A former Baptist state convention executive says what was reported last June as his resignation was actually a firing orchestrated by state convention leaders under pressure from the head of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Will McRaney, whose two-year tenure as executive missional strategist of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware ended abruptly and without explanation June 9, said in a series of blogs that he could not tell his story until now because of terms of a severance agreement he signed under pressure of a forced resignation demanded by convention leaders.
Posting more than 100 pages of supporting documents, McRaney claims he lost support of leadership of the state convention — also known as the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network — after North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell threatened to withdraw NAMB support if McRaney stayed in charge.
Invited to comment, NAMB spokesman Mike Ebert forwarded a Feb. 5 letter from trustee leaders responding to an open letter that McRaney had sent to NAMB’s board of trustees. The trustee leaders said they were aware of interactions between Ezell and McRaney and affirmed “complete confidence” in Ezell’s leadership and conduct.
A pair of NAMB attorneys wrote McRaney about “inaccurate and damaging” statements regarding NAMB and its personnel, advising the letter should not be construed as a waiver of “any rights, remedies, claims, positions or defenses which NAMB may have.”
McRaney said while he believes he has a legal basis to sue, he does not intend to do so because the Bible says that Christians should try to resolve such disputes apart from secular authorities. He said he decided to take his case to the entire Southern Baptist Convention family because NAMB trustees weren’t taking him seriously.
McRaney said he isn’t the only state exec concerned about what he described as “strong-armed” tactics that “are unraveling the fabric of cooperative missions” in Southern Baptist life.
“Dr. Ezell’s strategies through NAMB have systematically contributed to dismantling aspects of the historic mission-supporting, mission-sending ecosystem which is the Southern Baptist Convention,” McRaney wrote in an open letter to NAMB trustees.
He quoted other state executives as saying “partnership is dead in the SBC” and that NAMB can no longer be trusted to keep its word.
McRaney said his problems began when NAMB offered to take over 100 percent of responsibility for church planting in Maryland and Delaware, as it has done in smaller state conventions. Like other mid-sized conventions, the 560-church Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network declined, fearing loss of autonomy.
“We have not had an Episcopalian-type structure with an elite that dictates everything,” the former seminary professor explained in a response to concerns raised by Ezell in November 2014. “We have needed aggressive leaders to lead into the future, but leaders in touch and sensitive to the needs of the constituents.”
“It is vital the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network be integrally engaged with the enlisting, equipping, encouraging, supporting and deploying of planters in starting churches in our region of responsibility,” McRaney said. “We have to live with the planters, the results, how they deal with people, other churches and the various facets of our denominational life. We are actually much closer to their mission field. We are in a better position to see what is happening on the field and what is not, therefore it is our best interest of our stewardship of responsibility and mission to be the organization on point in assisting those newly planted churches so that we can assist and redirect them as they experience challenges.”
McRaney said Ezell accused him of violating cooperative agreements by hiring two staff members without input from NAMB, not responding to phone calls from NAMB personnel and bad-mouthing NAMB leadership. According to McRaney, the hirings were proper, and Ezell is the one who repeatedly rebuffed offers to meet about their differences. In December 2014 Ezell gave the state convention one-year notice that NAMB was canceling their agreement.
While some of the stories have changed, McRaney said he was told Ezell went around him to meet directly with officers of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, telling them he would withhold NAMB resources as long as McRaney remained as executive director. One leader reportedly said while he loved McRaney and his wife, the state convention could not afford to lose its relationship with NAMB.
After McRaney’s departure, he said NAMB restored financial support to the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network at a higher level than before.
Bill Warren, pastor of Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury, Md., who was state convention president at the time, referred a request for comment to a designated staff member, who did not immediately respond to an email from Baptist News Global.