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Baptist Missions Agency Responds to Misspending Allegations

Following the release of a book that made numerous allegations of misused funds against a Southern Baptist mission agency, the organization responded saying some of the issues discussed are
( [email protected] ) Jan 25, 2007 09:24 PM EST

Following the release of a book that made numerous allegations of misused funds against a Southern Baptist mission agency, the organization responded saying some of the issues discussed are based on "hearsay."

Mary Kinney Branson, a former employee with the North American Mission Board, recently published Spending God's Money: Extravagance and Misuse in the Name of Ministry - a book that accused current and former staff of misspending the agency's funds.

"While some of the issues she discusses in the book were examined as part of work of the Trustee Task Force, other issues she discusses are based on her personal experiences, her personal opinion, or hearsay," said a released statement by NAMB.

Branson worked at the Home Mission Board and NAMB, which houses one of the nation's largest disaster relief operations, for 16 years before leaving the agency in 2004 on good terms, she mentioned in a statement.

She noted in her new book that during her service at NAMB, she saw evidence of "extravagance" and ineffectiveness.

Branson listed numerous examples of such problems at the agency, namely alleging that former NAMB head, Dr. Bob Reccord, had shifted the focus of the agency from promoting missions to promoting himself.

The NAMB responded, "We regret that while telling her story, the author called into question the character of many current and former employees; people who were not given the opportunity to respond to her charges.

"Regardless, those events are now in the past, and NAMB is now pressing on into the future."

In spring of 2006, a Georgia news journal had released a critical report of the effectiveness and efficiency of the NAMB. The Christian Index also called into question the leadership of Reccord.

Soon after, Reccord called for the mission agency's Board of Trustees to assess the claims made. An appointed task force then published a report including policy recommendations designed to provide increased accountability within the agency.

At the same time, Reccord stepped down as NAMB head in April - a resignation that many Southern Baptist leaders called evidence of his integrity. Policy recommendations were adopted in October and the Board of Trustees created a new trustee committee tasked with oversight of policy development and compensation assessment, according to the mission agency.

The NAMB agrees and has taken action on increasing accountability. Branson had made a call in her book to do away with "SBC-style cooperative mission" through large agencies.

"NAMB does support the call to all churches and SBC entities to function within a system of accountability," the mission agency stated. "NAMB, through the diligence of its trustees and staff, is modeling this type of accountability and oversight in the Southern Baptist Convention.

NAMB decided not to respond to each of the allegations Branson made in her recent book because "many of the claims made by the author cannot be substantiated or represent only one side of the story."

While Branson paralleled misuse with the distance between the "giver and the spender," NAMB assured its donors, "Southern Baptists are the true beneficiaries."