By now it’s not news to readers of Voices that the President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee has resigned. He has reminded us repeatedly of his fiduciary duties to the SBC, and in his resignation letter explained that he can no longer carry out those duties after the October 5th EC vote to waive attorney-client privilege relative to the Sexual Abuse Task Force investigation. You may have also read Rod Martin’s letter of resignation from the EC, in which he writes that “the SBC is in grave danger” due to the EC vote to waive privilege. Floyd believes the SBC is in “uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters.”
Assume they’re both right. How did we get here? They point to the October 5th vote. But what if Floyd failed to lead the EC months ago, and that failure created our fall fiasco? What if he and other EC members were negligent to their fiduciary responsibilities back in June at the annual meeting—long before the EC voted to waive privilege? I believe the facts support precisely those conclusions.
Before I lay out those facts, I want to appeal to those who’ve chosen a side in the SBC tribal wars. To those on one side, don’t cheer this piece simply because it supports the conclusion you want. Test the facts and the argument. To those on the other side, read and evaluate objectively. I believe we can all agree on this assessment, regardless of the outcome we want or other errors we observed along the way. For example…
- You can believe that Gaines and Parrot had ulterior motives or were manipulated by attorneys for abuse survivors into making a Trojan horse motion.
- You can believe that the Russell Moore letter leaks were a sleazy political tactic.
- You can believe that the presiding officer and parliamentarian issued flawed rulings.
- You can believe that messengers should’ve understood the threats created by the motion.
- You can believe that waiving privilege is unfair to EC staff and members.
- You can believe that EC members who voted to waive privilege violated their fiduciary duties.
- You can even believe that a woke, liberal cabal is orchestrating a crafty takeover of the EC and the entire SBC.
You can believe all that and more. I believe some of it myself, and I’m open to believe more! But none of that explains why EC leaders made no attempt to warn 15,000 messengers on the cusp of doing something they believed at the time was perilous. In fact, if you really believe those things are true, that should only reinforce your belief that EC leaders needed to speak up urgently as the situation developed.
Walk with me for a moment through a chronology of events as they unfolded in June. As you do, assume that Floyd and other present or former EC members’ concerns about waiving privilege are valid, or at least sincerely held. You’ll find that Floyd & those EC members perceived severe risks in June, but they never informed or warned the messengers about the implications. As fiduciaries, that means they bear responsibility for any eventual fallout.
June 11th (four days before the annual meeting): The EC (officers and/or staff) hired Guidepost Solutions to review its processes related to accusations of mishandling abused allegations. Under the terms, that investigation would remain under EC oversight. Many of us found that unacceptable.
June 12th: Grant Gaines and Ronnie Parrott announced their intention to move at the annual meeting to place the investigation in the hands of an independent task force, appointed by the SBC president due to be elected during the upcoming meeting.
June 14th morning: The full EC, meeting a day before the SBC annual meeting, declined to consider EC member Jared Wellman’s motion to place the investigation under oversight of a task force independent of the EC. Wellman’s motion specified that the EC would waive attorney-client privilege. At that moment it was clear that waiving privilege would be a priority for those concerned about EC transparency and judgment.
June 14th afternoon (still before the annual meeting began): Gaines & Parrott released the final text of their motion, which explicitly supported the EC waiving attorney-client privilege.
June 15th morning: Gaines made that motion. Gaines says that Ronnie Floyd and EC executive vice president Greg Addison “begged” him and Parrott to remove language about waiving privilege before the motion came before the messengers.
Maybe you don’t trust Gaines? Well, former EC member Rod Martin, a vocal opponent of waiving privilege, confirms Gaines told the truth.
This part is really important: The fact that Floyd begged Gaines and Parrott to alter their wording before messengers deliberated it proves that Floyd perceived almost immediately that waiving privilege would create problems. Once Floyd recognized the peril and knew the motion could come to a messenger vote, he had a fiduciary responsibility to protect the best interests of the Convention.
June 15th morning and afternoon: After Gaines made the motion in the morning session on Tuesday, Floyd took the platform mic at least twice—once for an hour. Floyd easily could’ve devoted a portion of his lengthy EC reports to address concerns with waiving privilege, or to ask EC attorneys to explain the complexities.
June 16th: When the issue came to the floor on Wednesday, EC members (many of whom, as we’re so often reminded, are lawyers) could’ve addressed concerns with waiving privilege. Rod Martin confirms that SBC leaders knew about the perils of waiving privilege while events unfolded at the annual meeting.
Now, Martin may intend to blame J.D. Greear as the presiding officer, but Floyd or convention attorneys could’ve explained those technical legal matters and issued warnings at that time. They said nothing.
Well, that’s not exactly true. In fact, Floyd did speak. But he didn’t breathe a word about unintended consequences. Instead, he said simply this:
“I want all of you to know, I hear you. The Executive Committee respects the messengers. We need this deliberative process. We know that this will make our convention stronger. And that is what I want.”
Do you understand the implications? When Floyd took that mic, he had already begged Gaines and Parrott to remove waiving privilege from their motion. He believed it created peril. And he stood before 15,000 messengers and said about the motion, “We know that this will make our convention stronger.”
SBC polity isn’t designed for messengers to hash out complex legal issues on the floor during the annual meeting. When that happens, something has already gone terribly wrong. Chances are, someone missed a time to lead.
And on those occasions when messengers are poised to act on complex legal issues that could imperil the Convention, leaving messengers to deliberate without counsel from its fiduciaries or its attorneys is both inexplicable and unconscionable.
So if waiving privilege really is as perilous as some claim, why not warn us of those perils during the annual meeting? Floyd never did. SBC attorneys never did. No member of the EC ever did. Martin says he was waiting at a microphone to speak against the motion. I find it cold comfort, if his dire predictions come true, that one man-made one feeble attempt to speak.
I want to underscore this: Numerous EC members and staff, Ronnie Floyd included, believed that waiving privilege was perilous. But not one offered even one word of explanation or warning to messengers at the key moment, despite nearly two hours of meeting time dedicated exclusively to the Executive Committee report. To the contrary, Floyd’s words at the pivotal moment signaled to messengers not merely the absence of danger, but more likely, support and affirmation.
In his resignation letter, Martin tells us five times, “The messengers were not told…” Again, assume he’s right. Why weren’t we told? The messengers were not told because Floyd and other EC leaders didn’t tell us.
So if the SBC loses insurance & we’re crushed by lawsuits & CP contributions are imperiled, they’ll no doubt deflect blame—to Gaines and Parrott, to EC members who supported waiving privilege, and to the messengers themselves. But this isn’t on any of those groups. It’s on EC leaders who knew what was coming and said nothing.
Fiduciary duties, indeed.
Some have asked, “Why didn’t they speak out?” I’m in no position to say for sure. But Lori Frank, whose husband chairs the Sexual Abuse Task Force, offered this explanation:
“There seemed to be an assumption by leadership from the beginning of the process that [EC leaders] could control the outcome according to their will. And plans were orchestrated to manipulate others into complying.”
I have no alternate theory that better fits the facts. These pesky, incriminating facts.
This is my plea: Whether you like the SBC president, or the parliamentarian, or the entity leaders, or the new EC members, or the way messengers voted, you should be able to set that aside for a moment. Don’t buy the spin that’s emanating from resigning EC leaders. Consider what happened. Consider the facts. Consider how often EC leaders have reminded us of their fiduciary duties to the entire Convention. And ask yourself whether they did everything they could do, back in June, to avert the disaster they believe looms over us.
Benjamin Wright is pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, TX.