A sacred trust exists between the President of NAMB and Southern Baptists. One man is entrusted with enormous power, prestige, and resources to shape individual lives and direct the mission of the SBC in North America. Southern Baptists sacrificially invest themselves and their resources, for the sake of an eternal purpose, to the tune of $120 million every year. The President of NAMB makes decisions that impact staffers and thousands of planters and evangelists all across North America. The President is responsible to live honorably before God and man, to steward the financial resources, to steward both the staff and the missionaries who represent SBC efforts in Alpharetta across the land, and to set the direction and priorities for Southern Baptists in reaching North America.
This essay is the sixth of a series entitled “The New NAMB: Is it Working?” It is offered as a response to the report by Dr. Kevin Ezell to the messengers of the SBC Annual meeting in June 2016, entitled, “It is working.” I have sought to ask and answer several “better” questions than the weaker ones NAMB has been asking. This article will address the question: Have NAMB leaders reflected Christ in their attitudes and actions with others as they steward the trust placed in them by SBC churches and members?
Sometimes situations demand that the facts be laid out beyond a cursory look. This is one such time, for I will be dealing with a person God created and loves who has been entrusted with much. Communicating as accurately as possible is an expectation from God and is only right in this situation. I will not cover every fact or document that supports my claims regarding Dr. Ezell, but this treatment will necessarily have some length. While I cannot cover it all, I have attached links below to a number of articles and fact sheets that examine these areas in greater detail.
The claims I make are serious, impacting the lives of many employees, the institution of NAMB, its President, and our trustees both at NAMB and in other parts of the SBC. I must not make these claims without also providing numerous examples and supporting evidence. While acknowledging there is much I do not know, I am deeply troubled over the matters I do know and is supported with specific evidence.
Three Important Leadership Qualities
According to Dr. Jimmy Knott in It’s All About Leadership: Be a Leader Worth Following, three qualities of a Credible Leader worth following emerge: (A) Authentic Character, (B) Exceptional Competence, and (C) Relational Connection. This raises the question: “Has the actions of Dr. Ezell demonstrated character concerns?” The following examples are illustrative, but not exhaustive. Consider these facts, along with the ones described in the list of online links following the article.
Most human actions and thoughts are out of the sight of others. Take Orlando, for example. It has 66 million visitors per year. This is over 20 million more than NYC. While Orlando is publicly known to be a safe city, it is abundantly clear that many crimes take place that are either unreported by the victims or unreported by the Orlando press. Therefore, the actions of the perpetrators go unnoticed in public and probably by most of those who know them. The same is true for Christian leaders.
My pastor revealed in a sermon that we all have three persons inside of us: public, private and secret. Character and integrity requires the public, private and secret persons as revealed in their actions to be the same. The following are examples of wrongful character revealing things by Dr. Ezell occuring mostly out of sight of others.
1. Deception and False Communication
(1) Dr. Ezell falsely stated that I refused to meet with him prior to canceling the historic Strategic Partnership Agreement. I have seven emails requesting meetings with Dr. Ezell. The General Mission Board President of the Baptist Convention of Maryland-Delaware, Mark Dooley, reported to the General Mission Board in February of 2015: “He (Dooley) has personally seen the email correspondence that supports the opposite. McRaney has repeatedly asked Kevin Ezell, ‘Can we get together?’ Which was met with very short, terse responses, and not an openness to meet.”
(2) Dr. Ezell falsely stated that I violated the Strategic Partnership Agreement regarding two hiring procedures by not contacting NAMB staff, that I had repeatedly and willfully violated the agreement, and as such, I was the sole reason for the cancellation of the agreement with the convention, at a loss of one million dollars to the convention for planters, missions, evangelism, and eight jointly funded staff positions. Three convention officers examined these claims and concluded: (1) Neither I nor the convention violated the hiring agreement procedures, as evidenced by a NAMB Vice President’s own communication, along with the hiring dates involved, and (2) NAMB had, in fact, violated the agreement in seven specific ways, some knowingly for their benefit and to the detriment of the convention. NAMB Vice Presidents Christopherson and Davis disproved Dr. Ezell’s accusations with their own emails and calendar.
(3) Dr. Ezell falsely stated that I did not return a phone call from NAMB Mobilizer Kevin Marsico. This is the first of three stated concerns by Dr. Ezell in his only communication (Nov. 2014) regarding any possible conflict with me. The second was that I violated the hiring procedure of the agreement, which was false. The third was that I added a new requirement that planters must reinvest in the regional ministry around them AFTER NAMB required the convention to remove the requirement for planters to give to the Association, which was true. The only recorded call by my Executive Assistant from Marsico occurred in October 2013 just after I was hired. Marsico called to express a welcome and offer his assistance, which does not require a return phone call.
2. Violations of Dr. Ezell’s Word and of the SPA by NAMB
NAMB violated the SPA, including the very manner in which Dr. Ezell cancelled the SPA, without communicating with me as the Executive Director in advance on his intentions.
