Executive Committee debriefs downsizing, approves more aid
October 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Executive Committee debriefs downsizing, approves more aid | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Executive Committee debriefs downsizing, approves more aid

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

ASHEBORO - The Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Committee took action Sept. 30 to make additional salary and insurance assistance available to short-term employees affected by the convention's recent downsizing.

Nine of the 15 employees whose positions were eliminated on Aug. 31 had been employed by the BSC for more than 10 years, and qualified for retirement benefits that include paid health insurance.

All terminated employees received one week of severance pay for each year worked, with a minimum of four weeks pay.

That left six employees with little time to find other work, and no insurance coverage beyond the severance period.

Mount Airy pastor Wayne Hager raised the issue during the Executive Committee meeting. Noting news reports that the committee had voted unanimously to endorse the plan on Aug. 26, Hager said the vote would not have been unanimous if a funeral had not prevented him from attending the meeting.

Dixon Free, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lincolnton, also said he would not have voted for the plan, but was unable to attend the called meeting.

Hager said the downsizing amounted to a restructuring of the convention staff, and that the Executive Committee should have had more input into decision-making. Free said he thought the process was flawed, and the Executive Committee was not brought into the game until the ninth inning, with two outs.

Free made a motion asking General Board president Leland Kerr to appoint a committee to study the procedures and methodology employed so the process could be improved if similar measures should be needed in the future.

Robert Evans, of First Baptist in Granite Falls, said he trusted the leadership to make the right decisions.

Marshall Pridgen, of Burkemont Church in Morganton, said, "I was here, and it wasn't just laid out for a 'yes' or a 'no.' We struggled with it and walked out heavy of heart." Pridgen said he trusted the administration, knowing that they had more information than he did. "I stand on it," he said, "but I still don't feel good about it."

Hager said he was concerned about "the model we set out as the largest religious body in the state, what it says about how we treat employees." While long term employees got a better financial package than if they had retired under normal circumstances, short term employees could be affected for years, he said.

Kerr called for a vote on the motion to appoint a study committee, which passed, and said committee members could continue to discuss their feelings if they wished.

Doug Robinson of Cove Creek said he had grieved over the decision, but stood by his decision that "it had to be this way."

David Horton, the BSC's second vice president, said he had heard hints for months that something would have to be done. The proposal "was brought to us by people I trust to deal with the tough, tough issues," he said. Horton noted that during all of the discussions, he never heard the terms "conservative" or "moderate" mentioned. "I want to affirm the process that was used," he said, "though the outcome was tough. I don't know how it could have been done differently."

Executive Director-treasurer Jim Royston said nothing in his 33 years of ministry had prepared him for the painful experience of terminating long time friends. The process may have been flawed, he said, but was as careful and informed as possible. "I didn't walk in blindly and throw darts on the wall."

General Board vice president Randy White said he didn't think it was fair for people to say how they would have voted if they were not at the meeting. "It was the most difficult decision I've ever been a part of," he said. Discussions were intense, it wasn't easy, and no one left feeling good, he said.

Don Warren of Gastonia said he left the meeting feeling somber and emotionally moved for the sake of those who would be affected, but also with confidence that all had been dealt with carefully. Warren said he trusted the leadership and didn't think the Executive Committee should try to micromanage administrative decisions.

Terry Brooks, who is also a member of the budget committee, said the process was the toughest three weeks of his life. "I cried in my heart all the way home from the meeting," he said, "but through it all, I support the administration."

As a matter of new business, Hager made a motion asking that severance pay for short-term employees affected by the downsizing be extended through Dec. 31, with health insurance provided through March 31, if needed.

Convention officials pointed to legal issues involved in restructuring the severance packages, but suggested that the Minister's Emergency Fund might be made available to former employees who have not found other jobs.

The Emergency Fund is most commonly used to assist pastors who have been terminated or who have left their churches under difficult circumstances. It provides a limited salary stipend and health insurance for up to 13 weeks, with the possibility of extending health insurance for an additional 13 weeks. Last year, the fund was also made available to missionaries who had been fired or who had resigned because they would not affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement, Royston said.

Hager withdrew his motion, and Kendell Cameron moved that the Minister's Emergency Fund be made available to terminated convention staff who might need it, that convention officials should proactively inform the individuals that they can apply for assistance, and that any funds used should be replenished from the same Contingency Reserve account that was used for other expenses related to the severance packages.

Several members expressed approval and the motion carried with no discernable opposition.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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