(Capstone Report) The $1,000,000-plus severance package given to former LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer was kept secret from many trustees including the Compensation Committee and the board executive committee by former LifeWay trustee chairman Jimmy Scroggins. The stunning revelations came to light in audio provided to the Capstone Report of the new LifeWay CEO discussing the recent legal dispute with LifeWay’s former CEO Thom Rainer. The audio confirms the leaked letter to the LifeWay Trustees and LifeWay employees by the current three-member trustee executive committee.
According to comments made by new LifeWay CEO Ben Mandrell, the current board officers were unaware of the severance package details. Mandrell noted the lack of transparency about Dr. Rainer’s package with trustees in recent comments on the future of LifeWay.
According to the new LifeWay CEO, in a phone conversation between Mandrell and Rainer, Mandrell told the former LifeWay president, “that such a generous transition agreement, in my opinion, should have been approved by a larger set of eyes.”
And, making it even clearer that the $1,000,000-plus severance package was kept secret from many trustees, the new board officers were unaware of it. Mandrell said he informed the board officers about the situation in an effort to get their advice about what to do.
“So, I brought in the board officers to give me some advice—in the company of advisors there is wisdom,” Mandrell said. “I laid out all the information on the table: the generous package that had been given to Dr. Rainer, which they did not know about, and the clear promise he had made that was in effect until October of 2021.”
Ultimately, LifeWay sought legal action against Rainer. You can read more about that below. However, the real story is the severance package, the apparent lack of transparency in it and appearance of a conflict of interest involving former trustee chairman Scroggins.
The lawsuit was attacked by some members of the LifeWay Board of Trustees. This included comments by Scroggins who told the Christian Post the lawsuit was “embarrassing” and “damaging to the kingdom.” Of specific interest for our purposes, Scroggins complained to the Christian Post that the lawsuit was filed without board approval.
That’s funny. Because Scroggins played a significant role in approving the sweetheart deal with Dr. Rainer and kept that information from the many LifeWay Trustees. Scroggins was president of the LifeWay trustees when Rainer announced his retirement and was specifically mentioned in the leaked LifeWay memo. According to the leaked document, (Editors’ note, published by Protestia here)
“On Aug.13, 2018, in anticipation of his announced retirement, Dr. Rainer signed a lucrative transition agreement. The transition agreement was signed by then Board Chairman Jimmy Scroggins and former Senior Vice President of Organizational Development Selma Wilson on behalf of LifeWay. The document was signed without being reviewed by or with knowledge of the Compensation Committee or Executive Committee.”
Also, Scroggins published a book with Lifeway in 2016 and a student Bible study in 2020.
This type of intimate relationship between Scroggins, LifeWay and Rainer raises a host of ethical questions about non-profit governance; it even poses potential legal problems for the organization.
Also, why were so few people involved in the decision to grant Rainer the sweetheart severance package? Was Scroggins the only person to authorize the severance package? If so, did this comply with LifeWay policies?
Trust the trustees?
That seems like a bad idea when even the trustees are not consulted about seven-figure severance packages.
It is obvious the new LifeWay president is working hard to improve financial accountability at the SBC entity. He wants a culture of accountability at the organization.
Of course, the SBC Elites led by Scroggins dislike this level of accountability and publicly opposed the legal moves of the new administration.
Why is that?
See below the transcript of Mandrell’s extended comments. It is encouraging that the new LifeWay leadership wants transparency and accountability.
Transcript of Mandrell’s Comments on LifeWay & Lawsuit against Thom Rainer
In audio of new LifeWay President Ben Mandrell obtained by the Capstone Report, Mandrell explain why the new administration entered into a legal fight with former LifeWay President Thom Rainer. Mandrell spoke about the need to move forward and the need for a accountability and transparency at the organization.
“How is it that it honors the Lord to enter into a legal battle with the former leader of LifeWay?
“I get the question. It is fair. But, it is far more complicated than you might think. Back in March when COVID-19 began, our ELT (executive leadership team) went into an intense cost-cutting mode that was unavoidable. $25 million dollars had to be removed from the budget. Most of that would involve losing great teammates. It was gut-wrenching work.
“If you recall, I sent out a very emotional video apologizing to the number of people whose jobs were being deleted. Behind the scenes the ELT were having all these hard conversations. And I knew that I had to do something as a leader to do my part to search for every dollar that could be saved.
“So, I picked up the phone and called Dr. Rainer and I said, I had to have a hard conversation with him that my conscience would not let me rest and I asked him to give back a portion of the money he had been receiving from LifeWay so that we could save some jobs.
“I told him that such a generous transition agreement in my opinion should have been approved by a larger set of eyes.
“He was upset with me, but told me he would…
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Editor’s Note. This article was written by the Capstone Report and published there. Title changed by Pulpit and Pen