Southern Baptist leader quits amid divisions about sex abuse

An administrator at the Southern Baptist Convention is resigning amid internal divisions about how to handle an investigation into sexual abuse response by the SBC. This decision underscores the ongoing turmoil within the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

Southern Baptist leader quits amid divisions about sex abuse

Ronnie Floyd, President and CEO of SBC's Executive Committee announced his resignation Thursday in a critical statement about recent decisions regarding the third-party review currently underway. An investigation firm is investigating allegations that the Executive Committee mishandled survivors' abuse reports.

Floyd said Floyd will be leaving the organization at the end the month. He stated that Floyd is leaving due to his personal integrity and because he cannot fulfill the leadership responsibility of the SBC's executive, fiscal and fiduciary entities.

The Executive Committee split voted to waive attorney-client privilege on Oct. 5. They also agreed to give legal records to investigators. Multiple meetings and increasing pressure from all sides of the convention led to the vote in favor of the waiver.

The waiver of attorney-client privilege was advocated by the Southern Baptist delegates who initiated the third-party review. Opponents claimed it was risky financially and could lead to insurance policy cancellations.

Floyd stated that the Executive Committee was committed for the review but that it could have been done without creating potential risks related to the Convention's liabilities.

Floyd, a long-serving pastor from Arkansas who was elected president of the Executive Committee in 2019, isn't the only one to have resigned. Many members of the Executive Committee have resigned, and the long-standing law firm representing the body cut all ties with it, citing the decision not to waive privilege.

This is the latest tension in the convention's ongoing reckoning on a sex abuse controversy that was brought to the forefront by a 2019 Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News Report that documented hundreds more cases of abuse in Southern Baptist church churches. Several of the alleged perpetrators were still in ministry.

Ed Litton, President of the SBC, stated that "the last few weeks have been difficult and trying for our convention." "While I was pleased with the outcome of last week’s Executive Committee meeting," said Ed Litton. "I regret that Dr. Floyd, and other trustees, feel that this has put them in a position that they cannot continue to serve their current capacities."

The controversy surrounding the response to sex abuse is just one of many issues that have been causing controversy within the conservative evangelical denomination. This denomination has seen years of declining membership and some high-profile departures. Recent years have seen tensions flare over issues such as critical race theory, the leadership of women in the church, and partisan politics.

"What we see in the Southern Baptist Convention reflects and magnifies the tumultuous culture," stated Ed Stetzer (a Southern Baptist minister and executive director at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center).

Stetzer stated that the SBC has been at war for as long as he's known it. Litton was elected president of the SBC in June. This temporarily stopped an attempt to push the convention further to the right, but angered critics who still hate him.

Stetzer believes that the SBC must fix its problems, and then concentrate on the mission of the gospel that unites it.

Stetzer stated that "The SBC is at an important fork in its road" and that the decision on who the SBC will consist of is going to be made in the coming months and years.

As its members struggled to manage the investigation, the Executive Committee became a hot topic. Guidepost Solutions is conducting the third-party review, which will be funded by the Executive Committee. It will also overseen by a new Southern Baptist task force on sexual abuse.

Adam Greenway, president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, stated that the reputation of the Executive Committee has been damaged by this ordeal. He was one of the Southern Baptists who called on the committee for the third-party review to be completed immediately.

Greenway stated that the committee should function "like a sound technician in your church," which means you shouldn't hear or speak about it, unless it's doing its job properly.

When the SBC's two-day national conference is over, the committee acts for it. Greenway stated that the committee is not intended to be the face and voice of the decentralized denomination. The leadership of the committee should view its role as supporting the convention and its over 40,000 churches.

Dean Inserra, an executive committee member and a Florida pastor who supported attorney-client confidentiality, stated that he wished Floyd had completed the assignment given to him by the delegate.

Inserra, a member of the new committee, said that it was "just really sad just to witness the state of affairs." "The good news? I believe culture change is happening and is coming. "I am actually optimistic."

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, a megachurch of the SBC, expressed concern that the turmoil might not affect the churches that give the denomination its strength. He expressed concern.

Jeffress stated via email that Floyd's departure and the other Executive Committee members "doesn't portend well for our denomination’s future." "A house divided against it cannot stand, as Jesus said."

Christa Brown, a victim of church sexual abuse and a long-time critic of the SBC’s response to sexual abuse, stated that Floyd's resignation was something to be celebrated, but that the work of pushing for institutional reforms will continue.

Brown stated that a systemic treatment for the institution's problems will be difficult and require sacrifice. "But, if the SBC ends up having to sell almost all of its assets to provide reparations and restitution for those it has so grievously injured, this would be for the best."

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