The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee trustees approved a readjusted operating budget for the 2023–24 fiscal year and dealt with a variety of heavy topics during their Sept. 19 morning meeting in Nashville. The most sensitive discussions — updates related to legal issues, the Credentials Committee and personnel — took place in executive session.
EC chair Philip Robertson reported a basic summary out of the executive session, including that the anticipated incoming interim Dan Summerlin withdrew his name from consideration and that current interim president Jonathan Howe will remain in the position for now. Also, Brandon Porter will continue as acting vice president of communications during this time as well.
Robertson also shared that the EC members heard the results of the internal investigation into Willie McLaurin’s hiring and departure as interim president after it was discovered he had falsified his educational background on his resumé.
A confidential separation agreement has been approved between the EC and McLaurin, and the EC does not plan to pursue any legal action against McLaurin, Robertson noted.
Enhanced due diligence in hiring
Some of the recommendations approved so far during the meeting include a new member code of conduct, adapting bylaw voting requirements related to electing EC board officers and implementing an enhanced level of vetting prospective hires at the director level or above, including interims.
The new code of conduct includes a list of requirements such as “the members’ social media posts should not reflect negatively” on the SBC EC.
The readjusted $8,305,500 EC and SBC operating budget proposal approved during the meeting is the same bottomline number approved in February but line items were adapted to cover rising costs related to the SBC Annual Meeting and to decrease the amount being pulled from the EC reserves, which sits at a little more than $4 million currently.
Staff cuts announced last week provided the majority of money freed up to make the adjustments, but the work to determine a sustainable budget continues, reported Adam Wyatt, chair of the finance and stewardship committee, acknowledging the possible sale of the building is being discussed with the other entities who co-own it as well as a potential listing agent.
Still, “it’s the only asset we have,” Wyatt said, noting they want to proceed carefully.
EC trustees also approved the reviews of the 2022–2023 third quarter budget reports and entity fundraising efforts that extend beyond the Cooperative Program, such as individual donor solicitations.
The Executive Committee also voted to:
— approve a referral to create a work group to study how best to be missional and cooperative with existing and ongoing work while hosting the 2027 SBC Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City.
— decline a referral to hold the 2028 SBC Annual Meeting in Maui because the 2028 is already set for Indianapolis “and because the island does not have a convention center sufficient to host, and because logistics and timing are prohibitive,” reported Carolyn Fountain, chair of the convention events and strategic planning committee.
— decline a referral on providing timely trustee training. Because SBC entities and seminaries are autonomous, the committee on Southern Baptist Relations recommended, the EC voted to decline to facilitate in-person trustee training, but instead work with entities to provide documents on the responsibilities of trustees before their installation.
— decline the request that the EC study how churches can work together for the cause of the Great Commission. The Committee on Southern Baptist Relations, noted churches are autonomous, and since 1845, “have been tasked with the propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth, therefore the SBC Executive Committee declines to study additional ways for churches to work together and instead encourage churches to deepen their current commitment until the day of our Lord’s return.”
In related news
The 2023 SBC Annual is still in the production phase and was delayed because of staffing and officer changes this year, according to EC staff members. They anticipate the annual to be released within the coming weeks, which will provide the full set of financials for each of the entities as well as the EC.