December 2010

Do religious people make easy targets for scams?

December 3 2010 by Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service

Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff bilked billions of dollars out of thousands of fellow Jews, including charities like the Elie Wiesel Foundation and Steven Spielberg Wunderkinder Foundation.

Other major frauds exposed by federal investigators in recent years have targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, black churches and other denominations, from $190 million lost in a three-year scam promoted by a Christian radio host in Minnesota to an estimated $1.4 billion conned from thousands of Utah Mormons.

Now three Pakistani immigrants — two believed to have fled the U.S. — are accused of swindling $30 million from hundreds of Chicago-area Muslims with an investment plan they promised complied with Islamic law.

Is it simply too easy for con artists to prey on people of faith?

“We’ve seen where it’s an outsider who has come into the fold, and we’ve seen some where it’s a person who has been a member of the community for decades,” said Lori Schock, director of investment education and advocacy for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  

“We’ve had cases where people quote Scripture, that the Lord wants you to make money. And when the house of cards comes crashing down, the victims sometimes lose more than just their money — sometimes they lose their faith, and it’s extremely sad.”

Why do religious groups make such easy targets? For one, a swindler who professes the same faith, or belongs to the same congregation, has an easy time of earning trust, however misplaced. Duped investors, meanwhile, also hesitate to suspect or report on one of their own, Schock added.

Although the FBI’s Utah Securities Fraud Task Force has issued a warning to members of the Church of Latter-day Saints, the SEC hasn’t examined whether religious groups are more susceptible to “affinity fraud” — scams that target specific demographics, whether evangelical Christians or the elderly.

But researchers say it’s a question worth considering.

Harvard scholar Robert D. Putnam and Notre Dame’s David E. Campbell found a connection between religiosity and trust in others in their new book, American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us.

Based on Harvard’s 2006 Faith Matters Survey, Putnam and Campbell conclude religious people are viewed as more trustworthy by both religious and nonreligious Americans, and also tend to be more trusting of others.

In an interview, Campbell said the strong social networks found in some faith communities, such as “the tight bonds among Mormons,” seems to make them especially vulnerable to fraud.

“The underlying issue, I think, is the question of mutual trust,” agreed Nancy Ammerman, a Boston University professor of religion and sociology. “These schemes rely on and exploit that trust, and people within religious communities tend to have high levels of trust for others within their community.”

There’s also ease of access, Ammerman said.

“Conversations are easy to strike up, and everybody’s got a directory or an e-mail list or at least people they talk to at coffee hour. The social connections are there, and that makes it easier for someone with something to sell to get new customers.”

Anson Shupe, an Indiana University sociologist and author of several books on faith-based fraud, said his own research indicates evangelicals, Mormons and black churches are most susceptible, while Catholics are relatively protected by a dense, hierarchical network of clergy supervision.

“Protestants and Mormons tend to believe that there is a sort of straightforward relationship between keeping the tenets of the faith and contributing financially to it, and then reaping rewards in the here and now,” he explained. “Some pastors preach a one-to-one relationship between worldly prosperity and attendance to matters of faith.”

Members of these groups also believe that God wants them to prosper, and that God wouldn’t allow them to be ripped off — especially not by someone who shares their beliefs, he added.

But Earl L. Grinols, a Baylor University economics professor, believes any correlation between faith and fraud stems from a “mistaken” perception that religious people as easily misled. That prompts con artists to disproportionately target them, along with the elderly and the newly affluent.

“It’s the ease of identifying and finding people in the group to scam, and that the perpetrators have a misperception that these members are more naive,” he said. “They may tend to view (Christians) as more simple, maybe more easily led.”

Schock said potential investors should check with the regional SEC office before handing money over to potential con artists, whether it’s a longtime congregant in good standing, a religious leader who has been endorsed by fellow clergy, or someone who promotes an investment that appears faith-friendly, such as church bonds or Islam-compliant loans.

“Trust, but verify,” she said. “If something sound too good to be true, it probably is.”  
12/3/2010 5:11:00 AM by Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

A race against death for Lesotho’s people

December 2 2010 by Baptist Press

MASERU, Lesotho — As the woman lies dying, a spiritual struggle begins.

The woman’s body has wasted away. Her organs are shutting down. Sweat beads on her emaciated face. She smells like death.

Southern Baptist missionary Babs Dial leans over the woman and whispers to her about the love of Jesus Christ.

The woman’s mother, a witch doctor, interrupts: “She does not want to hear that.”

Dial persists and asks the woman if she understands what Jesus did for her. The woman nods. Does she want Jesus to be her Savior?

“No, she is dying,” the witch doctor insists. “She wants to hear happy things.”

The woman’s eyes flutter. She nods once more.

“The way people measure value in this world, she has absolutely none,” said Alan Dial, Babs’ husband. “The combined wealth of her entire family would not pay for a bag of groceries. But she’s passing into eternity. Does it matter? Yeah, it matters.”

The Dials know just how much. For six years, they labored in the tiny African country of Lesotho to bring salvation to a people for whom time is running out.

The Dials went to Lesotho in 2004 from Tallahassee, Fla., to work among the mountain Basotho people, who languish in the grip of death. They are desperately poor, often lacking basic food and clothing. Nearly a quarter have HIV/AIDS, by official estimates, but the Dials think it may be closer to 60 percent. They have been in villages where everyone has the virus.

The Basotho also are poisoned by the stinging, oily smoke from the fires they build inside their huts. 

“Almost all of them have some degree of tuberculosis or other chronic pulmonary disease,” Alan said. “Their eyes are always red and watering, and they all cough.”

BP photo

Babs Dial looks into the face of the Basotho people’s future, a future she prays will be free from AIDS and filled with the light of Jesus.

Hungry and sick, their bodies ravaged by AIDS, the Basotho perish in droves, most before the age of 45. Fewer than 2 percent know Jesus as Savior, Alan said, and their people group is becoming extinct. 

“We cannot get to them fast enough to give them the Good News about Jesus before they die,” Alan said.

That knowledge fuels the Dials’ urgency. By foot, horseback or truck, by themselves or with volunteer teams, the couple has trekked to countless villages with the message of the gospel.

At each village, the Dials ask the chief’s permission to share with the people. Almost all the chiefs are eager for their people to hear about Jesus Christ. One chief who wasn’t a Christian welcomed them anyway. 

“He said, ‘Christians don’t beat their wives, steal their neighbors’ animals or get drunk,’ so he wanted (his people) all to be Christians,” Alan said.

“We heard him tell his people they needed to change, that the way they were living was not working,” Babs added.

The Dials spoke to the villagers about AIDS and orphans, trying to change the destructive way of life that fills so many Basotho graves. They told Bible stories during town meetings, showed the “JESUS” film and went home to home, talking about Jesus.

The grip of African traditional religion, which is steeped in ancestor worship, makes for rocky spiritual soil. The Basotho coordinate everything in their lives — from marriage to funerals to naming their children — with clan witch doctors. They have little concept of sin and believe that no matter what they have done, they simply go to be with their ancestors when they die.

“Clinging to that, being taught it and living it day in and out, is a tenacious thing that keeps (the Basotho) from surrendering to ‘the white man’s God,’” Alan said.

More sinister forces also oppose the Dials. Alan remembers a harrowing spiritual attack while he was showing the JESUS film to a room packed with 400 high school students.

“During the crucifixion scene, just as the nail was put in Jesus’ hand and the hammer struck the nail, the most blood-curdling scream I have ever heard in my life came from the middle of that crowd,” Alan recounted.

The crowd passed a girl over their heads to the Dials. She was stiff as a board, lying in the crucifixion position, screaming hideously, with terror in her eyes. The couple prayed over her for 20 minutes until she stopped screaming and went limp. She had no memory of what had happened.

With opposition from demonic forces and tribal religion, bringing the Basotho to Jesus takes patience.

“It takes a while for them to come to Christ, but they are coming,” Babs said. “They’re not coming in masses.”

The rate at which the Basotho are perishing means the need for workers to spread the gospel is urgent. Health problems with Alan’s back will probably prevent the Dials from going back to Lesotho after stateside assignment to join another missionary couple and local pastors who continue the work. It is a heartbreaking reality for the Dials, who have given their hearts to the Basotho.

“When we came down the mountain before leaving, I just wept, because I knew I wouldn’t be back,” Babs said. The Dials plan to serve in another area where Alan will have access to ongoing medical care.

Alan’s voice burns with the passion of a man who knows the people he loves are dying. There are not enough missionaries, money or resources, he says. If something is not done, the Basotho will be only a memory of a people who perished in their sins.

