Will McRaney ‘s Attorney Strikes at the *Achille’s Heel* of the Southern Baptist Convention: The Autonomy of Local Churches and State Associations


NASA: The Sunflower Galaxy link

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain


 

Although I am not longer a Southern Baptist, I follow the denomination’s goings on with fascination.The SBC is the largest group of Protestant evangelicals, although in a decline like many Christian denominations these days.

I still remember an Anglican pastor who asked me why I didn’t appeal to the Baptist hierarchy when a group of us confronted an SBC church on their mishandling of a pedophile situation. I was stunned by his question. This Anglican pastor claimed he was quite close to the SBC pastor in question. I tried to explain that. the SBC has no hierarchy that can intervene in local church conflicts because every single church is autonomous. I could tell that this was there first time he had ever heard of such an animal. I am also convinced that he didn’t believe me.

Being a bit of a gadabout in evangelical circles, I have become aware of a number of legal types who are beginning to question if the SBC churches all truly function autonomously from the hierarchy. I have spoken with some folks who maintain that each church is truly autonomous. I am also aware that there have been a few attempts in the past to challenge this autonomy, to no avail. I think that is about to change in the near future. Strangely enough, it may the sex abuse problem that will lead the way.

Local associations have the right to remove congregations from the SBC

This is how it was explained to me. The local associations holds the power to throw out a church. So, if a church hires a woman pastor, (which is DEFCON 1 in the SBC,) the local organization will throw them out.

However, there are other ways to leave. When I discovered that Andy Savage’s Highpoint Church was suddenly delisted from the SBC, during the the brouhaha, I called the SBC to get information. What I was told is that the withdrawal was most likely the decision of the church itself. From what I could see, the local association in Memphis was not part of the process.

But,  what will happens when, one day, the local association refuses to remove a church which has elected to hire a woman pastor?

Here is the scenario that I imagine. A well respected, large, influential SBC church decides to hire a woman pastor. This church has been a part of the local association for many years. The pastors in that church may have even served on some of the boards, etc.The local association refuses to act. I predict that this scenario will happen sooner rather than later.

What will the SBC mothership do?

Herein lies the problem. Any action on the part of the SBC dudebros to influence the local association, could threaten the claim of local church autonomy in the courts. In other words, it could conceivably open the SBC to lawsuits. In fact, it is beginning to happen.

Why former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Executive Director Will McRaney’s lawsuit is of particular interest?

It is obvious that the courts are not of one accord on this matter. According to Baptist News Global in April 20i9:

In his lawsuit filed in April 2017, McRaney alleged that NAMB officials orchestrated his firing by threatening to withhold $1 million a year in BCMD funding if McRaney remained in charge. Afterword, McRaney claimed, NAMB personnel tried to get him removed from speaking engagements, hindering his ability to earn income from honoraria and book sales, and posted a defamatory photo of him at NAMB offices.

The NAMB is the North American Mission Board which is an SBC mothership entity. Read his claim carefully. Did the NAMB threaten to withhold $1 million from the local organization if that group would not fire McRaney?  Shades of the DC political class fighting over claims on money being withheld from Ukraine unless they fired  an official. (TWW readers- this is not a go ahead to have a political debate. I’m simply trying to demonstrate that this stuff goes on in politics all the time. And the SBC leaders are certainly political animals.)

However, there appears to be some disagreement at the federal level on this argument.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a former Baptist state convention executive claiming job interference by the Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board, saying secular courts lack jurisdiction to delve into matters of religious doctrine.

The decision in U.S. District Court in Northern Mississippi reverses an earlier decision by the same court. In January 2018 U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Executive Director Will McRaney based on a legal doctrine called “ecclesiastical abstention.”

You can read about the NAMB response to the lawsuit here.

Besides saying that McRaney did not seek to resolve this biblically, they claimed he also sought to enrich himself with the suit.

NAMB’s response to the lawsuit claimed McRaney “caused the BCMD to violate the terms of the Strategic Partnership Agreement [for evangelism and church planting] and otherwise hindered and interfered with BCMD’s performance of its obligations.” According to the response, “NAMB was entitled” to notify the BCMD it would terminate the partnership “given the facts and circumstances as they existed at the time.”

After reading the claims and counter claims, it appears that McRaney was concerned about the role that the NAMB played n controlling church planting, etc. I believe that McRaney would say that, if these group are truly autonomous, then the local groups should function autonomously.Yet, there appears to be lots of money floating around…

“NAMB denie[d] that it published any defamatory statement regarding” McRaney.
— NAMB denied it interfered with McRaney’s speaking engagements after he left the BCMD.
— NAMB acknowledged it “situated” a photo of McRaney “in the reception area at NAMB’s office in Alpharetta [Ga.] during some period of time.” But it denied McRaney’s claim the photo “has caused additional damage” to him.
— NAMB denied that McRaney is “entitled to any relief whatsoever in this action.”

