June 30, 2020
By Margaret Colson
The Alabama Baptist
Recent accusations of procedural and ethical improprieties within the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee have resulted in numerous back-and-forth statements over a number of days from individuals and groups within the denomination.
A June 24 blog post by EC member Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, set off the flurry of statements and counter statements. In his blog post on the SBC Voices website, Wellman outlines his concern with how new EC leaders were nominated and elected during the June 16 EC meeting and the fact that four of those new leaders also sit on the steering council of the newly organized Conservative Baptist Network.
He described serving both organizations in leadership positions concurrently a “conflict of interest,” whether done intentionally or unintentionally. Wellman called on the four leaders to resign their EC leadership positions.
The EC is a standing committee of the SBC, acting for the Convention on an “ad interim” basis between the Convention’s annual meetings. EC members are elected by messengers to the SBC annual meetings. The Conservative Baptist Network, an independent organization, was formed in February 2020 “to cultivate the momentum needed for a course correction” in the SBC, according to a press release issued by the organization.
EC says no impropriety
In response to Wellman’s post, the EC released a June 26 statement explaining that its members held a conference call June 25 to discuss Wellman’s accusations. After full discussion, EC members determined by poll there was no impropriety in the nomination and election of the EC officers.
Also released on June 26 was a written apology from newly elected EC chairman Rolland Slade and and a written acceptance of that apology from outgoing EC chairman Mike Stone.
Other EC members offered public denials of any conflict of interest for the four newly elected EC officers to serve concurrently on the steering council of the Network. On June 26, Alabama Baptist Chuck Kelley, president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, in an exclusive interview with The Alabama Baptist, described the potential of a conflict of interest as “outlandish.” Kelley serves on the Network’s steering council.
EC officer Rod Martin of Florida, who also serves on the Network’s steering council, agreed that serving in leadership roles for the two organizations simultaneously posed no conflict of interest. “I cannot imagine how groups of Baptists acting together to advance the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the gospel and the Cooperative Program could possibly be in conflict with the work of our SBC,” Martin told The Alabama Baptist.
On June 27, SBC Voices, the blog site where Wellman published his concerns, acknowledged the EC statement and responded, “Our article included an important perspective on a public meeting with concerns about the CBN steering council’s relationship on the EC. In addition, we remind you that the statement from BP is essentially a statement from the EC officers themselves asserting they did nothing wrong. We stand by what we published.”
Stone expresses regret, addresses rationale
On June 30 Stone released another statement to The Christian Index, in his home state of Georgia. In that statement, Stone made three primary points. As outgoing chairman of the EC, Stone said that he had the “duty to nominate the chairpersons of what are essentially subcommittees.”
Stone explained that just prior to the June 16 elections, EC leaders rejected a “concerted effort to change the bylaws to give nomination rights to someone else.”
Two, Stone expressed regret for “any confusion created” regarding the timing of the election of new EC officers who are also Network steering council members. Members of the Network’s steering council were publicly announced on June 17, the day after the EC officers were elected.
Three, he described the Network as “pro-SBC and pro-Cooperative Program.”
The Network, he said, “does not exist to stand outside the SBC and lob rocks. Rather, it stands within the SBC to reach out to those who are quietly disinvesting and disengaging.”
Read more about the history of the Conservative Baptist Network and this ongoing debate in these articles: