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On the Reccord – NAMB’s Tell All

TAGS: None

Where to start?

Mary Kinney Branson’s book, “Spending God’s Money” (Father’s Press), is a rambling tell all about the inner workings of NAMB (and the HMB) before, during and just after Bob Reccord’s Presidency. It is not the most well written book I have ever read, but it was riveting. Really hard to put down, the tale leaves you nauseous when you realize that the tithes and offerings that you and I have given have funded the largess that the book describes.

I have a few critiques of the book to start, but I’ll finish with the punch.

Critiques

First, Branson comes off judgmental and mad. I am not saying that she has no right to be mad. From her account, she had some personal slights and legitimate problems with her time at NAMB, serving two steps under the President. Still, it reads as though she were one of the only few interested in God and His direction. It reads as pious indignation. That wears on the reader after a while.

Grammatically, she speaks poorly of others’ writing skills, but she has some awkward sentence structure in certain places. Stylistically, Branson tells stories out of sequence, which makes it hard to keep track of everything. She often tells parts of the same storyline chapters apart. It would have been better if she had started at the beginning and moved straight through in chronological order.

Also, she often refers to people ONLY by their first name. I am unsure as to why she did this. I have considered that she might have been trying to protect certain people with a general anonymity, but she could have been building some plausible deniability into the book in case she were sued by someone who took umbrage with her depiction. She should have used their full name, referred to them anonymously or not even mentioned them. The first name only references were a bad choice.

Finally, Branson gives us a jumble of documented research (complete with footnotes), personal observation and hearsay. Some of the stuff documented will curl your toes and some of the personal stories will leave you shaking your head. The hearsay will raise an eyebrow. I only caution you to differentiate what is what – not all things are irrefutable in this book and Branson is clearly not a dispassionate observer.

NAMB’s Response

NAMB is supposed to be releasing an official statement – maybe today – and when it comes, I will post it here.

[update: This is NAMB’s official response]

North American Mission Board
Statement Regarding
Spending God’s Money

During the spring of 2006, an article in the Georgia Christian Index raised a number of questions about the effectiveness and efficiency of the North American Mission Board. In response to these concerns, the Chairman of NAMB’s Board of Trustees appointed a task force to assess the claims and bring a report back to the full board of trustees. Similarly, an internal audit was conducted by Capin Crouse related to policy issues within the executive offices at NAMB. Both groups published reports including policy recommendations designed to provide increased accountability within the agency. In October, 2006, our Board of Trustees adopted these new policy recommendations and created a new trustee committee tasked with oversight of policy development and compensation assessment.

Recently, Mary Kinney Branson, a former NAMB employee, published a book entitled Spending God’s Money. In this book, she recounts personal events from her time at the Home Mission Board and NAMB. While some of the issues she discusses in the book were examined as part of work of the Trustee Task Force, other issues she discusses are based on her personal experiences, her personal opinion, or hearsay. The North American Mission Board will not comment on internal issues described in the book which are outside the scope of the work of the Trustee Task Force. This is not because NAMB is unwilling to address its problems—the clarity and transparency of the Task Force Report show the willingness of our trustees to deal with agency challenges. Rather, it is because many of the claims made by the author cannot be substantiated or represent only one side of the story.

We regret that while telling her story, the author called into question the character of many current and former employees; people who were not given the opportunity to respond to her charges. Regardless, those events are now in the past, and NAMB is now pressing on into the future. The North American Mission Board and its trustees stand behind the report of the Task Force and the policies which have been adopted as a result. During the past year, the North American Mission Board has worked diligently to refocus its vision and reconnect with its state partners. The January 4, 2007 issue of the Georgia Christian Index provides a helpful overview of the current status of ministry at NAMB during this season of transition.

While the North American Mission Board would take issue with a number of suggestions in the book, not the least of which is the writer’s call to do away with “SBC-style cooperative missions” through large agencies, NAMB does support the call to all churches and SBC entities to function within a system of accountability. NAMB, through the diligence of its trustees and staff, is modeling this type of accountability and oversight in the Southern Baptist Convention. And Southern Baptists are the true beneficiaries. The trustees, NAMB staff and missionaries greatly appreciate the faithfulness of Southern Baptists to North American Missions through this year’s record Annie Armstrong Easter Offering of $58.5 million. Southern Baptists have observed our agency during this challenging time, and they have responded to our transparency and commitment to accountability with their generosity. We believe 2007 will be an exciting year as we continue to partner with Southern Baptists to reach North America for Christ.

[/update]

Sources within NAMB reveal a mixed bag. Some of Branson’s claims are denied – notably the things she does not document but are things she overheard. Some of her claims, most interesting the stories and descriptions of Bob Reccord (“Hollywood Bob”), are being confirmed.