Could arguments by NAMB attorneys increase the SBC’s risk of liability for sexual abuse?

This article by Baptist Global is what caught my eye: Former state exec says arguments by NAMB attorneys increase SBC’s risk of liability for sexual abuse

It should come as no surprise that McRaney is appealing the dismissal of the lawsuit. However, it is his argument that I find of particular relevance to TWW readers.

Let me back up. The SBC has a boatload of money in their SBC Fund. Someone explained to me this way. Let’s assume $500,000 was donated by Aunt Gertrude who left the money to be used for mission work in Ghana. So, if the SBC started a data base, that could open the SBC to lawsuits. For example, what if they overlooked the fact that FBC Somewhere kept a pedophile on staff who ended up molesting a kid?  The keepers of the fund would claim it would be wrong to use Aunt Gertrude’s donations to pay for a punitive and successful lawsuit.

The argument by McRaney is rather simple. He claims that:

For decades the SBC has avoided liability in criminal and civil actions involving churches or affiliated organizations by claiming they are all autonomous, self-governing organizations. But former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Executive Director Will McRaney claims in a new court document that lawyers representing NAMB turn that argument on its head.

“Every attorney out there that’s got half a brain is going to pick up this case and is going to use NAMB’s direct argument in future liability cases against the Southern Baptist Convention,” McRaney warned in a Facebook live video Oct. 16.

Pay particular attention to the next argument.

Should NAMB prevail in its argument that national leaders had an absolute right to act in ways that may have led to his termination, McRaney said, it will be only a matter of time before some lawyer uses it in another court of law to establish connectionalism between, churches, associations, state conventions and the SBC that the denomination’s governing documents claim does not exist.

“Some of these sexual cases that are going on out there, and other things that happen in local churches, have never … got a foothold into the Southern Baptist Convention because it’s a local church matter,” McRaney said in the video. “The local church ordains, they do it all. That is the final authority in Southern Baptist life.”

“But under NAMB’s argument, some organization, some attorney, is going to pick my case up, and they are going to use NAMB’s arguments straight back in the courts against the Southern Baptist Convention,” McRaney predicted. “You just mark my words. It’s going to happen.”

In fact, it may already be happening.

Once again, Bob Allen is doing a great job in following these arguments in Amended lawsuit says SBC doing too little, too late, to prevent sexual abuse of children.(June 2019)

A motion filed June 3 in a Virginia court says the Southern Baptist Convention is culpable in a multi-million dollar sexual abuse lawsuit against a member church.

…The lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Chesterfield County involves Jeffrey Dale Clark, a former youth group leader at Immanuel Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia, serving a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual battery and two counts of indecent acts with child by a custodian in 2016.

Eight individuals with ages now ranging from 14 to 24 allege they were sexually molested by Clark while he worked as an assistant and leader of the youth group between 2008 and 2015.

…The amended complaint says the SBC requires cooperating Baptist churches to adhere to standards created and enforced by the denomination and in the past has removed churches for violating the denomination’s views against homosexuality. The convention has also passed resolutions acknowledging that sexual abuse exists in Southern Baptist churches but to date has not taken similar action against churches that allow it to happen.

If the parents had been informed of the “increased danger of child sex abuse in the absence of and adherence to nationally adopted standards” by the SBC, the lawsuit claims, they never would have allowed their children to participate in the youth group at Immanuel Baptist Church. The victims seek more than $9 million in total damages.

Uh oh!

Here is the problem.

  • Have you noticed how none of the churches mentioned in the Houston Chronicle story have been thrown out of the SBC. (One willing left from what I understand.) In fact, some believe that these churches were exonerated within days of the famous JD Greear reaction that *something would be done.*
  • Things have moved really slowly.
  • This may be part of the reason for the speaker selection at Caring Well. Think about it.
  • The Executive Committee is supposed to *Do Something.* But what, precisely, is that?
  • What if they do something? Let’s say, they refuse to seat Steve Bradley’s Stonebridge Church at the next SBC convention? What problems would this usher in for the SBC. They are between a rock and a hard place.
  • What if the local church doesn’t belong to any of the local SBC organizations? Who will throw them out if they hire a woman pastor?

Let’s say the SBC decides to boot out a church or threatens to withhold money from a local organization. Could they,  by these actions, prove that the local SBC organization or churches are actually under the coercive control by the mothership? I think they are heading in this direction.

Given the current political climate, the SBC will need to face the fact that judicial activism may result in surprising judgements in the foreseeable future.

I look forward to following the litigation. McRaney’s lawyer has raised a question that has troubled me for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if Aunt Gertrude’s donations to missionary workin Ghana may one day be diverted to covering increasing litigation costs.

This is a fascinating development. By the way, the argument by the NAMB that I found the most amusing was the *biblical argument.*  It appears they are saying they are biblical and McRaney is not. I have a feeling that there are nonbiblical responses on the part of those at the NAMB. So glad they allude that they are pristine followers of the Bible over there…

Always beware of the *They are not behaving biblically” argument.”

