NAMB tells court McRaney controversy is ‘ecclesiastical’ matter

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Jim's picture

  • While is strikes me that the NAMB has acted heavy-handedly ...
  • And while I am sympathetic with McRaney
  • That the NAMB is essentially correct that it is an ‘ecclesiastical’ matter
Joeb's picture

Your right Jim.  When the courts get  involved with matters that are clearly church administration it's bad news.  

WallyMorris's picture

What has to be determined here is if this situation is only "church administration" or if something illegal has occurred. 

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

Bert Perry's picture

Since it's a civil suit, the debate isn't whether the actions by NAMB were illegal, but rather whether they were actionable in the sense of civil lawsuits.  (yes, I'm picking nits--sorry, Wally!)  :^)

But that said, what this is, IMO, is a great "gut check" for both sides to concede "OK, our actions got everybody into a hissy fit where legal actions were matter how we spin it, we screwed up."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Will McRaney is Suing NAMB and That’s Okay

Southern Baptist churchmen are left wondering whether or not it was appropriate for McRaney to file suit against NAMB at all. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul condemns the practice of Christians suing other Christians:

“Does anyone of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that here is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?”

However, this scriptural prohibition does not apply in the case of McRaney and NAMB. McCraney is not suing individual Christians who have (allegedly) done him wrong. He is suing a corporation, The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Inc. NAMB is not an individual Christian nor is it an individual Christian church. It is a corporate entity. 

...No individual Christian employee of NAMB will be personally liable in the courts if McRaney prevails in his lawsuit. Such is the nature of what legal scholars refer to as “the corporate veil.” Corporations apply protections to people and facilitate risk-taking in the marketplace. This is exactly why NAMB is a corporation in the first place. So, no matter the merit of his case, Will McRaney should not be condemned for “suing a fellow Christian”. That is not what he is doing.

TylerR's picture


I don't like that group. When I read what they write, and see the poisonous and haughty spirit they often express themselves in, I'm reminded of what Randy White wrote about in his recent article, "The Sickness of Discernment Ministries."

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Bert Perry's picture strikes me that if you're going to spend a lot of time parsing out the minutiae of whether suing a corporation of Christians is hugely different than suing individual Christians, you not only lack understanding of what a corporation really is (a legal entity representing people), but you've missed Paul's whole point.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


You wrote: strikes me that if you're going to spend a lot of time parsing out the minutiae of whether suing a corporation of Christians is hugely different than suing individual Christians, you not only lack understanding of what a corporation really is (a legal entity representing people), but you've missed Paul's whole point.

Yes, that was my take, also!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Jay's picture

And as for I Cor. 6, we have a pretty clear word from the Lord on the subject (6:1-9):

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.

It is an embarrassment and reproach on the name of Christ to appeal to unbelievers to adjudicate matters between believers. Better to be robbed and have the Lord intervene than fight it out and bring shame on everyone involved.

As an aside - am I the only person that has this mental image of Paul tearing out his hair while he's writing this passage?  :D

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

The 1st Corinthians 6 passage presupposes that the church has the standing to adjudicate the situation.

In the case of McNamey vs the NAMB exactly what local church would have that authority? The NAMB is not a church, nor is it a church member.

1 Cor 6 is not an absolutist statement against lawsuits.

Other examples:

  • Insurance claims: Bill breaks his leg at Joe's house. Medical expenses and loss of work mount up. Joe has property insurance. Property insurance will not even consider the case unless a suit is initiated. In some states one can sue the I/C directly ... other states not
  • Christian Evicting a Christian From a Residence or Business Property

The ESV study Bible has this helpful commentary:

Although some have argued that Paul is prohibiting Christians from ever going to court against another Christian, Paul seems in these verses only to be addressing disputes related to property or money (cf. “Why not rather be defrauded?” v. 7), rather than criminal cases, which fall under the jurisdiction of the state. (See Rom. 13:1–5 where Paul shows that God has established civil government for the protection and good of all people.) It is doubtful, therefore, that Paul’s intention is that this specific example should be applied in every situation, since not every situation today matches the circumstances of this specific case in Corinth, where the two parties are in the same local church (“among you,” 1 Cor. 6:5), and where the dispute is specifically related to property or money (“Why not be defrauded?” v. 7). Whatever the circumstances, it is clear from Scripture that disputes between believers need to be handled with the utmost care (vv. 1–8): in a wise and godly manner before the watching world; wherever possible under the disciplinary authority of the church; and with the counsel of spiritually mature Christians who have no stake in the matter and who can give objective, biblical advice. (See further Matt. 18:15–20 regarding the steps that Christians need to take when one believer sins against another believer, and the authoritative role of the church in such cases.) the unrighteous. Paul probably is referring to magistrates who are both unbelievers (1 Cor. 6:4, 6) and who are at times unjust in their judgments.

Bert Perry's picture

I can see a bit of what Jim's saying, especially as only Roman citizens had access to the courts.  So the rich could theoretically use the courts to abuse their poor brothers in the church without Paul's warning.

That said, I've got two difficulties with the logic.  The NAMB is of course a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, which could also be described as the "church" to which Paul is referring to.  If there are no men there wise enough, and willing to, wade through the documentation, let's just say the rot is deep there.  (I'm not making the accusation)

Moreover, let us assume the case, say, of a Christian landlord evicting a tenant from the same church.  Per Matthew 18, he asks for rent, step 2, he brings another, step 3, he goes before the elders and the whole church.  At the end, the church decides that he is no longer in fellowship....

....and the landlord is free to sue his tenant because he no longer must view him as a brother, no?  The insurance one is tougher, but ....after how many years, the church insurance industry hasn't figured out a workaround?  Necessary evil, maybe, but....seriously?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.