“Somebody has to go tell the story before they die.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The ministry of Alan and Babs Dial as International Mission Board missionaries is made possible by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. To watch a video on “Basotho … the forgotten people,” go to the Entire Church Videos section of
12/2/2010 9:21:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kentucky Baptists adopt missions plan

December 2 2010 by Drew Nichter, Baptist Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Messengers to the 173rd annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) adopted a plan to send more money “to the nations” and honored an executive director nearing the end of his tenure.

Kentucky Baptists embarked on a course that eventually will lead the convention to an equal division of Cooperative Program (CP) funds between state and Southern Baptist causes.

After nearly an hour of discussion, the report of the Great Commission Task Force (GCTF) containing four key recommendations was passed by nearly two-thirds of messengers Nov. 16 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. — but not without some last-minute adjustments.

Delivering the report on behalf of the task force, chairman Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, announced significant changes to the task force’s second proposal.

In it, the group originally called for the KBC to move to a reallocation of Cooperative Program funds to an even 50/50 allocation between Kentucky Baptist and Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministry causes within seven years.

That target date was extended by three years, aiming now for an even split by the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The change “gives a little more wiggle room, a little more time to strategize and flesh out exactly what this would mean,” York told messengers.

The task force amended the report’s proposal No. 2 even further, decreasing the required across-the-board budget cuts for the KBC and its partnering entities, institutions and auxiliary from 6 percent to 5 percent.

In addition, the extra 7 percent deduction for the convention’s two liberal arts colleges — Campbellsville University and University of the Cumberlands — was dropped to 6 percent, resulting in an approximate 11 percent overall budget reduction instead of the initial 12.58 percent.

The rest of proposal No. 2 was unchanged, including the elimination of the KBC’s contribution to the annuities of pastors and church staff members (approximately $400,000) and a reduction of Mission Board staff by 12 percent.

The task force’s proposal No. 1 is the three-year “More for Christ” emphasis, described in the GCTF report as “an intentional time of repentance, renewal and redirection for the future” of the KBC.

Proposal No. 3, meanwhile, urges all Kentucky Baptist churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by at least 0.25 percent of undesignated receipts per year, which would result in a 3 percent bump in convention-wide CP gifts annually.

Proposal No. 4 allows for the Great Commission Task Force to remain in place and report to KBC messengers each year over the next decade.

The much-discussed Great Commission report likely precipitated a significant bump in the messenger count for this year’s meeting. With 1,185 messengers registered, it was the first time since 2006 that KBC registration reached four figures.

Many of those messengers were on hand to honor longtime KBC executive director Bill Mackey, who will retire May 31, 2011.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nichter is news director for the Western Recorder, newsjournal for Kentucky Baptists.)  
12/2/2010 9:18:00 AM by Drew Nichter, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Biblical focus keeps families grounded

December 1 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

A husband and wife can get so busy doing different things they forget to take time to care for themselves. Or, a husband gets burned out from ministry and is depressed. A son shoplifts and makes staying out all night a habit. That same son a few years later moves in with his girlfriend and they have a baby.

Eddie Thompson, a family ministry senior consultant with the Baptist State Convention (BSC), began “Family Shock: How to Keep Your Family Strong in a Crazy World” by describing situations that families may come up against.

Thompson shared with participants in a breakout session during the BSC’s annual meeting that those weren’t just random examples of “family shock.”

“All those things happened in my home,” he said. Thompson has experienced much pain and struggle within his family. Just a few years after he married he found himself, along with his wife, wondering if they could really make the marriage work.

Thompson and his wife did not despair nor give up, although they both thought about doing so. They allowed God to teach them, and now Thompson is able to use what he learned during the difficult times to comfort others going through similar situations. God is allowing him to teach out of his experiences.

He wants parents and families to discover how God’s Word is all they need to keep their families strong during the chaotic and confusing times.

BSC photo by Melissa Lilley

“We are in a truth struggle,” said Eddie Thompson, family ministry senior consultant with the Baptist State Convention. “We need to learn who we are in Christ.”

Avoiding family shock begins with developing a right way of thinking and understanding that a believer’s identity is found in Jesus Christ and in nothing else.

“We are in a truth struggle,” Thompson said. “We need to learn who we are in Christ.”

Families also need to remember who is actually supposed to be giving leadership to the family. It’s not mom or dad or a child. John 16:13 says the Holy Spirit guides believers in truth.

