Bob Reccord resigned Monday as president of the Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board, citing reaction to a critical Baptist newspaper story two months ago, which he said had “created an environment which makes it difficult to lead the organization and to stay on mission.”
Reccord announced his resignation, effective immediately, on the morning of April 17, less than a month after NAMB trustees required him to work under several sets of “Executive Level” controls. That was after an internal investigation into allegations that Reccord misspent funds, artificially inflated missionary counts and funneled profitable consulting work to a friend.
In a rare case of a Baptist state newspaper openly criticizing a Southern Baptist Convention entity, Georgia’s Christian Index on Feb. 16 published a lengthy “analysis” article questioning Reccord’s leadership and speaking engagements that appeared to promote his books and personal ministry ahead of home missions.
NAMB trustees reacted with a special called meeting March 23 to discuss a 19-page report by a trustee task force that cleared Reccord of any immoral or unethical conduct. The report said the Index report contained errors but also raised legitimate concerns.
They included poor management decisions, appearances of a conflict of interest in turning over NAMB operations to a PR firm without acknowledging he had a personal relationship with its owner and altering the way home missionaries are counted to make it appear the agency met denominational goals.
Other problems included the perception that Reccord had “underdeveloped” relationships with state convention executive directors, emphasized events on the “periphery” of NAMB’s main purposes and failed to provide “the kind of consistent oversight that is necessary on a day-to-day basis to properly manage the agency.”
The trustee investigation also found a “culture of fear,” exists among NAMB employees who ask tough questions or challenge the authority structure.
Reccord reportedly had been weighing whether to try to ride out the controversy or resign to allow the agency to move forward.
Reccord was elected NAMB’s president in 1997, the year the agency was formed in a restructuring of the Southern Baptist Convention called “Covenant for a New Century.” Reccord, at the time a pastor in Virginia, chaired the committee charged with implementing the new structure before stepping down when he became a candidate for the NAMB presidency.
Reccord was senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., from 1992 until taking over at NAMB. He previously was pastor of churches in Florida and North Carolina and was a director of leadership training for Evangelism Explosion International.
Promise Keepers, an international ministry to men, announced recently that Reccord would give opening keynote addresses at all 19 Promise Keeper events this year.
One concern cited by the Christian Index was that commitment might limit Reccord’s availability to give leadership to NAMB. But the trustee report said the engagement would benefit NAMB by providing “a platform for expanding the awareness of Southern Baptist life across America and helping to mobilize men to assist in the build-up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”
NAMB trustee chairman Barry Holcomb said in a statement that Reccord will keep that commitment in the role of a “liaison ambassador” between NAMB and Promise Keepers.
Holcomb said Reccord was not asked or forced to resign but instead acted in what he determined to be the best interest of NAMB, its mission force and the Southern Baptist Convention. No details of a severance package were released.
Reccord, in a statement quoted on the NAMB Web site, said he leaves with mixed emotions.
“I am thankful for the countless number of people we have seen come to Christ and the thousands of churches we have seen planted and nurtured,” he said. “On the other hand, I regret we were not able to complete a number of things we started or dreamed about.”
Reccord also expressed regret “that events of recent weeks have created an environment which makes it difficult to lead the organization and to stay on mission.”
Carlos Ferrer, vice president for Finance & Organizational Services, takes over as interim chief operating officer.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.