ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Geoff Hammond, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, has resigned, along with three of his top assistants.
The resignations came during an all-day special meeting of the NAMB’s board of trustees Aug. 11, called by board leaders to discuss “serious issues” with Hammond. In a widely-circulated email sent July 29 to his fellow trustees by Jack Pettus of Bowling Green, Ky., those issues were identified as Hammond’s failure to meet with an executive leadership coach that had been hired to help him refine his leadership and management skills, his hiring of a chief operating officer without prior approval of the executive committee and the claim that staff morale is at an all-time low.
According to Baptist Press, 54 of the board’s 57 trustees attended the meeting, as did SBC president Johnny Hunt. Four of the 54 trustees participated by conference call.
The resignations were announced in a brief email statement released late Aug. 11 by board chair Tim Patterson. Resigning with Hammond were Steve Reid, senior associate to the president for strategy development; Dennis Culbreth, senior assistant to the president; and Brandon Pickett, team leader of the communications team.
In his statement, Patterson said Hammond’s resignation will take effect immediately.
“Even though the subject of today’s meeting has been the topic of much media speculation, it is important to remember that this is a personnel matter and we will keep the details of today’s discussion confidential…,” Patterson wrote. “I will not have any further comments for the media tonight, but we will be sharing more information with you very soon.”
In a cover statement to which the email was attached, Mike Ebert, the NAMB’s coordinator for publications and media relations, said, “This is all we will be saying for now. Hopefully some more information coming later this week.”
Hammond was unanimously elected by trustees in March 2007 to replace Bob Reccord, who was forced to resign amid reports that he mismanaged the agency. As recently as last May, trustees passed a resolution expressing unified support for Hammond and describing the agency as “crucial” to Southern Baptist mission work.
Previously Hammond was senior associate director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, a state convention formed in the mid-1990s by churches which expressed dissatisfaction with some stances taken by the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Hammond also served as the SBCV’s church planting missionary, a post partly funded by the NAMB.
After Hammond’s election, things went well for a six-month "honeymoon" period, reported the Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist newspaper, until Hammond began to be criticized as an autocratic leader who rejected counsel of trustees and others.
The Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of North Carolina Baptists, said Hammond has chafed under unusual constraints on his office put in place by trustees after Reccord's departure and reported morale at the NAMB lower now than it was during the tumultuous days before Reccord resigned.
Last November the Christian Index published a news analysis quesioning Hammond's handling of a national evangelism campaign called God's Plan for Sharing, or GPS.
The full text of Patterson’s email statement reads:
“First I want to thank the trustees of the North American Mission Board who have come together today and worked through some very difficult issues. They have carried out their responsibilities today in a way that has been honorable, thorough and fair.
“Dr. Hammond has resigned as president of the North American Mission Board and his resignation takes effect immediately. In addition, three of Dr. Hammond’s closest associates—Steve Reid, Dennis Culbreth and Brandon Pickett—will resign their positions as well.
“Even though the subject of today’s meeting has been the topic of much media speculation, it is important to remember that this is a personnel matter and we will keep the details of today’s discussion confidential.
“As you can imagine, these last few days have been very challenging for Dr. Hammond and his family, our trustees and the employees and missionaries of the North American Mission Board. We will continue to be in prayer for Dr. Hammond, his family, and for the families of the others who have resigned.
“I want to thank Southern Baptists for their prayers and ask that they continue praying. We have much work left to do as we seek God’s guidance in these days. I still believe that God has great plans for the North American Mission Board and that NAMB will play a key part in the Southern Baptist effort to reach North America for Christ.
“I will not have any further comments for the media tonight, but we will be sharing more information with you very soon.”
Robert Dilday is managing editor of the Religious Herald. Some information in this story is drawn from an Aug. 3 article written by Bob Allen of Associated Baptist Press.