NAMB responds to McRaney lawsuit

by David Roach, posted Friday, May 19, 2017 (10 days ago)

ABERDEEN, Miss. (BP) -- The North American Mission Board has filed an official response to a lawsuit by former Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware executive director Will McRaney, who alleges NAMB wrongly interfered with his separation from the BCMD in 2015, engaged in "slander and/or libel" and attempted to interfere with his speaking engagements.

NAMB's May 18 filing with a U.S. district court in Aberdeen, Miss., acknowledged notifying the BCMD in late 2014 of its intent to terminate an evangelism and church planting partnership with the convention, alleging the BCMD "became a dysfunctional and difficult ministry partner" during McRaney's tenure. However, NAMB denied interfering with McRaney's employment situation or any of his other business dealings and asked for dismissal of the suit.

The lawsuit was filed in Mississippi state district but moved to a federal district court in northern Mississippi at NAMB's request. According to NAMB's Notice of Removal, Federal law permits NAMB to have the case removed from state court because the plaintiff and defendant are residents of different states and the amount of money at issue exceeds $75,000.

NAMB told BP in a statement, "After [McRaney] rejected or ignored several offers to meet and discuss these matters biblically, we regret that Dr. McRaney has chosen to involve the courts, however, since he has chosen this venue, we will be good stewards of NAMB's resources and defend the case vigorously."

McRaney asked in a May 18 statement emailed to journalists, "Why are NAMB lawyers and trustee officers offering general denials, when the complaints and allegations against [NAMB President] Dr. [Kevin] Ezell and others are specific and specific answers are available?"

NAMB's response to the lawsuit claimed McRaney "caused the BCMD to violate the terms of the Strategic Partnership Agreement [for evangelism and church planting] and otherwise hindered and interfered with BCMD's performance of its obligations." According to the response, "NAMB was entitled" to notify the BCMD it would terminate the partnership "given the facts and circumstances as they existed at the time."

Contrary to McRaney's allegation he was terminated from the BCMD, the response stated, "NAMB is informed and believes that [McRaney] voluntarily resigned his employment pursuant to some kind of severance agreement."

NAMB claimed McRaney "seeks to unfairly enrich himself" in filing suit and alleged he "demanded in a letter to NAMB that it pay him ... $7.7 million in damages."

Among other claims in NAMB's response:

-- "NAMB denie[d] that it published any defamatory statement regarding" McRaney.

-- NAMB denied it interfered with McRaney's speaking engagements after he left the BCMD.

-- NAMB acknowledged it "situated" a photo of McRaney "in the reception area at NAMB's office in Alpharetta [Ga.] during some period of time." But it denied McRaney's claim the photo "has caused additional damage" to him.

-- NAMB denied that McRaney is "entitled to any relief whatsoever in this action."

NAMB has also argued that if the lawsuit proceeds, it should be transferred from the U.S. district court in northern Mississippi to the U.S. district court in northern Georgia, where NAMB's corporate office is located.

The anticipated next step in the case likely will be a series of motions and responses.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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