William McLaurin became the first African American to lead a Southern Baptist Convention entity when he was named SBC Executive Committee interim president/CEO effective this morning (Feb. 1). The news, which was expected to be announced during the EC’s upcoming Feb. 21–22 meeting in Nashville, was reported by Baptist Press.
McLaurin, who has served as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization for the EC since January 2020, fills the position left vacant by Ronnie Floyd, who announced his decision to step down in October 2021. Floyd’s announcement came a few months following the SBC’s annual meeting in Nashville, when messengers approved a Sexual Abuse Task Force to pursue an independent investigation into allegations the Executive Committee mishandled reports of sexual abuse, and after the EC voted to waive attorney-client privilege in the review process.
Rolland Slade, EC chairman, said he hopes McLaurin can “help reset the tone by which the EC serves Southern Baptists.”
McLaurin served at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board for 15 years before joining the EC staff. Before that, he was executive pastor at Greater Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. He also previously served as pastor of Greater Hope Baptist Church in Union City, Tennessee, and several other churches.
“I am humbled and honored to be selected and wholly dependent on the Lord to carry out His will in this time of transition,” McLaurin said in a statement released by the EC. “I desire to carry out the daily duties as needed for the cooperation of this convention of churches, and I am dedicated to doing that as a servant leader … [guiding] our staff team of dedicated professionals.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us as we plan for the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, as we continue to cooperate with the Sexual Abuse Task Force investigation, and as we prepare for the upcoming EC meeting later this month where I will address the committee and the SBC,” he said.
“In the meantime, our team at the EC is committed to serve Southern Baptists and serve them well. We seek to serve churches by fulfilling the ministry assignments given to us by the convention over the years. Each one of those assignments starts with the words ‘assist churches,’ and that’s what we will continue to do in a posture of listening and learning. And when we listen well and we learn well, we earn the right to lead.
“As I begin this role as interim of the SBC Executive Committee, I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 where he gave the mandate that His disciples reach out to our neighbors and nations. The last words of Jesus should be the first priority of our convention.”
Road to selecting an interim
This latest news regarding the SBC Executive Committee follows the resignation of Jeff Pearson, chief financial officer of the EC, who announced his decision last week, effective Feb. 15. Pearson was one of three EC vice presidents up for the interim president role, according to news reports in early January.
According to the SBC EC bylaws in Article VI, Committees, The Officers of the Board, 6.2.3 Duties, item g:
“The Officers of the Board may, pending action by the board of trustees, designate a vice president to act as interim president or as president pro-tem, subject to any restrictions which might be imposed, in the event of the death or resignation of the president, or in the event the president is unable to perform the duties of the office because of physical or mental impairment.”
McLaurin’s pastoral experience was one of the key reasons he was selected for his new role, Slade shared with Baptist Press. A key part, he added, will involve connecting with “messengers and churches of all sizes throughout the SBC” and letting them “know that they are seen, heard and appreciated.”
‘Need to … pull together’
“Immediately before us is the challenge to regain the sense of trust of Southern Baptists,” Slade said. “Regaining that trust includes focusing on relationships within and well as outside of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“That has been the assignment [McLaurin] has carried [during his time] at the EC. It is also an assignment he carried for more than 15 years on behalf of the Tennessee Mission Board while serving as their associate executive director.”
SBC President Ed Litton tweeted, “An exemplary choice! @williemclaurin is a faithful and distinguished leader. He will serve our @SBCExecComm well by leading with excellence and a Great Commission focus.”
McLaurin spoke about unity in the SBC during the Midwest Leadership Summit, which was held Jan. 18–20 in Springfield, Illinois. Focusing his message on Acts 1–2, McLaurin said Southern Baptists “need to get on the same side of the rope and pull together,” the Illinois Baptist reported.
Listing a variety of differences among Southern Baptists — including theology, ethnicity and politics — McLaurin told the crowd, “There is not one problem the church has that soulwinning cannot solve. … Any way you slice it, we are Great Commission Baptists, because we are better together.”
This story has been edited since it was first posted earlier today (Feb. 1).