The Punch

Branson tells of, and sometimes documents, a series of cronyism; blind or ignorant Trustees; a disconnected President and set of VP’s who micromanage, mismanage and ignore personnel and our tithe monies; and even a scandalous double payment system where employees double dip from NAMB funds by receiving salaries and using NAMB resources to fund their personal enterprises. Can you believe that was all one sentence?

There are several versions of the double dipping formula presented. The simplest was the work on personally authored books contracted outside of NAMB by Reccord and others while in the NAMB office. This, apparently, set a standard that others followed and abused at new levels. I hear the story that “Ed” (presumably Stetzer) did this is being denied in house, but the implication that Reccord did it is being confirmed.
The worst stories (regrettably, there were multiple occasions and offenders) were about people who created and owned independent companies and then sent business to themselves from their NAMB office and paid themselves from their NAMB budget. Because contracts with these self owned companies had to be bought out after the story broke, I am under the impression that this is not illegal. If it isn’t illegal, it’s immoral. Beyond that, it is sickening.

Conclusion

If this book doesn’t cause a drop in CP giving, it will be because people don’t read it. I am afraid that if my church members read it, they would want to decrease (maybe significantly) our CP contributions. That would break my heart, as I want the SBC to be as equipped as it can be to take the Gospel to the lost, wherever they are.
Even though Branson suggests that the time may be over for the Cooperative Program (pg. 16), I do not feel that way at all. My conclusion is that Southern Baptists need to seek and obtain full disclosure of spending within all of our agencies and we need to root out mismanagement and immoral abuses of our tithes and offerings.

That would suit me just fine.

TAGS: None

15 Responses to “On the Reccord – NAMB’s Tell All”


  1. Marty Duren
    on Jan 22nd, 2007
    @ 4:21 am

    Nicely done, Art.


  2. Mary Branson
    on Jan 22nd, 2007
    @ 8:40 am

    Hi, Art. Glad you liked the book. :-)
    I appreciate your good thinking and I especially appreciate your closing statement. We’re really closer in views than we may appear to be. When I’m asked in interviews what I’d like to see happen as a result of people reading SGM, I say, “Full financial disclosure, checks and balances that make misuse less likely, an increase in giving (but know where it’s spent), and a healthy balance between writing checks and hands-on ministry.”
    Thanks for taking time to read and review SGM.


  3. jasonk
    on Jan 22nd, 2007
    @ 10:27 am

    I cannot wait to read it. But most people in the pews will likely not read it, because, as they say, ignorance is bliss.

    Opinions differ on how opulent a lifestyle the head of an organization should lead. If Reccord drove a nice car, lived in a nice home, etc., so what.

    The biggest issue in my opinion has to be the forming of companies for the purpose of sending business to those companies. That is a major conflict of interest issue. In government, this has gotten many otherwise nice folks sent to prison. In Oklahoma, we have in our history the time when county commissioners were “abscammed” to the degree that many of these good old boys were sent to prison, because they were sending county contracts to friends and relatives, then getting a little financial kickback. Art, these were good guys, many of them Southern Baptist deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc. But they got greedy, and did something wrong. A full investigation should be the result of this book.

    But it will likely not result in that. Deny, deny, deny. That’s the likely result. But then, I’m kind of cynical.


  4. Joseph M. Smith
    on Jan 22nd, 2007
    @ 11:44 am

    How is it that people develop a sense of entitlement? That is, that the resources are there for their benefit, primarily? I have seen this in pastors who want more and more. I have sensed it in denominational folks even back before the “resurgence” – “Let Annie pay for it” was the cry when some of us, myself included, were treated to rather expensive restaurant meals. When I think of the widow’s mites and the ways in which we have promoted missions to make people think that someone will die hungry and unsaved unless we chip in, I too am angered.

    Sad to say, it is not just at NAMB. Major charities pay executives huge salaries and provide lots of perks. And then there’s government, where taxpayer dollars seem to flow with little concern about appropriateness. Controls and watchdogs are only a part of the answer; ultimately it is in the hearts of the executives themselves, coming to grips with what greed does.


  5. Kevin Bussey
    on Jan 22nd, 2007
    @ 11:46 am

    Well I only have good things to say about Dr. Reccord and Cheryl. Dr. Reccord supported me personally and has been a good friend. I have many friends at NAMB and thank God for the relationships I built with the people there.

    Thank you Dr. Reccord for your work for Jesus and his Kingdom!


