The Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board denied defaming or interfering in the employment of a former Baptist state convention executive director in a response filed May 18 to a lawsuit in federal court.
NAMB attorneys claimed former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware head Will McRaney “proved to be very difficult in his dealings” with the agency and “openly made known his disdain and hostility” toward NAMB strategy and officers.
They said McRaney caused the two-state convention to violate its strategic partnership agreement with NAMB and since resigning from the post “has continuously and publicly disparaged” and ”published false and misleading statements and misinformation” about NAMB and its officers.
McRaney, a former seminary professor who led the SBC affiliate also known as the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network for just under two years before stepping down in June 2015, filed a lawsuit April 7 claiming that what was initially reported as his resignation was in reality a firing orchestrated by NAMB President Kevin Ezell.
In a summary statement sent to Baptist journalists May 18, McRaney repeated allegations that Ezell “on multiple occasions wrote and made false accusations and false statements,” canceled NAMB’s cooperative agreement with the BCM/D under false pretenses and threatened Maryland/Delaware leaders and churches with denying Southern Baptist money.
McRaney also claimed that Ezell or his subordinates sought to interfere with speaking engagements he had in Mississippi and Florida in the fall of 2016 and posted his photo at the welcome desk at NAMB headquarters in a manner similar to a most-wanted-criminal poster at a post office.
NAMB lawyers said in response the lawsuit “should never have been filed,” because state and federal courts lack jurisdiction over the inner workings of a religious denomination. They denied that NAMB officials made “any defamatory statement” about McRaney or “tortiously interfered” in any of his business relationships.
The response admitted that a photo of McRaney appeared “during some period of time” at the NAMB welcome center but argued it was “appropriate” and did not cause him any harm.
McRaney said since filing the lawsuit he has “received more compelling evidence” of interference by Ezell from a Florida pastor whom he has not identified but whose name will come out if the case makes it to the deposition and subpoena phase.
McRaney said in an email to Baptist editors he hopes NAMB representatives will “mediate biblical restitution for wrongs against me,” but if not “we plan to let one or more state and federal courts hand down their justice.”