"Let me come right to the point: I believe you are being asked to elect a candidate who, while having many admirable qualities, is unqualified in one significant way. Dr. Ezell’s excellent credentials in areas such as character, family, leadership, and theology do not compensate for the demonstrated lack of support for the mission of NAMB."
In addition, Arkansas Baptist Convention executive director, Emil Turner, is on record publicly agreeing with Hankins. One wonders how many other state conventions have similar reservations but have not expressed them?
From my perspective, NAMB trustees simply cannot brush the concerns raised by these states aside. NAMB is supported through the conventions. Indeed NAMB's fiscal health can only weaken if state conventions have no confidence in the president of a missions agency each convention funds. Consequently, more money most likely will be held in those states. How can this be considered a "fresh start" for NAMB?
With that, I am...
Below is my continued questioning of the recent candidate for NAMB, Kevin Ezell. Part I, entitled, “Welcome to the All New North American Mission Board: the Candidacy of Kevil Ezell as President” should be read in conjunction with this part.
Let’s continue with the questions:
Does Kevin Ezell have a track record for missions involvement? According to Ted Traylor, “He [Ezell] is a loyal missions supporter.” Excellent! How could a missions entity president not be a loyal supporter of missions?
What kind of missions does Kevin Ezell support? According to NAMB trustee chair, Tim Dowdy, “Under Ezell’s leadership, the congregation has grown to seven campuses spread across metropolitan Louisville, including southern Indiana.” One has to ask, however, are these independent church plants, or are these extension sites of Highview church? There is a difference, you know. Ultimately, the former comes under the rubric of actual local congregations, while the latter more resembles a mini-denomination. The former is historic Baptist practice and the latter very much resembles connectionalism or a subtle form of presbyterianism. The debate continues concerning multi-satellite campuses. One can hardly suggest it is de facto true that just because a church has more than one main “campus” that it follows the church is overly missions minded.
Does Kevin Ezell generously support missionary enterprises with mission monies? Again, according to Ted Traylor, the answer would be yes. He says, “[Ezell] has led Highview Baptist Church…with 12 percent of their budget being given to Southern Baptist causes.” Traylor is correct; 12 per cent to missions outside the local congregation should cause no one to raise questions about the missions giving generosity of Kevin Ezell. Or should it? Not only does it matter if the “missions” giving was primarily extended to “satellite campuses” of the main church as we suggested above, but it also matters if the “missions” giving was cooperative giving—that is, given primarily through our SBC missions agencies--or independent of the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.
Consider: while it’s simple to understand what Traylor means by 12 percent given, just what does Traylor mean by “Southern Baptist causes”? To my knowledge, Traylor’s words represent the first recorded instance in using the official GCRTF language for missions giving in profiling a candidate for a top SBC leadership position.. Expect the norm now to be, “Southern Baptist causes.” And, just what is meant by “Southern Baptist causes”? Are the six campuses around Louisville in the “Southern Baptist causes”? We don’t know. Are the churches planted around the USA sponsored by Highview in the “Southern Baptist causes”? We don’t know.
The bottom line is, the candidacy of Kevin Ezell represents precisely the opposite of the intended focus of the GCRTF report in Orlando, Fl. How so? In that report, note:
“Our call is for the state conventions to reassume their primary role in the promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education, while asking the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to support these efforts with enthusiasm and a convention-wide perspective (Component #4)
“We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to reaffirm the Cooperative Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries…This Southern Baptist Giving Plan begins first and foremost with the Cooperative Program….Therefore, please understand clearly, we are not recommending any changes to the Cooperative Program but are reaffirming it as our central means of supporting the Great Commission ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. ” (Component #5)
“We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that a greater percentage of total Cooperative Program funds should be directed to the work of the International Mission Board” (Component #6, all bold above mine)
As one can see, the GCRTF report made a huge issue of the Cooperative Program being the “central” and “primary” means of missions giving in the SBC. How, then, does Kevin Ezell’s focus on giving square with the GCRTF report? Let’s consider:
According to the Florida Baptist Witness, the 2009 Annual Church Profile for Highview Baptist Church records $140,100, or 2.23 percent, given through the Cooperative Program from total undesignated receipts of $6,270,057. In addition, the church gave $50,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $10,000 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, with total missions expenditures of $1,350,107. How the other missions expenditures were divided is vague at best.
What is not vague at all, however, is Dr. Ezell’s philosophy of missions expenditures. In the stated budget for Highview church (2010), the breakdown for National Missions is as follows:
Cooperative Program: Through the North American Mission Board a percentage of Cooperative Program funds go to North American missions.
Annie Armstrong Offering, $10,000
- New York City, $12,000
- Philadelphia, $12,000
- Cleveland, $12,000
- Atlanta, $12,000
- Indianapolis, $12,000
- Boise, $12,000
Mission Trip Supplements, $24,000
THIRST Student Mission Trip, $25,000
TOTAL NATIONAL: $150,000
Now, while one certainly cannot fault Dr. Ezell for having visionary passion to plant churches, what is just as easily discerned is, one cannot suggest this budget makes the Cooperative Program either the “central means” of our missionary enterprise or “first and foremost” among various ways of missionary giving. The very entity toward which Dr. Ezell has been thrust as the candidate to lead is the very entity which falls significantly behind the pack in priorities for Dr. Ezell in supporting. The Annie Armstrong support for 2010 is $10,000, the same as 2009 (better than 2008, however, which was budgeted $0).
Telling also is Dr. Ezell’s proposal for local missions which significantly exceeds the amount to the Cooperative Program, $582K to $400K respectively. And, in the same budget, while $100K is proposed for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, only $10K is proposed for the Annie Armstrong Offering. That translates to a 10:1 priority of International Missions over National missions. Is this the man who has a passion to lead the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention?
Again, if Dr. Ezell wants to start 50 churches or 100 churches in the next 10 years, we should celebrate such. Nonetheless, please do not insult the intelligence of the average Southern Baptist by suggesting the primary method Dr. Ezell pursues in starting churches is through cooperation with other SBC churches via the Cooperative Program.
In light of this, we must ask, if NAMB operates and survives both by the commitment of Southern Baptists to consistent CP giving—CP giving being the “central, “first,” and “foremost” means of missions funding--as well as significant sacrifices each year through our annual Annie Armstrong offering, how could we accept as president of the North American Mission Board a man who excels in neither? Indeed, why should we accept him?
Furthermore, why the search committee completely ignored the significance the CP had in the GCRTF report is confusing. Even more confusing is the praise for Ezell’s candidacy coming from the very Task Force members who wrote the report! Had I written the report, and a nominee was revealed who placed as dead last among many others the very program I publicly advocated as the “central”, “first”, and “foremost,” means of missionary support, I would be the first to say, “Wait just a minute, here. I thought we agreed…”
Yet Ted Traylor, Al Mohler, Danny Akin, et al continue to lavish kudos on Ezell’s candidacy as if he precisely represents the “central” “first”, and “foremost” means of missionary support they identified in their report as The Cooperative Program.
From my side of the street, this just doesn’t make much sense.
With that, I am…