NAMB trustee resigns over Ezell’s actions
    December 9 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

    CUMMING, Ga. — A trustee has resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB) saying he does not share the vision of the agency’s new president.

    “I believe that throughout my life, and particularly as I’ve gotten older, that it’s very important to take your body where your heart is,” Lester Cooper, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga., told church members Nov. 28. “If you’ve got your body somewhere where your heart’s not, that just not where it ought to be.”

    “I just wanted to share with you this morning — for whatever it’s worth to anybody — that this past week I resigned as trustee of the North American Mission Board,” he said. Cooper added, in an interview with Associated Baptist Press, “My heart is not with the North American Mission Board.” 

    Cooper, former director of missions for the Atlanta Association of Southern Baptist Churches, was elected as a NAMB trustee in 2008. He said watching changes made since the election Sept. 14 of Kevin Ezell as the agency’s president “is not what I signed on for.”

    On Sept. 30 Ezell announced an early-retirement incentive for employees age 54 and over. The goal is to reduce staff by a net 25 percent by the end of the year — including new people brought in by Ezell.

    Cooper said he agrees with the strategy of focusing on church planting in urban areas with large populations, but doesn’t think the way to do it is by losing senior staff members recognized as leading experts in the field.

    “I can’t imagine how you can see 80 people leave an organization that has 260 people in it and have any idea of how you are going to function or come to the conclusion of who is going to go before you have been there two months,” Cooper said. “It’s not reasonable, and I cannot get a satisfactory answer from anybody where we are going.”

    He also said that since a Great Commission Task Force report adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention calls for a restructuring of NAMB within seven years, he doesn’t understand why decisions are being handed down so quickly and without vote by the board of trustees.

    Cooper, 64, said if he were to serve out his term and be re-elected he would be a NAMB trustee until he was 70 and that at that age, “I don’t need any more stress in my life.”

    “I do not really see the direction I see it going in as being something that I think is helpful,” he said. “I don’t think that I should stay and stand in the way of what others think need to be done.” Cooper said three NAMB staff members taking the early-retirement option are members of his church.

    “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Cooper, a pastor for more than 30 years with a long record of denominational service. “It’s a new day for Southern Baptists, and I really don’t know what it looks like.”

    Ezell said in a statement Dec. 8 that he admires Cooper and appreciates the service he has given as a member of the board of trustees. Ezell said the timing of the voluntary retirement incentive package was driven primarily by changes being implemented by Guidestone Financial Resources.

    “The package we offered was as generous as we could make it, and we are also providing employment assistance for those who are seeking work after leaving NAMB,” Ezell said. “These reductions are driven by my firm belief that we need to send more resources to the North American mission field.”

    Ezell said just over two months on the job he is moving forward as quickly as he can.

    “We haven’t shared details of a new direction yet because we are still in the important phase of meeting with and listening to our state partners,” he said. “We will have a clearer direction to share after NAMB’s next board of trustees meeting in February.”

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
    12/9/2010 6:25:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 4 comments

Sanora Steven
I didn't understand the concluding part of your article, could you please explain it more?
12/17/2010 2:28:17 AM

Barbara Swayngham
12/12/2010 1:56:57 PM

Gene Scarborough
Lester Cooper is in a unique position of former DOM for Atlanta Association / pastor in metro Atlanta / able to get in his car to see realities of our Agency now located in "Affluent Alpharetta."

He is torn to the core by quick actions to terminate experienced leaders in the NAMB who got there due to their proven track record of home mission activity. My father was in exactly that same position and would likely have acted in the same fashion.

My father's heart broke when Juvenile Rehabilitation was moved to the unbrella of Christian Social Ministries---and now no Juvenile Courts have a paid SBC Chaplain helping churches to mentor and love families in trouble in their church community. The work sounded good in the HMB publications, but it thwarted real connections for ministry to the down and out. These youthful offenders are our future criminals who could be helped in their squalor of youth.

Is the relocation to affluent Alpharetta from the downtown "street people" Spring Street location but a whisper that we don't really care for the "down and outs" in our nice suburban mega churches?

Must mega churches always be in a "nice" growing area of Atlanta with millions spent on public relations and a theater-like sanctuary where performance is more important than ministry in ugly and dirty areas of metro Atlanta?

Do we really care about those Jesus walked among and was criticized because he "hung out with harlots and tax collectors????"

Has it all become about money and big show????
12/10/2010 8:24:34 AM


Thank goodness for men like Brother Cooper. He represents more people in this Convention then I am sure he realizes. The new president of NAMB is dismantling an agency that for years has rendered significant service to the cause of the Kingdom.
12/9/2010 10:52:46 PM

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