NAMB told BP in a statement, “After [McRaney] rejected or ignored several offers to meet and discuss these matters biblically, we regret that Dr. McRaney has chosen to involve the courts, however, since he has chosen this venue, we will be good stewards of NAMB’s resources and defend the case vigorously.”


For those of you who want to read more about McRaney’s la

1. Supporting Documents at McRaney’s website.

2. Statements for Dee Parsons: Re Lawsuit NAMB & SBC  Nov. 2, 2019

Positions and Supporting info…

  • Having experienced sexual abuse related to clergy in my family, I have seen the devastation and care about victims and their families. I want to see SBC entities and SBC partners (State Conventions, Associations, and local churches) doing everything they can in prevention, protection and care of victims in keeping with the autonomy rights and responsibilities of all SBC partners.
  • I support and in my legal claims against NAMB/Ezell I advocated for the 100 year position of the SBC located in Article IV of the SBC Constitution, that the SBC and its entities have no authority or rights over SBC partners.“the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or convention.”
    1. In SBC governing documents, three partners are named and treated equally with rights as to autonomy: State Conventions, Associations, and local churches. In other words, what the SBC says and claims about churches, also applies to partnering Associations and State Conventions.
  • SBC Double Speak is clearly at work. The SBC leadership cannot have it both ways.  They cannot claim they have no authority and rights over SBC partners: State Conventions, Associations, and local church, and at the same time with integrity have an SBC entity claim in Federal District court, and Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that the entity has “Absolute Rights” and “Absolute Privileges” over partner organizations and their leaders.  This is classic SBC Double Speak and actually involves lying to the courts as a part of NAMB’s cover up.
    1. NAMB claimed rights to interfere, impact the employment of an SBC partner, defame, and violate tort laws under ecclesiastical privilege (which requires a hierarchy that does not exist in the SBC). Never should a missions organization hide behind ecclesiastical abstention to cover wrongs or hinder justice.  ((this time the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD)
    2. NAMB even claimed in its defenses that it received the same release I gave the BCMD in my Separation Agreement, which clearly demonstrates their claim of having authority over and connection to the BCMD. Furthermore, NAMB argued the defamation and threat to withhold $1 million per year in mission partnership until I was terminated was “over internal workings of a religious organization” and not subject to judgment by a secular court.  What “a” religious organization was it, when two completely separate autonomous organizations were involved?
    3. SBC 55 year attorney Jim Guenther, “But an attorney for the Southern Baptist Convention said individual churches are responsible for hiring and firing its pastors. Pastors are not employees of the convention, so it cannot step in when wrongdoing is alleged” “We knew nothing about it. And if we knew anything about it, we could not have provided any relief or prevention” – (remember, State Convention, Associations and Churches have the same right of autonomy in the SBC governing docs) https://www.mcall.com/news/mc-xpm-2008-03-11-4013381-story.html
    4. SBC General Counsel Augie Boto (now retired) said, “Every Southern Baptist church is autonomous and controlled in ways approved only by its members,” Boto said in the document. “The Southern Baptist Convention does not exercise any control or authority over any Southern Baptist church.” (also true of State Conventions and Assn.) https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Southern-Baptist-Convention-claims-no-control-14416397.php
  • With rights, comes responsibilities which creates potential liabilities.
  • The SBC, each autonomous SBC entity, and each partnering organization and church should assume responsibility and related liability for actions which they are responsible. They should seek to do and advocate for justice.

