Can Pepper Hamilton Investigate NAMB?

May 31, 2016

Dr. Rick Patrick | Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, AL

On May 17, Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a statement entitled How NAMB-State Convention Cooperation Agreements Work. The statement appears to be in response to the allegations made by Will McRaney, former Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, who posted several documents related to these controversial agreements on his website.

Just as Baylor University engaged the law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct their recent blockbuster investigation, NAMB should be subject to similar scrutiny from an outside organization. Contrary to news reports of a petition calling for NAMB to investigate itself, 81 Southern Baptists have signed a Petition Calling For An Independent Investigation of McRaney’s charges. The rationale for such an independent investigation should be obvious. It would be foolish to ask the very Board of Trustees that did not even perceive the existence of a problem to investigate the matter themselves. If the Board wishes to look the other way, ignoring and dismissing the charges, they cannot truly be considered as an impartial review board.

The Principle—Connectionalism vs. Autonomy

Some may view this controversy as nothing more than a routine contract dispute between mission partners. Sometimes work relationships sour and interpersonal conflicts result in personnel changes. Disgruntled former employees occasionally strike back. Such a narrative would be a gross misreading of this situation. In fact, a much larger principle is at stake here—the nature of our Southern Baptist denominational polity and governing philosophy.

Among our Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episopalian friends, it is common for the national or international religious hierarchy to issue edicts and rule over local and regional bodies by means of a federal power granted by their governing system. Popes and Bishops possess an almost limitless authority to call the shots without facing any charges of local or regional interference.

However, among Southern Baptists, this connectionalism runs contrary to our governing philosophy. We have never embraced a connectional, centralized type of authority in which national leaders are permitted to pressure state leaders to accept a federal agenda. In the secular political arena, many Southern Baptists recoil at the folly of nationalized health care or the federal educational guidelines we know as Common Core. Generally, we favor a more decentralized approach, believing the best decisions are made locally by those who are most familiar with each unique situation.

If NAMB is putting one ounce of pressure upon state conventions, if there is even a hint of a “my way or the highway” attitude being displayed, then Southern Baptists need to expose such national overreach and put an end to it. Such an approach is strategically unwise and represents a betrayal of our autonomous Southern Baptist governing philosophy.

The Partnership—Secrecy vs. Transparency

In addition to the threat of a growing connectional polity addressed in the previous section, two matters concerning stewardship and accountability are worthy of investigation:

1. Should the 42 partnership agreements become matters of public record for all Southern Baptists to view? 

I believe the answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” Taxpayers are entitled to know how their money is spent by the government. Investors are entitled to know how their money is spent in a business. Church members are entitled to know how their contributions are used in the support of missions and ministries. The so-called “gag order clauses” in these agreements should be eliminated. As a Southern Baptist contributor through the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong, I want our state convention leaders to be unrestrained in offering their opinions (both positive and negative) regarding the terms of these documents. Only by making these agreements a matter of public record can we provide the transparent disclosure of our partnership terms and guard the freedom of all parties to discuss such terms openly and without any fear of recriminations.

2. Which organizations—NAMB, the state conventions, or the churches actually paying the bills—should be entitled to determine whether these records are made public?

One might assume that NAMB wanted the agreements to remain private. However, Ezell’s statement reported that “NAMB’s preference has always been that these documents be available to anyone…” That’s good. If NAMB wants them public, who is opposing NAMB? We might assume that the state conventions wanted these agreements to remain private, but that would only be partially correct. Ezell stated, “…the agreement includes a sentence stating ‘confidentiality’ because that was the stated preference of some of the conventions.” (emphasis mine) While we were not told which state conventions preferred such secrecy, at least Indiana is off the hook, since they gave permission for their partnership agreement to be made public. With all due respect and gratitude for the great state of Indiana, since they are the ones doing exactly what I believe needs to be done, their disclosure begs the question: “Who decided that state conventions have the authority or discretion to make these matters public or to keep them private?”

As a matter of stewardship and accountability, we need to be perfectly clear in identifying the true investors in our SBC money trail. Yes, spiritually speaking, the money belongs to Jesus. But since both NAMB money and state convention money starts out as church money, and since our Baptist polity places the local church at the top of the hierarchy and not at the bottom, then the organizations who truly possess the right to read the fine print are the local churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Just as Cuba Gooding, Jr., taught Tom Cruise to shout, “Show me the money!” in the movie Jerry Maguire, the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention must teach both NAMB and our state conventions to shout, “Show me the agreements!” Like a star athlete and his agent, we may be partners, but the church plays the role of the athlete, generating the income and possessing the right to switch agents at any time for any reason. When it comes to the stewardship of missions money, as the Pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, the buck stops at my desk and not at the desk of the State Convention Executive or the President of the North American Mission Board.

The Problem—Allegations vs. Denials

Having explored our need to guard against connectional polity as well as our need for greater financial transparency as we steward our missions giving—a transparency, I might add, that all Southern Baptists are right to take more seriously in light of IMB expenditures $210 million greater than receipts over the past six years—let us move to the most central concern of the controversy at NAMB, namely, the charges by at least two respectable witnesses that President Kevin Ezell threatened to withdraw from the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network the missions money forwarded by Southern Baptist Churches if certain actions were not taken by the network.

1. The Allegations by Clint Scott and Steve Wolverton

Let me point out that these two witnesses are not simply guys we found on the street. These are Southern Baptist Pastors whose testimonies deserve to be treated as credible enough to warrant further investigation. The first witness, Dr. Clint Scott, is the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Castle, Delaware. On May 2, 2016, Dr. Scott posted the following remarks in the comment stream at SBC Today:

“I support Dr. McRaney and believe that a great tragedy has taken place within our SBC community. Dr. McRaney had the total support of the Network and his leadership team shortly before his controversy began with Dr. Ezell. It has been stated to me personally by Dr. Bill Warren that pressure was being placed on the Network by Dr. Ezell through the withholding of financial support needed to honor budgeted items. This controversy was simply over the hiring of staff within the Network and the appointment of church planters within the Network without the consent and blessing of Dr. Ezell… Dr. Ezell and NAMB should be held accountable before this happens to more of our trusted brothers in the fight for the souls of men!”

