found the range of gifts from NAMB was $100-1,000 in gift cards and sometimes checks.
Further, Westbury documented, “As recently as December at least one staff member in the Northwest received two gift cards from NAMB totaling $450. The employee was instructed that the $300 should be given to his wife as a gift, and the $150 card was to be used to pay for a ‘date night.’”
Also, “Joseph Bunce, who retired Feb. 1 after 15 years with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, says NAMB overstepped its boundaries by sending gift cards to his own convention employees without his knowledge. And that included staff members who had little, if any, professional contact with NAMB.”
Now the money quote from Bunce: “I was not upset with anyone who received an unsolicited gift card. But it was like someone sending flowers to a neighbor’s wife because the neighbor was doing such a good job of mowing his lawn,” Bunce said. “It is a sly way to buy influence.”
Of course, NAMB chief Kevin Ezell declined to respond to Westbury.
These entity chiefs pretend to be accessible and willing to answer questions. However, they dodge every serious attempt to hold them accountable.
“Ezell was provided numerous questions for this article and had agreed to an interview that instead was cancelled the day it was to occur,” Westbury said in the bombshell report.
What does Ezell have to hide?
Was Ezell afraid of Westbury’s reputation?
Westbury is the investigative reporter who exposed corruption at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and forced out first NAMB chief Bob Reccord and the next NAMB chief Geoff Hammond. You should read the story. However, there was on element worth close attention as this new scandal with Ezell follows a similar NAMB pattern—Money.
This raises all sorts of financial accountability questions.
A check can be traced. There is an audit trail. But, how does one trace a drawer full of gift cards?
And yes, I’ve heard specific stories about one stash of gift cards filling a cabinet drawer.
Another specific report that came to our attention was one “pastor” receiving about $12,000 without specific instructions in how to use it.
NAMB’s recklessness hardly inspires confidence.
Who gets these gift cards?
What are they used for?
What controls are in place to make sure gift cards are used for specific God-honoring purposes by the intended persons?
Gift cards provide an easy way to launder money. As such, why would any organization with a budget of about $125 million annually utilize such a dangerous and unaccountable method?
As this Forbes columnist noted, “Gift cards are easy to spend or sell and notoriously difficult to track.” This is what makes gift cards a favorite for money laundering.
I know everyone enjoys playing Santa Claus; however, it is far more rewarding when you do it with your own money and not the resources of Southern Baptists.
It also poses serious questions about the ability of NAMB to use SBC mission funds to build its own base of loyal, financially dependent supporters.
How many of them will make it to Nashville?
How many of them will be qualified as messengers?
And for whom will they vote?
NAMB’s chief Ezell has ties to both Al Mohler and Ed Litton. Ezell was Mohler’s former pastor and Litton’s wife works for NAMB.
Will the SBC have a free and fair election in Nashville?