The situation with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee playing out before a watching world demonstrates multiple and varied levels of concerns and questions.
Following the conversations on Twitter and other social media platforms can be a bit overwhelming, but the team at TAB Media Group and other media outlets are attempting to sift through all the content and summarize the main points as well as provide background and context when helpful.
For instance, a March article in The Alabama Baptist provides a basic overview of the Executive Committee’s makeup and ministry assignment (even though some of the people mentioned in the article have since rotated off the board). And a June article summarizes the action by the messengers during the annual meeting in Nashville.
The ERLC connection
Yesterday, Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector released an article that delves into a growing conversation connecting previous concerns with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to the current discussions surrounding the SBC Executive Committee.
Executive Committee member David Sons of South Carolina also addressed the ERLC concern on Twitter with this question:
“How could the @SBCExecComm use ‘fiduciary responsibility’ to protect CP funds as the basis for investigating the @ERLC two years ago and now use the same ‘fiduciary responsibility’ as the basis for not fully cooperating with the investigation of the @SBCExecComm, that as a result is directly threatening CP funds?”
Alabama pastor Daniel Atkins also posted about the ERLC situation on Twitter:
“Y’all remember when @drmoore was gonna cost the SBC millions because giving was going to go down?”
Responding to the Executive Committee
Related specifically to yesterday’s discussion by Executive Committee members, responses surfaced from a variety of leaders and groups.
“We ask all Southern Baptists to join us in praying that seven days from now we will finally have a Task Force and Executive Committee Board of Trustees united not only in its commitment to address concerns related to sexual abuse (through the independent review) but also confident in a process that complies with the will of the messengers and is attentive to all other fiduciary and legal considerations. We pray Southern Baptists will see this grueling and deliberative process as necessary, and in accordance with the Convention’s bylaws, as the Board of Trustees, Task Force and Executive Committee leadership all work diligently, prayerfully and as expeditiously as possible to do the right thing in the right way. We are all in this together.” —Spokesperson for the Executive Committee
“After failing to reach an agreement during the previous seven-day extension, I am grieved the Executive Committee determined yet more time is needed before honoring the clear will of the messengers with regard to attorney-client privilege. As Task Force Chairman Bruce Frank made clear today, there is no question about whether the investigation will take place. The only question that remains is whether the Executive Committee will pledge its full support and cooperation to this process by adhering to the messengers’ direction. I remain prayerful that the Executive Committee will ultimately choose to take the necessary step of waiving attorney-client privilege and demonstrate that its commitment to full cooperation is more than mere words.” —Ed Litton, President of the Southern Baptist Convention
Seminary presidents speak out
Adam W. Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a lengthy Twitter statement, acknowledged that he had “refrained from commenting” in matters not directly related to his institution, but that the “increasing calls” he is hearing relative to “defunding” the Cooperative Program grieve and alarm him. … “Now here we are, 100 days later, w/out a successful resolution and w/ what can only be described as embarrassing displays by the @SBCExecComm in meetings before the watching eyes of SBC’ers and more. From my vantage point, the present situation is inexcusable and unacceptable. … I take no joy in typing these words tonight. As a dyed-in-the-wool SBC’er, I’m committed to our identity wrapped around the BFM and @SBCCP. But so much of that is now in jeopardy. It is clear to me that the way forward will require both hard choices and difficult decisions. I believe there is a crisis of confidence facing the @SBCExecComm right now. There must be a path that will clearly and unambiguously fulfill the direction of the messengers. But it seems something must give. No more deferrals/delays. Let’s get this right and get it done.”
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, immediately following the vote against the Wellman motion, “The EC just voted 39–35 against waiving attorney/client privilege and rejecting the will of the Convention. This is beyond disappointing and potentially damaging to the trust essential to the SBC.”
Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote via Twitter:
“Like other entity leaders, I have been reluctant to address the situation over the sexual abuse task force and the executive committee. But this has devolved into a full-blown crisis and I urge the @SBCExecComm to follow the clear directive of the messengers of the #SBC21.
“(1) It is the right thing to do with regard to the survivor community, (2) it was clearly mandated by the messengers, and (3) anything short of full compliance with that mandate will destroy the polity that makes our collective work possible.
“Historically, there is a precedent for this. In the early 2000’s our convention debated the issue of sole membership. Because of the unique legal structures of Louisiana, the @NOBTS board of trustees and our legal counsel had great concern over making this move.
“Yet, after the messengers voted in 2005 directing us to comply, our administration yielded to the will of the messengers and complied with their mandate, despite the concerns of our legal counsel. It was what was best for our convention then.
“It is what is best for our convention now. Therefore, with the 15,000 messengers of the #SBC21, I want to urge the @SBCExecComm to do the right thing now and follow the directive of the messengers.”
Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, also shared his response on Twitter:
“As the SBC Executive Committee deals with issues related to the convention-mandated investigation into its handling of sexual abuse, two things are clear. First, the messengers intended a full investigation of the EC on these matters. Second, trust is eroding every day that investigation is hindered. Despite the significant legal issues being debated, the EC must find a way to fulfill the directive of the convention — without further delay.”
And Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued the following “Statement on Sexual Abuse Task Force and current SBC challenges” on Twitter:
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he shared the same sentiment as Mohler and expressed his prayer support to the EC through Twitter. “Let’s get this right — and fast,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary step for an SBC leader to speak publicly about matters before other SBC ministries, but these are not ordinary times.”
Allen also shared about the current issues at the conclusion of this morning’s (Sept. 29) chapel service on campus. A video of what he shared is available here.
Some state conventions are also weighing in on the matter as well. In a Resolution on Cooperative Partnership and the SBC Executive Committee, adopted Sept. 28, the Baptist State Convention of Michigan affirmed the motion passed at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the SBC, calling on a third-party investigation into how the SBC EC handled sexual abuse claims, and called on the EC to abide by the terms of the motion, including the waiving of attorney-client privilege.
Outspoken survivors of abuse within the denomination also had plenty to say following the Sept. 28 meeting. Survivor Jennifer Lyell tweeted: “I’m thankful that pastors and leaders are upset at aspects of @SBCExecComm’s response to the abuse investigation. But, don’t miss the reality — you saw key leaders when live-streamed and under a directive from the SBC. Imagine my experiences alone trying to get them to stop harming me.”
Final hours for decision to be made
Bruce Frank, chair of the Sexual Abuse Task Force, said to Executive Committee members during the final hour of the meeting last night that he is open to more negotiations but not seven days. He is willing to talk through end of day Friday, Oct. 1, and reminded the Executive Committee that he doesn’t need their permission to move forward.
The Task Force’s assignment is from the messengers, he noted. To read the Task Force response to yesterday’s meeting, click here. To read the letter the Task Force sent to Executive Committee members a few hours before yesterday’s meeting and learn more about their process and the information they presented to the EC, click here.