Immediate Actions Available: Low Hanging Opportunities to Help, plus details   

  • There are several things that the SBC and entities can and should do immediately to enhance help abuse victims without violating the autonomy of each SBC entity or partner. Those relate to transparency and accountability.
    1. Each Trustee body or entity leader can make null and void all Non-Disclosure Agreements, and Non-Disparage Agreements. That would let victims and people who are aware of wrongs or accusations to speak freely, whether sexual abuse or other forms of wrongs.  Currently, some former staff live under the threat of a lawsuit and having to repay their severance and lose health and/or retirement benefits should they violate the terms of their separation agreements.  NDA are typically in place to keep something from coming out, which should not be for the SBC and its entities.
    2. Each Trustee body or entity leader can instruct their employees and encourage pastors and church planters to not plead Clergy Penitent Privilege and report to civil authorities allegations or claims of sexual abuse.
      • 6 SBC entity future heads (Thom Rainer – LifeWay, Jimmy Scroggins – LifeWay Trustee Chairman SBC Pastor’s Conference Speaker 2019 on Kingdom Character, Danny Akin – SE Baptist Seminary, and Russell Moore – ERLC, plus Ezell and Mohler) were connected in Louisville KY to Highview Baptist Church and/or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 when Kevin Ezell invoked clergy penitent privilege in a child molestation case against a former Highview (Whitefield) School Principal and multi-generational church member at Highview. A member who knew of the allegations sought out one or more victims to encourage them go to authorities, but Ezell claims he knew nothing.  However, with other known facts, it seems unlikely that Kevin Ezell and others did not know of the allegations.  Convictions for 7 boys were from 1970s and 1980s, not during Ezell’s tenure.  Interesting, I am not aware of any of these SBC leaders calling for the adoption of either of these above two points.
      • Strangely, at the height of his career and published remarks about the future, at age 49 Maggard stopped being the Principal for some unknown reason about the same time Ezell came to Highview as their Pastor. These are additional facts pointing toward Ezell and others such as the SBC entity heads knowing something about abuse allegations.  Maybe this is why Ezell has been so very silent on matters of sexual abuse, clergy privilege, etc.  (also Mohler connection and public support of CJ Mahney)
      • However, SBC respected journalist Joni Hannigan was threatened with a lawsuit of libel by Ezell by NAMB VP – Communications Direct Mike Ebert by text message after she wrote 5 sentences about Ezell invoking clergy penitent privilege in about a 3,000 word article. The article was about the Sexual Abuse resolution approved by the SBC and only a few weeks after she wrote about her own experience of being sexually abused as an 18 year old by a deacon of a SBC cooperating church.
      • https://truthisincrisis.wordpress.com/2019/02/03/a-menacing-message/ (I have the full message which identifies Mike Ebert as the sender)
      • https://truthisincrisis.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/news-analysis-was-sbc-metoo-resolution-on-abuse-a-band-aid-for-larger-issues/
      • https://truthisincrisis.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/the-metoo-movement-deserves-more-than-the-sbc/
    3. SBC leaders can also make available resources to SBC entities and partners, church and pastors on best practices for all matters related to sexual abuse prevention, reporting and care.

Other Facts of Note:

  • SBC Leaders are aware of NAMB’s false claims in federal court. Numerous emails from me, numerous articles in the press, and the court records all remove any claim of ignorance.
    1. Guenther and the entire Executive Committee are aware of NAMB’s claims, but there has been no public response nor a “friend of the court” brief explaining or refuting of NAMB’s false claims. Guenther nor the EC have taken action on behalf of truth or the SBC in keeping with their fiduciary responsibilities that we have any awareness of to date.
    2. NAMB staff leadership, Trustees, and legal team (internal and one’s hired by the insurance companies) are fully aware of the claims of NAMB unless they have intentionally stuck their head in the sand.
  • In addition to Bob Allen’s recent two articles, the Baptist state paper Louisiana Baptist Message published an article on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Will Hall is one of the most respected journalists still working inside established Baptist publications.  He notes that 18 year SBC Exec. Committee CEO/President Morris Chapman and Houston Chronicle Robert Downen both posted Allen’s article on social media.  https://baptistmessage.com/concerns-circulate-nambs-lawsuit-response-erodes-historic-sbc-doctrine/

Comments

Will McRaney ‘s Attorney Strikes at the *Achille’s Heel* of the Southern Baptist Convention: The Autonomy of Local Churches and State Associations — 39 Comments

  1. Could this lead to some churches leaving the SBC avoid having their financial resources reduced to cover another church’s court judgement?

    A good analogy would be that of the individual State, receiving tax dollars paid to the Federal government by the individual taxpayers. The Feds, in the past, would threaten to withhold tax dollars if the State refused to reduce the speed limit to 55 mph on the highways.

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  2. Brian:
    Could this lead to some churches leaving the SBC avoid having their financial resources reduced to cover another church’s court judgement?

    A good analogy would be that of the individual State, receiving tax dollars paid to the Federal government by the individual taxpayers. The Feds, in the past, would threaten to withhold tax dollars if the State refused to reduce the speed limit to 55 mph on the highways.

    I think if a court ruled that SBC is a de facto (as opposed to de jure) hierarchial denomination, then some SBC churches may pull out. Especially the big ones who have much to lose (e.g. Prestonwood or FBC Dallas with millions in endowments supporting their varied ministries).

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  3. Brian: A good analogy would be that of the individual State, receiving tax dollars paid to the Federal government by the individual taxpayers. The Feds, in the past, would threaten to withhold tax dollars if the State refused to reduce the speed limit to 55 mph on the highways.

    Great point, Brian. This is the same sham autonomy in both situations, allowing ‘leaders’ to have it both ways, depending on the situation. The trusting masses are so easily fooled; although some are beginning to awaken to the deceptions in this world.

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  4. Florida case that was likely settled to prevent further publicity and precedent regarding the denominational liability issue:

    C.E., a Minor by and through his Natural Guardian S.E., v. Florida Baptist Convention, Inc. et al., 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 669

    https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/litigation/b/litigation-blog/posts/january-jury-verdict-round-up-top-5-personal-injury-verdicts

    “This Florida state court action was brought to recover damages for injuries suffered by a teenage boy who had been sexually abused by a male Baptist church minister, Douglas Myers. The plaintiff alleged that the minister had a work history of known and reported sexual misconduct with young boys, but that the church and related organizations that hired him had failed to check with his prior employers.”

