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SBC Exec Committee Leader Resigns Amid Division Over Sex Abuse Investigation

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, delivers the executive committee report during the annual denomination's annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. last June. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Ronnie Floyd, a former pastor and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, has resigned his post with the denomination amid division over its handling of an investigation into 20 years of sexual abuse allegations.

He announced his departure in a letter sent to executive committee members Thursday.

Floyd, elected as head of the committee in 2019, cited potential damage to his reputation, should he remain in SBC leadership. His exit comes on the heels of a vote to waive attorney-client privilege in an investigation into denominational leaders’ handling of sexual abuse claims. Floyd opposed the decision.

“In the midst of multiple challenges facing the SBC, I was asked to come here because of my proven personal integrity, reputation, and leadership,” he wrote. “What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role.”

“Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me,” the letter continued, “I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC.”

After several weeks of debate, the executive committee voted 44-31 on Oct. 5 to allow the third-party investigative group, Guidepost Solutions, to analyze privileged correspondence between committee members, staff, and attorneys.

At the time — and throughout the deliberation — Floyd argued waiving privilege would expose protected assets of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

In his letter, the former pastor wrote: “There was a way it could have been done that fulfilled these desires without creating these potential risks relating to the convention’s liability.” Waiving privilege, he added, places “our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented, and uncharted waters.”

Floyd called the decision “unacceptable” and warned more SBC laypeople would resign in the coming days.

“Sadly, even some of our laypeople who are serving as our trustees had to submit their resignation because their profession will not permit them to serve any longer due to these risks that now exist,” he wrote. “Others will have to do the same also. This is unacceptable and should concern every Baptist layperson. The SBC entities need more laypersons, not less, who bring their professional expertise in law, finance, and other disciplines to us.”

On Oct. 11, attorneys James Guenther and James Jordan — both of whom serve as the SBC’s general counsel — resigned, arguing in a letter to Floyd that maintaining local church autonomy protects the denomination legally. They suggested committee members waived privilege without truly understanding the impact such a move could have on the denomination.

“The attorney-client privilege has been portrayed by some as an evil device by which misconduct is somehow allowed to be secreted so wrongdoers can escape justice and defeat the legal rights of others,” the lawyers wrote. “That could not be further from the truth.”

For his part, Floyd repeated his disdain for the sexual abuse claims against the SBC.

He said he cares “deeply about the protection of all people,” writing, “One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about ‘the system.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”

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