The second witness, Rev. Steve Wolverton, is the Pastor of the Canton Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. On May 1, 2016, Rev. Wolverton posted the following remarks in the comment stream at SBC Today:

“Speaking as a pastor in the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, I wholeheartedly support Dr. McRaney’s allegations… [Dr. Ezell’s] juvenile threats to terminate funds within a year, and sooner, if Dr. McRaney, or anyone else in the Network, even so much as acted in any way he didn’t deem cooperative, are repugnant… Dr. Bill Warren personally told me that Dr. Ezell had convinced him that as long as Dr. McRaney remained the State Executive the funding was at risk. He then told me that he did not feel he could risk losing the funding and potentially losing staff so he did what he felt he had to do… Even allowing for the most gracious interpretation of events, Dr. McRaney was given an unreasonable two weeks to address a list of invalidated and uncorroborated concerns; he was then terminated in a single board meeting a few days later. There were no legal, ethical, or moral concerns involved.”

2. The Denials by NAMB and MABN

An article by Seth Brown in the Biblical Recorder recently covered this controversy. According to Brown, “Both NAMB and MABN (Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network) deny the claim that Ezell forced McRaney out of his position.” The article goes on to state, “In addition, no convention leaders have publicly substantiated McRaney’s accusations against Ezell.” This second notion, however, is highly debatable, in light of a Christian Examiner article citing Randy Adams, Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, who said, “To me the accusations are very serious allegations and the specifics of those allegations, I think, require a response. They have basically just dismissed [McRaney’s accusations] without dealing with the particulars of the allegations.”

Conclusion

In handling these allegations against NAMB, Southern Baptists find ourselves facing a true dilemma. We have good, respectable Christian people on both sides of this issue making truth claims that absolutely contradict each other. Either NAMB is pressuring some state convention leaders or they are not. The facts of this case are in dispute, and the North American Mission Board has shown no interest in addressing these allegations.

In the complete absence of an internal investigation, there is no other way to arrive at the facts than to conduct an external investigation. Among the matters requiring examination is the very reticence of the NAMB Trustees to take these allegations seriously. Frankly, since IMB Trustees allowed a pattern of overspending to continue through six budget cycles, one wonders about larger concerns with the way our trustee system currently functions. Specifically, if our trustees are responsible for holding our entity executives accountable, then who is responsible for holding our trustees accountable?

This duty clearly falls upon all Southern Baptists—hence, our grassroots petition calling for an independent investigation. Who can say whether the allegations of Will McRaney, Steve Wolverton and Clint Scott are valid or whether the denials of any wrongdoing by Kevin Ezell and NAMB are legitimate? Presently, it does not trouble me that we do not have all the answers. What really troubles me is that we are not even asking the questions, and we have not enlisted any impartial third party to do so.

These are very serious charges. They deserve to be taken very seriously.

If you wish to join the 81 Southern Baptists who have signed this petition, simply add your name in the comment stream of the Petition Article HERE.

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Jon Estes

The SBC has a way for churches to give around the CP and be considered SBC mission supporting churches (or whatever term they use). Why not get the churches on board and seek to have them give their NAMB offerings around the NAMB portion of the CP, designating them to the state convention(s) of their choice?

Are there enough churches tired of the games you talk about?
Are there enough churches interested in these things, or is CP giving to them an easy way to do what they always have done?

If there is enough grass root interest, this could work. Anything done in business at the convention is dead on arrival. Feet on the ground and pastors tired of such things willing to stay the course and see it through by leading their churches to follow is your only hope outside of a divine intervention.

The liberals didn’t think the cons had the tenacity to see it through (and we did PTL). Do you have the tenacity to see it through? I bet the powers to be don’t think so.

They can ride out small storms from bloggers who complain. They can’t stay seated when the numbers and people in positions to lead them are against them for the long haul. Just ask all the mods / liberals who are now non-SBC.

If it is worth fighting for to you – fight for it. 81 votes will not move the ship we know as the SBC.

I am not advocating that you do this but making an observation that what you are wanting to see done… continuing to do the things the way you are doing them, will not work. IMPO.

Is this battle big enough to bring the votes out to make a change? Only you and those interested in paying the price will discover if it is SBC worthy to battle. If not, little fish in a big pool will get swallowed up by bigger fish. Inerrancy was worth fighting for. I’m not so sure the people in the pew will see this one that way.

Phillip C. Senn

As one of the 81 signers of the petition, I did so because the allegations seem egregious to me. When Cooperative Program funding is threatened, by allegations against an entity funded through that program, an investigation should take place. It is clear that CP funding is at risk. The question is, “what caused the risk?”

Autonomy is the bedrock of Baptist polity, including among the agencies of the Convention. NAMB is just as autonomous as the local churches are, and has the right to enter agreements with other entities. But, if we, as Baptists, believe that our governance requires the local church to “hold the pursestrings”, and that the only sway that the local church has over these agencies, is to withhold funding from them, then CP funding is at risk, as evidenced in a previous comment.

In order to mitigate the risk, full accountability should be afforded to the Convention messengers. That cannot take place, in my opinion, except through knowing the FACTS, that can only be known through a independent investigation.

My fear, as with many investigations, is that it will take so long, that the risks to CP funding may already be turning into damage.

Steve Davis

I definitely understand the pessimism of John. If it appears that someone will have a tough question for an entitity head at the convention, typically someone gets to the mic and asks a softball question to take up all the time alloted. If you submit a motion, it is referred to the trustees involved, so typically nothing gets done unless those in charge want to get it done. So, I understand the pessimism but the question is just because it seems impossible, do you give up? I guess it is for each person to decide if it is worth it or not.