Humility is the first step toward giving the Holy Spirit leadership in the family. Husbands and wives must be willing to admit when they are lost and have no idea what to do or where to turn next. “The Holy Spirit ought to be the real leader in our families,” Thompson said. “We don’t know what to do until the Holy Spirit tells us what to do.”

Thompson shared that prayer — the right kind of prayer — is critical to a family’s health and gave a personal example to illustrate what he meant by right praying. When Thompson found out his son’s girlfriend was pregnant he was already “fatigued from the war” that had been raging with his son for years.

So Thompson immediately refused when his son called and asked him to bring furniture for his new apartment.

Although Thompson had agreed that his son could have the furniture from the family’s old house, his son wanted him to load it all up, drive several hours and then unload it for him. Thompson saw the request as incredibly selfish.

However, Thompson’s wife urged him to pray about it, and before long they had not only delivered the furniture but decorated the apartment and filled the kitchen with groceries and pots and pans as well. Later that day Thompson’s cell phone rang and a quiet, tender voice on the other end whispered, “Daddy, daddy, thank you for helping me.” Thompson never, ever thought he’d hear his son say thank you.

Through that experience Thompson learned he had not prayed rightly for his son. He asked God to stop his son’s sinful behavior because he and his wife were in pain; because they were tired of the war. Thompson prayed selfishly because his motives for praying were really directed toward himself; he wanted relief and comfort. Instead, Thompson learned he needed to offer up prayers that honored God and sought God’s purpose for his son. Thompson urged husbands and wives to maintain a right view of marriage. Marriage is not meant to just bring happiness, because if that were the case, “you would need a new marriage every few years,” Thompson said.

“What if God’s purpose for marriage goes beyond happy? What if marriage is a giant sanctification machine meant to make you holy? If you aim for holiness, you’ll get the happiness along with it.”

He closed out the session by reminding parents that Col. 3:15 is a call to live in peace. If God’s peace is not ruling in the hearts of believers, the family will never experience peace.  
12/1/2010 4:51:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Church should help raise children

December 1 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

What’s your idea of the perfect family? Do you think back to one of your favorite childhood television shows?

When Merrie Johnson, senior consultant in evangelization at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, was leading a break out session Nov. 9, several answers were offered, including “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Brady Bunch.”

But that’s not reality, Johnson said.

Teaching from Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof, Johnson hopes parents and grandparents who are raising children will realize that they should not “feel like we’re less than” because they haven’t reached their ideal family.

A child’s relationship with Christ should matter the most, she said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Merrie Johnson, senior consultant in evangelization at the Baptist State Convention, urges parents to connect with their children.

“They’re searching so hard for security,” Johnson said.

What better place than in the arms of the Father?

“I do want you to know that you are loved,” Johnson said parents should tell their children. “They think everything is conditional (and) worry will there be a time (the parents) will not fight for them.”

Johnson said parents should rely on Christ, the other spouse and the church to help with their children. As a single mother with two sons, Johnson knows she can’t do it alone. Through the years, she continues to stress to her children that she will be around for them.

Johnson found a mentor in her church for her boys. He agreed to meet them 15-20 minutes before church every week. She spends summers leading youth camps at Caswell, North Carolina’s Baptist assembly on Oak Island. The No. 1 thing youth say they hear from parents: “I told you you’d never measure up.”

Johnson said, “They are trying everywhere they can to get approval.”

Parents should make their relationship with God a high priority, not getting their children to follow the rules.

“I can’t give what I don’t have,” said Johnson.

Spending time with God will show in how you treat your children, she explained.

More churches need to invest time in parents, teaching them how to disciple and teaching them the basics of faith. Johnson said adults were more scared than the teenagers to tackle the topic of apologetics this summer at camp.

“Somewhere along the way parents have not gotten the foundation,” she said. “The church should be a safe place. The church is full of broken people.”

Johnson encouraged parents to interact with their children, not just be content to be in the same room.

She shared some ways parents break their child’s trust:
  • Discipline in anger.
  • Use words that communicate rejection.
  • Ignore their voices.
  • Don’t try to understand who they really are.
  • Break their core promises.
  • Take things too personally.
12/1/2010 4:47:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Ready to transform

December 1 2010 by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications

If someone had nothing to go on except conversations overheard among pastors at Southern Baptist Convention meetings he might conclude that a successful church scorecard includes how well the church is doing on “nickels, noses, and seating capacity.”

