The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee announced Wednesday (Sept. 13) that it has cut five positions and two contractor positions, trimming the already lean staff down to 21 full-time positions.
Jonathan Howe, EC interim president, said those impacted by the layoffs were notified Wednesday morning.
“Over the past few weeks, our current leadership and officers met at length to determine various ways to most effectively steward the resources provided to us by Southern Baptist churches,” Howe said in a statement. “As a result, our financial realities have led to an organizational restructuring and the reduction of staff and operational expenses.”
The announcement comes amid growing concerns about the SBC Executive Committee’s financial stability and just days before next week’s regularly scheduled meeting in Nashville (Sept. 18–19). During that meeting, the EC will consider the proposed 2023–2024 SBC EC and SBC operating budget.
During its February meeting, SBC Executive Committee members learned more than $6 million of the group’s investments were spent in 2022. A year prior, financial reports indicated the EC had $15 million in investments. A little under $3 million of those were designated as restricted, leaving around $12.2 million available for use.
“The assets have been cut in half,” EC member Monte Shinkle of Missouri said at the February 2023 meeting. “We dropped $6 million this past year. We have $6 million left. … It doesn’t look good.”
Mike Bianchi, interim chief financial officer, also noted the EC received an unqualified opinion —which is considered good — on its 2022 audit report, but the auditors emphasized “the sexual abuse issues, the DOJ investigation and the deteriorating liability of the EC” as concerns.
The current pace is “unsustainable,” Bianchi said, noting options such as liquidating assets (including the EC building), changing financial arrangements, obtaining other financing, etc., were discussed with the auditors.
At the time Willie McLaurin, former EC interim president and CEO who stepped down Aug. 17, added, “Everything is on the table in terms of how we are going to maintain and move forward. We are monitoring … on a daily basis (and) believe God has given us a plan to maintain as much vitality as we can … (while) making the best decision that will benefit all Southern Baptists.”
Other items to be addressed
EC members will hear a report next week on the internal investigation into McLaurin’s sudden resignation, announced after he admitted to falsifying information on his resume. At the time, McLaurin was the frontrunner in the search for a new president. Details regarding the investigation that can be released publicly will be shared during the plenary session, while other details will be discussed in executive session.
The EC announced Tuesday it will welcome 13 new EC board members during the meeting. Among the referrals from the annual meeting to be addressed will include the “viability of future annual meeting locations, protocols of EC staffing and the availability of timely training for EC trustees.”
During the meeting, trustees also are expected to officially elect an interim president and CEO. Howe, who has served the EC since 2019 as vice president for communications, is currently serving in that role.
In other related news, SBC President Bart Barber announced on Wednesday he had named members of the Cooperation Group in response to a motion made during the June SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, will serve as chair. Barber, Kason Branch, SBC second vice president; Don Currence, SBC registration secretary; and Nathan Finn, SBC recording secretary will serve in ex officio roles.
Other members on the 20-member group include:
Victor Chayasirisobhon, executive and co-lead pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim, California.
Jerome Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church Crestmont, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Tara Dew, wife of Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Donna Gaines, wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee.
Matt Henslee, associational missionary, Collins Baptist Association in McKinney, Texas.
Travis Kerns, associational mission strategist, Three Rivers Baptist Association in Taylors, South Carolina.
Richard Land, former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Jonathan Leeman, editorial director at 9Marks, elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.
Jason Paredes, lead pastor, Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.
Gregory Perkins, lead pastor, The View Church in Menifee, California; current president of the National African American Fellowship.
Jim Richards, executive director emeritus, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Juan Sanchez, pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
Andrew Walker, professor of Ethics and Public Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Trevin Wax, vice president of Research & Resource Development at the North American Mission Board.
Tony Wolfe, executive director-treasurer, South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Great Commission Resurgence
Meanwhile, Jay Adkins has been tapped to chair a task force focused on studying the overall effectiveness of the Great Commission Resurgence effort that was adopted by Southern Baptists during their annual meeting in 2010. Adkins is pastor of First Baptist Church Westwego, Louisiana. The task force, announced Wednesday, was formed in response to a motion during the June annual meeting in New Orleans.
Additional members of the committee include the following:
Robin Foster, associational mission strategist, Trinity Baptist Association in Trumann, Arkansas.
Adam Groza, vice president for enrollment and student services, Gateway Seminary.
Luke Holmes, pastor, First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Oklahoma.
Chris Shaffer, assistant professor of theology, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Jeremy Westbrook, executive director/treasurer, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio
Follow The Baptist Paper for full coverage of the SBC Executive Committee meeting Sept. 18–19 in Nashville.