    Jon Estes

    Steve,

    I wasn’t implying that Rick give up but that if he really wants to see change, he can learn what it takes from the CR.

    He needs traction… Perseverance… Resources… And lots of the grass root people with him.

    If by the end of the year this subject has been left behind and a new one to criticise has taken its place, it was nothing more than a gnat to swat at by those he wants to hear.

    It seems the bl0g world now offers short term platforms to make our case, not long term commitment to see change occur.

    You mention that each person needs to determine the worth. The CR guys understood the worth of removing liberalism. A few month dialogue on the internet would have been loved by those no longer in SBC power.

    Let’s see if another petition takes the place of this one. The online conversation against Calvinism like this blog offers one side of, isn’t changing a thing. We who are reformed thinkers, know these blog places to show how evil my thinking is will not do anything on the convention level.

      Lydia

      Rick could learn more from guys like Mohler. The Neo Cal resurgence never had a vote. Now that the entities are controlled by Mohler loyalists, the only way this changes is if the money dries up and they have to seek stages elsewhere. But then, to go that route he would need to sell his soul and the SBC to guys like Driscoll and Mahaney.

Teddy L. Timmons

First of all everything is coming to a head, the leadership we have and just about everything started big time with the BF&M 2000 and even before that really. You have NAMB using Act29 to plant churches out there using the BF&M 2000 as a hammer over churches that won’t get in line with threats and innuedos. Here in Kentucky the State Convention partners with Crossway to run our summer camps and they contracted that job to Vertical Ministries (John Nix who is a Lutheran) now go figure why use a Lutheran to teach the boys and girls? I can only guess what that means, you can too. That’s Paul Chitwood Executive Director of Kentucky Baptist for your and his Calvinistic hidden agenda.

Alton Vandevender

I can see where you will not get many SBC members to sign a petition because the average members does not have the means to see the petition. It will take it being brought up at the convention. How do you do that when they will rule a motion out of order. The only way is for churches to withhold NAMB funding.

    Jon Estes

    Alton,

    For those who support the things Rick is pushing, withholding funds ultimately hurts the ones he wants to protect. Drop in funds, drop in missionary support. Layoffs and those he dislikes keep their job and people like Rick get the blame.

    The whole CP system was changed when routing funds where a church wants them to go was acceptable to be SBC mission supportive. I know it was designed (IMPO) to show that mega churches gave a lot but in different ways and this gives them credibility (this will be argued among some) as true SBC mission supporting churches.

    Use that formula to make your point and keep funding the missionaries. Stop sending and give yourself a black eye.

    Here is why I think it will not work.

    1 – Not enough pastors willing to give of themselves for this
    2 – Not enough churches to let their pastor get involved with this.
    3 – Not enough pastors staying in their churches long enough to lead their churches to support this.
    4 – Not enough churches who even want to involve themselves in internal SBC fights (which is how they will see it).
    5 – For pastors and churches wanting to reach their world for Christ – more important things to do.
    6 – For pastors and churches uninterested in reaching their world for Christ – explains itself.

      Phillip C. Senn

      Jon, I don’t think Rick was saying monies should be designated, and I don’t think you were suggesting it either, but it sounded like you were indicating Rick might be blamed, should funding for NAMB fall.

      I have made it clear that I don’t support designated giving, and that the “unified budget” is the most effective, as long as transparency and accountability are the rule.

        Jon Estes

        Phillip,

        My comment on blame was meant to say what could happen from higher powers if funding is dropping and he gets tied to it by comments here suggesting it.

        It is rare the powers to be will admit fault but it has been shown at times they find someone or something to blame. Who has taken responsibility for the 210 million overspend? Who / what has been blamed? We as ministers can do the same thing within our ministries and do it easily.

          Phillip C. Senn

          Jon, I agree. That is why we must repudiate any comments on designated giving from undesignated gifts.I think Rick, as well as most other signers of this petition, would agree that the unified budget is best, and we need to focus on trying to get people to support the CP while, at the same time, calling for the investigation.

            Jon Estes

            Phillip,

            The unified budget, as I think you are defining it, is gone. The CP as we once enjoyed it and saw it work is now gone. Other options have been made available. IMPO, this was done to allow those churches who give mission dollars around the CP to be seen as mission supporting churches of the SBC. Is this a bad thing? Opinions will vary.

            As churches in US continue to dwindle with age, the money they send will need to be replaced somehow. Younger pastors who do not know the history and work-ability of the CP are given choices and they will choose what works best for them.

            The SBC USA church needs help crossing racial / financial and cultural barriers. This is not a problem of all churches but the many churches in the cities who want to only reach those like themselves will continue to die. A few will hold on as closing churches will shift people to other churches in their community who are like them but holding on. Other churches will die and due to the age of those left, they will not go anywhere but sit and home and remember when…

            I know I sound very pessimistic and I admit I am but not in the God of all creation. I do believe He is waiting on the church to rise up and be the church. Why would he send revival to a people who don’t want it and have no clue they need it?

            I know there is a concern for things happening in the SBC and they are valid concerns. I do wonder where the concern is for the dying churches in the SBC. We can get all the business done the way we want it done in the SBC but if the churches die, it really doesn’t matter.

              Jim P

              Yes, I think you are correct Jon. The obstacles you mentioned transcend theology.

              Focusing on theological differences can be a red-herrings to distract from core issues.

              I mentioned earlier about John’s Gospels and Epistles. He tried to focus those 1st century Churches on what those essential theological focus were to be. Cores, that must be in place for them to ‘live.’ Sadly, it looked like those churches died.

        Alton Vandevender

        My intent was not to withhold cp money only to to withhold special funds from NAMB. The cp is still the best way to provide for our effort to reach the lost. For too many years we have elected young er pastors who did not lead their church’s to support the cp. most pastors of larger churches wants to make missions trips so they (church’s) will get credit instead of SBC.

