- May 29, 2008
Former missionaries joined some past members of the Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas board and others in sending an open letter to the mission organization’s board of directors, expressing concern over the termination of Interim Executive Director-Treasurer Nina Pinkston and other developments.
Meanwhile, all eight living former presidents of Texas WMU joined in issuing a call to prayer for WMU—particularly for the board’s June 16-17 meeting, for God’s direction as the organization’s personnel committee seeks a new executive leader and for the possibility of hiring “an experienced intentional interim” director.
Cindy Gaskins, who served on the Texas WMU staff as state Acteens consultant from 1986 to 1998, initiated the letter to the board, which included the signatures of 58 other “friends of WMU of Texas.”
“This esteemed organization seems to be moving in a direction contrary to her historic principles and practices. We are deeply disturbed and wonder how this could have happened,” the letter stated.
The May 29 letter came in response to Pinkston’s May 8 abrupt dismissal, as well as Executive Director-Treasurer Carolyn Porterfield’s resignation last October.
Pinkston reported her termination came without warning.
At the time President Paula Jeser of El Paso said the dismissal 'was not an easy decision' but involved 'lengthly discussion' by the board's executive committee.
Jeser was traveling and had not seen the letter to the board. So, she was not able to respond to specific concerns raised in it.
Gaskins noted she was “embarrassed, bewildered and shocked” when she learned about Pinkston’s termination and the events surrounding it.
“How could this happen within WMU?” she asked.
The letter to the board noted four issues:
• Pinkston’s dismissal “in a manner totally unlike Texas WMU.” Pinkston reported she arrived at a scheduled staff retreat, found out it had been cancelled without her knowledge, called the state WMU office and was told by Jeser she had been terminated.
“All this calls to mind the unexpected resignation of Carolyn Porterfield,” the letter said. “Were both these leaders simply trying to told the organization and staff accountable but were met with resistance? And after the resignation of Carolyn, the board was reportedly told ‘not to ask questions.’ How can this be, considering the responsibilities of the board? Something seems amiss.”
• Jeser was named interim executive director on a volunteer basis. As such, she serves as chief executive officer of the staff, presiding officer of the organization and chair of the board.
“This violates one of our historic principles of shared leadership,” the letter said. “We feel this is out of compliance with the spirit of the bylaws and the organization.”
• Four long-time employees—Waunice Newton, Ruby Vargas, Cathy Gunnin and Judy Champion—left Texas WMU in the last eight months, either resigning or taking early retirement.
“These women have worked long and hard for Texas WMU and possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that cannot easily be replaced,” the letter said. “We would like to know if anyone conducted exit interviews to determine if there were concerns that prompted their decision to leave.”
• A perception Texas WMU is distancing itself from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Pinkston had noted some BGCT Executive Board staff felt they had been “shut out of the process this year” in determining Mary Hill Davis Offering allocations. She also noted a persistent rumor Texas WMU planned to move its offices out of the Baptist Building.
“What is happening to the faithful partnership woven with prayerful cooperation between WMU and BGCT?” the letter asked.
The letter stated those who signed it were “grieved beyond telling” by recent events.
“We wonder if any of the actions of the last months have put Texas WMU in jeopardy financially and/or legally,” the letter said. “At the very least, trust has eroded.
“Please put aside any reticence and consider your responsibilities as board members and your response to these concerns. We ask you to seek the collective wisdom of leadership represented by former WMU presidents and BGCT leaders. Certainly, we want to move ahead in truth and honor as ‘laborers together with God.’”
Gaskins did not specifically ask signers of the letter for permission to publish their names in the Baptist Standard. But representative individuals who signed the letter—and who indicated their willingness to affirm it publicly—included former WMU officers such as Kaye Glazener of Fort Worth and Earl Ann Bumpus of Mineral Wells; former missionaries such as Mary Carpenter of Brownwood; and former WMU conference leaders such as Deirdre LaNoue of Dallas.
Eight former Texas WMU presidents issued a call for prayer to Texas Baptists, noting: “During this time, when the office of executive director-treasurer is vacant, pray for President Paula Jeser and the personnel committee as they search for a new executive director-treasurer.”
Specifically, the past presidents called on Texas Baptists pray:
• “God will lead them to a strong, godly, knowledgeable woman with a proven record of service in WMU and missions.”
• “About the possibility of hiring an experienced intentional interim executive director-treasurer to serve in the position until God’s woman is found.”
• “For the upcoming meeting of the board of directors of Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, June 16-17.”
• “For all of the board members and members of committees … that God will give them wisdom, discernment and courage as they seek his will concerning crucial issues facing WMU.”
Issuing the call to prayer were former WMU president Ophelia Humphrey, Mauriece Johnston, Amelia Bishop, Gerry Dunkin, Mary Humphries, Jeane Law, Kathy Hillman and Nelda Taylor.