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NAMB task force releases 19-page report responding to allegations; Reccord placed under ‘Executive Level controls’

Updated March 24, 11:39 a.m. EST

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, will work under several sets of “Executive Level controls” signaled by NAMB’s trustees during a special meeting March 23.

The trustees based their deliberations on a 19-page report by a nine-member trustee task force created in response to an article in the Georgia Baptist Convention’s newsjournal, The Christian Index, which set forth a range of allegations about NAMB’s evangelism and church planting strategies; the size and makeup of its missionary force; and management issues related to Reccord.

“We want the Southern Baptist Convention to know we’ve responded to the issues [through the task force report] and because of that response we believe that you can trust what we’re doing here at NAMB,” trustee chairman Barry Holcomb said in a news conference after the meeting.

“We want Southern Baptists to know you can trust the North American Mission Board to take your Cooperative Program dollars that you generously give through the state conventions,” Holcomb said, “and you can trust us with your Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to be on mission and to do the work of God’s Kingdom.”

The task force report will be posted on www.namb.net today.

The 58-member trustee board unanimously approved a six-part plan to establish the Executive Level controls for Reccord during a meeting stretching seven and a half hours at NAMB’s Atlanta-area headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga. The meeting was held in executive session.

NAMB’s chief operating officer, Chuck Allen, submitted his resignation on March 22.

Allen “resigned for reasons that did not involve our discussions today in the board meeting,” Holcomb said. “Chuck Allen has been a friend of the trustees. … We stand ready to assist Chuck Allen in whatever future ministry opportunities God has for him.” Holcomb, otherwise, declined further comment about Allen’s departure.

Reccord has been NAMB’s president since its founding in 1997 as part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s restructuring, called “Covenant for a New Century.” NAMB primarily was formed in a merger of the SBC’s former Home Mission Board, Radio and Television Commission and Brotherhood Commission. At the time Reccord was pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va.

Under the accountability plan for Reccord, a trustee subcommittee will be appointed by Holcomb “to develop a set of Executive Level controls to be used as a guide” related to various issues raised in the Feb. 16 Christian Index article.

The subcommittee, which Holcomb said he hopes to name during the coming month, will propose controls for:

1) “directing the travel, speaking, and on-campus office time required for the President….”

2) “the use of RFP’s” (Request For Proposals), akin to bidding to compete for work being outsourced by NAMB.

3) “when the President … wants to develop new initiatives, including the appropriate oversight and approval by the Board.”

4) “clarifying what constitutes poor management by an executive officer and how it should be handled.”

5) providing Reccord and NAMB “with greater levels of accountability to the Board and the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Under the sixth part of the plan, the board assigned “its duly elected officers, in perpetuity, with the role of monitoring these controls, utilizing them as part of the President’s annual review, and reporting the status of these controls annually at an assigned full Board meeting.”

Holcomb, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Adalusia, Ala., noted that SBC President Bobby Welch attended the meeting.

“I phoned him about a week ago and I said, ‘Bobby, we’d like to invite you to be there for our meeting. I would like for you to be able to say to Southern Baptists that the board of trustees of the North American Mission Board handled the business at hand. And he sat through almost our entire meeting. He was very pleased with how things went and he said, ‘Barry, the board has done an excellent job. They’ve addressed the facts. And Southern Baptists don’t have anything to be ashamed of.'”

Reccord said in a statement: “I am thankful that the trustee process worked. That’s why we have such a process. While we jointly found opportunities and areas on which to strengthen and improve, I celebrate the fact that the deep and thorough financial and practices audit gave us a clean bill of health, including the status and history of our reserves.”

Holcomb said Reccord told the trustees “that he understands that, as president of this agency, he is under our directorship. … He said, ‘I am willing to work with the trustees in whatever parameters we need to,’ in order to address the concerns that Southern Baptists may have about the North American Mission Board. …

“I don’t want to speak for him, but I think it would be alright to say he recognizes, just like all of us, that he’s not perfect and we’re not perfect, and there are certain areas that we need to improve,” Holcomb said. “I think the recommendations that the board adopted today will help him. I think in that sense he is very happy to follow this process.”

“[Reccord’s] job is not in jeopardy,” Holcomb said, noting that no disciplinary measures were taken by the board; “we found nothing to sustain any kind of thought of wrongdoing, anything unethical, anything immoral … .

“Dr. Reccord is a very visionary leader, and I think with any visionary he’s going to do things and lead in such a way that it puts us on the cutting edge of what we’re trying to in missions and evangelism,” Holcomb said. “And we’re at a point now of looking back at some of those things and some of those decisions and saying, ‘Here’s some things that worked and here’s some things that really didn’t work and we wouldn’t do that again.’ …

“But I think the trustees overwhelmingly today said, ‘Dr. Reccord, you are the visionary leader that God has given us.'”

William J. (Bill) Curtis, the trustees’ first vice chairman, said during the news conference that the trustees are “prepared to acknowledge that it is a shared responsibility for where we are at this point.”

“Rather than just place all the responsibility for some of the concerns that have been raised on the shoulders of the ELT [NAMB’s Executive Leadership Team], as trustees we also acknowledge that this is a process that together we need to take ownership of and work through for the improvement of the agency and the good of the SBC,” said Curtis, one of the task force’s members and pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C.

Another task force member, Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said, “We did not give Dr. Reccord a pass on anything …. We asked very tough, very pointed, very particular questions, because we want Southern Baptists to know that we want everything dealt with that is an issue.”

Said Holcomb: “We do not want to give the impression to anyone that we do not welcome criticism. As we worked we realized, ‘Hey, this is going to make us better, this is going to make us stronger.'”

Asked by a reporter about a fear among NAMB employees of being terminated if they raise concerns about the organization’s direction and operation, Holcomb and Curtis acknowledged that some staffers have voiced such fears.

Curtis said the task force report will reflect a concern “to see what we can do to remedy that.”

Patterson said the trustee task force appreciated the openness its members received.

“Everyone within this building and outside that we asked information of was very forthcoming, very helpful. No one was reticent or holding anything back. They [would say,] ‘What do you need? Anything else you need?’ And when we asked for personal opinion, they gave us personal opinion. No one that we asked held back anything.”

Reccord said he hopes NAMB now can refocus on its ministry.

“This has been a time of great distraction for all of our staff from the task of North American missions,” he said in his statement. “And while, like Nehemiah, we were committed ‘Not to come down from the wall,’ the forces of distraction were strong. Now it is time to get back to the work. Where mistakes have been made, I have made a pledge to use this process to correct those errors and work with our trustees to make NAMB a stronger agency.

“Our trustees have spent a multitude of hours and much energy reviewing all the facts and now I trust that Southern Baptists will trust their trustees and these processes and that we will move on together as we focus on reaching North America for Christ.”

The trustees’ nine-member task force, in addition to Holcomb, Curtis and Patterson, included Larry Thomas, director of missions for the Red River Baptist Association in Heber Springs, Ark.; Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan.; David Crump, pastor of Aspen Park Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.; Timothy (Tim) P. Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga.; Albert (Al) Y. Kawamoto, a member of Arlington Park Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas; and Ellie Wade Ficken, a member of Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.