Lydia

“For those who support the things Rick is pushing, withholding funds ultimately hurts the ones he wants to protect. Drop in funds, drop in missionary support. Layoffs and those he dislikes keep their job and people like Rick get the blame.”

That is silly. Funds not being withheld did not protect the “over 50 years old missionaries”. That is a done deal –without withholding funds. So why threaten such blame now?

The big money guysnot. on the front lines, always keep their income when laying people off. Just like Jesus, eh?

It could take all the money drying up before they dislodge themselves from their lofty perches.

    Jon Estes

    Lydia –

    “That is silly. Funds not being withheld did not protect the “over 50 years old missionaries”. That is a done deal –without withholding funds. So why threaten such blame now?”

    Apples and oranges. NAMB is not 210 million overspent (or whatever the number is). This is the reason for the layoffs (which I detest happening), as being reported. If you have other facts, I’d love to hear them.

    I didn’t threaten such blame on anyone. I just made an observation as to how things might roll (IMO) if funds quit coming in.

    If you think withholding funds is the right thing to do – go for it. If NAMB missionaries get booted as a result of fund depletion, don’t say it came as a surprise. It is also possible that if layoffs came due to a fund shortage, the ones you wish to remain at NAMB will probably be the first to be let go.

    All speculation on all our parts unless you are some kind of modern day prophetess.

    My SBC ties are so minimal these days but she (the SBC) still remains the greatest mission sending entity around. Warts and all.

      Lydia

      Apples and oranges when it is inconvenient.

Thomas Winborn

This would be funny if it weren’t for the serious deceit and erroneous and ignorant conclusions of the writer. The two “witnesses” were actually witnesses to nothing. They were not involved in anything related to what happened regarding Will McRaney, the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, or NAMB. Clint Scott and Steve Wolverton are simply “do-boys” of Will McRaney who have been duped by his consistent deceit and fear-mongering. Why is it that only two completely removed pastors in the network are the only “witnesses” when there are a plethora of other pastors who have seen things up close and first hand who do not support one iota of Will McRaney’s public flatulence? His short tenure as the Executive Director was simply a flash in the pan and nothing short of being a reign of terror on those who serve on the staff of the MABN. McRaney ruled by fear-mongering and deceit, talking more about Satan than he ever mentioned Jesus. He harassed his staff with midnight emails and phone calls, generated an environment of loyalty only to himself (instead of to Jesus and God’s mission), even referring to churches within the network as “clients” instead of the local bodies of Christ that they are. McRaney is the one who has a low view of Baptist polity. He continually attempted to circumvent traditional baptist polity to replace small church pastors on the General Mission Board with those who give the most in our network so that he could exert more influence over the largest givers in our state convention. If Ezell or any other denominational leader treated his staff and the churches in the same way McRaney did, they would no longer be working in their positions either. Ezell isn’t the problem. The SBC isn’t the problem. McRaney is the problem. Anyone who says anything different simply hasn’t seen the “crazy” yet. It’s there. Give it some more time and the whole SBC will see it, and anyone in McRaney’s corner will be doing their best to create distance between themselves and him.

    Alton Vandevender

    Just where do you get your info. Seems like several state exec confirmed Ezell tactics. Why would state executives want the agreements not to be made known

      Thomas Winborn

      My info is from being extremely involved with my state convention, the MABN. I have served on several GMB subcommittees and have seen the devastation first hand brought upon the staff and churches under Hurricane McRaney. I have had personal contact with NAMB representative leadership during such time and can say that McRaney’s statements are groundless exaggerations at best (that’s me being nice) and unfounded lies and purposeful misleadings most of the time. I know the man personally and have seen him bring the destruction, deceit, and truth twisting first hand.

      As for state executives not wanting the agreements to be known. Our state is not one of those states, so I cannot speak for the others. We run an above-board state convention that exists to help and assist churches. That was at the core of McRaney’s problem as a leader. He seemed to think the churches were there to serve the state convention and him, but the convention is there to serve the churches and the executive director is there to be the leading servant in that mission, not a LORD…that’s Jesus’ place.

    Rick Patrick

    Thomas,

    What about Randy Adams, the Northwest State Executive who confirms that Ezell used pressure tactics like the threat of removing health benefits? There are others at the state executive level who have corroborated the concerns with NAMB besides simply the two Pastors you dismiss as “do-boys.”

    What about the issue of the cooperation agreements being made available for the churches to read? What about the “gag order” clauses?

    There are many aspects to this controversy apart from the specific McRaney situation itself. Even still, if you read carefully, the assertions and conclusions in the original post do not project either guilt or innocence upon Ezell or McRaney. What they establish is that there are some allegations made by Southern Baptist leaders that deserve to be taken seriously. They deserve investigation by an impartial and independent party.

    Thomas, I don’t know you, but you have written that I have offered deceitful and erroneous conclusions. Honestly, I am not trying to deceive anyone. If my logic is in error, it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate such in your critique. My logic is basically this: “We don’t have all the facts and we need to investigate.” Feel free to show me where that logic fails. I agree with you, in part, that I am ignorant of all of the facts, but then again, so are you and everyone else. That’s precisely the point. This matter needs to be investigated. That is the extent of my appeal.

    If, as you say, we “give it some more time” and there is an actual investigation and we learn that everything Ezell did was on the up and up, and Will McRaney completely made up everything he claims, then the only “distance” I will need to create at that point will be something like this: “I am glad we conducted the investigation and learned all of the facts. That is all I ever asked for from the start.”

      Thomas Winborn

      Rick,

      First of all, I dismissed the “do-boys” because you, as the author of this article, labeled them as witnesses and they are NOT witnesses to anything but being influenced by McRaney.

      I have no idea how Ezell deals with other state conventions. I can only speak for my experience with the MABN.

      Notice what I said in my last reply to Alton about “gag orders” and the like. We aren’t hiding anything.

