When I was growing up I remember hearing a debate on the church floor concerning beginning a van ministry. The argument that prevailed was one that broke my Daddy’s heart. An argument was presented that those on the van could not support the church and thus it was not financially feasible to begin such a ministry. The irony of this decision was that the argument presented came from a man that could afford to support the van ministry and never miss the money. Because he was known to be a wealthy person, he had a huge influence over the people in the church. They decided to vote in his favor instead of taking a chance that he would leave the church.
It seems that we find ourselves in a similar position concerning the Baptist Retirement Homes. At the 2006 convention I remember the arguments on the convention floor concerning seniors on fixed incomes having to be put in the street because we were placing funds in escrow. There were two basic flaws in that argument and I could not understand why the messengers did not see them. First, the underlying flaw I observed had to do with the implication that we had people leading the BRH that said they would discontinue service to people and basically place them in the streets if they could not find the resources for these seniors to pay their bill. Second, is the flaw concerning Medicaid. If BRH does not have Medicaid beds then we have other serious issues concerning the Biblical command about feeding the poor. If they do have Medicaid beds then the BRH will be reimbursed by the government for the beds of the poor. These two arguments were completely overlooked when this debate made it to the convention floor. The only argument that prevailed consisted of the convention, by placing funds in escrow, was placing in jeopardy those seniors on fixed incomes. The seniors residing in BRH, according to their own administration, do not need North Carolina Baptist State Convention funds.
This argument came from trustees of the BRH and others that were concerned by this action. Many were certainly arguing from an emotional state. Certainly, no one desires to be responsible for placing our seniors in a precarious position of not having a place to stay. Some argued in favor of releasing one-fourth of the escrowed funds because that was the number of trustees the BRH was choosing. However, what the one arguing this point failed to note for the convention was that the BRH had already voted to choose their own trustees, thus freeing themselves from the BSCNC. Remember that the 2006 convention voted on a slate of trustees for the BRH and these trustees were not allowed to be in the building at the first 2007 BRH trustee meeting to be seated. Therefore, the BRH told the convention they were through with us.
Please note all of the arguments for the BRH making this move is centered completely around money. Because money is the driving factor, one must ask the reason that money seems to be driving this train. Just a small glimpse of the Form 990 that non-profits have to file with the government gives some significant insight. According to page 19 on this form our BRH President received an annual salary of $258k in 2004. By 2004 standards that was a huge salary, but Dr. Stillerman is a man that serves a huge conglomerate and should be compensated accordingly. However, I believe it to be disingenuous to have trustees that he appointed approve that kind of salary when it is coming from Baptist that make no where close to that amount. If the amount of that salary doesn’t concern you wait until you read page 19 on this form. You will find that in 2005 he received a salary increase from $258k to $371k. WHAT? Do not take my word, these forms were filed with the Federal Government–read the 990’s. At $12k per, one could fund 9 new church starts with money left over. Does one man do the work of 9 new church starts? I do not believe so.
Notice a key administrative domino fell in 2005. Some time in 2005 the BRH trustees voted to give President Stillerman a $113k raise. Notice this time-line provided for us by our former Biblical Recorder Editor Dr. Tony Cartledge. You can see the entire article here.
BRH president Bill Stillerman first proposed a new relationship for his institution in August of 2005, arguing that the financial climate requires BRH to have greater control of its own governance. The Executive Committee approved a plan by which BRH would begin to appoint its own trustees and give up all BSC funding over a four-year period. The Executive Committee reversed course the next month after convention attorney John Small reviewed the plan and said it amounted to a severance of relationship. In December 2005, the BRH board voted to change its bylaws and begin appointing its own trustees.
At the convention in November 2006 a committee was appointed by Brother Stan Welch, President of NCSBC to review the relationship and arrive at a consensus. This committee was formed after the BRH trustees voted to make themselves a self-perpetuating board. Thus, what difference does it make to the BRH their findings? 2006 was marred with many items and one was the BRH beginning their first year as an independent institution. This also marked the year that NC Baptist elected Brother Milton Hollifield as Executive-Director/Treasurer. Nothing about Brother Hollifield’s election marred 2006, but think about how he felt as he came into his position to find one of our leading agencies has a self-perpetuating board. He has done a fine job dealing with this situation. I would have given into the temptation to explain how a door hits a certain part of the body when you are escorted out of the building. Brother Milton has certainly handled this situation as the Baptist statesman he is. Then, in the 2006 convention, it was argued by those in support of the BRH that we release the 2006 escrowed funds because we would be placing seniors on the street. The argument about seniors losing their homes came from trustees, but also came in a letter from President Stillerman. Then in early 2007 we are told that the BRH does not need the $900k from the BSCNC.
Allow me to wrap this thing up. Is all this wrangling over the direction of the BRH about the future of the BRH or is it about money? Every argument proposed from the BRH’s administration and trustees has been centered around money. We were first told that the need for this relationship was in order to enable the BRH a receive loans from their lenders. These loans were being hindered by the relationship that tied BRH to the BSCNC. However, in 1994 the BRH trustees changed the charter that would allow them to make themselves an independent agency–something they did in December 2005. Also, in Generations of Caring: Fifty Years of Service to the Older Adults of North Carolina, BRH’s 2001 self-published history:
Stillerman had not been in the job long when he received a visit from Wayne Duncan, who was then City Executive for First Citizens Bank in Winston-Salem. Duncan said later that he always felt he was making a good loan because it was backed by more than 3,000 Baptist churches in the state as well as the Baptist State Convention.
Thus, we see the loan argument as a smoke screen used to pull at emotions and move away from the NCBSC. When one peruses the Economic Research Institute (ERI) website it is easy to find the form 990’s filed by the BRH. One can see that the trustees approved a $113k raise in 2005 for their president and who knows the amount of 2006 (BRH 2006 990 is not currently available on ERI). However, the BSCNC Executive Committee is informed in January, 2007 the BRH no longer need nearly $1 million. Just 3 months earlier we were told on the convention floor they will probably have to throw seniors out on the street if they cannot pay their bills. We need to accept the report with the amendment that we keep the money already escrowed and allow the BRH to continue in their direction. If this entire issue is about what is right and what is wrong then we need to first rectify this issue by telling the Presidents of the agencies and institutions that they are to have no input into the choosing of trustees. This entire debacle with BRH and the other institutions comes back to the Presidents choosing their own trustees. The BRH was legally stolen from the NCBSC all because we allowed the Presidents the freedom to give a list of names they wanted for trustees. It is the same for the colleges and universities. We need to stop allowing Presidents to choose their trustees. If this is about money, then we need the trustees to give an account as to why they gave a man, already making double the amount of the Executive Director/Treasurer, a six-figure raise.
The convention this year is about money. Those trying to move away from the convention want to retain the money in order to fund their extravagance but they want to make us feel guilty when we question that extravagance. I have to give it to the BRH, they have earned their money the old fashioned way–they had a fox guarding the chicken house and now legally own the barn yard.