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SBC Executive Committee Names Temporary Leader, Deals with Fallout from McLaurin Deception

Por Bob Smietana
jonathan howe mclaurin SBC
Jonathan Howe. (Video screen grab)

Officers of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee have named Jonathan Howe to serve as the group’s interim leader.

The Executive Committee’s vice president for communications, Howe will serve in that role at least until the committee’s next scheduled meeting in mid-September. Executive Committee Chairman Philip Robertson said the group’s bylaws require a vice president to serve as interim, pending approval of the full board.

“For as long as I’ve been in denominational life, my chief desire has been to serve Southern Baptists. I appreciate the trust the board officers have placed in me,” Howe told media.

“I look forward to working with our state and entity partners, along with our Executive Committee members and staff as we continue to steward the resources Southern Baptists have generously entrusted to us,” he added.

Howe is the Executive Committee’s fourth leader in the past five years. He succeeds Willie McLaurin, who had been interim president since 2022. McLaurin had been in the running for a permanent role but resigned Thursday after a search committee found he had falsified his resume.

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El martes 1 de febrero de 2022, McLaurin fue nombrado presidente interino y director ejecutivo del Comité Ejecutivo de la Convención Bautista del Sur. Es el primer afroamericano en dirigir una de las entidades ministeriales de la denominación en sus más de 175 años de historia. (Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today vía AP)

“In its effort to verify McLaurin’s educational credentials, the team learned from the schools listed that he either never attended or never completed a course of study. McLaurin also submitted at least two diplomas that were found to be fraudulent,” according to Baptist Press, an SBC official publication.

McLaurin did not respond to requests for comment. He did admit to claiming to hold degrees that he did not have, according to excerpts from his resignation letter published by Baptist Press.

The previous permanent president, Arkansas preacher Ronnie Floyd, resigned in 2021 due to controversy over the SBC’s sex abuse crisis. His predecessor, the Rev. Frank Page, resigned in 2018 due to misconduct.

The committee also has experienced significant conflict in recent years, in particular over how to respond to the SBC’s sexual abuse crisis. Floyd and a number of committee members resigned in 2021 after losing a series of debates over a sexual abuse investigation. 

Howe will work closely with the Executive Committee’s officers, Robertson said in a statement.

At their mid-September meeting, trustees will elect “a continuing interim president/CEO,” Robertson said. He also said trustees will hear a report from the presidential search committee at that meeting.

Searching for a permanent leader for the Executive Committee, which manages the day-to-day operations of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, has proved complicated. In May, the trustees of the Executive Committee rejected a previous search committee candidate — Texas pastor Jared Wellman, a former Executive Committee chair. Wellman’s candidacy failed in part because he had participated in search committee meetings in his role as chair. After the failed vote on Wellman, a new search committee was formed.

Some Southern Baptist leaders wondered at the time why McLaurin, who by most accounts had done a good job as interim, was not named to the permanent role. In July, citing “many endorsements from pastors, state convention leaders, and national entity heads,” leaders of a new search committee dijo they were considering McLaurin for the role.

Problems with his resume emerged in the vetting process.

“In a recent resume that I submitted, it included schools that I did not attend or complete the course of study,” McLaurin reportedly said in his resignation letter.

Details about McLaurin’s past remain unclear.

Before coming to the Executive Committee in 2019, McLaurin had been a staff member of the Tennessee Mission Board for 15 years. According to a spokesman for the Mission Board, McLaurin’s 2005 resume only listed North Carolina Central University. The spokesman said McLaurin’s references were vetted but not his academic background.

His Facebook página states that he studied at North Carolina Central University. His personal website makes no mention of his academic background. Neither does a biography on a blog that is vinculado to his website.

However, a 2019 news story announcing his hiring as a vice president of the Executive Committee reported that McLaurin claimed a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central and a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School. He also claimed a pair of honorary doctorates.

The Executive Committee did not respond to questions about McLaurin’s resume.

Randy Davis, president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, told the Baptist & Reflector, a state Baptist newspaper, that he was profoundly saddened by McLaurin’s actions. The two had been friends and colleagues for years.

“Unfortunately, the situation in which we now find ourselves is beyond belief, and I am simply trying to process all that has happened, and the enormous damage inflicted by the fraud perpetrated on his resume regarding his educational background,” Davis said.

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana es reportero nacional de Religion News Service.

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5 Respuestas

  1. “For as long as I’ve been in denominational life, my chief desire has been to serve Southern Baptists. I appreciate the trust the board officers have placed in me,” Howe told media.

    This is what is wrong with Southern Baptists and nothing will change till their chief desire is to serve Jesus and glorify Him. I am an ex-Southern Baptist. Spent the majority of my life as a Southern Baptist. So many things I can no longer tolerate about the denomination. The sex abuse issue for one and the list still hasn’t been completed.

    I’m struggling in general if we need denominations. Hard to show Biblical evidence for denominations.

  2. From the new president:

    “The survivor community is all up in arms about things they have no clue about… They just want to burn things to the ground. They just have to be ignored.” – Jonathan Howe (Guidepost report at 109-10)

    When are they going to learn?

  3. As a naive farm boy whose job it was to look ahead to keep your furrows spaced and true, my eyes, ears, and even faith took a hit to observe first hand the locker room talks come to life when I began my college years. And so many of these boys were pre-ministerial. Their excuses included that they needed to get the wild things done because they would not be able to do so in the near future. Fortunately and maybe unfortunately, my skepticism moved me out of naivety.

    I am not an angel. But I strongly attempt to return to the attitude that I had as a youth. I am also not a Baptist. I am a friend of many Baptists. When one speaks of what their idea of a woman’s role should be, I calmly express my beliefs. I always have wanted my wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter to have the same opportunities that ANY man has, and I find any other way of thinking as caveman material.

    Some of my favorite ministers have been ladies. How many female ministers have been accused or guilty of illicit affairs?

  4. “The previous permanent president, Arkansas preacher Ronnie Floyd, resigned in 2021 due to controversy over the SBC’s sex abuse crisis. His predecessor, the Rev. Frank Page, resigned in 2018 due to misconduct.”

    Heavy sigh

  5. I look at many resumes and people claim to have bachelors or masters degrees and upon further inspection, they never finished. I always advise never to inflate your academic credentials. I was close to a masters degree but did not finish and I cannot rightly list this. I have a church leadership who claim the title of “Dr.” and only went to a non-credentialed ‘school’ of ministry. Yet on a big billboard we will see Dr. So and So. It is a unfunny and unnamed joke. If you inflate your credentials, what else will you inflate?

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