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NAMB trustees urged to find ‘clear, confident choice’ for president; new missionaries, chaplains approved

JERSEY CITY, N.J.(BP)–Trustees of the North American Mission Board met May 2, their first meeting since the resignation of NAMB President Bob Reccord. The board approved 74 new missionaries and 63 SBC-endorsed chaplains, elected new officers and approved a resolution expressing appreciation for Reccord’s term of service.

The mission board’s trustees also heard encouraging reports on NAMB’s ministries across the United States and Canada, and they were affirmed and challenged by SBC President Bobby Welch concerning their search for Reccord’s successor.

“Your choice for the next leader of this ministry may be the greatest ministry contribution of your life,” Welch told the trustees, about 40 in number at the meeting.

“Don’t mess up. On behalf of 16 million Southern Baptists in 45,000 churches, don’t mess up. You’ve got to get this right because the eternal destiny of untold millions depends on your choice. That’s how important your search is.”

Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., said NAMB, as the SBC’s domestic mission arm, “sends the signal to the rest of the convention. This organization sets the cadence, the pace, the tone for evangelism throughout North America. NAMB is overwhelmingly important, so there is little wonder the enemy is after us.”

Reccord, who served as NAMB’s president since its formation in 1997, resigned April 17 following a 19-page trustee report that questioned some of his decisions, leadership style and relationships with mission partners. A nine-member presidential search committee chaired by Terry G. Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., was announced the following week.

Fox, on May 2, said the process will be prayerful and deliberate.

“We plan to be very cautious and slow the process down so we will not be in a rush,” he said, noting that the committee intends to conduct a variety of listening sessions with a broad spectrum of leadership, including state convention partners, pastors of large and small churches and directors of missions.

Welch told the trustees they needed to come to a “clear, confident choice. Someone bold, trusted, a soul-winner — he must be a soul-winner. The best thing is that when the name comes out, you’ll hear an affirming ‘yes’ across our convention.”

NAMB trustees did not, however, select an interim president as many thought they might. Citing the need for additional time to determine parameters of the position, trustees said they were undecided on how many days a week would be required of such an individual and whether to seek a candidate from inside or outside the entity. Board leadership expressed strong confidence in the current NAMB leadership in the interim.

Trustees did elect new officers, including South Carolina pastor Bill Curtis as chairman. Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C., served last year as first vice chairman, and his election was seen as an affirmation of the board’s handling of recent events. Elected as first vice chairman was Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. and Dennis Culbreth, pastor of River Oak Church in Chesapeake, Va., as second vice chairman.

Trustees approved a resolution affirming Reccord’s “character and integrity.” The resolution cited numerous NAMB accomplishments during his tenure and commended his “tireless willingness to use his gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom.” The resolution passed overwhelmingly but not without opposition, as seven trustees voted against its adoption.

Carlos Ferrer, NAMB’s interim chief operating officer, reported that an outside auditing firm has completed two financial audits, and NAMB received “clean opinions” on both. One of the audits was the entity’s normal annual review, while the other was focused on issues raised in press reports questioning some of the board’s programs, policies and expenses. Ferrer told trustees the special audit recommends that NAMB consider implementing several new policies concerning issues such as staff acceptance of honorariums, obtaining bids for work from outside vendors, intellectual property and a whistleblower policy. Ferrer said all the recommendations would be studied and reviewed with the trustees.

Ferrer also reported that several contracts with outside vendors which were criticized in the 19-page trustee review March 23 have been renegotiated or terminated. Those contracts include one with InovaOne Aviation for use of private airplanes. “I want to make sure Southern Baptists know that we’re not flying in those planes anymore,” Ferrer said.

The previous week, NAMB also terminated its relationship with 316 Networks, a broadband Internet site which was a three-way business relationship between NAMB and two media companies, InovaOne and MultiCast -– an Atlanta business which hosted the network. Under the new relationship, 316 Networks will continue to host NAMB’s video products but the mission board “will be a paying customer just like churches and associations and will have no financial interest in its success or failure,” Ferrer said.

NAMB will continue to outsource media production to InovaOne Studios but will be more active in soliciting work from other vendors.

Ferrer said NAMB also has terminated contracts with two outside public relations agencies which were doing work that can be done by NAMB staff.

”Employee morale at NAMB is improving,” Ferrer reported. “We need stability in our building so that our staff know they are valued, trusted and that we care for them. Outside the board, we need credibility.

“We need to rebuild credibility with our state convention and association partners, with our missionaries and with Southern Baptists,” he said. “They need to know that we are trustworthy and will do what we say we will do. And we are committed to doing everything in our power to do that.”

In other business, the trustees:

— approved a motion to study “encouraging our missionaries with increased financial support while working with our state conventions and framing the process with spiritual principles” and a motion to increase overall funding for church planting and evangelism.

— recognized 11 trustees who have completed their terms of service, including Barry Holcomb, who served as chairman the past year.
Joe Westbury of The Christian Index contributed to this report.

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