    “the jury found Florida Baptist Convention 51 percent negligent, Triangle Community Church 0% negligent, Bay Street Baptist Church 4% negligent, and Lake County Baptist Association 45 percent negligent for the negligent selection/hiring of Douglas Myers…The jury found that Myers was not an employee but was an agent of Florida Baptist Convention at the time of the assault.”

    “The damages trial against Florida Baptist Convention was held Jan. 13 to 18, 2014. On Jan. 18, 2014, the jury awarded damages of $12,500,000 to plaintiff”

    SBC organ Baptist Press immediately touted: “Fla. convention to appeal jury judgment” http://www.bpnews.net/41864

    BUT NO FOLLOW-UP STORY WAS EVER PUBLISHED BECAUSE THE FLORIDA BAPTIST CONVENTION INSTEAD DROPPED ITS APPEAL AND NEGOTIATED A CONFIDENTIAL FINANCIAL SETTLEMENT WITH THE VICTIM.

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  5. You put an enormous amount of work into this article and I’m impressed by the broad knowledge that you show for these various aspects of SBC life and entities.

    As an sbc pastor and observer, I’m not ready to declare defcon 1 over the lawsuits. Lawyers and plaintiffs may talk a lot. SBC institutions that fund church planting and the like show connections in that process that are not shown in by the ordinary and predominant manner by which a local church voluntarily associates with other churches in an association or state convention or the national convention. I’m not persuaded that pressure from SBC leaders establishes any authority or hierarchy. No one tells an SBC church what to do, sometimes not even Jesus.

    I don’t disagree that these things have become more complex.

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  6. https://sbcvoices.com/top-sbc-news-stories-part-2-by-william-thornton/

    “Florida Baptist Convention Settles $12.5 Million Sex Abuse Case”

    “game changing sex abuse case…it establishes a linkage in liability between a local church staff member and the association and state convention. The abuser was a Florida Baptist church planter who abused kids. Although he wasn’t an employee of the FBC or local association, a local court held that these were liable due to failing to properly investigate the man’s background. A jury awarded a $12.5 million judgment against the FBC which appealed and settled out of court. The terms of the settlement were not made public.”

    “The salient point in all this is that our system of autonomy and non-connectedness is not absolute. The FBC was successfully sued over a sex abuse case involving a non-employee but an individual who was vetted by the FBC and who received some support from the convention. One hopes that our entities are paying attention here.”

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  7. Dee, very, very impressive write-up with plenty of footnotes and homework for further reading.

    William Thornton,

    William, your reply is also well stated, and the second to last sentence made me snort my coffee. (As a long time lurker at SBC Voices and the Baptistlife Forums – former born and raised SBC person here – I should know better than to read ANYTHING by you without preparing for some sort of sage witticism.) I would agree it’s not DEFCON 1 yet. But it may be Defcon 3 and rising to Defcon 2. I think that is Dee’s point as well.

    This whole article is why I keep an eye and ear in on SBC doings. While I have found a home in the Anglican tradition, I am thankful for what I learned in SBC churches and directly from faithful pastors and teachers like Dr. Don Everson, Dr. James Pleitz, Dr. William Hull, and the like. I do wonder what they would have to say these days.

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  8. William Thornton,

    William you wrote,”I’m not persuaded that pressure from SBC leaders establishes any authority or hierarchy.” NAMB made legal filings in two federal courts that they have “absolute rights” and “absolute privileges” in the areas of defamation (speech) and interference even if it leads to termination. That is well beyond “pressure” and it is in direct contradiction to all legal positions in past legal cases and governing documents. NAMB had the right to cancel a Strategic Partnership Agreement in keeping with the terms (which Ezell violated), but he could not lie in writing nor tie the defunding to my removal. That is against the law.

    Furthermore, you will note from what I wrote that Dee included, that NAMB argued in federal court that they received a “release” from lawsuits because I gave the Baptist Convention of MD/DE a release. That is clearly a statement and claim that is based on their belief of a hierarchy. Without a statement of argument but for illustrative purposes, VP Biden can work for the interest of the US government with a foreign government, but he cannot force termination of foreign government worker with US money for some nefarious purpose. Neither can Ezell lie in writing and threaten to withhold SBC mission gifts that funded 8 jointly funded BCMD missionary staff and $500K for church planter and evangelism, and say it would be withheld until I was terminated. (then he made good on it according to BCMD records). Not before God, nor US law, and nor SBC governing documents, nor Christian love.

