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Department of Justice concludes Executive Committee investigation; ‘no further action’

NASHVILLE (BP) – The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded its investigation of the SBC Executive Committee, Southern Baptist leaders learned Feb. 29.

In a statement today, Jonathan Howe, interim SBC EC president/CEO, said the DOJ has told the EC’s legal counsel there is “no further action to be taken.”

Email requests for comment from the DOJ were not returned by time of publication.

The SBC has been represented during the investigation by Gene Besen and Scarlett Nokes of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.

SBC entity leaders and SBC President Bart Barber first announced the DOJ’s intention to investigate the SBC on Aug. 12, 2022, pledging to fully cooperate with investigators.

“While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future,” they said in the 2022 statement. “The fact that the SBC Executive Committee recently completed a fully transparent investigation is evidence of this commitment.”

Messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting voted for an independent third-party investigation of the SBC EC, calling on the EC to waive attorney client privilege and for President Bart Barber to appoint a Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF).

In September 2021, under the direction of the SATF, the EC engaged Guidepost Solutions to carry out the investigation. Throughout the month, EC members wrestled with waiving attorney client privilege before voting to do so late in the month.

Then-EC President Ronnie Floyd resigned days later, and EC legal representatives Jim Guenther and Jaime Jordan declined representing the EC after 56 years as the entity’s legal counsel.

The Guidepost Solutions report became public in May 2022.

The Guidepost and DOJ investigations as well as other legal challenges have taken a toll on the EC’s financial holdings.

In September 2023, EC interim President/CEO Jonathan Howe told trustees the EC’s reserves have been reduced from $13 million to just over $4 million in the past two years.

“Nothing has been more humbling at the Executive Committee in recent years than our financial position,” Howe said, adding that the sexual abuse investigation ordered by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting has proved costly. “There is a price to pay for reform, even when reform is necessary.”

In the March 6 statement, Howe said, “While we are grateful for closure on this particular matter, we recognize that sexual abuse reform efforts must continue to be implemented across the Convention. We remain steadfast in our commitment to assist churches in preventing and responding well to sexual abuse in the SBC.”

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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