NASHVILLE (BP)—Heading into 2022, then SBC Executive Committee chairman Rolland Slade knew it would be a challenging year for the entity. Just before the end of 2021, EC president Ronnie Floyd and executive vice president Greg Addison had resigned from their positions, nearly 20 board members had done the same, and the entity was undergoing a third-party investigation into claims it had mishandled reports of sexual abuse.
On Jan. 18, Slade called the remaining EC members to Falls Creek in Oklahoma for a special time of prayer and focus to begin the year knowing that the group needed the time to reset and refocus on their call to serve Southern Baptists.
“Our time of prayer at Falls Creek was the key to our reset of the Executive Committee as it brought us together and led us to focus on God’s agenda, not our own,” Slade said.
Weeks later, in early February, Willie McLaurin was named interim president of the entity becoming the first African American to serve as an entity head in the SBC. McLaurin’s focus was clear from the beginning: serve the churches of the SBC and rebuild the trust that had been lost.
“Jesus’ last words to us in Acts 1:8 should be our first priority as a network of churches. My prayer is that we will continue to put a laser-sharp focus on cooperation and collaboration.” McLaurin said at the time of his appointment.
In his 11 months as interim, McLaurin has done just that. The EC staff has produced resources focused on collaboration and cooperation among entities and churches and has continued the important work of the entity while responding to the recommendations of the Sexual Abuse Task Force report released in late May.
“The SATF report was a necessary, painful, early step,” Slade said. “Sadly, it confirmed what many had experienced and knew prior to its coming out. But it opened the door for repentance, reform and renewal. My prayer is that we will never be passive on the issue of sexual abuse ever again.”
The approval of a pair of recommendations at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim and the appointment of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force was just the beginning of the SBC’s response. More is expected in 2023 and beyond as the Convention looks to implement better reporting and accountability for sexual predators.
“Sexual predators have used our decentralized polity to try to turn our churches into a hunting ground,” SBC president Bart Barber said after being elected in June. “Sexual predators have in some cases moved from church to church, from scandal to scandal, manipulating our system to hide from accountability and pick off the sheep one by one…Predators have realized the vulnerabilities of our system; it is time for Southern Baptists to realize how nimble and resilient our Baptist polity can be to put sexual predators on notice that Southern Baptist churches are a dangerous place for them.”
“2022 will be remembered as a ‘tipping point’ year for the SBC,” McLaurin said. “The year started with much uncertainty, yet with a resurgence of prayer and a renewed focus on the Great Commission we were able to avoid mission drift.”
Resources for churches
While resources for sexual abuse prevention and care continue to be developed and released, other important resources were developed by the SBC Executive Committee to help Southern Baptists better understand, be involved in, and cooperate with the Convention.
Leading the way was Navigating the SBC—a 32-page publication designed to help pastors and church members better understand the value the SBC brings to Great Commission work—compiled by Charles Grant, associate vice president for African American relations and mobilization.
Navigating the SBC is also available in Spanish thanks to the work of Luis Lopez, associate vice president for Hispanic relations and mobilization. Lopez joined the SBC Executive Committee in 2022 and has already launched a Spanish language podcast, Vida SBC, in addition to continuing the work of connecting with and mobilizing Hispanic churches across the Convention.
Baptist Press has continued its award-winning news coverage in 2022 and plans to launch a new suite of newsletters to better resource Southern Baptists in 2023. In addition to written content, BP also launched a daily, three-minute podcast, Good News for Today, at the beginning of 2022. Since its launch in January, the show has been picked up by the Moody Radio Network and can be heard daily on more than 100 radio stations nationwide.
Moving the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting
As part of its ministry assignment from the Convention, the EC also organizes the SBC Annual Meeting. 2022 was a pivotal year in that planning and execution—especially as it relates to the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting. Because of the rise in engagement in recent years, the EC was placed in the unenviable position of moving the 2023 meeting from Charlotte to New Orleans to accommodate the expected crowds. After more than 15,700 messengers in Nashville in 2021 and more than 8,100 in 2022 in Anaheim, Charlotte’s facility was deemed too small—280,000 square feet when more than 400,000 are now needed. The EC called a special meeting in April to relocate the meeting for 2023 from Charlotte to New Orleans.
Cooperative Program engagement
Also, a high point for the entity in 2022—and the entire SBC—was the $200.4 million given through the Cooperative Program National Allocation Budget. This marked the first time since 2008 that the total had surpassed the $200 million mark. Coupled with record-setting Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering totals, 2022 was a showcase year for Southern Baptist generosity and giving.
“The historic giving through the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and many state mission offerings is nothing short of a miracle from God,” McLaurin said. “The incredible financial sacrifices remind us that our God not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but He owns the hills that the cattle are on. There is no lack of resources in the Kingdom of God. God’s people have prioritized taking the Gospel around the corner and around the globe. I am incredibly thankful for Southern Baptist churches that prioritize the Gospel above all through their generosity.”
Looking ahead to 2023
As 2023 begins current chairman Jared Wellman is hopeful for the future of the entity.
“I am filled with a hope that can only be explained by the miraculous grace of Christ,” Wellman said. The addition of 26 new trustees this year brings new energy and ideas, and the prospect of a new President in 2023 gives us the chance to chart a fresh course. This is a time of renewal and an opportunity to create stability and progress for the future. We are ‘placing our hope in the grace of Jesus’ as we turn the page on 2022.”