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NAMB trustees end contracts, chart new course

Agency had been committed to four-year contract for use of corporate jet

 

Updated 05/11/06

 

Joe Westbury/Index

South Carolina pastor Bill Curtis addresses NAMB trustees as the board’s newly elected chairman. Outgoing chairman Barry Holcomb of Alabama is seated to the left of Curtis.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Trustees of the North American Mission Board began charting a new course for the agency on May 2 in their first regularly scheduled meeting since the resignation of President Bob Reccord on April 17.

One of their first orders of business was the cancellation of three contracts which came to light in a 19-page trustee report on March 23. The contracts were among numerous operating irregularities that trustees said they are working to correct to restore Southern Baptist confidence in the missions agency. NAMB will save millions of dollars in the long term by taking the action.

As a result of the cancellations:

• NAMB will end its relationship with InovaOne Aviation, immediately saving $40,000 in unused pilot hours and aircraft maintenance. Trustees had learned that Reccord had committed the agency to a four-year contract with InovaOne that obligated it to annually purchase 45 flight hours of use of a corporate jet.

NAMB was only 18-months into that contract and felt it was best to buy it out and not be liable for future expenses.

Trustees such as Tim Patterson of Florida said he and others were not even aware that the agency had entered into such a relationship and was grateful for the Board ending the contract, which had already cost $142,000.

Interim Chief Operating Officer Carlos Ferrer said NAMB was unable to resell the remaining air hours to another company but the board action was still sending the right message to Southern Baptists.

 

“We are not flying that plane anymore.”

“We are not flying that plane anymore. I want to be sure all of our supporters hear that loud and clear,” he stated. “We are not flying that plane anymore.”

NAMB trustees pulled the plug on 316 Networks – the agency’s new Web site – after learning of its cash-draining history. The site, which was launched to much fanfare at last year’s annual SBC convention meeting, had already cost the agency $1.4 million and would incur another $2 million in start-up costs during the next 24 months. It had only generated $30,000 and was very similar to a competing site named www.streamingfaith.com, which had already established itself in that niche.

• As of April 28, NAMB terminated its relationship with 316 Networks, a broadband Internet site that had already cost the agency $1.4 million but had only generated $30,000. Trustees said it would have cost an additional $2 million and there was little hope it would ever be profitable.

316 Networks (www.316networks.com) was launched by Reccord at last year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. From its birth it was hailed as being “the leading Internet broadcast platform for ministries who wish to extend their reach, reward and return through community and streaming media.” But it went head-to-head against Streaming Faith (www.streamingfaith.com), a nearly identical site which was first on the scene and had already established a leading presence in that market.

The site was a three-way business relationship between NAMB, InovaOne, and MultiCast – an Atlanta business that hosted the network. Under the new relationship 316 Networks will continue to host NAMB’s video products but the agency “will be a paying customer just like churches and associations and will have no financial interest in its success or failure,” Ferrer said.

• NAMB will begin saving $12,000 monthly through termination of its relationship with two public relations firms that were hired without trustee knowledge. The arrangement could be ended with a 30-day notice between either party with no financial loss to the agency. NAMB already has a two-person public relations office at its Alpharetta headquarters.

In addition, Ferrer informed trustees that the agency would be implementing 10 recommendations suggested from the Capin and Crouse accounting firm who had completed a special audit which looked into financial issues raised in a Feb. 16 article published in the Index.

The recommendations, which would fine-tune NAMB’s accounting procedures, would include a more clear policy on honorariums, soliciting bids, and a more thorough protection of intellectual property such as the writing of books and other materials to alleviate any conflict of interest.

 

“Whistle-blower” policy to be implemented

A “whistle-blower” policy will also be implemented as part of the recommendations. Trustees acknowledged “a culture of fear” had taken root at the agency and prevented employees from questioning irregularities such as the corporate jet contract.

Joe Westbury/Index

Gainesville businessman and board member Michael Martin said SBC President Bobby Welch “did a masterful job of giving a charge to us to take the time to find the right person to take NAMB to the next level. We do not have a firm timeline but we will take the time necessary to find that leader. As trustees we will be held accountable, along with the new president, to make NAMB the premier agency to carry the gospel of Christ throughout North America. I want Southern Baptists to rest assured that we take that responsibility seriously as we begin our search.”

“Employee morale at NAMB is improving,” Ferrer told the trustees. “We need stability in our building so that our staff know they are valued, trusted and that we care for them. Outside the Board, we need credibility.”

“We need to rebuild credibility with our state convention and association partners, with our missionaries, and with Southern Baptists,” he said. “They need to know that we are trustworthy and will do what we say we will do. And, we are committed to doing everything in our power to do that.”

In a related matter dealing with soliciting bids, NAMB will continue to outsource products to InovaOne Studios through a contract that expires in early 2008 but will be more active in soliciting work from other vendors. Under that adjustment InovaOne will cease to be a primary vendor and will compete with others on a more level playing field, he added.

