In a bold,
unprecedented open letter to trustees of the North American Mission Board
(NAMB), David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention,
has called for NAMB trustees not to elect Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky. as
scheduled to elect Ezell, the
unanimous choice of the eight-person search committee, during a Sept. 14 special called meeting.
Hankins says “a
major flaw” disqualifies Ezell for the post.
“I believe you
are being asked to elect a candidate who, while having many admirable
qualities, is unqualified in one significant way,” Hankins wrote. “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
Hankins noted that despite his church’s annual $6 million budget, “the
financial contribution of the church, through the Cooperative Program (CP) and
Annie Armstrong Offering, has been marginal, at best.”
“Consequently, one has to believe the anemic support of cooperative
ministries has been a purposeful decision by the pastor and the church
leadership,” Hankins’ letter continued. “Dr. Ezell has indicated he believes
this was a better way to reach their congregational objectives. Is that what
Southern Baptists believe and what they expect from the leader of the North
American Mission Board?”
North American Mission Board.
Hankins said those who would presume to lead Southern Baptist entities
ought to have a track record of supporting those entities.
Through the 2009 Annual Church Profile (ACP), Highview Baptist Church
reported giving $140,100, or 2.23 percent, through the Cooperative Program from
total undesignated receipts of $6,270,057. The church gave $10,000 to the Annie
Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. They gave $50,000
through the Lottie Moon
Christmas Offering for International Missions.
Convention (KBC) records show the church gave $10,000 annually to the CP
through the KBC during both 2008-09 and 2009-10. The State Convention of
Baptists in Indiana reported Highview gave $140,100.04 to the CP. Highview has
a satellite campus in Indiana.
Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State
Convention, affirmed Hankins’ call for NAMB trustees to reconsider the search
“Dr. Hankins has a gracious and kind assessment of the
situation and he is also clearly logical,” Turner said. “It seems surprising to
me that the search committee would recommend someone whose level of support for
the North American Mission Board through the CP and the Annie Armstrong Easter
Offering could not sustain the work of NAMB were it to be duplicated widely
across the convention.
“While I have met Dr. Ezell and been impressed with his
personality and his preaching, I would hope that the new president of NAMB
could be an example of commitment to the Cooperative Program as called for by
the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and to the Annie Armstrong Easter
“This is not meant as a personal attack on Dr. Ezell,” Hankins wrote.
“I would have the same concern about any candidate for NAMB who had a similarly
poor record on cooperative giving. There are many excellent pastors with an SBC
affiliation who have chosen to go a more independent route with their churches’
mission spending. I am thankful for every success they have brought to the
Kingdom, but I believe, by their negligible cooperative denominational giving,
they have removed themselves from consideration as SBC entity leaders.
“Why is demonstrable support for the North American Mission Board, and
leading by example in denominational cooperation, not a prerequisite for the
NAMB presidency?” Hankins asked the trustees.
He further expressed concern that a NAMB president who has chosen an
independent church model will “send a chilling message” to thousands of
Southern Baptist churches who give generous support to the CP and mission
“How will such a president have the moral authority to carry out the
conclusions of the GCR report that ‘The greatest stewardship of Great Commission
investment and deployment is giving through the Cooperative Program’ and
call upon Southern Baptists to adopt goals of giving no less than …$100 million
annually through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American
Missions?’ How can he challenge cooperative support if he has led his
church in the opposite direction?”
Hankins said he had been told there are no candidates who have all the
credentials of the current nominee and
an exemplary track record of CP and Annie Armstrong support.
“I do not believe this,” he wrote. “There are any number of leaders
who possess outstanding leadership skills and meet all the prerequisites, including
denominational cooperation and support.
“This is serious business at a serious juncture. No one needs to
remind you of the struggles that NAMB has had due to conflict at the executive
level,” Hankins told NAMB trustees. “I know you want to get this decision
right. Compromising on cooperative missions methodology is not the pathway to
getting it right. Please, seek a candidate to lead our national work who
possesses all the prerequisites
your Southern Baptist family expects and deserves.”