Members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee are making their way to Nashville this afternoon and tomorrow morning for their regularly scheduled Feb. 21–22 meeting.
It’s the first in-person gathering of the full group since the dramatic September meeting that resulted in mass resignations from both the trustee board and staff, including then-EC president and CEO Ronnie Floyd in October.
Also leaving the EC staff were executive vice president Greg Addison in October and eventually chief financial officer Jeff Pearson in February. Longtime attorneys Jim Guenther and Jamie Jordan also resigned from their roles with the EC in October.
Other staff wrapping up their time while not tying it to the specific controversial situation were Julio Arriola and Becky Chandler.
Arriola served as the EC’s executive director for Hispanic relations and mobilization until he was named director of Send Network SBTC (a church planting partnership between the North American Mission Board and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention) in November.
Chandler, longtime senior executive assistant to the board, announced her retirement effective Dec. 31 but has agreed to continue in a virtual role through September 2022.
The decision to waive attorney-client privilege for the investigation into the EC’s handling of sexual abuse cases between Jan. 1, 2000, and June 14, 2021, left board and staff members struggling with how best to fulfill their obligations. The motion passed by messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville called for the investigation, but the struggle came down to how to fulfill the fiduciary responsibility if the EC officials waived attorney-client privilege for the scope of the review. Some came to peace with it by staying on the board or continuing as staff members while others determined their only move was to resign.
Jeremy Morton, EC member from Georgia and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, said in October, “It has been a very tense, chaotic season to serve on the EC. I am a newer member of the committee.
“I have felt very conflicted. I have been praying all along that our committee could somehow communicate a plan/vision that all reasonable Southern Baptists of goodwill can get behind. I’ve prayed for a course of action that both ensures the concerns of victims are addressed, but also doesn’t jeopardize the legal or financial viability of the SBC as a whole,” he said. “At the end of the day, after many hours of prayer and reflection, I voted all three times with the conviction I sensed God’s Spirit putting in my heart.
“I totally heard (hear) the concern over waiving attorney-client privilege. I understand that concern. It is very real. But I’ve chosen to embrace caring for vulnerable victims, and I’m trusting my own future and the future of the SBC to God. I was unwilling to ignore the voice of the messengers or the victims. I believe acting on their concerns was the right thing to do.”
Philip Robertson, EC member from Louisiana and pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Pineville, agreed the tension was difficult but determined he could not support the waiver.
“We were put in a very difficult situation,” he said. “We were in this tension between abiding by the will of the messengers while also protecting, potentially, the viability of not only the Executive Committee but the entire Southern Baptist Convention.
“In the end I voted ‘no.’ … Let me be clear, those who voted ‘no’ to waiving attorney-client privilege did not do so to protect anyone or to hinder in any way the uncovering of any alleged wrongdoing,” Robertson underscored. “Every member of the EC welcomed the investigation. This was clearly demonstrated when the overwhelming majority of the committee voted to allocate $1.6 million to fund the investigation.”
“Furthermore, attorney-client privilege does not protect people who are guilty,” he continued. “You can’t hide behind attorney-client privilege if there has been fraud, or criminal activity. Attorney-client privilege doesn’t protect that.”
Many other EC members shared comments with The Baptist Paper following the October decision to waive attorney-client privilege, and those are being compiled in a historical archive. The Baptist Paper team also is following up with those who have not yet responded.
Regrouping with 80% of members
A total of 16 members of the 86-member EC board of trustees resigned, including two subcommittee chairs — Rob Showers of Virginia and Robyn Hari of Tennessee — following the decision to waive attorney-client privilege in the sexual abuse investigation. See the full list of resignations below.
With two other seats also vacated for unrelated reasons — Modena Henderson from North Carolina in June because of a relocation and Bob Neely of South Carolina in November due to his death — the group will make decisions this week with the remaining 68 members (see list below). Currently, three state conventions — Arizona, Pennsylvania/South Jersey and Kansas-Nebraska — have no representation on the EC.
The 18 empty seats will be filled officially in June when messengers meet for the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim. Nominees currently are being selected and vetted by the Committee on Nominations, which was appointed by the Committee on Committees, a group selected by the newly elected SBC president each year.
While the work of the Committee on Nominations is taking place, the EC continues moving forward with its assigned tasks.