In other business, trustees elected Bill Curtis as chairman over Ted Traylor in a vote of 33 to 11. Curtis is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C., and Traylor is pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. Also elected were Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., as first vice chairman; and Dennie Culbreth, senior pastor of River Oak Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., as second vice chairman.

The board failed to name an interim president, citing it needed additional time to determine parameters of the position. Trustees said they were undecided on how many days a week would be required of such an individual and whether to seek a candidate from inside or outside the agency. Board leadership expressed strong confidence in the current NAMB leadership in the interim. See story on Carlos Ferrer being named interim chief operating officer on page 23.

Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., who co-chairs the presidential search committee with David Crump of Broken Arrow, Okla., said he hoped the committee would be able to name a candidate in time to be introduced at next year’s annual convention meeting but the committee was under no formal timeline. See related story below detailing the committee appointments.

“We plan to be very cautious and slow the process down so we will not be in a rush,” he explained.

The committee intends to conduct a variety of listening sessions with a broad spectrum of leadership including state convention agencies, pastors of churches both large and small, and directors of missions.

When asked what kind of individual the committee was seeking, Fox thought briefly and said “balanced.”

The trustee said NAMB needs “someone who is missions minded, who understands where Southern Baptists have been and where they are going as a denomination. It needs someone who is respective of our historical roots while being progressive and visionary while operating within budgetary guidelines.

“We will be looking along the highways and through the hedgerows to find God’s man for this hour. We realize this is a critical time for Southern Baptists and our intentions are to take our job very seriously.”

In addressing the search for a new agency head, SBC President Bobby Welch underscored the seriousness of the selection process and encouraged trustees to take their time and make a thorough search.

“NAMB stands on the threshold of another overwhelming opportunity to impact the world through the selection of its second president. NAMB remains the heartbeat of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the signals it sends in church planting and evangelism are critical to winning North America to Christ.

Welch then cited declining baptism and other figures released last month in the Annual Church Profile report, and lamented the lack of momentum for soul winning.

“You cannot run a Kool-aid stand operating like that [with declining growth]. You cannot rob hell and fill up heaven with souls by operating like that. We need a strong vision to lead our denomination as never before.

“The greatest contribution you may ever make in your ministry is in your hands today. Don’t mess up. On behalf of 16 million Southern Baptists in 45,000 churches, don’t mess up. You’ve got to get this right because the eternal destiny of untold millions depends on your choice.

“We don’t have time to do any backpedaling. You and the chief executive officer who you elect will identify and articulate the theological view of millions of Southern Baptists. This agency sets the tone, the pace, the cadence for evangelism throughout the nation,” he stated.

Welch then advised the trustees to choose someone “who is bold, trusted, and audacious … he must be a soul winner. The best thing to happen when his name comes out is for there to be an overwhelming cry of “Yes!” throughout the Convention. We need to hear “Yes! That is the direction we need to go!”

Welch said the presidential search was not a game of hide and seek.

“God is ready to show us his man for this position if we will live a holy, spirit-filled life as we conduct the process.”

Then he concluded his remarks with a pointed reminder:

“Hell is no joke. It is a real place. It is a hard place. And your Number 1 assignment is to keep people out of it.”

In other business the board approved:

• 74 new missionaries and 63 SBC-endorsed chaplains;

• a motion to study “encouraging our missionaries with increased financial support while working with our state conventions and framing the process with spiritual principles”;

• a motion to increase overall funding for church planting and evangelism;

• and recognized 11 trustees who have completed their terms of service, including Barry Holcomb, who served as chairman the past year.

Bobby Welch

The board also approved a resolution expressing appreciation for Reccord’s term of service, but some trustees took exception to the wording affirming his “character and integrity as above reproach.” At least nine trustees objected to the phrasing.

Speaking from the floor, Larry Thomas of Arkansas went on record stating that that level of affirmation sent mixed signals to Southern Baptists who had read the 19-page trustee report that took strong issue with Reccord’s management style.

“I want to state that my opposition to this affirmation is not a vote against an individual but a vote against wording which I believe to be untrue. My ‘no” vote is for that senior saint in the Southern Baptist Convention who sets aside $5 a month from her Social Security check and places it in a cookie jar, saves it for the entire year, and then sacrificially gives it to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

“This ‘no’ vote is a yellow flag to send a signal to our Convention that there will be financial accountability in the future on this Board,” he said.

Trustee Mitch Freeman of Oklahoma also stated his appreciation for the former president but felt the affirmation went too far in its praise.

“I love Dr. Reccord but I don’t think holding someone accountable is a sign that you don’t love him. I think we spoke clearly in our fact-finding report on March 23 and should not confuse people with the wording in strategy of following it up with this affirmation. Clarity is the most important issue here.”

 

Related stories:

Presidential search and executive level committees named

Eight Georgians among 41 Baptist leaders affirming Reccord

Carlos Ferrer: interim head of entity that helped Cuban family