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In letter to Index readers, Reccord pledges honest evaluation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord has written a letter to the editor and readers of the Christian Index, addressing a critical story the newspaper published about the entity in mid-February.

The 1,500-word letter was published in the latest issue of the Christian Index and counters charges the Index story made about NAMB and Reccord. Among other things, the Feb. 16 Index story criticized NAMB’s evangelism and church planting strategies, its method in counting missionaries, NAMB’s relationship with a private media firm and Reccord’s speaking engagements.

“While I am disappointed these concerns were brought to light in a newspaper article, I am fully committed to assuring Southern Baptists that NAMB values the goodwill of our state partners and churches, and that I take these concerns seriously,” Reccord wrote.

“Recently, NAMB responded to some of the concerns the article raised about our church planting efforts, missionary count, financial management, and evangelism strategy. NAMB’s full response is on the NAMB website at www.NAMB.net. However, the story also raises a question about my own credibility. As a result, I want to share the steps I have taken to address these concerns, ensure your confidence in NAMB’s integrity, and guarantee this experience will make us a stronger and better mission agency.”

Reccord said he had requested the chairman of the NAMB board of trustees to “select a group of trustees who will thoroughly review all the issues raised in the article.”

“I will provide our trustees with every record, financial document and piece of data they might need or request, and any personal information they might need from me,” Reccord wrote. “This group will make a report to the full board.”

Secondly, Reccord said, he has asked Capin Crouse, an independent auditing firm “to conduct a thorough audit of the issues addressed in the article.” The results will be reported to the entity’s board of trustees.

“But even as we walk through this process, I am committed to helping NAMB stay ‘on mission,'” Reccord wrote.

He then listed four “positive things” that God “is doing through Southern Baptists in North American missions”:

— Church planting success.

“Both numerically and qualitatively, church planting efforts by NAMB and its partners have been a success,” Reccord wrote. “Comparing the eight years before NAMB’s existence with the eight after NAMB’s formation shows that the annual number of church plants is higher by 277 churches per year.”

— NAMB’s “mission force” is expanding.

“Our missions force in North America is at an all-time high,” he wrote. “At the end of 2005, Southern Baptists had 5,364 missionaries faithfully serving in the field, exceeding the Bold Mission Thrust goal of 5,000. This is due to the committed service of NAMB-funded missionaries and the equally strong service of our Mission Service Corps missionaries.”

— NAMB is sending increased funds to the field.

“As a result of operating efficiencies, NAMB increased state cooperative budgets (money sent directly to the field) by $2 million each year in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and by more than $1 million in 2002,” Reccord wrote. “The total cumulative increase in these budgets alone (with the base rising due to the former year’s increase) has been more than $50 million (cumulative total over NAMB’s lifetime). In addition, NAMB has absorbed the 91 percent increase in health care costs for its missionaries and staff, started new ministry initiatives such as the Nehemiah church planting process with our six SBC seminaries, and implemented a strategic focus city evangelism and church planting initiative in several of our nation’s most influential cities.”

— The entity’s “commitment to evangelism transcends campaigns and programs.”

“Evangelism is the core of everything we do at NAMB,” Reccord wrote. “That is why, in a year of unprecedented disaster relief response (more than 14.5 million meals served in the wake of Gulf Coast hurricanes), we made sure that our chaplains and disaster relief volunteers shared the Gospel along with providing food and other assistance. And, it’s why nearly 25,000 students who participate in World Changer projects rehabilitating inner-city homes receive evangelism training. This commitment to evangelism is not centered on any one particular NAMB program, but permeates everything we do as we fulfill our assignment to help the local church.”

Reccord concluded: “I ask Southern Baptists to pray for our agency, our trustees, and especially our missionaries as we walk through these challenging days. Though this situation has been painful, I embrace it as an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions that exist in the SBC about our work. Where concerns are valid, I will admit mistakes and make the appropriate changes. Where concerns are invalid, I will state the facts and return to our mission. It has always been my desire that our convention have great confidence in the North American Mission Board. I give you my word that I will settle for nothing less.”

The Christian Index did not publish a response to Reccord’s letter.

“We were pleased to afford Dr. Reccord the privilege of responding without any comment on our part,” Christian Index Editor Gerald Harris told Baptist Press.
Reccord’s entire letter can be read online at www.namb.net

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