More Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee members resign — new leadership announced

Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention cast votes on a resolution. Photo taken during SBC 2013.
Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention cast votes on a resolution. Photo taken during SBC 2013. | Courtesy of Baptist Press/Thomas Graham

Another member of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee has resigned and new leadership has been appointed after committee members voted to waive attorney-client privilege as part of an investigation into the leadership's handling of sexual abuse claims against autonomous churches.

On Thursday — weeks after the SBC Executive Committee voted 44-31 to allow ​​Guidepost Solutions to review privileged communications between committee members, staff and lawyers — the committee held a closed, special meeting of the trustees to “update legal, audit and personnel matters,” Rolland Slade, chairman of SBC Executive Committee and pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, announced. 

In a statement to reporters following the meeting, Slade announced the results of the executive session. 

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“As the EC moves forward, we will be without another member, James Freeman, as he has submitted his resignation,” Slade said. “We want to thank him and the other members who have resigned over the past month for their service to Southern Baptists. In light of previous officer resignations and the openings created, Archie Mason and Andrew Hunt now will chair the Convention Finances & Stewardship and Convention Missions & Ministry committees, respectively. Both of these gentlemen are godly pastors and will represent Southern Baptists well in their new roles."

The meeting was held just days before Ronnie Floyd — who resigned as head of the committee in October — and Executive Vice President Greg Addison are scheduled to leave their posts on Oct. 31, Baptist Press reported

In his statement, Slade thanked Floyd for his work at the Executive Committee, applauding his "tremendous ministry to Southern Baptists for years."

“Today the SBC Executive Committee held its final meeting with current EC President Ronnie Floyd. On behalf of the members of the committee, I would like to thank President Floyd for his work at the EC. He’s had a tremendous ministry to Southern Baptists for years. We know he loves the Southern Baptist Convention, and we wish him well in the future — wherever God may lead him to serve.”

Floyd had been among those opposed to waiving attorney-client privilege, warning that doing so could open the SBC to lawsuits and financial ruin. In announcing his resignation, Floyd specifically cited the committee's decision to waive privilege as the key reason for his departure. At least 14 trustees have also since resigned.

Guenther, Jordan and Price, the longtime legal counsel for the convention, also informed the board on Oct. 11 of their resignation over the trustees' decision to waive attorney-client privilege. The group had represented the EC since 1966.

Regarding legal representation, Slade announced Thursday that the Executive Committee has “finalized a limited scope arrangement with Guenther, Jordan and Price while we conduct our search for new legal counsel.”

“More details will be released in the coming days regarding the search, but we are grateful for the continued partnership we have with Jim Guenther — our Convention attorney of 56 years,” he said. 

Slade added that the Executive Committee has also secured the services with the national law firm, Bradley, to “specifically assist in the legal aspects related to the ongoing independent third-party investigation by Guidepost Solutions.”

“Please continue to pray for the members of the SBC Executive Committee, the staff, and all involved in these important matters,” Slade concluded.

On Wednesday, a copy of the resignation letter from Rod D. Martin, a prominent member of the Executive Committee, was made available to The Christian Post. In it, Martin said the committee’s decision to “deliberately ... breach its legal and fiduciary duties poses an unacceptable risk to those entities which they and I serve.” The reason for his resignation, he explained, was because of the legal threat this action posed to others to whom he owes a fiduciary responsibility. 

Though stressing he supports the third-party investigation into the SBC prompted by a 2019 report from the Houston Chronicle that documented hundreds of alleged abuse cases in Southern Baptist churches over decades, Martin condemned the “specific course chosen.”

“The SBC is in grave danger,” he warned. “We will have to do Herculean things to save it. And we must: we educate a third of the seminary students in America and field the largest missionary force in the world. We cannot allow this enormous force for good to be destroyed, whether by vile, wicked sex abusers who’ve violated the ultimate trust, or by foolish, self-serving leaders who’ve exposed the church to needless danger. We can punish the guilty while saving our churches and our Convention. We must.”

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