While nothing is wrong with “bodies, budgets and buildings,” the latest research from LifeWay Christian Resources suggests that the three Bs are not the most effective means of measuring a church’s impact on its community and the world for the Kingdom of Christ.

Instead, the research results — which serve as the basis for the book Transformational Church — offer a new approach. “If we are not really making and producing disciples, then the church is not really being the church and is not fulfilling the Great Commission,” said Rick Hughes, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) senior consultant for discipleship.

Hughes and Russ Conley, BSC senior consultant for leadership development, led a “Transformational Church” break out session Nov. 9 during the BSC annual meeting.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Rick Hughes stresses the importance of making disciples during a breakout session at the Baptist State Convention Nov. 9.

Rather than taking shots at the state of many local churches, Transformational Church identifies the positive elements noted in 250 vibrant and effective churches.

A robust research project consisting of more than 7,000 churches led to interviews with churches among the top 10 percent in categories such as baptismal growth, overall church growth, and ratio of worship attendance to those participating in small group or Sunday School.

Conley walked attendees through the seven points of emphasis noted in the book by authors Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer.

The first focuses on a missionary mentality when church members love lost people more than their idea of how church should be done.

Church members must study and understand their local community and meet people where they are in order to introduce them to Christ. Transformational churches think like missionaries and do what it takes to reach their community.

A vibrant leadership is a must if the church is going to shift from a “mission” program to the entire church being engaged in missions. Leaders must also shift the focus from the three Bs to the mission of the Kingdom of God.

Transformational churches are also marked by relational intentionality. People, and not programs, are the focus of the church.

Relationships become the substance of the church’s culture. The cross should be the only stumbling block to an outsider. Conley said this sort of thinking requires the church to begin to think outward instead of inward.

Prayerful dependence is the fourth emphasis of a transformational church. This does not necessarily mean a prayer ministry, but rather prayer itself. Church members must pray for the expansion of God’s Kingdom and should not focus all their prayer efforts on other church members.

“The prayers of the people in church will reveal what the church values most,” Conley said.

Transformational churches are focused on making disciples — not catering to consumers.

A worship service is not to be reduced to a focus on style. Conley said God is the reason believers come together to worship and so they must come with a sense of anticipation, knowing man is not the center of worship.

Community also plays an essential role in the life of the transformational church. People need to be connected into “life on life” relationships with other believers. Once involved in the community of the church an emphasis is placed on their growth, their service and their being sent out on mission. True discipleship never takes place apart from community.

Finally, the transformational church emphasizes the mission of the church. Evangelism is a natural part of life and so people should not be taught to rely on “canned evangelism” or formal evangelism training.

Transformation churches are not as concerned about coddling immature believers as they are with engaging, winning and discipling the lost.
12/1/2010 4:44:00 AM by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Page consolidates, reduces EC staff

December 1 2010 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Citing unprecedented economic challenges facing the Executive Committee (EC), Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the EC since Oct. 1, announced structural and staffing changes on the Executive Committee staff in two memos sent to Executive Committee members on Nov. 17 and Nov. 29.

Page informed the Executive Committee that he has reduced the EC staff from five divisions to three, combining the duties of two divisions and bringing another into the president’s office. The office of news services and the office of convention relations, separated into two offices since 1991, have been combined back into one office and will become the office of convention communications and relations. Given the economic situation the Executive Committee is facing, Page said he thought it “wise to return to this arrangement, at least for the immediate future.”

Roger S. (Sing) Oldham, current vice president of convention relations since 2007, will assume oversight of the new office. The position of vice president of news services, filled by Will Hall since 2000, has been eliminated. Hall’s last day of service is Dec. 3, 2010.

Baptist Press will conduct its work through the new office of convention communications and relations. Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press since 1992, “will continue to oversee the daily operations of this vital news service to Southern Baptists,” Page wrote.

Reflecting on Hall’s 10 years of service to the EC, Page affirmed his effective leadership in expanding the reach of BP through multiple venues. “Will has been a faithful employee of the Executive Committee for over ten years,” Page wrote. “His desire to serve the Lord and Southern Baptists has been manifest in many ways over the years that have revealed a life-style of integrity and competence. This has been accompanied by a kindness which is deeply profound. He will be personally missed.”

