LifeWay Sues Former President Over Tyndale Partnership

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Thom Rainer led the Southern Baptist publisher for 13 years before retiring in 2019.

LifeWay Christian Resources has sued its former president, Thom Rainer, for allegedly breaching his severance agreement by publishing with a competitor.

Rainer claims he received “a written and amicable release from publishing” with the Southern Baptist Convention entity in October 2019, he discussed his publishing activities with LifeWay’s attorney, and he “assumed all was well” until receiving notice of the lawsuit Monday.

Amid apparent disagreement among LifeWay trustees over the lawsuit, the board has called an emergency meeting Wednesday, Baptist Press has confirmed.

In a statement, Todd Fannin, chairman of LifeWay’s board of trustees, said board officers believe Rainer “has violated his Transition Agreement” and want him to honor it. But Jimmy Scroggins, the immediate past chairman who still serves on the board, told the board in an email he is “formally requesting for Todd [Fannin] to please withdraw our legal action.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Williamson County, Tennessee, chancery court, cites an agreement between Rainer and LifeWay upon his 2019 retirement that precluded him from having any business association with LifeWay competitors until October 31, 2021.

The agreement specifically listed Tyndale House Publishers as a LifeWay competitor. In August 2020, Tyndale announced a multibook publishing partnership with Rainer, which also includes video curriculum.

At issue is whether the Tyndale partnership violates Rainer’s noncompete clause.

In addition to his transition agreement, Rainer had signed a contract in 2018 with LifeWay to publish a book titled The Church Attendance Manifesto. LifeWay and Rainer agreed several months later to terminate the contract, …

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