      You say that the assertions in your article do not project guilt on anyone, but the article definitely presents the argument with bias…like most all articles or blogposts do. And I would normally agree that most strong allegations need to be addressed, but I don’t believe you know who you’re dealing with when you undergird most of your argument with information that has been derived from a man such as Will McRaney. Don’t take my word. Talk to anyone who has been around the devastation that followed him in FL, LA, MD, and DE. He’s not a guy you want to have as your star witness. So, when it comes to opening a full-out investigation based on the accusations of a man who is untrustworthy at best…you must understand that most people will not take such a suggestion seriously. Why should we waste more tithes and offerings on investigating a man based on the claims of someone like Will McRaney. Let’s leave that money for planting churches and reaching souls for making Jesus’ name famous…not pour money into making Will McRaney’s name famous.

      All that being said, I don’t know the other State Execs who are making allegations and I don’t know what they are alleging. Based on their comments, maybe there is a need for some type of preliminary investigation. I don’t know. What I do know is that most boards of trustees in our national convention and state conventions are made up of men and women who faithfully serve our churches and who are beyond reproach. If they tell me that they have investigated the matter and fully, one-hundred percent stand behind their leader…I think that speaks volumes. It definitely speaks louder than the rants of a man like McRaney.

        Rick Patrick

        (On the delay, long comments are thrown into moderation and I was at a community event this evening.)

        1. The two witnesses heard Dr. Bill Warren tell them the same thing McRaney is saying—that Ezell threatened to pull funding.

        2. The “gag orders” have little to do with MABN. Rather, they were signed by all of the state executives promising not to talk badly about Ezell or the cooperation agreements. I don’t like that. They should be free to share their matters of disagreement openly.

        3. On the charge that the article “presents the argument with bias,” granted, the article shares the evidence to support the need for an investigation. However, what it does NOT do is to prejudge the outcome of that investigation. In order to make the case for the need to look into the matter, it was necessary to address the allegations. Once the matter is investigated, I would expect to hear a defense from the other side. Then we can evaluate all the facts and determine what took place.

        4. As for our trustees being good men and women, I agree. However, that does not mean that these good men and women have all of the facts and have acted properly. For example, the IMB Trustees over the past six years were good men and women, yet they authorized $210 million in expenditures greater than receipts over six consecutive budget cycles. Being good doesn’t equal “no investigation needed.”

        5. “If they tell me they have investigated the matter and…” Where did you read about this investigation? I have not read anything at all that suggests to me that the NAMB Trustees have conducted any kind of fact-finding investigation into these and other allegations. Has Ezell been using his position to place pressure upon state conventions or lose their health insurance, their funding, or whatever? To my knowledge, there has been no investigation. At least, there are no reports of any.

        6. You’ve used a number of words talking about McRaney and his service elsewhere. But were not his job evaluations strong prior to the alleged pressure? Was he not commended by the board shortly before they changed their minds? Will can certainly defend himself from your charges. But I think it does not logically follow that (a) if McRaney deserved to be terminated, then (b) Ezell must not have put any pressure on the state to let him go. It is a logical possibility that Ezell pressured the convention AND there were legitimate reasons for McRaney’s termination. We don’t know that, however, and we can’t know that until there is an investigation.

          Thomas Winborn

          I’ll keep my response short due to the late hour.

          Regarding what the two “witnesses” heard and what McRaney is saying, I was present for Bill Warren’s comments in front of the “witnesses” and they are misconstruing what he said. Feel free to ask Warren and he will clarify.

          McRaney’s statement about the GMB “commending” him is also a twisting of the truth. I was present at that meeting as well. McRaney was using fear tactics in saying that NAMB was attempting to completely take the MABN out of church planting in our state convention. He was seeking for the board to support him in an upcoming meeting with NAMB leadership, so the board voted to give 100% clarity that we would not relinquish all aspects of church planting in our states to NAMB. The truth is that NAMB never wanted us to relinquish church planting, but they did want to change the support structure for church planters and streamline the process for church planters who were seeking funding from NAMB in our states. After McRaney’s departure, our state convention did enter into a new agreement with NAMB…the same one they had presented during McRaney’s time as our exec. It is a solid plan and one that we have embraced. Our state convention has not lost any influence or participation in church planting endeavors in our area and in fact, our relationship with NAMB has only improved which has resulted in more churches planted and more souls won for Jesus. The vote by the GMB was not a unanimous vote of support for McRaney, but a unanimous vote to show we did not want to concede all church planting work to NAMB (which they have never asked for). McRaney was using fear tactics to strongarm the board to further his personal agenda/vendetta against NAMB. McRaney’s twisting of this truth is another example of what can only be described as his delusional nightmare of a fantasy land and poor leadership from which our state staff are still trying to recover. It’s a sad, sad story of one man creating havoc and chaos at any expense for his own personal glory. I’ve continually prayed that all of this would stop so that our folks here in MD/DE can begin to heal and refocus on what is most important: God being glorified, people being saved, and more churches being planted all for Jesus’ fame.

            Rick Patrick

            Thank you for continuing to engage. Nothing you have written puts an end to the matter, in my opinion. It only says, “There are two sides to this story,” which I have known all along.

            That is the reason I want an investigation to sort things out. If Wolverton, Scott and McRaney all understood Ezell to be threatening to pull NAMB funding, then at the very least, we need to be more careful about the way we say things.

            I can also understand how, from McRaney’s perspective, he is defending against NAMB imposition, while from Ezell’s perspective, he is “streamlining channels.”

            I am far less concerned about streamlining those channels than I am with a consolidation of authority and a nationalized strategy for church planting.

            I hope there will be an investigation. It’s a pretty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides. I want to know both sides—fully and completely. I want us to get to the bottom of this.

              Alton Vandevender

              You are right all we want is to be heard by a committee not by committed to either side. My question to Thomas is iif Ezell was not putting pressure on them then why would he be talking to him during a meeting with Dr. McRaney.. That prove that Ezell is not Lilly White in the dismissal of Dr. McRaney.. He just admitted the involvement by Ezell.

