Holy disorder over Baptist leadership

By Khrisna Russell

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

THE leadership of the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary & Educational Convention has come under scrutiny, with some in the body calling for the removal of “the most unprepared” and “unqualified” president the organisation has ever seen.

Reverend Lloyd Smith was installed as the convention’s president a little over a year ago and is well known as the owner of construction firm Holiday Industrial Builders. With Rev Smith at the helm the body is now experiencing a leadership crisis, according to Dr Keith Russell who heavily criticised the president’s capabilities in a letter of resignation from the post of area vice president for the northern Bahamas district.

His decision to step down, according to the letter, was triggered by “ineptitude” shown in the organisation of the body’s most recent convention. He said an “appalling” disregard for the sacredness of the the holy house, total indifference to fundamental procedures concerning the convention’s finances and the absolute abandonment of biblical and theological preaching was on display.

Others within the convention, who did not want to be identified, have told The Tribune this has been a “bad” year for the body.

“I was shocked and dismayed regarding the proceedings at the recent Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention,” Dr Russell - pastor of First Baptist Church in Freeport, Grand Bahama - wrote in his two-page letter.

“What is even more disconcerting, we had a number of persons who were willing to stand to the floor and defend this chaotic, unspiritual nonsense, spewing their rancid and meandering drivel. Obviously, for a particular constituency of Baptist, this is all a game. No standards are required.

“Integrity has been thrown out of the window; ethical boundaries have been erased. Any Tom, Dick, Harry or Sue buys a doctorate degree out of the back trunk of someone’s car or from some street peddler or some bogus school then parades around calling themselves doctors of theology. Most of them can hardly string together two coherent sentences. It is scandalous.

“We Baptist now give any jackleg preacher power and responsibility. . . Historically, with all our flaws, Baptists have been better than this. What happened to us?”

He then attacked Rev Smith’s ability to provide proper leadership to the organisation, which has at least 200 churches under its umbrella.

“In this present critical moment, what we Baptist appear to want to ignore is that we have a crisis in leadership. It is quite apparent by now, even to the dullest among us, that our president, Rev ‘Dr’ Lloyd Smith, is not fit for this high office. From my uncelebrated observation, he has neither the temperament, the theological depth, the understanding of matters relating to the sacred house, (or) the people skills. . . to hold such a position,” Dr Russell continued.

In an effort to offer full disclosure, he said he had every intention of voting for Rev Smith in the past election had an actual vote occurred, but was convinced by a friend that he was the best choice for the convention.

“My friend’s reasoning was that the convention was in financial trouble and that Rev Smith had the ability to bail us out. I objected, pointing out Rev Smith’s lack of training at a legitimate institution of higher learning and his lack of facility with the English language, among other unmentionables.

“Perhaps, it was Rev Smith’s offer to me of becoming president of the Baptist College upon his ascendency that silenced my prophetic tongue and inflicted me with hysterical and spiritual blindness. So I acquiesced. I compromised. I yielded. I now repent, in contrite tears.

“I am complicit in helping to elect the most unprepared and unqualified president in the history of Baptist, solely on the basis of money and favour. Moreover, I accepted the token vice presidency of the Northern District. All of it makes me despicable and ashamed. May the Lord have mercy on my wretched soul.”

Several attempts to reach Rev Smith were not successful yesterday up to press time.

In 2014, he was forced to defend work he did under a $20m contract to build a new Ministry of National Security building on John F Kennedy Drive.

He was awarded the contract by the last Christie administration. This came despite a 2008 termination under the Ingraham administration of his firm’s contract to build what is now the Attorney General’s Office, due to costs reportedly ballooning to $14m, but Rev Smith maintained this was “politically motivated”.

When the agreement was ended, he had only completed about $10m worth of the necessary work.

The situation had at the time been brought into public view by former Free National Movement MP Hubert Chipman, who asserted that Rev Smith and former National Insurance Board Minister Shane Gibson appeared to have close ties.

Mr Chipman noted Rev Smith officiated at Hollywood star Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral and that of Mr Gibson’s father, “King” Eric Gibson.

Mr Gibson resigned his post as immigration minister in 2007 amid allegations he fast-tracked Ms Smith’s application for residency in the Bahamas.

Rev Smith said then that he could not understand the public backlash and criticism over the Christie administration awarding the contract, because during the FNM’s 2007 to 2012 term in office, he did not receive any work or major contracts.

“Minister Gibson is my friend, but I am saying it has nothing to do with the contract I was awarded. I do support the Progressive Liberal Party and I suppose they will put me on the list for any job. That doesn’t mean that I will or won’t get the job,” Rev Smith said of the situation.