Saturday, February 21, 2015

NPH Follow Up

Well, the good people on the Interim NPH Board have made public their entire report to the Nazarene General Board. It goes into pretty specific detail about the process of "merger" with NPH, the election and dismissal of Gerald Smith as President and the financial ramifications of the process. It also comes with recommendations for improvement in the future. Many of these recommendations are common sense or standard practice for most businesses and organizations, but at least they're out there for review and attention.

I've been following all of this with interest for a while. I have my own connection to this whole thing through time I spent working at Nazarene headquarters during seminary. The other day I put together a post, explaining the narrative as I knew it, and asking for the General Board to be open and honest in moving forward. Even through all the conversations and documents, even in rumors and stories I'd never heard anyone claim Smith had asked for $1.8m outright in exchange for the gift. That was shocking. Even more shocking is the indication in this report that his request was granted. Now this money was to be paid from Premier profits, which didn't exist, so he may never have received these funds. In any event, the mere acquiescence to this exchange is beyond troubling.

This report is a wonderful start. I'm not sure how NPH could be more open and honest with the public about its happening, nor do I think they could be any more gracious in challenging the denomination to perform better in the future. Still, we need something more. The General Board must respond to this. There must be a similar investigation into the Board itself and the operations of Nazarene headquarters. We need the same candor and honesty from the Board of General Superintendents and the other leaders involved in this process. The NPH report is only one part of the whole.

We're passed the point of exacting punishment. That's not exactly the Christ-like thing to do anyway. Those who made mistakes at NPH are gone. I don't know if there is a need to remove others in denominational leadership, mostly because we don't really know who played what role. I tend to think this has more to do with the system than the individuals. If the system is broken, it doesn't matter what individuals we plug into it, we're only asking for trouble. I do believe a report like this can spur us to the change we need, but our General Board needs to respond in kind. It needs to be done with the kind of grace, candor, and transparency that NPH has modeled for us. It's been a while since NPH was out in front leading the Church of the Nazarene, but perhaps this report can be the beginning of a return to such leadership.

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