The 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix is quickly approaching. The annual convention provides an opportunity for SBC entity heads such as David Platt and Kevin Ezell to showcase the accomplishments of their respective entities to gathered constituents. The convention also provides an opportunity for constituents to voice concerns about the operation of those entities. One such concern is the on-going lawsuit between Will McRaney and the North American Mission Board (NAMB). McRaney is the former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware executive director and has long alleged that NAMB interfered with his work at that entity, contributing to the termination of his employment. In a lawsuit he filed against NAMB on April 4th, 2017 McRaney, seeking damages, accuses NAMB of further inference with his ability to earn an income. Eventually, the court system will determine if McRaney’s case has any merit. In the meantime, Southern Baptist churchmen are left wondering whether or not it was appropriate for McRaney to file suit against NAMB at all. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul condemns the practice of Christians suing other Christians:
“Does anyone of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that here is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?”
However, this scriptural prohibition does not apply in the case of McRaney and NAMB. McCraney is not suing individual Christians who have (allegedly) done him wrong. He is suing a corporation, The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Inc. NAMB is not an individual Christian nor is it an individual Christian church. It is a corporate entity.
NAMB is an extrabiblical entity and does not enjoy the same biblical protections of individual Christians. Will McRaney is not suing his neighbor, but rather a corporate entity. In the contemporary United States, it is not uncommon for Christians to sue corporations, even corporations at which other Christians are employed.
- If his Ford Pinto explodes, a Christian can justifiably sue the Ford Motor Company.
- If his cell phone explodes, a Christian can justifiably sue Samsung.
- If his career is ruined by denominational interference, Will McRaney can justifiably sue NAMB.
No individual Christian employee of NAMB will be personally liable in the courts if McRaney prevails in his lawsuit. Such is the nature of what legal scholars refer to as “the corporate veil.” Corporations apply protections to people and facilitate risk-taking in the marketplace. This is exactly why NAMB is a corporation in the first place. So, no matter the merit of his case, Will McRaney should not be condemned for “suing a fellow Christian”. That is not what he is doing.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church of which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.