Dr. Ezell violated the agreed upon terms of our March 11, 2015 meeting. He said he would bring two NAMB Trustees, in order to satisfy our terms, but he only brought one. He tried a power play to change the location at the last minute, requesting that we change the meeting place from the convention offices to his hotel a few minutes away. He changed the agenda from “not talking about the past” to his “talking mostly about the past” after I had the opening turn and talked about our joint ministry and the future. Convention leaders perceived this as Dr. Ezell’s attempt to control the meeting and get us out of balance with his tactics. Convention Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle described Dr. Ezell’s behaviors as “petulant.” One convention leader noted in front of our team: “You showed remarkable restraint. If that had been me, I would have come across the table at Dr. Ezell.”
Dr. Ezell falsely stated that I resigned, not that I was terminated, and that he did not interfere in the process, and in fact, was not even involved. This was reported by Baptist Press in the article dated June 20, 2016 entitled MD/DE Investigation “Concluded.” The fact remains that I was terminated. It is decidedly untrue that I was told to “resign or be terminated” by a vote of the General Mission Board of the convention on June 8, 2015. The later term “resignation” was offered and even requested by the convention if I would accept a to-be-determined severance agreement that was not agreed upon until weeks after my termination.
The BCMD convention officers provided false information in their statement released on March 24, 2016. It is abundantly clear, the officers of the convention misled the public stating a resignation on June 9, 2015 and the vote of the board to terminate me on June 8, 2015. It is apparent to many that this decision to provide cover for Dr. Ezell was also an effort to cover themselves concerning the quick, unjust, and induced termination. Lots of ministers in this story are having a hard time telling the truth!
I requested a correction to Baptist Press leaders and to Dr. Page and the Communication team after their article on April 13, 2017. In doing so, I provided them with the first page of my separation agreement with the state convention which clearly indicates I was terminated on June 8, 2015, just days before the 2015 SBC Convention.
At the State Executive Directors meeting in California in February 2017, Dr. Ezell stated that he had talked with some State Executives that he trusted regarding the hiring of a new young leader at NAMB. Reportedly, Dr. Ezell represented that he received counsel and implied support of the proposed hire. However, two of the state executives interrupted Dr. Ezell to communicate the exact opposite. One Executive Director replied to Dr. Ezell, “I told you this was the response you would get.” Why did Dr. Ezell speak falsely in front of State Executives who he knew could confront him publicly? Is he in the habit of being loose with the truth?
A highly respected former State Executive has relayed stories of Dr. Ezell calling him for counsel only to learn later that Dr. Ezell misrepresented what that former State Executive had said. Why would Dr. Ezell do this? Was he borrowing credibility without regard for the truth?
If Dr. Ezell acts with deception, makes false accusations, and speaks falsely about his own behavior and conversations with State leaders, can he be trusted to represent the truth without guile? If Dr. Ezell will make false accusations against a brother, then what else will he do to damage someone? If he misrepresents conversations, can he ever be believed? Dr. Ezell did not follow Biblical commands to clear up relationships, nor did he accept my offers to do so. Then, he lied about it. So, why is Dr. Ezell communicating with deception in the ways noted above? There appears to be a character problem.
3. Abuses and Misuses of Power, Position and Money
On Dec. 2, 2014, Dr. Ezell in violation of the terms of the agreement, threatened the BCMD with a Notice of Cancellation Letter, which would have resulted in the loss of $1 million from the convention. This money was already committed to funding church planters, missions, evangelism and eight jointly-funded staff members. Incidentally, state convention churches annually contributed about $950,000 per year to NAMB through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and NAMB’s portion of Cooperative Program gifts. Similar amounts were exchanged in both directions, yet Dr. Ezell threated to withhold NAMB’s committed resources due to his false allegations, while still continuing to accept the almost $1 million funds from the state convention.
As noted above, Dr. Ezell based his cancellation on the false accusations against me. Later, Dr. Ezell stated that NAMB would withhold financial support to the state convention as long as I remained the Executive Director. There are several smoking guns on Ezell’s threat. Numerous public verbalizations of the Ezell threat were made by the state convention President Bill Warren, who orchestrated my termination. One can follow the money trail. Significantly, the day after I was terminated, Warren stated, and later verified, that he believed the Lord would have him to be the next Executive Director.
Dr. Ezell made good on his promises. The state convention budgets and the board meeting minutes reveal post-termination additional gifts and financial commitments to the state convention in the amount of $675,000 payable in 2016 and $825,000 payable in 2017.
On February 5, 2015, Dr. Ezell texted a threat to a board member during a board meeting that Dr. Ezell knew was taking place. He threatened the Executive Director and the leadership of the state convention. The meeting resulted in 100% vote to: (1) reject NAMB’s offer to take over 100% of church planting and any partnership agreement establishing such terms, and (2) affirm support for my leadership and my approach in dealing with NAMB.
Dr. Ezell’s threat did not serve the purposes of NAMB in evangelism and missions or assist a ministry partner in the state convention. So why did Dr. Ezell make the threats and the false statements within them? Is there not a character problem?