              Thomas Winborn

              Wolverton and Scott have NO idea of what Ezell said or of his intentions because they were not present for ANYTHING with Ezell. All they have is McRaney’s word on things. Again, it all comes back to McRaney. The other guys are NOT witnesses. They have nothing of import to contribute. Why, I ask, do you think these are the ONLY two guys out of 580ish churches in our state convention that are supporting McRaney. Each of these guys confessed to having been treated wrong by a church in the past which they even admitted could be part of the reason they have picked up the McRaney banner…”if he was done wrong.” Our leadership met with them out of courtesy because we care about answering the questions of the pastors and churches in our network. Scott and Wolverton didn’t want to hear truth. They came in only desiring to find ammunition and trying to roll heads, which obviously did not happen. Again, in any other situation, these guys and their so-called testimonies would be seen as having no bearing on any of this. All they are saying comes directly from McRaney. How could Scott or Wolverton “understand Ezell to be threatening to pull NAMB funding” when they had no contact with him and no evidence in hand? Straw-man creation at its best.

              POINT OF CLARIFICATION: “streamlining channels” was my phrase, not a quote from Ezell. So don’t put my words on him.

              From our perspective at MABN, we did an investigation and found that the vast majority of problems emanated from one person and it wasn’t Ezell or Warren. I’m certain the board of trustees at NAMB did the same. Any good board seriously looks into any allegations such as those brought on Ezell, but I know the board has concluded that they stand 100% with Ezell. I don’t believe you’ll be happy with any findings unless you see everything yourself and in person, which is impossible in things such as this.

              There’s always drama in a bureaucracy this large. This year…it has come from a chaos-loving, narcissist and it’s invading the hearts and minds of people that just don’t yet know better. Next year it will be something else. I encourage you all to do what we are doing here and move on. It’s time to get back to reaching souls for Jesus’ fame, not chasing unicorns for someone else’s fame.

                Rick Patrick

                I don’t know how many times I can say it. (Perhaps in another language or something would help.) But Wolverton and Scott are reporting what they themselves heard from Warren. That is not McRaney’s doing.

                Randy Adams is discussing what he himself experienced at the hands of NAMB. That is not McRaney’s doing.

                There is more to look into in this situation than just the part that involves McRaney. For example, both the gag orders and the private agreements are issues to be investigated.

                If MABN has done an investigation, why have they not published any results? If NAMB has done an investigation, why have they not published any results?

                All I hear you saying is, “It’s all about McRaney. He’s bad and let’s just move on.” That sounds more like a cover up to me. I don’t think you are helping your cause.

                  Alton Vandevender

                  I don’t believe I have ever met or read of a man that proclaims to be a man of Gid with as much hate in his heart. It one thing to disagree but outright hateful for a person does not serve the same God I do.

                Lydia

                “There’s always drama in a bureaucracy this large. This year…it has come from a chaos-loving, narcissist and it’s invading the hearts and minds of people that just don’t yet know better. Next year it will be something else. I encourage you all to do what we are doing here and move on. It’s time to get back to reaching souls for Jesus’ fame, not chasing unicorns for someone else’s fame.”

                Wow. So, I guess that means the legal (they went to the secular law first against their brothers!) non disclosure agreements made with pew sitter donor money will remain…..non disclosed. Just like Jesus, eh? Not like unicorns at all. Btw: did you know that unicorns are the official animal of Scotland?

Lydia

People don’t usually practice deceit publicly or alone….if you think about it. And, If you think legal non disclosure agreements using OPM is a good and decent idea between believers (representing other believers and spending their money), there is probably nothing left to discuss.

    Thomas Winborn

    Lydia, please see my two comments above.

      Alton Vandevender

      Thomas I believe you were the one that Ezell e-mail that as long as Dr. McRaney remained he would withhold funding. This was while the meeting with Dr. McRaney was being conducted. E-mail can prove this if there is an investigation is ever done. Why do you and the other three or four just admit you did this because of Ezell threat to withhold funds.

        Thomas Winborn

        Alton,

        This is what I’m talking about. Ezell never emailed me such things. I was in contact with him about the ordeal as it was progressing, but Ezell NEVER threatened to withhold funding as long as McRaney remained. I only reached out to Ezell because what McRaney was telling us didn’t add up. McRaney created an impossible environment for NAMB to maintain “business as usual.” What McRaney has said about the incident that day is very misleading as was Clint Scott’s and Steve Wolverton’s erroneous interpretation of Bill Warren’s comment to them. It’s all a web of deceit with half-truths from McRaney. Everything is spun by McRaney to justify his actions and engender others to his cause. Since McRaney’s departure, the MABN’s relationship with NAMB is restored simply because one disillusioned person (McRaney) is no longer causing strife and dissension where it should not be. Both the MABN and NAMB are much better off which means the churches, church planters, pastors, and other organizations involved are much better off as well. I know this is personally difficult for you and your family, and I am sorry that you all have to go through this, but this witch hunt needs to stop. The truth always comes to light and it will with this in time…investigations have been conducted from many sides and angles. The only ones holding to these erroneous notions are those influenced by the one man at the center of the problem…the problem himself, McRaney.

          Lydia

          Why non disclosure agreements?

Lydia

Thomas, why? did you have them edited or something? :o)

    Thomas Winborn

    I don’t see any edits, but the moderator is sure taking their sweet time to approve them. They are no less direct than the first, so hopefully they will “clear” them soon.

Lydia

Well, a blog is like an open backyard. People can see it and even wander in and converse but it is still private property. Maybe the owner is busy.

