NAMB trustee resigns over Ezell’s actions
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
December 09, 2010

NAMB trustee resigns over Ezell’s actions

NAMB trustee resigns over Ezell’s actions
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
December 09, 2010

CUMMING, Ga. — A trustee has

resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB) saying he does not share the vision of the

agency’s new president.

“I believe that throughout

my life, and particularly as I’ve gotten older, that it’s very important to

take your body where your heart is,” Lester Cooper, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga., told church members Nov. 28. “If

you’ve got your body somewhere where your heart’s not, that just not where it

ought to be.”

“I just wanted to share with

you this morning — for whatever it’s worth to anybody — that this past week I

resigned as trustee of the North American Mission Board,” he said.

Cooper added, in an

interview with Associated Baptist Press, “My heart is not with the North

American Mission Board.”

Cooper, former director of

missions for the Atlanta Association of Southern Baptist Churches, was elected

as a NAMB trustee in 2008. He said watching changes made since the election

Sept. 14 of Kevin Ezell as the agency’s president “is not what I signed on for.”

On Sept. 30 Ezell announced

an early-retirement incentive for employees age 54 and over. The goal is to

reduce staff by a net 25 percent by the end of the year — including new people

brought in by Ezell.

Cooper said he agrees with

the strategy of focusing on church planting in urban areas with large

populations, but doesn’t think the way to do it is by losing senior staff

members recognized as leading experts in the field.

“I can’t imagine how you can

see 80 people leave an organization that has 260 people in it and have any idea

of how you are going to function or come to the conclusion of who is going to

go before you have been there two months,” Cooper said. “It’s not reasonable,

and I cannot get a satisfactory answer from anybody where we are going.”

He also said that since a

Great Commission Task Force report adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention calls for

a restructuring of NAMB within seven years, he doesn’t understand why decisions

are being handed down so quickly and without vote by the board of trustees.

Cooper, 64, said if he were

to serve out his term and be re-elected he would be a NAMB trustee until he was

70 and that at that age, “I don’t need any more stress in my life.”

“I do not really see the

direction I see it going in as being something that I think is helpful,” he

said. “I don’t think that I should stay and stand in the way of what others

think need to be done.”

Cooper said three NAMB staff

members taking the early-retirement option are members of his church.

“I’ve never seen anything

like it,” said Cooper, a pastor for more than 30 years with a long record of

denominational service. “It’s a new day for Southern Baptists, and I really don’t

know what it looks like.”

Ezell said in a statement

Dec. 8 that he admires Cooper and appreciates the service he has given as a

member of the board of trustees. Ezell said the timing of the voluntary

retirement incentive package was driven primarily by changes being implemented

by Guidestone Financial Resources.

“The package we offered was

as generous as we could make it, and we are also providing employment

assistance for those who are seeking work after leaving NAMB,” Ezell said. “These

reductions are driven by my firm belief that we need to send more resources to

the North American mission field.”

Ezell said just over two

months on the job he is moving forward as quickly as he can.

“We haven’t shared details

of a new direction yet because we are still in the important phase of meeting

with and listening to our state partners,” he said. “We will have a clearer

direction to share after NAMB’s next board of trustees meeting in February.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is

senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)