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  9. “The local associations holds the power to throw out a church.” (Dee)

    There is an extensive network of SBC associations, which interacts with 10 or more individual churches within their jurisdiction. Each is led by a “Director of Missions”, referred to as DOM’s. In my 70+ years of SBC life, I found that most of these men had little to do with “missions” … instead, they kept a close watch over ‘their’ churches to make sure they were walking the line according to the Baptist Faith and Message. They will visit churches (usually on the Sunday when they have their monthly fellowship dinner) and serve as pulpit supply and pastor interims. They also suggest pastor candidates to search committees; a lot of New Calvinist pastors have come into the fold by stealth and deception on a DOM recommendation. They are generally party men, who float with the theopolitical flavor of the day to keep their jobs; many of them have recently converted to New Calvinism to stay afloat. Of course, there are some good DOM’s who put more trust in Jesus than they do the SBC – they usually don’t last long. Churches can remain “autonomous” as long as they don’t do really bad things like preach against Al Mohler or install a woman as a deacon, in which case they could be disfellowshipped by the association and the denomination.

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  10. Jerome,

    “The FBC was successfully sued over a sex abuse case involving a non-employee but an individual who was vetted by the FBC and who received some support from the convention. One hopes that our entities are paying attention here.”

    I was on the staff of FL Convention and transitioning from evangelism to church planting when this case was decided. Every abuse is unacceptable and devastating to the victim. While the actions involved in the legal case did not involve me, my understanding for clarifications are: (1) the FL Baptist Covention did not vet the planter. (2) he was not approved, trained or funded by the FL Convention. The insurance company settled the lawsuit, but don’t draw conclusions that the case would have stood under appeal. Even a casual reading of the findings show the initial verdict was inconsistent with the findings. Part of the settlement had the verdict vacated (I believe that is correct, but maybe the wrong term).

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  11. William Thornton: No one tells an SBC church what to do, sometimes not even Jesus.

    Yes, that was my experience in 70+ years as a Southern Baptist. (I’m done with SBC now, but not done with Jesus). It is clear that there is a waning authority of Christ in SBC churches. The influence of Jesus in SBC is becoming less and less.

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  12. TS00,

    “The trusting masses are so easily fooled; although some are beginning to awaken to the deceptions in this world.”
    +++++++++++++

    to put a finer point on it, the deceptions that are rife amongst the so-called christian leaders who do what they do “in the name of God and for His glory”. (and are disgustingly well-compensated for it)

    such leaders love to look down their toffy noses from on high at the evil, worldly world.

    gawwwwwwd – what self-righteous, hypocritical numbnuts, clueless to their own corruption (or else too cold-blooded to care).

    just look at them… half-truthing, outright lying, manipulating, with cruelty, so they can shore up power and money. “doin it for Jesus and for His fame.”

    an outright lie right there. hatching their corrupt plans & then hiding behind Jesus.

    boy, these are interesting times, across the board…

    i have to say, it’s exhilarating to observe ‘things’ waking up from lukewarm happy-go-lucky stupor. ‘things’ = collective conviction

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  13. The real question Is how Namb obtained the 1 mill to reallocate to a local association. They receive it from the pew sitters in churches who are part of a local association! Funny how that works, aside from what might be donated directly by well heeled friends in high places, that is where the majority of Namb money comes from. So basically the local association sends money to Namb hoping to get some back? Yes I know it’s much more complicated than that after the restructuring but it’s the way the really super spiritual smart people wanted it.

    Back in the early days when the Neo Cals were plotting to take over the entities they changed a lot of how it all works. But, The money still flows up from the pew sitter. I think they really liked the federal government money management model. There is a lot of power in centrally reallocating the money received from the source. And as we know, these things work much better when the decisions are made as far away as possible by insulated people in plush offices who can change the policies and procedures as they go. /s. As I recall William Thorton thought it was a brilliant idea at the time. He couldn’t praise Kevin Ezell enough. Of course I was very well aware of how Kevin Ezell handled things locally when taking over churches so I already knew he was a ConMan. But! Let the really smart people in plush offices far away from the local associations make the decisions! For Jesus, of course.

    But it’s even more interesting that in their quest to control top/down, they may be opening themselves to other legal problems.

    My view is pew sitters would be better served to vote with their feet. But it’s their choice and I won’t shame them for it anymore. I doubt very seriously a top down hierarchical denomination is a transparent or pure as everyone here seems to think. Often it’s just that being kept ignorant of the truth that is bliss. I would think we would have learned that lesson from the RCC? We never really know what the important people with Christian titles are hiding in those hierarchies.

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  14. It will indeed be interesting to see if the Achilles Heel of the SBC is threatened by this action. All the years I was an SBC pastor the response from the Executive Committee on any issue was always, “We don’t control the actions of the local church.” Whether legal action may truly challenge this will be enlightening.

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  15. Max: Yes, that was my experience in 70+ years as a Southern Baptist. (I’m done with SBC now, but not done with Jesus).It is clear that there is a waning authority of Christ in SBC churches.The influence of Jesus in SBC is becoming less and less
    I’ve been saying that for years. In the SBC, ” Jesus has left the building.”

