A number of years ago, the Big Sky Baptist Association – my association – called for the resignation of its executive director, Fred Hewitt. Hewitt, since retired, had told numerous bald-faced lies relating to the North American Mission Board’s disrespect to local cooperating churches. Essentially, the North American Mission Board wanted to hire “church planters” for the Bakken oilfield area and place them as staff members at First Baptist Church of Williston, North Dakota. Our association balked at this notion, and we explained why new church plants in the area were not a good idea (chiefly, they wanted to plant churches in tiny and transient boom town “man camps” that could not be sustained once the boom is over…and by the way, it is now over). We presented an alternative evangelism strategy, chiefly the creation of an oilfield chaplaincy training program that would strengthen local churches. Vice Presidents for two different NAMB regions (Montana and North Dakota are in two different NAMB regions) told us that they would not place NAMB planters in the area without our consent and agreement. They also said this on record, and said several times that the minutes would be provided us from that meeting.
Within weeks, NAMB had broken their word and (with the secretive prompting and approval of Fred Hewitt as our Executive Director), did exactly what they said they would not do. NAMB discounted the wisdom and knowledge of pastors in our own mission field to achieve their unsatiated lust for more church planting numbers, and decided to give the money to bring in outsiders to plant “churches.”
Three years later and Fred Hewitt, who let NAMB run roughshod over local churches is no longer in Montana. The Canadian-imported pastor at FBC Williston (now “Cornerstone Church”) is no longer in North Dakota. There have been no churches planted, although the money has been spent on the supposed “church planters” who are also no longer in the region. That’s why NAMB should listen to locals.
In response to the disrespect of cooperating churches and the way that disrespect was facilitated by our own state director, the majority of our association voted to call for the resignation of Fred Hewitt. We were granted a meeting with the Administration Committee of the Executive Board to give us a hearing. We asked for the minutes from the previously mentioned meeting with the NAMB vice presidents. The committee called the NAMB executives, and were told that the minutes of that meeting were the “intellectual property of the North American Mission Board” and we could not see them. The committee took a recess and came out only a few moments later with a written statement supporting Hewitt’s employment (the statement was written the evening before, before having heard us).
We left the Montana Convention that day. The reason was simple. No matter how many times the state director said, “I work for you guys” (speaking to local churches), he clearly did not. He was beholden to NAMB. NAMB was beholden unto itself. No one cared about the local church, unless it was receiving their Cooperative Program Funds, Annie Armstrong offering or making sure we filled out our ACP reports.
What we experienced in Montana is not an anomaly. The Southern Baptist Convention, which is designed to be a cooperation between local churches and its entities to be servants of those churches, has become a heavy top-down organization. Through the distorted and corrupt trustee system, a mirage is provided of grassroots control. In reality, entities control the Convention and operate entirely independently of it. They are run-away organizations that operate upon hundreds of millions of local church dollars and do not answer to or serve the local church.
In related news, Bob Allen at the real Baptist press (the filthy, dirty moderates who print truth and stuff), Baptist News Global, has explained the firing of “executive missional strategist,” Will McRaney, from the Maryland-Delaware Association and the undue influence of the North American Mission Board upon the Maryland-Delaware Association regarding his firing. Essentially, the story is this: McRaney dared to make hiring decisions independent of the control of NAMB and “bad mouthed” NAMB leaders. Kevin Ezell, director of NAMB, threatened to withdraw funding from the Maryland-Delaware Association if McRaney didn’t go. Once fired, Ezell gave the association a pat on the head and an increase in funding.
You can find Bob’s article at Baptist News Global here.
I don’t suspect you’ll see in this in the “Baptist Press.”
[Contributed by JD Hall]
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