The Rev. Ronnie W. Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, announced his resignation late Thursday amid rising controversy over a sexual abuse investigation.
“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,” Mr. Floyd, 65, wrote in a letter released by an SBC spokesman.
“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,” Mr. Floyd added.
Mr. Floyd’s departure comes nine days after the group’s executive committee voted 44-31 to waive attorney-client privilege “within the scope of an independent third-party investigation” of the executive body’s handling of sexual abuse claims, according to a Baptist Press report.
Delegates to the SBC’s June 2021 annual meeting voted to create a sexual abuse task force, which is in charge of the internal probe.
On Oct. 11, the law firm of Guenther, Jordan & Price, which had represented the SBC and its executive committee for 44 years, said it would drop both entities as clients, citing the withdrawal of the attorney-client privilege.
Waiving that privilege will make years of confidential files available to the task force and its investigators. Executive committee members warned this could “bankrupt the SBC by exposing it to lawsuits,” according to a Religion News Service report.
While acknowledging the SBC’s right to waive privilege, attorneys James P. Guenther and James D. Jordan told the executive committee in a letter that “this vote fundamentally changed the understanding that has always existed regarding communications between our firm and the Executive Committee or the [Southern Baptist] Convention.”
In his resignation letter, Mr. Floyd echoed the attorney’s concerns.
“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.” he wrote.
Mr. Floyd added, “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.”
Mr. Floyd was senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, from 1986 to 2019, and previously served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2014 to 2016. He was elected president and CEO of the executive committee in 2019.