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Ezell defends church’s giving record
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
September 13, 2010

Ezell defends church’s giving record

Ezell defends church’s giving record
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
September 13, 2010

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

liability.

“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.

State-convention executives

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

congregations.

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

you.”

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

criticized

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

Missions” campaign

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.

The plan’s

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

international-adoption ministry.

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

NAMB.”

“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

also carried

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

president.

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.