Just be thankful you are not censored at the first hint of disagreement and called a hater. That is how most SBC Neo Cal blogs work. They don’t do well with dissent and overwhelmingly have a need to control the venue. Very unbaptist or grown up. :o)

Alton Vandevender

Thomas you seem to be a man possessed but not of God. He received approval when you asked him to be state exec. Men of character don’t change. Go by and read comments made by others in 2010/2011 about the character of Ezell. Why don’t you ask Dr. Sullivan of Fl. About Dr. McRaney. Dr. McRaney is being attacked by men like you to protect Ezell and his method of dealing with ones that don’t kneel to his ways. An investigation will put this issue to rest. Know your facts before you put words about someone in writing. I noticed you did not deny the fact that you received the e-mail from Ezell about cutting funding as long as Dr. McRaney remained. Facts are facts and your view is why the investigation is need. If you are right I would think that you would be the first to call for an investigation.

    Thomas Winborn

    Alton,

    Come on…”men of character don’t change”? You don’t really believe that. Just for a short list: King David, Saul, Peter, etc. McRaney might have received approval from the GMB when he was hired, but that does not mean that sometimes bad hires slip through any good process.

    By the way, I am not protecting Ezell. Ezell is a big boy. He can protect himself. I’m simply sick of all the half-truths and out-and-out lies coming from the source of this whole mess. The people I care about protecting are the folks who have been continually harassed by McRaney even after his termination, the wonderful and wounded staff of the MABN. He’s a wanna-be bully toward these folks and they don’t deserve it.

    “Know your facts before you put your words about someone in writing”? That is PRECISELY why I am putting my words in writing, because I have the facts…first hand…and I’m sick of seeing the lies spun for creaturely glory. I’m sorry you only have information from those you have to live around for the rest of your life. I am sure that is difficult. I don’t blame you for believing your Son-in-Law. I blame him for not giving you the full truth. Maybe if we’re all being forthright, you’d like to let everyone here know your relationship with Will McRaney?

    I did deny what you said about an email from Ezell. It’s in the comments above. Check those for my answer to you directly.

    See above for my views on investigations.

      Alton Vandevender

      Character don’t change it is revelled as one can see in your writings.

Steve Wolverton

Wow! This series of comments is painful. I love and appreciate the pastors and leadership of the MABN including my brother Thomas Winborn. Thomas is a young pastor and I want to believe that he means well. Also, I’m pretty convinced that he believes what he is saying. I don’t disagree with him on some of it. I do not want to get into an extended barrage but rather just make a few comments to correct the record.

I consider the McRaney’s to be good friends and have grown to love them. However, I am by no means Will’s “do-Boy”. Though I have a family member that knew them and ministered with them in the past, I first met them when they came to MD. I was impressed and pleased with the change that was taking place. There was indeed much I did not know about that I wish I could have helped with before this crisis. Nevertheless, Will’s dismissal and the way that it was done is what got me involved. Will is not perfect and does not claim to be. Nor am I. I have been very forthright with Will and I believe he has handled the scrutiny extremely well. It is important to note that from the beginning Will has wanted everything related to this matter to be examined in the light; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have pressed him to be forthcoming with anything that may be revealed with a close look. He is ready and an independent unbiased investigation is in order. There may be plenty to disagree with. However, the fact remains that Will was given a list of things to work on with limited explanation including unsubstantiated allegations from unknown persons e.g. he was asked to settle a matter with staff members and was not told which staff. He was given an unreasonable amount of time to address the list of issues, two weeks, and then terminated a few days later after the “the facts” were teed up to a GMB who made a hasty decision on the spot with partial and misrepresented information.
I have investigated this in detail. Many of the people involved are personal friends of mine and this has been a heartbreaking experience. Thomas is correct in saying I was not in the GMB meeting when this was decided but I know persons who were and have interviewed many of the board members. I have spoken to all of the staff involved and to the officers. Early on, during friendly casual conversations over the telephone I received what I believe to be some of the most true elements of information. One of these conversations was with the MABN President. He knows what he told me and he knows that my statement is correct. God knows as well. He subsequently shared the story with quite a different slant in front of the officers, a staff member and a few GMB members when we first met to discuss the matter. Thomas was in that meeting. However, he was not in the meeting some two months later when seven of us including the President, Will, and myself, when he told almost the same version of the story he told me the first time I called him. He knows what he said and he knows what he did. I am praying that he will do the right thing and own up to what he told me. I understand he told a fellow pastor basically the same story independently. I did not know Clint before this started though he has certainly earned my respect. What I personally “witnessed” was: One: a private conversation between the MABN President and I on the phone. He repeated a slanted version of what he told me when confronted in front of others he had teed the information up for. He subsequently told a near-true version in the meeting of seven with Will and I present. Thomas was not in that meeting; Two: I witnessed a “don’t confuse me with the facts or any other version of what I want to believe or have been led to believe” behavior from most of those involved.

I have never met the NAMB President. Once again, Thomas is correct in noting I was not in the room with him. I never have been unless you count the big room in Columbus. What Thomas evidently does not know is that I have read letters and email written by him to Will. I have also read emails sent to him from Will that were not responded to. I know what the MABN President told me. I know what he told me about his conversations with the NAMB President. Nevertheless, even though the NAMB President may have made written threats, which I have seen and are included in the record, and statements which I have been told about, he is yet not responsible for the actual termination and total lack of process for that termination. He may have been a cause. However, had the Officers of the MABN done their due diligence we would not be having this conversation. Furthermore, though Will worked for the GMB, the GMB works for the pastors and church members of the network. Ultimately, I hold most of the network pastors responsible for allowing this to stand.

After extensive and objective investigation and review, all of the network pastors were given the opportunity to come to a central location to hear the story from both sides of the issue. Ample notice was given. A plan of action was recommended. Unfortunately, less than thirty out of well over 500 pastors showed up. It should be noted that there were far more emails sent to me in support of Will than there were against him. Still they didn’t show. Whether it was due to malice, apathy, local focus, trust in those who made the decision, lack of trust that anything could be done about the decision, conflicts, just plain laziness, or whatever reason, the network pastors voted with their absence to allow the Officers and the GMB to get away with terminating a good man in a most inappropriate manner. Even the kindest version of the facts bears this out regardless of whether one might think he should have been terminated or not.

