LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The
Kentucky pastor nominated to become president of the Southern Baptist
Convention’s (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB) says the search
committee viewed his congregation’s emphasis on direct funding of missions — as
opposed to funding through denominational channels — as an asset and not a
“I was not considered to be
president of the North American Mission Board without you,” Pastor
Kevin Ezell said
to worshipers at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 12. “They
considered me and they have asked me to be nominated to do that because of you.
They looked at Highview Baptist Church and all that you have done, and
therefore considered me because I was the pastor here. So in a sense you are
being nominated, and I happen to be the pastor, so it’s me.”
With seven campuses and
4,740 resident members, Highview plans to give more than $1.3 million this year
to missions, but just over 2 percent of its budget will be channeled through
the Cooperative Program, a unified budget system that funds both state and
national Southern Baptist agencies.
in Louisiana and Arkansas have
criticized Ezell’s nomination, saying the church’s comparatively low
percentage of support for the Cooperative Program sets a poor example for other
Ezell apologized to church
members for criticism directed at both him and the congregation since news
of his selection broke Aug. 31 in the Florida Baptist Witness.
“Because of the visibility
of the position, there are people across the United States who want to look for
things that perhaps I do not do as well or they think we should do different,
and perhaps be critical of myself or of Highview, just to try to get their name
in the paper,” he said. “Typically those are bloggers who live with their
mother and wear a housecoat during the day. Just ignore them, but I apologize
if you are hurt by anything that they might say about me or indirectly about
Ezell recalled one meeting
with a committee in particular where his church’s reputation was discussed.
“They said: ‘We have heard
about Highview for so many years,’ and ‘We have heard about incredible, unique,
creative ways that you guys do ministry,’ and ‘Explain that again; how do you
guys do that?’” Ezell said.
Highview’s missions giving
In June the SBC adopted
a Great Commission Task Force report that recognizes a new category called “Great
Commission Giving” that includes both the Cooperative Program and giving to
designated gifts for special purposes. That was after messengers amended
the report to reaffirm the Cooperative Program, the denomination’s primary
fund-raising channel since 1925 as “the most effective means” for missions
support and say designated gifts should “supplement” and not “substitute” for
the cooperative model.
Highview’s “Million to
sets aside $582,000 for local missions, including $145,000 for a
mentoring/intern program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and $340,000
for campus ministry at nearby colleges and universities.
Nearly half of $150,000 for
national causes goes to church plants in New York City, Philadelphia,
Cleveland, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho. Another $24,000 is set aside
for mission-trip supplements and $25,000 for a student mission trip, compared
to $10,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that supports work of NAMB.
international-giving component of $700,000 includes $400,000 in Cooperative
Program and $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that supports work
of the SBC International Mission Board. Other funds include $100,000 in
mission-trip supplements, $5,000 for a missionary house and $10,000 for an
David Hankins, executive
director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, wrote an open letter
Sept. 9 criticizing Ezell’s “demonstrated lack of support for the mission of
“While each local Southern
Baptist church has the right to do whatever it decides about denominational
mission support, those who would presume to lead Southern Baptist entities
ought to have a track record of supporting those entities,” Hankins wrote.
Hankins said the “independent
model” chosen by Ezell would “send a chilling message to the thousands of
Southern Baptist congregations who have been led by their pastors and their
denomination to believe that generous support for our cooperative mission
funding processes is the good and right thing to do.” He also said the nominee
would lack “moral authority” to challenge Baptists to adopt goals of raising
$100,000 million annually through the Annie Armstrong Offering.
Emil Turner, executive
director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, said he agreed with Hankins
in an Arkansas Baptist News story
by Associated Baptist Press.
Trustee chair responds
Trustees will vote on Ezell
at a called meeting Sept. 14. If elected, he would replace Geoff Hammond, who
resigned in August 2009 over philosophical differences with trustees. Richard
Harris, senior strategist for missions advancement, was named acting interim
Tim Dowdy, NAMB trustee
chairman, said in a statement released
through Baptist Press that members of the search committee were drawn to Ezell “because
it is clear that he has a heart for SBC missions and a heart for reaching North
America for Christ.”
“I realize there is an
ongoing discussion among Southern Baptists about how we can best express our
passion for missions through our giving,” said Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing
First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga. “I am sure that will be part of our
discussion this Tuesday when our trustees meet to discuss Kevin’s nomination.”
“Kevin has been a loyal
Southern Baptist and I believe he will help NAMB continue to work through the
long-standing partnerships we have had and help us build new partnerships and
new ways of taking Christ to North America,” Dowdy said.