In his inaugural address Feb. 21 to Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee trustees, Willie McLaurin spotlighted Acts 1:8, stating, “The last words of our Jesus should be the first priority of our Convention. … Our mission has not changed.”
McLaurin was elected Feb. 2 as interim president and CEO of the EC and is the first African American to lead a national Southern Baptist entity.
Describing his “core four” focus in his new role — operationally, missionally, relationally and personally — McLaurin committed that the “daily task of carrying out the fiscal, fiduciary and executive responsibilities” of the EC will be “Spirit-led and Scripture-fed.” In order to advance the gospel, the EC, he said, would “work diligently to lengthen, strengthen and deepen relationships” with pastors, churches, state conventions and other entities, stating that his role would be that of “servant leader.”
Taking the EC helm in a tumultuous time of uncertainty and upheaval, McLaurin acknowledged difficult-to-answer questions in today’s SBC, yet he expressed confidence in the providence of God.
Five guiding principles
McLaurin identified five guiding principles in his interim EC role.
First, he challenged EC trustees to “see and shape the future.” He stated that every organization needs a vision and mission for its “preferred future. … The marching orders of the SBC Executive Committee are … to prioritize collaborative partnerships, cooperation and generosity.” The EC’s seven ministry assignments will guide the entity’s daily work, he said.
“Our future is bright because we have a mandate from Jesus to live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission.”
Second, McLaurin made a commitment that the EC will “engage and develop others,” emphasizing, “We must reset our efforts by building solid relationships.” The EC, he explained, must engage both the culture and the local church.
Drawing attention to recent sexual abuse and racial discrimination issues plaguing the SBC, McLaurin stated, “May this world know that the Southern Baptist Convention stands against all forms of sexual abuse … and against all ethnic discrimination.” He further declared, “The local church is the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Third, McLaurin called on the EC to “rise above our limitations” as it faces the “challenging season” of Southern Baptists examining sexual abuse allegations over the past 20-year period. McLaurin recalled Rosa Parks, the African American seamstress who refused to relinquish her seat on the bus for white passengers in 1955. Parks, he said, explained that she was tired of “giving in.”
As the EC rises above its limitations, McLaurin emphasized, “We must not give up! We must not give in!”
Fourth, McLaurin challenged EC trustees to “value relationships and results.” McLaurin commended EC Chairman Rolland Slade for starting the process of rebuilding trust within the EC and the denomination.
“Would we commit to pray for one another and not prey on each other?” he asked. “When prayer is the foundation, we can accomplish much more for the glory of God.”
McLaurin reminded attendees of the denominational priorities of mobilizing missionaries, planting churches, calling out the called and winning and discipling the next generation.
Fifth, McLaurin implored EC trustees to “endeavor to leave a legacy.” He called on EC trustees to be faithful, to serve and steward well and to submit to Jesus’ leadership.
In closing McLaurin distributed a towel to each trustee with one imprinted word: “serve.” He challenged each of the 66 trustees in attendance to join him in his servant mindset.
“The calling on my life continues to be washing the feet of those who serve the bride of Christ,” he said.