Robert Reccord resigned as president of the nation's second-largest domestic mission force, the North American Mission Board (NAMB), on April 17, less than a month after the board's trustees released a report critical of his leadership. Reccord had overseen the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity, which sponsors 5,126 missionaries in the U.S. and Canada, since its formation in 1997.

The 19-page report, created by a taskforce of eight NAMB trustees, said Reccord did nothing illegal or immoral, but faulted him for a series of costly and unwise management decisions. Reccord was chided for awarding no-bid media contracts to a friend's company, InovaOne, and for pursuing ministry opportunities and personal speaking engagements outside of NAMB's mission. The report also said he had failed to develop relationships with state Baptist officials and had created a "culture of fear" among agency employees.

Allegations of mismanagement first surfaced in a February 16 article in the Christian Index, the official newspaper of the SBC's Georgia Baptist Convention. On March 22, three high-level members of Reccord's administration resigned. The next day, the NAMB's 58-member board released its taskforce report and instituted strict "executive-level controls" reigning in Reccord's authority.

Reccord announced his resignation the day after Easter, when most Southern Baptist churches conclude their giving to the convention's annual NAMB fundraiser. All proceeds from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, set to raise $56 million this year, go to support NAMB's missionaries (more than half of whom are salaried).

Vision vs. management?

Both Reccord and trustee chair Barry Holcomb cited Reccord's entrepreneurial leadership style and his willingness to take risks as part of the reason for his conflict with the board. "Dr. Reccord has aptly noted that in convention life, entrepreneurial leadership and denominational requirements may be at odds with one another," Holcomb said. "This is no one's fault—it is simply a reality."

Reccord declined to be interviewed, but in a written statement to Christianity Today he defended his management decisions, including his hiring of InovaOne. "The selection of an interim outsourced media vendor should have included a better bidding process, but, to my knowledge, InovaOne has provided quality work at fair prices."

However, some trustees believe Reccord should have done a better job at balancing vision-casting—Reccord's acknowledged strength—with day-to-day management.

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"So much trust was lost in his leadership that it was time for him to step aside," said Bob Rogers, NAMB trustee and pastor of First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia. "In the days since the taskforce report was released, [Reccord] showed no signs that he was willing to work under executive control. It's great to be visionary, but it's also important to be auditory and listen to the heartbeat of people."

Terry Fox, a former trustee chair and member of the investigative taskforce, said Reccord also had not communicated adequately with the board. A case in point, according to former NAMB director of marketing Mary Branson, was the budget Reccord submitted to the trustee board each year. For a $126 million agency, she said, the budget was too sketchy, providing only a brief overview with few specifics. "[Trustees] didn't know how to ask the hard questions," she said, "because they didn't see these details of the budget. They just saw big lump sums.

"If something was a particular interest or dream … that the high-up leadership saw, we could throw millions of dollars at that project. But when it got down to actually running NAMB, we all pinched pennies."

Some trustees also questioned Reccord's use of NAMB funds. According to the taskforce report, Reccord and his wife, Cheryl, spent $3,771.64 of NAMB funds to attend the 2005 London premier of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Successes and support

Some trustees do not think Reccord needed to resign. David Fannin, a trustee and senior pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston, pointed out that the taskforce had found nothing illegal or immoral to report.

In addition, most trustees acknowledged that Reccord had presided over some notable successes, such as the Southern Baptists' disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For three months, an auditorium at the NAMB headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, was converted into a control center coordinating the agency's multi-state response. Reccord championed these efforts and also oversaw the growth of the Southern Baptist's relief network into the nation's third-largest, behind only the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Following Reccord's resignation, a group of 46 Southern Baptist pastors and lay leaders, including six former convention presidents, issued a statement of support. "Where [Reccord] has made misjudgments, he has freely acknowledged them and assumed responsibility," the statement read. "But these are mistakes of the head, not the heart—the kinds of misjudgments that innovative leaders make in an effort to accomplish things that have never been done before."

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In a similar statement to CT, Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church wrote: "I don't know all the details or reasons for reactions to Bob's leadership, but, regardless, I do know this: You can't put new wine into old wineskins. … The sad symptoms we see in so many Christian organizations, churches, and denominations today are caused by a number of theological, cultural, and structural problems that are far deeper than just personality issues."

Bill Curtis, first vice chairman of the board, admitted that the trustees bear some blame for NAMB's leadership troubles. Accountability policies, such as the executive-level controls recommended by the taskforce, should have been in place from the beginning, said Curtis. The next president will inherit these checks and balances.

"We are, in fact, desirous of visionary leadership," Curtis said, "but that leadership will [need to] build consensus, work within accountability structures, and further the agenda of the agency."

The trustees are expected to name an interim president at their May 2 meeting. In the meantime, interim chief operating officer Carlos Ferrer will provide executive oversight. Reccord has not announced his long-term plans, but he is slated to deliver the evangelistic messages at Promise Keepers' 19 upcoming summer conferences.

NAMB is a force for interdenominational cooperation, said George Hunter, professor of evangelism and church growth at Asbury Theological Seminary. It has also set the pace for other denominations' evangelism and church planting work, especially in its emphasis on starting minority-language churches in the U.S.

In 2004, NAMB reported 1,794 church plants and new affiliates, 823 in neighborhoods composed mostly of ethnic minorities. "[Yet] NAMB has been comparatively invisible in the denomination compared to the board whose place it took," Hunter said. "I'm not astonished that at least some board members were looking around for somebody to blame. I think that some of the Southern Baptist boards … have probably not gained as efficient an identity and constituency, and it's likely to take some time before all of that is in place."

Related Elsewhere:

Also posted today are several sidebars:

Reccord Responds to Criticism | Full text of former mission head's statement.
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Pastors and Lay Leaders: Reccord a 'Godly Man of Uncompromising Integrity' | A statement of support.
Rick Warren: 'You Can't Put New Wine in Old Wineskins' | Denomination's most prominent pastor on Reccord's resignation.

News elsewhere on the story includes:

Baptist official accused of mismanagement quits | Missions chief resigns after mixed reports on spending (Apr. 20, The Tennessean)
Baptist missions chief quits after inquiry | The head of a Southern Baptist Convention missions board has resigned in the wake of an internal investigation into financial dealings that cleared him of wrongdoing but criticized his management style (Apr. 18, Associated Press)
Baptist missions leader quits | Management of finances questioned (Apr. 18, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
NAMB president Bob Reccord resigns | Cites 'philosophical and methodological differences' as reasons for parting ways (Apr. 17, Baptist Press)
Also: Welch, Chapman thank Reccord, voice optimism for future (Apr. 17, Baptist Press)
NAMB president Bob Reccord resigns over allegations of poor management | After a trustee investigation produced a scathing report of numerous examples of poor management, Bob Reccord resigned as president of the North American Mission Board, effective immediately. (Apr. 17, Associated Baptist Press)