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  16. I’ve pastored six SBC churches in my 22 years of full-time ministry. In all of the churches I have pastored, we have never been ordered to do anything by any outside SBC agency. We cooperated with the SBC voluntarily and gave to SBC ministries voluntarily. We were a member of our state conventions and associations voluntarily. If we wished to leave, we could do so. For the local churches that I have pastored, there was no hierarchy outside of the local church. The SBC didn’t pay my salary, the church did. The SBC didn’t decide who would be the pastor, the church did. If any of my churches would have done something the SBC didn’t like, we could stop voluntary cooperation and cease to be an SBC church. If they asked us to leave, we would have had no problem doing so. The churches I have pastored have all been small churches (less than 200 people). Nobody has bothered us. We answer to Christ alone. That is church autonomy.

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  17. Will McRaney,

    I understand you’re responding to a question on a particular case. But, having been part of the Convection’s during that period, I’m not hearing an apology to the specific victim in this case. Your response is to survivors in general.

    As a survivor of childhood abuse and molestation, your response comes across condescending.

    Respectfully 🙂

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  18. Brian,

    Brian, thanks for pointing that out. I apologize for coming across as condescending. That was not my intent. I have seen the devastation in my own family (see above in article). Because I was not with the Convention when the abuse occurred, I only know what I was told and what reported in the news. Based on my own recent experience with denominational leaders and the media, I can see how it is possible I did not get the full picture. Certainly we want victims to be heard and cared for.

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  19. Luckyforward: It will indeed be interesting to see if the Achilles Heel of the SBC is threatened by this action. All the years I was an SBC pastor the response from the Executive Committee on any issue was always, “We don’t control the actions of the local church.” Whether legal action may truly challenge this will be enlightening.

    Luckyforward, it will be interesting indeed. We will see if the Exec. Committee stands to give a public correction or if they will let their silence give affirmation of NAMB’s false claims before two federal courts. There is room in their given duties and responsibilities to address this matter and publicly state their position in opposition to NAMB’s damaging arguments. BUT, iit will take the COURAGE to do so. No action on their part, IS A LOUD DECISION and would be a neglect of their fiduciary duties to Southern Baptists.

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  20. Judicial activism is unpredictable. A crazy group of 5 justices can turn the constitution on its head. So in that sense, anything is possible.

    But SO FAR, the SBC is safe from lawsuits against the actions of individual churches.

    The SBC has no authority or control over the churches. The SBC has authority over its own confession which sets the parameters for which churches qualify to join and which churches do not.

    The only punitive action is to not allow the church to seat messengers at the Convention. The messengers would vote on that after a recommendation from the executive committee or motion of a messenger showing why the church doesn’t qualify.

    But the SBC can only exclude from the group. The church still owns its property, decides who is employed there, has all of its bank accounts, decides what doctrine it believes etc.

    The SBC, or an SBC agency (the IMB, NAMB etc) can be liable for its own actions, but it cannot be liable for the actions of some church in the way it handles its affairs.

    SBC big wigs can run down a person or a church, but that still doesn’t amount to the control necessary for ascending liability.

    A guy like Adrian Rogers could say things about a pastor that would keep him from ever getting another speaking engagement. But that would not give Adrian or Bellevue the control necessary for liability.

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  21. Local church autonomy within SBC essentially means to denominational leaders: “We will let you operate autonomously as an SBC-affiliated church as long as (1) you send us cooperative program and mission offerings for us to use however we want to (including big salaries for entity heads and New Calvinist takeover of your churches), and (2) at least loosely conform to the Baptist Faith and Message in belief and practice (don’t worry, there’s plenty of theological wiggle room for you). If you get too weird (e.g., women deacons), the local association might disfellowship you, but the SBC elite won’t bother you at all. Thank you for your money and enjoy your autonomy.”

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  22. J.D. Greear, SBC President, is having lots of fun with his autonomy!

    “Top leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention took to the stage on Monday during the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) “Send Luncheon,” and donning wigs, hats and electric guitars, sang karaoke to the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” for the thousands of pastors who had gathered for the event.”
    https://christiannews.net/2019/06/11/top-southern-baptist-leaders-take-stage-to-sing-lynyrd-skynyrd-before-thousands-of-pastors-at-send-luncheon/

    “SBC President J.D. Greear was recorded singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” during a youth event. “I wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody,” he sang and danced after being introduced as “Pastor J.D. Greear, a.k.a. Whitney Houston.””
    https://www.facebook.com/rob.chambers.986/videos/10218863126238556/UzpfSTE3NjEzODY0MjA6MTAyMDYyOTAwNjc0NDgxOTM/

    Follow the leader, pastors! Autonomy means you can show your “behind” and get away with it! This ain’t your grandma’s SBC, folks … the youth group are now running things!

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  23. Max,

    Max:

    It’s even broader. The SBC doesn’t “let” local churches have autonomy. The churches have it.

    The SBC can do nothing to affect the autonomy of a church. It just has no options.

    Except to not allow the church’s messengers to be seated at the Convention.