One last thing; there seemed to be an allegation that one of us may have been out for revenge because we were treated wrong by a church. I’m not sure what this was referring to but we did say that no pastor would want their church governing body and leadership to do to them what was done to Will.

I am praying that all parties involved will seek God’s face on this matter and resolve these issues as men of God. I pray that we will see the day that the MABN will resolve to apologize to the McRaney family and ask their forgiveness. Likewise, that MABN leadership would resolve to forgive Dr. McRaney for whatever grievance is harbored. I pray that senior leadership in our state convention that have yet to speak to Dr. McRaney since his departure would lay their ministry offering at the alter and go and make things right. I pray that our President will communicate openly what he shared with me and that he would seek and receive forgiveness. I pray that the President of NAMB will extend an olive branch and seek forgiveness for any direct or indirect influence he may have had. I pray also that he would in Christian brotherly love seek to assist the McRaneys in transition to what God has in store for them. I am in agreement with Thomas in the desire to see healing, people saved and much made of Jesus. Our state convention has not moved on. It is still broken in many ways but it does not have to stay that way. We serve an awesome God. May He be glorified in the restoration of these relationships. I am available to assist in any way I can.

    Lydia

    You all see what has happened here. Thus now has become about Will’s character being held to a higher standard than those who introduced a non disclosure agreement and those who have gone along carte blanche with such nefarious deeds using OPM… Christian tithe dollars.

    So now Will is held to a higher standard than Ezell. Who hides. He is much too important to have to bring to light what he wants hidden. This is Baptist?

    Are grown up men of integrity a thing of the past for SBC servants/employees in the entities?

      Alton Vandevender

      Lydia you are much more gracious than I am. I have called several trustees, my question was not to get them to revel any info.they working in process.. My question only required a yes or no. Did you read McRaney letter of concerns before the officers replied.. Answer we talk about it..my question is did you read the e-mail ,yes or no.. I don’t have to answer that and hung up..

    Alton Vandevender

    Well written. You have once again confirm the fact that this whole procedure was handled wrong from the beginning Someone induced this action and that the reason for an investigation .. Our trustees as from the very first has refused to check these concerns that was raised by McRaney.. Protect my leader at all cost seems to be the trustees intention from the first no matter about the truth or false statements made by McRaney..very honorable of them but not for SBC members.

Lydia

Alton, I am quite familiar with the deception con and framing the issues, And I disagree with you about the non disclosure. Christians working together, spending other people’s good faith donations —don’t need non disclosure agreements. I fear what folks allow to become their normal. If secrets locked in a box, non disclosure agreements and clauses in lay off contracts with warnings to watch your mouth —are the new normal, the SBC is done. The oligarchs control the message and venue. And of course, who can “prove” anything? They love that.

    Alton Vandevender

    Lydia where did I mislead you that I agreed with the tracts of a non disclosure statements in NAMB contracts.

      Lydia

      Disagree was probably too strong. I think you have every right to know such things done in every SBC member’s name with their money. They have no reason to be done in secret. We aren’t talking about missionaries in Yemen, for crying out loud. But then Platt maintained the Dubai Marriott was mission dangerous, so who knows what con they will use.

      I do think most Trustees are yes men these days. I also think the IMB trustees should be held accountable for the deficit. The longer all this goes on, the worse it will be.

      But hey, accountability for OPM in Christ’s name is old fashioned.

Thomas Winborn

As for my last entry here…we all have better things to do…this “young pastor” of 40 years in age certainly has more important things to spend time on than a circular argument from Monday morning armchair quarterbacks who seem to distrust the myriad of local pastors and leaders serving our national and state conventions.

I’m glad Steve has made clear that he was not present but for a couple of small meetings, none of which entail anything of significant detail or import. Wolverton states things as “fact” that he describes happening at the meeting in which McRaney was terminated. However, Wolverton was not there. It was not a hasty decision. The order of events, the purpose and their description which Wolverton eludes to are twisted and convoluted by McRaney. There were multiple meetings about the issue and several layers of investigation. Decisions were not made in the way Wolverton and McRaney assert. Again, it is twisted information.

As to Lydia’s statement, Will is not held to a higher standard than any other leader. The MABN did not investigate any other denominational leader because they only have charge over their states. This is not about knocking down McRaney while Ezell “hides”. This is about bringing to light the truth that McRaney is not a victim. The staff of the MABN are the victims along with the network’s churches and McRaney is the perpetrator. McRaney is playing the victim, but he was the instigator and the one who had to deal with the consequences of his actions. He still does not take responsibility for it.

I mention all of this, plus showing that Wolverton and Scott are not witnesses, merely because Rick Patrick uses them as star witnesses in his calling for an investigation. I’m simply pointing out that they are not star witnesses, but the actual perpetrator and his comrades. If all of this were brought to a grand jury to see if there was enough to pursue a true investigation and trial, it would all fall short. That’s my point. It has been investigated as far as needs be.

Lastly, if Wolverton wants to see healing for our state convention, then he, being an “older” (still not sure how age equals wisdom) pastor, needs to stop opening the wounds of our network by being a compatriot of the perpetrator and in essence dragging the victims back through the ordeal regularly. Let it lie. Move on. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what I’m doing now.

    Alton Vandevender

    About time for you to spent some time reading God’s word. Now try applying them in your life. Spot being so cruel with the statements about fellow believers

    Lydia

    Thomas, what is more important than transparency and truth for believers spending other people’s money in the name of Christ?

    Just trust us and our non disclosure agreements?

Dr. Clint Scott

In response to Thomas Winborn, it has been my experience that when people do not care to engage in constructive conversation they digress to name calling. To call me a “do-boy” for seeking truth and understanding is not constructive nor worthy of our calling. These are the same tactics that cost Dr. McRaney his job and placed a stumbling block before many. Furthermore, when you attack someone for asking for an investigation and for facts of character to be revealed, your own words testify against you!

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