Ezell defends church’s giving record
    September 13 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky pastor nominated to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB) says the search committee viewed his congregation’s emphasis on direct funding of missions — as opposed to funding through denominational channels — as an asset and not a liability.

    “I was not considered to be president of the North American Mission Board without you,” Pastor Kevin Ezell said to worshipers at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 12. “They considered me and they have asked me to be nominated to do that because of you. They looked at Highview Baptist Church and all that you have done, and therefore considered me because I was the pastor here. So in a sense you are being nominated, and I happen to be the pastor, so it’s me.”

    With seven campuses and 4,740 resident members, Highview plans to give more than $1.3 million this year to missions, but just over 2 percent of its budget will be channeled through the Cooperative Program, a unified budget system that funds both state and national Southern Baptist agencies.

    State-convention executives in Louisiana and Arkansas have criticized Ezell’s nomination, saying the church’s comparatively low percentage of support for the Cooperative Program sets a poor example for other congregations.

    Ezell apologized to church members for criticism directed at both him and the congregation since news of his selection broke Aug. 31 in the Florida Baptist Witness.

    “Because of the visibility of the position, there are people across the United States who want to look for things that perhaps I do not do as well or they think we should do different, and perhaps be critical of myself or of Highview, just to try to get their name in the paper,” he said. “Typically those are bloggers who live with their mother and wear a housecoat during the day. Just ignore them, but I apologize if you are hurt by anything that they might say about me or indirectly about you.”

    Ezell recalled one meeting with a committee in particular where his church’s reputation was discussed.

    “They said: ‘We have heard about Highview for so many years,’ and ‘We have heard about incredible, unique, creative ways that you guys do ministry,’ and ‘Explain that again; how do you guys do that?’” Ezell said.

    Highview’s missions giving criticized
    In June the SBC adopted a Great Commission Task Force report that recognizes a new category called “Great Commission Giving” that includes both the Cooperative Program and giving to designated gifts for special purposes. That was after messengers amended the report to reaffirm the Cooperative Program, the denomination’s primary fund-raising channel since 1925 as “the most effective means” for missions support and say designated gifts should “supplement” and not “substitute” for the cooperative model.

    Highview’s “Million to Missions” campaign sets aside $582,000 for local missions, including $145,000 for a mentoring/intern program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and $340,000 for campus ministry at nearby colleges and universities.

    Nearly half of $150,000 for national causes goes to church plants in New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho. Another $24,000 is set aside for mission-trip supplements and $25,000 for a student mission trip, compared to $10,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that supports work of NAMB.

    The plan’s international-giving component of $700,000 includes $400,000 in Cooperative Program and $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that supports work of the SBC International Mission Board. Other funds include $100,000 in mission-trip supplements, $5,000 for a missionary house and $10,000 for an international-adoption ministry.

    David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, wrote an open letter Sept. 9 criticizing Ezell’s “demonstrated lack of support for the mission of NAMB.”

    “While each local Southern Baptist church has the right to do whatever it decides about denominational mission support, those who would presume to lead Southern Baptist entities ought to have a track record of supporting those entities,” Hankins wrote.

    Hankins said the “independent model” chosen by Ezell would “send a chilling message to the thousands of Southern Baptist congregations who have been led by their pastors and their denomination to believe that generous support for our cooperative mission funding processes is the good and right thing to do.” He also said the nominee would lack “moral authority” to challenge Baptists to adopt goals of raising $100,000 million annually through the Annie Armstrong Offering.

    Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, said he agreed with Hankins in an Arkansas Baptist News story also carried by Associated Baptist Press.

    Trustee chair responds 
    Trustees will vote on Ezell at a called meeting Sept. 14. If elected, he would replace Geoff Hammond, who resigned in August 2009 over philosophical differences with trustees. Richard Harris, senior strategist for missions advancement, was named acting interim president.

    Tim Dowdy, NAMB trustee chairman, said in a statement released through Baptist Press that members of the search committee were drawn to Ezell “because it is clear that he has a heart for SBC missions and a heart for reaching North America for Christ.”

    “I realize there is an ongoing discussion among Southern Baptists about how we can best express our passion for missions through our giving,” said Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga. “I am sure that will be part of our discussion this Tuesday when our trustees meet to discuss Kevin’s nomination.”

    “Kevin has been a loyal Southern Baptist and I believe he will help NAMB continue to work through the long-standing partnerships we have had and help us build new partnerships and new ways of taking Christ to North America,” Dowdy said.  
    9/13/2010 2:48:00 PM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 12 comments




Comments
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9/18/2010 3:52:28 AM

Gene Scarborough
I have been involved personally in the HMB Partnership Evangelism in Binghamton, NY, in the early 80's. Here is my personal observation:

*Binghamton was well-supplied with churches of the Methodist / Presbyterian / American Baptist / Catholic pursuasion. They were hardly a "mission field with NO evangelical church."