Several State Executive Directors, SBC pastors and members of the press have discussed the new 2014 version of the Strategic Partnership Agreement NAMB was pressuring state conventions to adopt. I highlighted changes from 2012-2014 agreement in an article Going Going Gone Sold: Essential Elements of SBC Mission Efforts. We see the existence of gag orders on the State Conventions and the threat of funding cuts if the gag orders were violated or if state convention staff talked negatively about NAMB, or even revealed the terms of their Strategic Partnership Agreements.
The Christian Examiner editor wrote, “Several Southern Baptist state convention leaders have accused the denomination’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) of linking financial support from the national entity – funding for church planting and other ministries – to secretive Cooperative Agreements which include a clause that threatens to withhold ministry funds to the states if disclosures about the agreement – or concerns – are shared publicly.”
State leaders and pastors have expressed concern that Dr. Ezell is using gag orders, threats, and strong-arming tactics. This does not reflect the spirit of a cooperative partnership, but rather one of coercion. So why did Dr. Ezell use such tactics with several State Convention executive Directors? Is there not a character problem?
4. Punitive, Vindictive and Other Behaviors
Dr. Ezell interfered in my working relationship with the state convention by working around me and talking with Board President Bill Warren instead. In fact, Warren stated to the executive leadership team and the officers that Dr. Ezell told him that if McRaney would behave himself for six months, Dr. Ezell would talk with me. In essence, Dr. Ezell was putting me on probation for six months from talking with him. What a power move to dominate me and damage my leadership! What happened to wanting to meet as he falsely claimed? Where is the application of the basic teachings of Jesus? Was Dr. Ezell punishing me? It appears that Dr Ezell is having difficulties with telling the truth. His character is once again being exposed.
In a meeting of selected state convention officers to discuss how to address Ezell’s Notice of Cancellation, a former state convention President with national influence shared his experience and knowledge with the officers on December 16, 2014. This leader noted that Dr. Ezell is known to be vindictive to those who oppose him, regardless of the validity of the concerns.
I had speaking engagements scheduled for the fall of 2016 in Mississippi and Florida. Evidence indicates that Dr. Ezell and NAMB representatives engaged in efforts to interfere with my speaking opportunities to provide for my family financially. I have since received additional confirmation of Dr. Ezell’s involvement.
Dr. Ezell or other NAMB leaders posted my picture at the Welcome Desk of NAMB headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia. Why? What message was being sent to everyone who saw this 8 x 10 picture? NAMB attorneys communicated to my attorney that it was over “security” concerns. Really? Is this the action of an innocent man or the act of a guilty man? The picture, in full view, was taken in the fall of 2016 by a current Executive Committee member of the SBC who is a highly respected leader.
Damaging Interference with Another Leader
In early April 2017, a former state leader testified that he was told Dr. Ezell made a call to a ministry leader where the former state leader was being considered for a new position. Dr. Ezell had no responsibility or involvement with that ministry, yet chose to damage a fellow minister with his negative perspectives. The former state leader was looking to reengage in ministry and provide for his family. The man is working through his hurt and trying to make a living. Is it any wonder he has not yet come forward to expose Dr. Ezell’s involvement? Ezell has shown by word and deed who he is and what lengths he will go to in order to get what he wants and to damage people as he pleases. Wherever is there a place for this kind of activity in Christian work?
Dozens of national and state leaders have used the following descriptors of Dr. Ezell. They know, but keep silent for their own reasons, such as concern for the SBC or possible personal retribution. These words are being used to describe Dr. Ezell: vindictive, unstable, reckless, petulant, and impulsive.
Questions to Consider
Leaders lead out of who they are! What does this sample of KNOWN actions say about Dr. Ezell? Who knows what else has happened that has remained unspoken? Do these representative actions reveal poor character? Are they behaviors of a Christian who is sensitive to obeying Biblical commands? Should this leader be entrusted with setting direction and leading our staff and missionaries? Should he be stewarding the enormous resources of Southern Baptist Churches and members? How many times can you intentionally bear false witness to your actions and the actions of others? How many times can you intentionally seek to damage brothers and fellow leaders? How many times can you threaten and bully individuals and state conventions while keeping a position of trust as the President of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention?
Every child of God is a work in progress, not yet perfected. However the qualifications of those who seek spiritual leadership, such as pastors, are demanding and exacting. As to the President of NAMB, we must have high demands in terms of authentic character, exceptional competence, and relational connection. Dr. Ezell has significant failures in all three areas.
From my personal experience and documented facts, it is apparent to me there are serious and obviously disqualifying behaviors that have been identified by numerous SBC national, state and associational leaders. The patterns are the same. The damages widespread, not isolated. The conclusion should be obvious to those with eyes to see, minds to perceive, hearts to feel, and a willingness to obey God.
Dr. Ezell’s actions do not reflect the spirit of Christ or the spirit of brotherly love and cooperation expected by all Southern Baptists. However, as I have said and written repeatedly, the facts are documented, verified by witnesses, and are unimpeachable. At some point Dr. Ezell moved away from doing the will of Father and got focused on other wills. Perhaps it was his own will. The intentions of his heart are of little importance, frankly. As Proverbs 20:11 reminds us, “Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?”
Have NAMB leaders reflected Christ in their attitudes and actions with others as they steward the trust placed in them by SBC churches and members?