Hall responded, “It’s been a blessing to serve on the Executive Committee staff and to lead Baptist Press for more than a decade. Baptist Press has been a rewarding ministry, not just for what has been achieved, but especially for the friendships, fellowship and professional relationships that define the Baptist Press staff and the rest of the team which includes so many contributors around the nation who help make Baptist Press a news service of distinction.”

He added, “Catherine and I and our family cherish the special relationships which have marked this portion of our lives, and we pray for His blessings on the Executive Committee leadership, staff and trustees, and on the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Under Hall’s leadership, Baptist Press initiated a sports news service and launched a Spanish weekly edition. Baptist Press also developed such special projects as TruthQuest California (a Christian teen travelogue later developed by FamilyNet into a television series). The Library of Congress selected Baptist Press’ war coverage by a team embedded on the USS Harry S. Truman, and later deployed on the ground in Iraq, for a historical collection of the 2003 War on Iraq that will provide access to researchers worldwide. In the past three years, Baptist Press has won 35 first, second or third place awards from four professional organizations, including recognition as “Best in Class” as a news service. Hall’s personal awards include top honors for editorials and news writing.

In his Nov. 29 memo, Page also indicated that, “beginning immediately,” the responsibility for Cooperative Program promotion will be housed in his office. He wrote, “I hope Southern Baptists will see in this my desire to give a heightened sense of priority to Cooperative Program promotion by making it a direct responsibility of the president’s office.”

A separate office of Cooperative Program was created in 1997. It was expanded to include stewardship education in 2006. With the duties of Cooperative Program promotion being brought directly into the president’s office, the vice presidential role filled by Bob Rodgers since 2005 will come to an end on Dec. 10.

Page told Baptist Press that Rodgers had provided invaluable service to the EC by reigniting a passion for biblical stewardship at a time when it seemed to be languishing in denominational life. He wrote in the memo, “Bob is a layman who has a passion for the things of God. Having served the Executive Committee since 2005, he is a man who has served faithfully and brought to our Convention a deep desire to see individual believers as well as churches fulfill the commands of our Lord. He is a delightful human being whose presence will be sorely missed.”

Rodgers, speaking of his five years of service on the Executive Committee, said, “There is nothing in my professional life that has given me greater joy than serving God and the Southern Baptist Convention as part of the Executive Committee staff. My constant prayer is for the Christians in our churches to practice biblical stewardship. Practicing biblical stewardship will free our convention from the (financial) bondage that gets in the way of reaching a lost world for Christ.”

The EC bylaws empower the president to “classify, title, and direct the members of the (EC) staff in their work.” The bylaws also empower the president, with a concurrence of the officers of the EC, to employ interim executive staff. The personnel manual empowers the president to terminate employment of executive staff with the concurrence of the EC officers and requires that he inform the EC’s administrative subcommittee “no later than” the next scheduled Executive Committee meeting.

“It is never an easy thing to let staff go from an organization,” Page wrote in his Nov. 29 memo. “This has been an agonizing set of decisions for me to make. Bob and Will have both made significant contributions to Kingdom work.”

In other action, Page changed the name of the office of convention policy to the office of convention policy and operations. D. August (Augie) Boto, an EC staff member since 1998, will oversee the office and will continue his duties as executive vice president. Page also renamed the office of business and finance to the office of convention finance. This position, vacant for the past 17 months, will be filled by William (Bill) Townes, who will serve as interim vice president of convention finance until his formal election at the February Executive Committee meeting.

In his Nov. 17 memo, Page wrote, “Bill comes to this role with a strong resume of denominational service. He is currently the director of development at the North American Mission Board, where he has been serving since 2007. He has previously served as the chief financial officer of the Georgia Baptist Convention from 1992 to 2006.” Page added, “Among Bill’s credentials include his licensure as a CPA. He also holds an MBA degree.” Townes will assume his office today (Dec. 1).

Noting that the EC had to operate well below anticipated budget receipts in the fiscal year just ended (Sept. 30, 2010) and is facing the likelihood of even greater budgetary shortfalls in the current year, Page wrote in his Nov. 29 memo, “we must make serious decisions because these are serious times.” He also stated that the staff reductions “will not be the only ones we will need to make in the days ahead.” He asked the EC members to “pray diligently” for him, for the EC staff and “for the work of the entire Executive Committee.”
12/1/2010 2:19:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 4 comments

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