  6. Art Rogers
    on Jan 22nd, 2007
    @ 1:00 pm

    Jason,

    I do not share your skepticism about NAMB and the response that is likely. In fact, I think all of the agencies and their trustees will be sitting up and taking notice. If they aren’t, then they are in for some uncomfortable moments when they are asked by the SBC why they weren’t watching our tithes.

    All,

    The sense of entitlement is cancerous to the soul. I know. I have fallen victim to that sense before in ministry – a long time ago. I went to a larger church that had deep pockets and I paid for things that were not necessary. I was whimsical with God’s money, and I am ashamed to say it.

    I am grateful to say that I was addressed about this attitude before it got out of hand and I learned a very valuable lesson about the stewardship of other people’s tithes.

    Remember Eli, and his sons. (1 Samuel)

    Kevin,

    I love you, man, and I am glad you are my friend. Everyone should have a friend who is as loyal and honest as you are. You’re the best.

    art


  7. Bob Cleveland
    on Jan 23rd, 2007
    @ 9:08 am

    This seems to point out the absolute necessity of the “wounds of a friend”.

    Kevin: if you were in charge of investigating the situation at NAMB, and you found egregious matters which required action, it’d be far better coming from you than from someone who had no experience with, nor compassion for, Dr. Reccord. Only trouble with that throught is that it requires friends to step up and call a spade a spade, and be willing to inflict the wounds of a friend where they are required.

    That’s not a comfortable thought, but then all this stuff never has been about us or our comfort. It stopped being about us at Calvary and the empty tomb (in the broadest sense).

    I thank God I have C.B. Scott as a friend. And the rest of you guys who wouldn’t be near so nice to me if you knew me as well as C.B. does…….


  8. Kevin Bussey
    on Jan 23rd, 2007
    @ 9:56 am

    Bob,

    I never said he should not have been removed. I’m saying lets move on! Why do we drag a man through the mud who has been let go. I wouldn’t want to become a believer if I found out this is how we treat fellow believers.


  9. Bob Cleveland
    on Jan 23rd, 2007
    @ 1:29 pm

    Actually, Kev, I’m on your side. I agree with you.

    I was merely pointing out the fact that this does demonstrate that actions like this are far better taken by friends than by foes. That’s all, and if it sounded otherwise, my apologies.


  10. Kevin Bussey
    on Jan 23rd, 2007
    @ 1:32 pm

    Bob,

    I gotcha, sorry ;)


  11. Bob Cleveland
    on Jan 24th, 2007
    @ 6:13 pm

    There’s an organization called ECFA .. the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The mission organizations with which I’m familiar … aside from IMB and NAMB … belong to the ECFA. They do a marvelous work, from what I hear.

    I wonder why IMB and NAMB don’t look into that.


  12. Art Rogers
    on Feb 10th, 2007
    @ 11:09 am

    As has happened on Marty’s blog, the same anonymous commentor [edit] is taking ungodly potshots here that he took there.

    Rules for comments.

    Grow up or go away.


  13. Eric Price
    on Feb 11th, 2007
    @ 1:35 am

    Why would you post that information? Why not just delete it and move on?


  14. Art Rogers
    on Feb 11th, 2007
    @ 10:01 am

    Eric,

    It’s a long story. Suffice it to say that this person was repeatedly posting things that I would delete. I may not agree with what Dr. Reccord did, but nobody is going to anonymously say the things that were posted here.

    They are certainly not going to spam me.

    Add to that the fact that the same person posted things on Kevin Bussey’s blog, taunting and ridiculing him, and flaunting his anonymity.

    It all stopped when I called him out that way.

    The surprising thing is how much information I did not put up. The point was that I wanted him to know that he was not as anonymous as he thought.

    By the way, I refer everyone again to the rules for comments, where this type of behavior is specifically prohibited.

    The bottom line is, if you are going to repeatedly insist on posting ungodly character assassinations on my blog, even after I delete them, you ARE going to own your words.

    For those offended, and there are a couple, I apologize for the offense.

    Everyone realize, though, that I do not owe the protection of someone’s anonymity to someone who intentionally and repeatedly violates my posted rules for commenting. Anonymity is not a right. This is especially true for those who are attacking the character of others.


  15. Art Rogers
    on Feb 11th, 2007
    @ 10:12 am

    Eric,

    I just tried to email you at the address you put in when you commented. It came back as an invalid address. Did you put it in wrong?

    Funny how you are so close to the anonymous bomber’s original ip address.

    For anyone who is reading and wondering why I am being so hard, the same bomber pretended to be several different people having a conversation supporting each other on Kevin Bussey’s blog. Frankly, I suspect this is him again, pretending to be someone he is not.

    If I am wrong, and I doubt it, then I apologize.

    Anonymity is not a right. If you continue to assassinate people’s character, you will own your words.

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