*The Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church was my assignment. It was the largest SBC church in the whole Southern Tier Association.

*They had a growing congregation because many Southerners had moved there in an IBM executive capacity since Binghamton was their Corporate Headquarters.

*When I was there, they had instituted a grand Building Program to erect a nice Sanctuary.

*That program was at a stand-still because IBM had just decided to move their headquarters to Texas and all the SBC-related executives had moved South.

*At that time, this wonderful SBC church was at a crossroads. Other small mission churches were perceived as a bunch of Southern fanatics in the category of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons--as the public saw it.

[b]As important as it is to plant new churches, is there a real reason to plant them in northern territories where we really have no place???[/b]

It's not like there is no other evangelical witness, as the HMB of that day would want us to believe. It was an attempt to provide Southerners with a place to call home. It was too much like the "glorified social clubs" we call SBC churches in the South.

I think we need to think long and hard about the real reason for the NAMB to exist. I am convinced it has an important place with current thinking. I am not convinced that place is to establish SBC churches all over America.

[b]I do think if the NAMB "lowers" itself to minister to the "down-and-out" segments of any Southern city, we will find a wonderful place of following Christ to the masses who choose not to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem--the counterpart to our SBC mega churches of today!!![/b]
9/16/2010 5:07:13 PM

D H
Kevin Ezell was chosen to be president of NAMB because the organization is essentially dead and off track and he has the leadership ability to right the ship. He has a passion for missions (look at how much Highview raises each year!) and church planting unparalleled in the SBC. The new focus of NAMB is going to be "Churches planting Churches" and Dr. Ezell is PERFECT for the job.

For those of you freaking out about his "blogger" comments -- relax. Ezell has a sense of humor, get over it.
9/16/2010 2:29:01 PM

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Thanks for posting this. i really had good time reading this.
9/16/2010 4:15:54 AM

Gene Scarborough
[b]In a way---I love it!!!![/b]

Now, Dr. Ezell can try getting churches like his--and preachers like he--is to give in trust once again as we did pre-1979!!!!

The bus was taken away from many who rode and funded it. It definitely ran out of gas in the last 2 years. A visit to the shop in June was supposed to fix it.

[b]Will those who remain in the SBC be able to put enough gas in the tank to make it to the next town????[/b]
9/14/2010 5:33:19 PM

jon
At the risk of sounding like someone in my mother's home and in my housecoat, let me just say i am waiting for the day that Ezell will be forced to apologize for that statement. That shows his true character; this from one of our national leaders. wow. just wow. I am so saddened and now even angry about this attitude.
9/14/2010 1:44:52 PM

Laura
I am appalled that this candidate would even be considered. The church I attend with a tenth the membership gave more to the Annie Armstrong offering than Highview did. And, I do not cast fault or condemnation on the church; their leader could have done a better job in promoting this special offering. I understand that many of the larger churches are handling their missions giving this way but I do not like it. The members of our churches need to be educated about what these offerings are used for.

I agree with both Michael and Greg. Someone who speak of another in such a way should not be considered for an executive leadership position. The good ol' boys' club needs to be disbanded! We are grateful for what they have done for us (re Conservative Resurgence) but there ARE others available who are better qualified for this position.
9/14/2010 11:48:49 AM

James Horton
I am sadden to see how the 'good ole boy' system has overtaken leadership at every level of leadership in SBC life. I have watched this growing trend for several years. Power corrupt and absolute power abolutely corrupts. If we continue to make decision and appointments in a manner of such disregard and lack of respect of all Baptists,our history & heritage,there won't be anything left of the outstanding testimony of united missions we have prayed and sacrificially supported and watch the Lord bless so tremendously.
9/14/2010 11:45:55 AM

Norman
Most disturbing in this story is the lead paragraph; that the search committee considered Highview's method of missions funding which primarily goes around the support channels Southern Baptists have embraced since 1925 as an "asset" not a liability. Does that mean the committee charged with finding a president for NAMB intentionally looked for leadership that is not enamored with the Cooperative Program, and with the Southern Baptist organization?
9/14/2010 9:56:09 AM

Greg Barefoot
One would hope the trustees of NAMB would see through the "good ole boy" network and direct the search committee to go back and find someone sold out to the SBC's mission efforts. Contrary to what has been reported, there are better qualified candidates. This kind of action from the SBC leadership will only futher alienate the support of the average small church. This SBC is only going to be as good as its leadership. Right now, that does not say much.
9/14/2010 8:20:58 AM

Michael Smith
I am disturbed by Bro. Ezell's cavalier dismissal of those who have concerns about his nomination. If he was quoted correctly, his description of David Hankins, Emil Turner, et al, as "“Typically those are bloggers who live with their mother and wear a housecoat during the day. Just ignore them . . . ,"does not reflect the character of someone I would want to lead the NAMB. I hope he was misquoted. if he was quoted correctly, I hope he immediately apologizes to his brothers.
9/13/2010 11:24:14 PM

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