— Updated May 21 —
In separate May 18 motions filed for summary judgment in the six-year-old McRaney v. North American Mission Board lawsuit, both parties are seeking a ruling by the judge ahead of the currently scheduled Aug. 7 trial date.
NAMB is seeking a ruling to dismiss the entire case, and Will McRaney is seeking a ruling on one of NAMB’s specific defenses to his claims.
McRaney’s attorneys are focused on the separation agreement aspect that impacted his severance package when he was fired from the executive director role at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in 2015. NAMB claims the separation agreement between McRaney and BCMD releases NAMB from this case; McRaney disagrees.
As far as NAMB’s argument in its motion, several depositions were highlighted that say McRaney’s six counts against NAMB are invalid, including testimony from Maryland Baptist pastor William Warren and Alabama Baptist pastor Rob Paul.
Testimony on termination
Warren was president of BCMD when McRaney was terminated and states in his deposition that the decision to terminate McRaney stemmed from his leadership style, not from the loss of NAMB funding that happened because of disagreements between McRaney and NAMB.
Warren stated he first sided with McRaney in the dispute between NAMB and McRaney but over the course of a few months listening to other BCMD staff members changed his mind on McRaney’s ability to lead the state convention.
Did it ever cross his mind that if McRaney were no longer the leader, NAMB might reinstate its funding? Warren acknowledges in his deposition that it did, but he also consistently asserts his decision to vote in favor of termination was solely about the staff culture created by McRaney.
Testimony on loss of speaking engagements
Paul served in Mississippi at the time of his connection to the case and disinvited McRaney to an event in 2016 after McRaney’s public attack on NAMB continued to escalate.
“In essence, [McRaney] was declaring war on [NAMB], and significant numbers of our ministry partners were [NAMB] ministers, and those two things are incompatible,” according to Paul’s deposition transcript. It was McRaney’s actions following his termination that led to the decision not to include him on the program in Mississippi, Paul said.
And while NAMB officials do acknowledge NAMB personnel referred to McRaney as “delusional,” “nutcase” and “liar” in private communications, it contends McRaney was the one who chose to publicize the comments.
“The irony of this lawsuit is that, while Plaintiff (McRaney) claims his dispute with NAMB marred his reputation, he alone is the one who has continually publicized it,” NAMB attorneys state in the motion for summary judgment.
A NAMB spokesperson shared with The Baptist Paper, “NAMB filed this motion because the evidence developed during extensive legal discovery — which is now complete — overwhelmingly supports NAMB’s consistent factual defenses, as well as the religious liberty protections afforded churches and other ministries like NAMB. We are hopeful the court will dismiss this unsubstantiated lawsuit again, as it did in 2019.”
Debating NAMB’s role in separation agreement
McRaney’s six claims against NAMB include two claims for interference with contract and economic relations, two claims for defamation and two claims for infliction of emotional distress.
His motion for summary judgment focuses on the first two claims specifically related to NAMB’s Separation Agreement Defenses. McRaney’s attorneys outline four reasons related to Maryland and federal law as well as clauses in the agreement and a disagreement over whether NAMB was a “supporting organization” and what rights that would include in enforcing McRaney’s separation agreement with BCMD.
The motion also states: “NAMB seeks to enforce provisions of the Separation Agreement as a non-party to the contract. But Maryland law is restrictive about when a party can enforce a contract as a third-party beneficiary. Here, discovery made clear that NAMB had no role in, or knowledge about, the Separation Agreement when it was negotiated and executed. NAMB did not even see a copy of the Agreement until after this lawsuit was filed, and there is no evidence that the parties intended for the Agreement to benefit NAMB. To the contrary, the undisputed evidence shows that Dr. McRaney intended to preserve his claims against NAMB when he signed the Separation Agreement. Under these facts, Maryland law does not permit NAMB to enforce the Separation Agreement.”
Testimony about ‘supporting organization’
David Sharp, an economist, and Barry Hankins, a professor of history at Baylor University, provided testimony for McRaney and state NAMB should not be considered a “supporting organization.”
The motion states: “While the term ‘supporting organization’ is undefined in the Agreement, its ordinary meaning is clear. ‘A supporting organization, in the United States, is a public charity that operates under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code in 26 USCA 509(a)(3).’). … This ordinary meaning of ‘supporting organization’ is also confirmed by NAMB’s own use of the term in the same way it is employed with reference to the Internal Revenue Code.”
The motion also states: “Before executing the Separation Agreement, Dr. McRaney specifically asked his attorney, David de Armas, whether the Separation Agreement ‘would preclude claims against NAMB.’ Mr. de Armas advised Dr. McRaney that signing the Separate Agreement would not preclude claims by him against NAMB.“
NAMB and McRaney both have until June 1 to respond to each other’s motions and then they will have until June 8 for the following rebuttal.
From there, the judge will make the call on how to proceed.
For more information
Baptist Press outlines the details of NAMB’s motion here.
McRaney has been posting articles related to his case and NAMB in general on his website here for years but no updates had been posted about the latest news as of May 21. (While publication dates are not included on McRaney’s posts, the original item he has on his site related to NAMB seems to have been published sometime in 2015 — the year he was terminated from BCMD — because it leads out with reference to 2014 baptism statistics.)
For background details on the lawsuit, click here.
Other previous news articles related to the case can be found from Baptist Press (here) and Baptist News Global (here).