Word has started circulating that Jared Wellman will be the search committee’s recommendation on Monday as our new Executive Committee President. Wellman demonstrated great courage when former leaders at the EC tried to bully him into silence. He is a young man of godliness, character, conviction, denominational loyalty, and integrity. He is exactly the kind of younger SBC leader this convention needs for the future.
I am a Jared Wellman fan.
However, I have some reservations about the process. We have a large African American fellowship in the SBC and we have been telling them that if there is a qualified, available leader for an entity leader position, he would be considered. That’s what we have been told. When there was such a turnover a few years ago, when five of our entities had vacancies at the same time, we were told that there just were not any minority candidates who were ready to fill those positions. Some were close, but not quite ready. The minorities in the SBC were hurt, but remarkably patient.
I know that one of the entities came down to a choice between an African American and a white man. The white man was chosen and it had nothing to do with skin color. The African American was perceived as too theologically Reformed and this entity did not want that. The man that was hired turned out to be a brilliant choice.
I learned from that situation that my instincts are not always right and I should not seek to impose my wisdom on the search committees. That doesn’t mean we Southern Baptists cannot ask questions.
The EC situation is problematic because it is hard to argue that the man who has been the leader there since Ronnie Floyd’s resignation nearly 2 years ago, Willie McLaurin, an African American, isn’t qualified. He is a long-time pastor, state convention leader, and has evidenced competence in leading the convention through these days after the tumult of the Ronnie Floyd era.
I am in a bit of a quandary. I love Jared Wellman and when his name was circulated, my initial reaction was joy. I really do think the world of Jared. However, what are we going to say to the minorities in the SBC?
- How can we look our minority brothers and sisters in the eye and tell them they are equal partners in SBC life when we continue to ignore qualified and competent candidates of color to hire white men?
- Are we prepared for the hurt and pain that this hire is going to cause in minority communities in the SBC? Again, I say this as a card-carrying member of the Jared Wellman fan club.
- Can we really say that we are color-blind, that the ground is level, and that people of color have a chance when a qualified candidate is passed over like this?
If Jared is indeed the choice and is elected, I believe he will do a great job for many years to come. However, there will be fallout in the minority communities. We cannot continue to ask them to participate and yet exclude them from positions of influence.
I am left to ponder one question: If not now, when?