Agenda items for February meeting
EC members also anticipate hearing reports from SBC entity leaders, appointing a presidential search committee and voting on a recommendation from the Credentials Committee to reportedly disfellowship at least one church as well as potentially hear the decision related to the review of Saddleback Church in California ordaining women to serve in ministry.
And typically, during the February meeting, EC members deal with the remaining motions that were referred to the group during the business session of the previous SBC Annual Meeting.
Motions referred to the EC that have been reviewed and are either underway or decided:
- Investigate the EC’s handling of sexual abuse cases (underway).
- Review non-disclosure agreements policy (underway).
- Conduct a specific financial audit and disclose the details of the findings (reviewed and declined by EC).
The Committee on Convention Finances and Stewardship Development determined at the September meeting that financial disclosures and audit information are both already available through the official SBC annual, so the committee said no further action is needed.
- Consider making Nashville the permanent site for SBC annual meetings (reviewed and declined unanimously by the EC).
The Committee on Convention Events and Strategic Planning determined it would be best to continue allowing Southern Baptists to choose cities across the country to host the annual meeting.
- Consider allowing IMB missionaries to vote by proxy at SBC annual meetings (reviewed and declined by the EC — a few members voted in favor of the request).
“After significant review [the committee proposed declining] remote participation … because fostering and strengthening relationships with various affinity groups is best accomplished by encouraging physical presence of all messengers,” said committee chair Erik Cummings of Florida.
Other concerns mentioned were:
—No known option/technology for a similar-sized and type group.
—Technology susceptible to interruption/failure which could disrupt the meeting and trust and/or relationships.
—Prefer simplicity of conducting business at a single site with in-person, eyewitness assurance of voting.
- Add a Sunday evening fellowship meal to the SBC Annual Meeting agenda (reviewed and approved with no opposition — no details yet on how it will be handled).
- Add a special emphasis Sunday focused on repentance to the denominational calendar (reviewed and approved with no opposition and recommended it coincide with the Vision 2025 plan).
- Consider requiring CP information in SBC officer nomination speeches (reviewed and declined with no opposition).
The Committee on Southern Baptist Relations noted the CP information is available in the Baptist Press articles released with the nominations. The committee did ask that it be allowed to review nomination speech guidelines and be prepared at the February meeting to suggest best practices. The full body approved and anticipates hearing a report at the meeting this week.
- Consider eliminating the Resolutions Committee (underway).
To see a TAB Media Special Report video interview with longtime pastor Ted Traylor and Baptist historian Nathan Finn on the history and pros and cons of SBC resolutions, click here.
- Study conflicts of interest related to legal counsel representing both EC and SBC (reviewed and approved after debate over how Friday, Eldredge & Clark was the firm recommended to do the study because of a connection to then-EC senior vice president Greg Addison).
However, with the resignation of Guenther and Jordan from their role with the EC, The Baptist Paper will need to clarify if the same concerns still exist and/or how this motion is now being carried out. (Update 2-21-22, 4:10 p.m. — the referred motion to study conflicts of interest related to the role of legal counsel between the SBC and the EC remains relevant and will be addressed during the EC meeting tomorrow afternoon, Feb. 22.)
Referred motions still to be considered by the EC are:
- Provide messengers earlier access to the resolutions.
- Address how Resolution Committee members edit/adapt proposed resolutions submitted by messengers (those not originating with the committee).
- Refer to the SBC as the Great Commission Baptist Convention.
- Rename the SBC.
The subcommittee meetings are not public, but the EC plenary sessions will be livestreamed at https://www.sbc.net/feb2022ec/ and three members of TAB Media Group — representing The Baptist Paper and The Alabama Baptist — will be onsite in Nashville to provide full coverage. Follow The Baptist Paper at thebaptistpaper.org and on social media for daily recaps.
Current members of the SBC Executive Committee:
(as of Feb. 20, 2022)
Ex officio members
SBC president — Ed Litton of Saraland, Alabama
Recording secretary — John Yeats of Jefferson City, Missouri
WMU president — Connie Dixon of Elida, New Mexico
State members with term expiring 2022
Alabama — Neal Hughes of Pike Road
Alaska — Todd Burgess of Eagle River
Arkansas — Mollie Duddleston of Springdale
California — Rolland Slade of El Cajon
Florida — Archalena Coats of Homestead
Georgia — Cheryl Samples of Dallas
Georgia — Mike Stone of Blackshear
Iowa — Todd Stiles of Ankeny
Kentucky — John Lucas of Pikeville
Louisiana — Mike Holloway of Eros
Mississippi — Dan Lanier of Meridian
Montana — Caleb Groteluschen of Helena
North Carolina — Christopher Dickerson of Fayetteville
Texas — Jim Green of Houston
Utah-Idaho — James Gregory of Mountain Home
Virginia — Timothy Hight of Christiansburg
State members with term expiring 2023
Arkansas — Harry “Archie” Mason of Jonesboro
California — Jae Min Lee of Lafayette
California — Richard Spring of Hesperia
Hawaii — Alan Krober of Mililani
Kentucky — Charles Frazier of Benton
Louisiana — Philip Robertson of Pineville
Minnesota-Wisconsin — Guy Fredrick of Sheboygan
New Mexico — Abbot “Jay” McCollum of Gallup
North Carolina — Joe Knott of Raleigh
Oklahoma — Micah Nix of Skiatook
Oklahoma — Dave Bryan of Mustang
South Carolina — Dwight Easler of Gaffney
Texas — Jared Wellman of Odessa
State members with term expiring 2024
Dakotas — Joshua Bonner of Rapid City
Florida — Dean Inserra of Tallahassee
Florida — Erik Cummings of Miami
Georgia — Jeremy Morton of Woodstock
Kentucky — Nick Sandefur of Nicholasville
Louisiana — Carolyn Fountain of Monroe
Maryland-Delaware-DC — Harold Phillips of Port Deposit, Maryland
Michigan — Nancy Spalding of Grosse Pointe Woods
Mississippi — Brian Cloys of Pearl
Missouri — Daniel Carr of St. Louis
Nevada — Hoyt Savage of Las Vegas
Northwest — John Batts of Mount Vernon
Ohio — Mark Stinson of Cambridge
Oklahoma — Mike Keahbone of Lawton
South Carolina — David Sons of Lexington
Tennessee — Stacy Bramlett of Collierville
Wyoming — Ed Tharp of Casper
State members with term expiring 2025
Alabama — Tim Cox of Chelsea
Florida — Jeffrey Robinson of West Palm Beach
Georgia — Ann Watts of Sharpsburg
Illinois — Sharon Carty of Carlinville
Illinois — Adron Robinson of Country Club Hills
Indiana — Andrew Hunt of Indianapolis
Kentucky — Marcella Crenshaw of Bardstown
Mississippi — Adam Wyatt of Magee
Missouri — Monte Shinkle of Jefferson City
New England — John “Jay” Ridenour III of Sudbury, Maine
New York — Richard Wilburn of Tupper Lake
North Carolina — Lawrence Yoo of Chapel Hill
North Carolina — Pam Reed of Winston Salem
Oklahoma — LaTricia Watson of Tulsa
Tennessee — Ted Murphy of Nashville
Texas — Chris DuPree of Edinburg
Virginia — Allen McFarland of Portsmouth
West Virginia — Michael Farmer of Charleston
EC member resignations from 2021
Members of the SBC Executive Committee who resigned in September or October 2021 related to the attorney-client privilege debate:
Ricardo Avila of Georgia
Mark Elliott of Kansas–Nebraska
James Freeman of Missouri
Chad Garrison of Arizona
Melissa Golden of Alabama
Kim Grueser of Pennsylvania
Ron Hale of Tennessee
Robyn Hari of Tennessee*
Paul Hicks of Alabama
Phyllis Ingram of Alabama
Rod Martin of Florida
Gene McPherson of Arkansas
Barbara Norris of Texas
Rob Showers of Virginia*
Stephen Swofford of Texas
Chuck Williams of Tennessee.
*Prior to their resignations, Showers served as chair of the Committee on Missions and Ministry, and Hari served as chair of the Committee on Convention Finances and Stewardship Development.
Two other vacant seats:
An unrelated resignation occurred in June — Modena Henderson of North Carolina — and Bob Neely of South Carolina had not resigned but died in November.
To read more about the SBC EC and hear from EC chairman Rolland Slade, click here.