A month after Willie McLaurin, the leading candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Executive Committee, resigned upon the discovery that he lied about his background on his resume, the committee continues to struggle to find a leader.
Recently retired Kentucky Pastor Dan Summerlin, the person lined up to be the next interim president, withdrew his name the day after he was announced. The team hopes to present a candidate at the EC’s February 2024 meeting.
Committee trustee Chair Philip Robertson admits it has been a difficult 30 days.
"Disappointment is the keyword, I think, for all of us," he says. "Willie was very well liked across the convention."
During its recent two-day meeting in Nashville, the committee voted to break ties with Matoaka Baptist Church in Ochelata, Oklahoma.
"This particular church was recommended for disfellowship based on the ethnic discrimination that this church was not willing to effectively and adequately deal with," Robertson laments.
He adds that finances continue to be a concern. Within two years, the reserves of the Executive Committee have been depleted by almost $10 million, due mostly to one-time legal fees related to the sex abuse investigation.
Specifically, the committee has spent down its operating reserves from $13 million to $4 million in the last two years, according to Jonathan Howe, the current interim president who was to be replaced but now will stay on.
Robertson says it is important for the committee to find a way to support the denomination's core tasks of evangelism and missions.
"We're working very hard to look at the options and the considerations that are necessary to continue funding these very important initiatives," he tells AFN.
The committee also took time to develop a new code of conduct.
Despite the headwinds of late, Robertson remains optimistic about the future of the Executive Committee and the SBC in general.
"These are critical and complex times for the Executive Committee, but when you look at the big picture, clearly God's doing an incredible work in the Southern Baptist Convention," the committee chairman asserts.
According to the SBC, the Executive Committee does not control or direct the activities of convention agencies; it reviews their financial statements and recommends the convention's annual operating budget. In addition, it receives and distributes the monies Southern Baptists give in support of denominational ministries, acts as the recipient and trust agency for all convention properties, and provides public relations and news services.