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NAMB trustees call special meeting to consider leadership, morale
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
July 31, 2009

NAMB trustees call special meeting to consider leadership, morale

NAMB trustees call special meeting to consider leadership, morale
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
July 31, 2009

Two months after passing a resolution unanimously praising the direction of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and affirming president Geoff Hammond for “exemplary, unique leadership and vision,” NAMB trustees will meet Aug. 11 to consider removing him from office.

A 48-hour flurry of activity launched July 29 led to a specially called meeting Aug. 11 when a regularly scheduled executive committee meeting was to be held. Although either the board chair or NAMB president has the authority to call a special meeting, it takes 20 percent of the board to initiate such a meeting.

North Carolina NAMB trustee Bruce Franklin was among the first 12 to call for such a meeting, following the first salvo of calls and email messages circulated among trustees July 29 when it became known that some members of the NAMB executive committee were unhappy with Hammond’s leadership and his future with the agency was in jeopardy.

Franklin, told the Biblical Recorder July 31 after NAMB announced the special meeting, that a decision of such magnitude should not be in the hands of the executive committee alone.

Although Franklin, who has been a trustee on year, said he heard the issue was “leadership,” he said in his three meetings and orientation he had not seen anything that would indicate a problem.

An additional issue rumored for months that surfaced full-blown with the announcement of the special meeting is staff morale. Reports have reached trustees of morale sinking to a level lower even than during the tumultuous days before previous NAMB president Bob Reccord resigned under pressure in April 2006.

“We need to find out what is going on and deal with it appropriately,” said Franklin, a businessman in Henderson. He said all that matters is “what we’re doing for Jesus” and that “it requires constant vigilance to stay focused.”

NAMB trustee Jason Pettus, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., sent an email to other trustees July 29 that detailed much of the background prompting the special meeting. In his email, Pettus disclosed his own conversation with NAMB board chair Tim Patterson over rumors of the upcoming executive committee meeting.

Pettus said Patterson stated that the committee “had several ‘serious issues’ that they needed to talk with Geoff about.” He then detailed three most pressing concerns, which included that Hammond has failed to meet with an executive leadership coach hired to help him refine his leadership and management skills; that he had hired a chief operating officer without prior approval and that staff morale was at an “all-time low.”

A NAMB spokesman told the Recorder that Hammond had been encouraged that if the original executive leadership coach did not work out, he should select one of his own choosing which he was in process of doing.

Hammond has been working under a set of constraints not common for the chief executive of a Southern Baptist agency, constraints initiated after trustees found significant fault with their previous administration.

According to a story in Associated Baptist Press in April 2006, a trustee investigation faulted the previous administration of Bob Reccord for poor management, autocratic decision-making, extravagant spending on failed ministry projects, apparent conflicts of interest in no-bid contracts for a friend, and creating a “culture of fear” that prevented staffers from questioning the abuses. They also said Reccord spent time and money on events and projects on the periphery of the NAMB's mission and was absent so much he couldn't provide consistent, day-to-day oversight “to properly manage the agency.”

Consequently, trustees put safeguards in place to avoid a repeat of such behaviors, safeguards that Hammond has chafed under.

Joe Westbury, managing editor of the Georgia Baptist newspaper, the Christian Index, broke the major stories that contributed to a change in administration at NAMB in 2006. His story on current events is here.

The trustee affirmation of Hammond came during their May meeting in Jackson, Miss., about the time NAMB board chair Tim Patterson suggested NAMB and the International Mission Board be merged into one mission agency.

Contrary to Patterson's statement, the NAMB board affirmed that NAMB "is crucial to the weaving together of Southern Baptist partners to fulfill the Great Commission."

"As trustees, we are unified in support of our president, Dr. Geoff Hammond, who is providing exemplary, unique leadership and vision as Southern Baptists embrace the challenges of the ever changing and diverse mission field of North America," the statement said.