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Bob Wiley resigns as Ill. Baptists’ exec

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–Bob Wiley, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, submitted his resignation to the association’s board of directors Sept. 11.

When he steps down Oct. 31, Wiley will have led the state association for five years and one month, arriving after a 16-year tenure with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) that included the last 10 years as director of the agency’s associational missions division.

The resignation was triggered by “unresolvable leadership issues” between Wiley and the board of directors, said Kevin Kerr, who chairs the board’s administrative committee. The board and Wiley have been involved in an ongoing remediation process to resolve those differences.

“There is no animosity, there is no arrogance, there is no pride in what has taken place,” Kerr, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waterloo, said. “There was not a campaign [to remove Wiley]. There was nothing personal. No one’s happy that it happened.”

Tim Lewis, who is concluding his second term as IBSA president, has scheduled a special meeting of the board of directors Oct. 18 to select a committee from the board to begin the search for a new executive director, a process that could take a year or longer. The special meeting will occur less than three weeks before the IBSA’s annual meeting on Nov. 7-8 at the Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria.

Wiley submitted his resignation on Sept. 11, the morning of the second day of the twice-annual meeting of the board of directors. His decision followed the administrative committee’s meeting the night before, which concluded with a four-hour closed session that wrapped up around 2 a.m.; Wiley’s annual performance review was one of the items listed for that session. The administrative committee reconvened the next morning about 7 a.m. and continued to meet until 40 minutes into the full board meeting.

After the full board concluded its public business, it went into a more than two-hour closed session, during which members were advised of the resignation. They accepted it and approved an undisclosed severance package for Wiley.

Lewis, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Troy, told IBSA staff members later that afternoon that the decision to accept the resignation was not unanimous. The differences between Wiley and the board of directors were not “political or personal” but centered on “irreconcilable leadership differences,” he said.

The 60-year-old Wiley declined to comment but was willing to say that he did not want the board’s concern over his leadership to be a distraction from the goal of Southern Baptists to communicate the gospel throughout the state. “I am more concerned about seeing this state won for Christ.”

Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, said he was saddened to learn about Wiley’s resignation. The two grew up in Indiana, where Reccord said he has known Wiley since the IBSA executive director was pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Evansville from 1970-73.

Describing Wiley as a good and strong partner with the North American Mission Board, Reccord told the Illinois Baptist newsjournal that he was “thankful that under [Wiley’s] leadership … that the Cooperative Program grew, that baptisms grew and that there was a record number of new church starts.”

During Wiley’s leadership, statewide baptisms had increased by more than 13 percent to 7,740 last year from 6,829 in 1996. Contributions to the Cooperative Program, the voluntary partnership in which local Southern Baptist churches support their state conventions and the national denomination, jumped by nearly 23 percent to more than $6.3 million last year from almost $5.2 million in 1996.

Wiley’s pastor, Bob Fulkerson of First Baptist Church, Rochester, called Wiley an innovator who has used his God-given skills to make a difference in God’s kingdom. “I’ve seen his passion and his desire to share Christ and to do it as effectively as it can be done.”

Two days after Wiley’s resignation, the Capital City Baptist Association met for the first day of its annual meeting. Members approved a unanimous resolution supporting Wiley and his wife, Barbara, and affirming his ministry and leadership of the IBSA. “Bob Wiley is a man of honesty and Christ-like character,” the resolution said. “In each area of ministry he has been called, he has served as a faithful minister of the gospel.” The resolution further stated that “our lives have been blessed by Bob and Barbara Wiley as they have faithfully and effectively served with us in our association.”

IBSA staff members, already in a heightened emotional state after learning of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that morning, first heard about Wiley’s resignation in a meeting he called at 10 a.m. Sept. 11 while board members discussed his resignation in closed session. Employees began to cry — a couple of boxes of Kleenex worked their way through the room — as he explained his decision and encouraged them to continue to be faithful to their areas of ministry. After one staff member asked if they could pray for Wiley, the staff encircled him, with those closest placing their hands on him, as several people voiced spontaneous prayers.

Many staff members were surprised by the resignation because they thought the remediation process had been making progress. Wiley had been upbeat about it after the March board meeting. Lewis and Kerr told staff members during an afternoon meeting on Sept. 11 that they had not expected the resignation. Kerr told staff members that the remediation process was challenging, and that “a lesser man” would have resigned sooner.

Kerr told the Illinois Baptist that there had always been the possibility that Wiley might have chosen to resign during the remediation process, but everything seemed to indicate that was not going to occur at this month’s board meeting. “We thought that the issues had been resolved sufficiently so that it was not imminent.” Because the matter was a personnel issue, Kerr said he could not discuss the specifics about the board’s concerns over the “unresolvable leadership issues.”

Kerr also said that the reorganization of the IBSA a few years ago was not an issue involved in the resignation. He said Wiley received an unfair level of criticism for the board-directed reorganization, which resulted in a number of staff members resigning to accept other jobs.

Lewis told IBSA staff members that the board was pleased with the direction of the state association and the work of its employees. He encouraged them to remain in their positions. Lewis acknowledged that perhaps two or three people on the board have personal issues with Wiley, but Kerr said that anyone “with strong, antagonistic feelings toward Bob did not have a part in this process.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BOB WILEY.

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  • Michael Leathers