March 21, 2016
What I am about to share with you causes me great personal angst. It pains me to write. However, I am compelled by the love of Christ, the Word and leadership of God and by the seriousness of the situation to appeal our larger SBC family. I am deeply concerned about the actions of our North American Mission Board President, Dr. Kevin Ezell. His unbiblical actions, manipulative threats, and coercive behaviors against me, the MD/DE Convention and the larger SBC Family cannot go unexamined.
Truth Before You
Dr. Ezell’s actions have damaged the MD/DE Convention. He influenced my termination and livelihood by his interference and threats to withhold SBC money as long as I remained as the Exec. Director. One MD/DE pastor wrote, “you were sold for NAMB money.” Dr. Ezell’s actions are not limited to me or the MD/DE Conv., but have wider damage to Southern Baptists. I previously brought these concerns to the trustees of the NAMB, and without a thorough examination, my concerns were dismissed by NAMB officers and their attorneys. After responding to NAMB’s attorney and after speaking with several SBC statesmen and leaders, I bring these matters to you, my fellow Southern Baptists, directly for your review so as to operate in the light Eph. 5:6-11.
All things begin and end with faithfully pleasing Jesus, following His commands and commissions. America is the 4th largest mission field in the world. We as a Southern Baptists are stewards of the North America Mission Board, which has a historic past, including the mission efforts of Annie Armstrong in Baltimore in the late 1800s. Annie said, “Men and means were not forthcoming fast enough for the great work of foreign missions, so God turned the stream this way and sent great masses of the unevangelized to come in contact with Christians.”
It is out of deep concern for God’s honor and stewarding the current and future mission efforts of Southern Baptists that I write to you. In all things Jesus must be pleased as we seek to follow Him and then carry out His mission in keeping with His ways.
Damages to the Fabric of the SBC
The fabric of the SBC mission efforts has been a cooperative spirit. This has led to great personal and financial support of a united form of missions, in addition to what local churches are doing directly. Southern Baptists have united to train pastors, develop lay leaders, evangelize a nation through mission efforts, started churches, and encouarged pastors and wives by caring for one another locally and across the nation.
Trust, Goodwill, and Cooperation Damaged
All non-profits, in particular the SBC, are built on trust and goodwill. They operate at the blessing or the discipline of the Lord Himself, as all things begin and end with Him, even in preeminence to our work for Him. Our current President who is stewarding our North American Mission Board has acted in ways that are unbiblical and are undermining trust and goodwill, along with damaging the spirit of cooperation.
Expectations of those We Entrust Leadership
It is absolutely necessary in light of Jesus, our great mission field, widespread decline in our churches, and the increasing antagonism toward Christians and our churches, that the leaders of our national agencies walk uprightly with Jesus and man, and they lead us with a cooperative spirit. The task before us demands that our national leaders…
- possess high integrity and character as they walk with God and people
- have strategic minds that function with collaborative spirit
- build bridges to the entirety of the SBC family
- enhance trust and goodwill among the diversity which is the SBC
- can help us navigate the cultural tsunami coming at the SBC and the church in America
SBC and Me
As a former SBC pastor, church planter, seminary professor, writer/conference leader and state convention staff missionary for the FL and MD/DE Baptist Conventions, our leaders in these denominational positions are there to serve the local church and its members. About Me… Because of the autonomy of our local churches and denominational agencies, the denomination and its leaders serve under the authority of the local churches and its leaders. We do not have an hierarchical structure.
While the pages of documents contained on my website demonstrate the concerns more fully, I want to sound three alarms related to Dr. Ezell and his leadership of our NAMB and how it engages with sister SBC organizations and their leaders. I am compelled by these matters for the honor of Christ, His church, and collective of churches called the SBC. So, I bring these to your attention. And, should you find the concerns worthy, inquire and express those to your local, state and national leaders.
These matters are not matters of strategy differences, personality conflict, or even opinion. These are actions and results of actions. Proverbs 20:11 reminds us that we, even small children, are known by our actions, not our intentions. These are alarms regarding Dr. Ezell’s troubling actions which you can find in my “Statements of Fact.”
(1) Lapses in personal and organizational integrity – Dr. Ezell…
David and Good Men Gone Astray – Leaders lead out of who they are, not just their strategies or likeability factor, even those who start well.
- repeatedly not kept his word, the terms of partnership agreements, written lies, and made false accusations Statements of Fact Summary Version
- misused his power and position of trust by making threats to withhold your SBC money from MD/DE — the jointly funded staff, mission and ministry efforts, and the church planters
- without verification while refusing my multiple requests to meet, Dr. Ezell gave written notice to cancel the historic relationship with MD/DE Convention, both its pastors and churches (MD was one of the 9 states represented in the formation of the SBC in 1845), his claims were refuted by MD/DE leadership
- damaged my good name, influenced my termination without cause, after receiving unanimous Board vote of support and caused me and my family significant financial damages with his secret threat to the MD/DE President to withhold financial resources as long as I remained as the Exec. Director of MD/DE. THEN, he delivered on that threat. Follow the Money Trail
(2) Strong-arming, undermining, and damaging partnerships – Dr. Ezell…
- Instead of meeting with me, Dr. Ezell worked in hidden fashion around me with the MD/DE Convention President, which was in violation of good partnership and the Partnership Agreement
- Threatened the leaders of MD/DE and other state conventions with GAG orders, and threats to withhold money from the states if he believes they are talking negatively him or about NAMB.
- Not kept agreements, used strong-arm and bullying tactics to get out of agreements and into new agreements with state partners that were more in keeping with his agenda. I and others believe this is very damaging to the future of SBC mission growth and advancement. Some State Executive Directors have stated that partnership is dead in the SBC and that Dr. Ezell does not have the integrity to keep his word or agreements. I refused to kowtow to his threats against the MD/DE Convention, which influenced my termination.
(3) Failing strategies and mission regression (Markers)
- SBC is at a 70 year low baptisms SBC
- in the midst of growing population
- with the world coming to North America
- while dramatically reducing the NAMB jointly funded field staff in evangelism across the nation
- SBC is planting 592 less church per year in the last 5 years, compared to the previous 5 year average according to SBC Annual Report
- This is THE national NAMB emphasis
- While spending twice as much money as previously
- Early report showed baptisms are down in plants
- We are losing the southern based of churches faster than we are making progress in non-southern regions
You can find more details, factual evidence with timelines, and supporting stories in the materials I have made available online at www.willmcraney.com/open-letter/.
While I appreciate the wider Christian family, I have personally been the benefactor and stewarded various parts of the SBC. Beyond what I could have dreamed, God has given me the opportunities to serve Him, His church, and our denomination. These experiences have shaped my perspective, caused me to appreciate the past, and see our current directions more clearly. I want us to honor Christ, steward well our part of the large Kingdom mission, and then one day see us pass the baton of our national missions agency to the upcoming generation that is pleasing to Jesus and strong for His glory and His church.
As a Southern Baptist, if you have concerns or questions, you can …
- Contact one or more members of your trustees who are there to provide oversight to NAMB
- Contact one or more of your Executive Committee members
- Consider contacting the Executive Director of your state convention
- Consider asking your state paper editor to investigate these matters and write their findings
These gentlemen and ladies are there to serve you and the larger mission advance through the SBC.
Related Documents and Links:
- Supporting Documents
Links to documents organized by category and alphabetically
Dealing with Decline: The Future of Southern Baptist Cooperation