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  24. There are some state conventions who have put reversion clauses into effect. If a church borrows money, say for a building program, from the state convention they may have to sign a paper stating that after this, if the church ceases to be SBC the building reverts to the SBC or state convention or local association. As I understand it, that may be the case even if the congregation has paid the loan in full.

    So much for autonomy.

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  25. Max: “SBC President J.D. Greear was recorded singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” during a youth event. “I wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody,” he sang and danced after being introduced as “Pastor J.D. Greear, a.k.a. Whitney Houston.””

    That sounds SO much like someone trying to be Hip and Relevant — and completely clueless.

    Like those other Celebrity Preachers — all older white guys — trying to do Gangsta Rap.
    “WE SO GANGSTA!”

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  26. Pingback: Wes Feltner, Longtime SBC Pastor and Former SBTS Adjunct Professor, Accused of Sexually Abusing Two Women 17 Years Ago | The Wartburg Watch 2019

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy: That sounds SO much like someone trying to be Hip and Relevant — and completely clueless.

    The New Calvinists overdo it on their attempts to be culturally-relevant. Pastor Greear is no exception. Shaking your derrière to the beat of the drums before your congregation just ain’t very pastoral, IMO. I realize I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but I really don’t have a problem with form as long as there is some substance to it. Greear is cool to the point of being immature. A man of God? Nah, a preacher-boy.

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  28. Max: The New Calvinists overdo it on their attempts to be culturally-relevant. Pastor Greear is no exception. Shaking your derrière to the beat of the drums before your congregation just ain’t very pastoral, IMO. I realize I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but I really don’t have a problem with form as long as there is some substance to it. Greear is cool to the point of being immature. A man of God? Nah, a preacher-boy.

    What was the point of this display? Did he even notice the lyrics, which are not so subtly sexual? Then he danced with men, as if that was supposed to make it less sexual? Like maybe he’s been living in a cave for the last twenty years? It was the most silly, pointless display of ‘Ain’t I cool?’ I have seen by a pastor. And he can’t dance.

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  29. linda:
    There are some state conventions who have put reversion clauses into effect.If a church borrows money, say for a building program, from the state convention they may have to sign a paper stating that after this, if the church ceases to be SBC the building reverts to the SBC or state convention or local association.As I understand it, that may be the case even if the congregation has paid the loan in full.

    So much for autonomy.

    In that case the church voluntarily gave it up, they could have sought a bank loan or paid as they went.

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  30. Max: The New Calvinists overdo it on their attempts to be culturally-relevant.

    NOTHING GETS OLD-FASHIONED FASTER THAN OVER-RELEVANCE.
    EXCEPT PRETENTIOUS OVER-RELEVANCE.

    Ever seen footage of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In recently?
    (GROOVY, MAN!)
    Hasn’t aged very well, has it?
    Now imagine if Dan & Dick presented it Dead Serious as the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything instead of nothing more than a topical comedy revue.

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  31. linda:
    Mark–except I believe at least one state tried to enact those reversion clauses retroactively.

    Then it would depend on how the loan agreement reads.

    Generally contract clauses cease to be operative once a contract ends (either by breach or fulfillment). However, a clause can state that it survives the end of the contract, but it must be specific.

    If the reversionary clause has such a survivability statement, then the lender can insist on it. At that point, if the other church raises a big stink about it (e.g. going on one of “Satan’s hit lists” such as TWW, P&P, etc.), the parties may agree to terminate it for some consideration (e.g. the church agrees to support SBC for a specified period, maybe the following fiscal year, then it can leave with no repercussions) just to avoid further bad press.

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  32. Max: There is an extensive network of SBC associations, which interacts with 10 or more individual churches within their jurisdiction. Each is led by a “Director of Missions”, referred to as DOM’s. In my 70+ years of SBC life, I found that most of these men had little to do with “missions” … instead, they kept a close watch over ‘their’ churches

    Announced last year: ‘Director of Missions’ title being phased-out; ‘Mission Strategist’ is the new recommended lingo:

    http://www.bpnews.net/50970/dom-title-change-among-reports-recommendations

    “report on the title and role of associational leaders…often known as DOMs…released May 15, will be presented…in Dallas in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 12-13 meeting there.”

    “The study team developed their recommended title change…in light of the proficiencies necessary for the position.”

    “The title ‘director of missions’ accurately described the work of associational leaders during a previous era of SBC life”…The report suggests associations now “refer to their leaders as…’mission strategists’.”

    [LOL, I wonder how that’s going over with the hundreds of (male) local association ‘DOM’s, being told to use the title ‘MS’ now instead]

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  33. Jerome: Announced last year: ‘Director of Missions’ title being phased-out; ‘Mission Strategist’ is the new recommended lingo

    It will be interesting to see what the New Calvinists have in mind as a mission strategy under the new structure – they have not big on evangelism or missions to date (except their church planting program – which is more about planting theology than churches). The old “DOM’s” in my area are being replaced by young reformers as the SBC continues to Calvinize every corner of the denomination.

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