Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), announced his resignation Oct. 14 in a letter to Southern Baptists released by email.
Floyd pointed to the actions taken by trustees in a special called meeting on Oct. 5 as the basis for his decision.
“The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters,” Floyd said in the letter.
Citing his fiduciary responsibilities as president and CEO, Floyd said, “Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal and fiduciary entity of the SBC.
“In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make.”
Rolland Slade, chairman of the SBC EC, reacted to Floyd’s resignation, saying, “I am saddened by his resignation. He’s had a tremendous ministry for years and years. I know he loves Southern Baptists. I know it was his intention to come to Nashville to serve Southern Baptists well and I believe he’s fulfilled that to the best of his ability. However, I understand the vote of the committee put him in a very difficult position.”
On Oct. 5, EC trustees voted to waive attorney client privilege related to the independent third-party investigation of the possible mishandling of sex abuse cases. Messengers at the 2021 SBC annual meeting mandated the investigation be carried out under the terms and scope recommended by the third-party investigative firm.
On Sept. 21, trustees allocated up to $1.6 million in Cooperative Program funds to pay Guidepost Solutions to perform the investigation. Trustees also voted to engage in the contract with Guidepost, a New York based investigative firm, to handle the independent investigation.
Messengers tasked SBC President Ed Litton with forming a Sexual Abuse Task Force to oversee the investigation.
The SBC EC’s longtime legal counsel, Guenther, Jordan and Price, withdrew from representing the board on Oct. 11.
In a letter sent to Floyd, the firm wrote, “Until now, a decision by the Board to waive attorney-client privilege was not reasonably foreseeable. However, going forward we can no longer assure Executive Committee and Convention personnel with whom we work that the privacy of their communications with their lawyers will be secure.”
SBC President Ed Litton said, “The issues before the Executive Committee were indeed complex, and it remains true that good people came to different conclusions about the various issues set before them. While I was grateful for the outcome of last week’s Executive Committee meeting, I regret that Dr. Floyd and other trustees feel that this has placed them in a position where they can no longer continue to serve in their current capacities.”
Floyd began his tenure as president in May 2019, just months after a report was published by the Houston Chronicle on sexual abuse in the SBC. He worked with EC chairman Mike Stone and SBC President J.D. Greear on the creation and implementation of a repurposed Credentials Committee for the Convention to provide an avenue for the convention to disfellowship churches who poorly handle sex abuse, exhibit racism and hold to doctrine that does not align with the convention’s confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, or violate its governing documents.
During his tenure as EC president, Floyd navigated several crises including the cancellation of the 2020 SBC annual meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a time of racial unrest in America following the murder of George Floyd. Now his departure after less than 30 months at the helm means the EC will look to fill its presidency for the second time in three years – something foreign to an organization which has had only seven men fill that role in its 104-year history.
Prior to coming to the EC, Floyd pastored several churches across Texas until he moved to First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., (now Cross Church) in 1986, where he pastored for more than 32 years before his stint at the EC. Throughout his career, Floyd has been active in Southern Baptist life and other interdenominational ministries including serving as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and two terms as SBC president (2014-16).
“I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people,” Floyd said in his resignation letter.
In the letter, Floyd conveyed deep confidence in the staff of the EC.
“Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about ‘the system.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Floyd said he would remain in the leadership role until Oct. 31. An interim president of the SBC EC has not yet been named.
“Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention,” Floyd said.
“I urge all Southern Baptists to pray for Dr. Floyd and his precious wife, Jeana, as they enter their next phase of life and ministry,” Litton said.
According to the SBC EC bylaws, a seven-member search committee will be formed to begin the search for a new president. Six of the members will be the existing trustees who receive the highest number of votes to serve on the committee. The seventh member will be the chairperson of the board who will act as an ex-officio member.
“We are not going to rush into anything. Going forward we have to make sure we’re fulfilling the bylaws. It’s going to be difficult because we’ve lost our general counsel who we would typically turn to for guidance,” Slade said.
Full text of letter from Ronnie Floyd:
Dear SBC Executive Committee Trustees and SBC Family,
I was planning to release this letter on Monday, October 11; however, I delayed the publishing of this letter until today, due to the death of my mother-in-law on Sunday and then the funeral which took place on Wednesday afternoon in Bridgeport Texas, October 13.
After serving as the senior pastor of the same church for over thirty-two years, I came here twenty-eight months ago in good faith because I believed in what we do together to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. It was this personal and pastoral commitment to the Great Commission vision that moved me to lead my church to invest heavily in the Cooperative Program and the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 90:12 these words, “Teach us to number our days carefully so we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” We are told these words because each of our days are limited and we must determine how we believe God wants us to use them for His glory.
While Jeana and I have no idea where we are going and what we will do in the future, today I submit my resignation as the President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. I will serve through Sunday, October 31, 2021.
In the midst of multiple challenges facing the SBC, I was asked to come here because of my proven personal integrity, reputation, and leadership. What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role.
As President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, I have fiduciary duties. The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters. Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC. In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make.
Our SBC Executive Committee has had an unwavering commitment to doing this needed review. Our commitment has always been to fulfill the desires of the messengers, but the deliberations were about “how to do this” in the most effective way. There was a way it could have been done that fulfilled these desires without creating these potential risks relating to the Convention’s liability. Sadly, even some of our laypeople who are serving as our trustees had to submit their resignation because their profession will not permit them to serve any longer due to these risks that now exist. Others will have to do the same also. This is unacceptable and should concern every Baptist layperson. The SBC entities need more laypersons, not less, who bring their professional expertise in law, finance, and other disciplines to us.
I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people. Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about “the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention. I will also continue to carry out my ongoing responsibilities.
We love Southern Baptists and will continue to love you and the mission we do together. As the Treasurer of the SBC, it is a privilege to announce to you this week, that over $702.6 million dollars have been given this past fiscal year through our Total Cooperative Program Giving, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. This generosity has occurred over these past twelve months as we have each navigated through this global pandemic.
As I walk away from these responsibilities that I have cherished and still cherish today, I know we have been faithful to champion the work we do together in the Great Commission and through the Cooperative Program. We have also led our Convention to adopt Vision 2025, a unified Great Commission vision. We have also led our team to prepare and serve the largest SBC Annual Meeting in decades. Furthermore, we have led our Convention to amend our SBC Constitution declaring that churches will no longer be in friendly cooperation with us who are acting in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse and even others who may be acting to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity. These actions will endure the test of time because they are now in the governing documents of our Convention. We have led our Convention to grant to our SBC Executive Committee the national ministry assignment to elevate the ministry of prayer in our churches. This is desperately needed, and it was my desire to do it in the highest manner.
To our staff team and trustees, as well as all of our partners in the Great Commission, we love you and thank you for this high honor to have served you. To all of the pastors and to all of the churches, and the missionaries across the globe, I have been faithful to your causes daily and have always had you in my heart as I weighed the heavy decisions that came across my desk.
May God and His favor continue to rest on all of our Great Commission work together.
Ronnie W. Floyd
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Porter serves as associate vice president for convention news at the SBC EC.)