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EC adopts code of conduct, commits to ‘due diligence’ vetting prospective hires

Executive Committee Chairman Philip Robertson speaks during the EC meeting in Nashville on Sept. 19. Photo by Hunter Lewis.

NASHVILLE (BP) — A new code of conduct for board members and a commitment to investigate backgrounds and credentials of prospective staff hires are in place for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

Executive Committee officers informed EC members of the new vetting process for prospective hires at the director’s level and above during the Sept. 19 morning plenary session of the board’s meeting in Nashville. EC members unanimously adopted the code of conduct.

EC Chairman Philip Robertson said the move was necessary after EC officers confirmed Willie McLaurin falsified his academic credentials in his former post as interim EC president and CEO.

“That clearly was a result of what happened with Mr. McLaurin,” Robertson told Baptist Press. “We realized that there was a need and so, therefore, we reached out to our legal counsel to develop a prudent yet vigorous vetting for those future hires, … so that we can do our due diligence.”

McLaurin had been employed at the vice president level or above since December 2019, and held nearly 15 years of previous denominational service.

The EC commits to due diligence in vetting prospective directorship-level hires. As recommended by Fidelis Law, due diligence will include:

  • Resume verification including education, employment, military service, professional certifications and licenses, ordination and primary references;
  • A criminal background check through an independent background screening firm;
  • A credit check, and
  • Verification of current membership in a Southern Baptist church and the church’s consistent financial support of the Cooperative Program.

Below the director’s level, applicants will continue to be vetted by prospective supervisors.

Members’ Code of Conduct passed

By agreeing to serve, Executive Committee members consent to live a life guided by Christian principles and thereby not embarrass the EC nor impede its ministry to constituent churches, the code of conduct stipulates.

Members’ social media posts “should not reflect negatively on the SBC Executive Committee or its leadership,” and members must agree to hold EC business in strict confidence, not sharing it with non-members.

The EC amended the code, as presented to the EC for adoption, to state that social media posts should not reflect negatively on the committee, as opposed to the “committee and its leadership.”

Any action deemed in violation of the conduct code, including the member’s lifestyle, conduct, or social media content, subjects the member to discipline under the guidelines of Matthew 18. The disciplinary process could include a consultation with EC officers and, if the issue is not resolved, the member could be removed from the board.

The new code of conduct stems from voluntary discussions at the August 2022 new EC officers’ orientation meeting. A proposed code of conduct officers drafted at the request of the EC chairman was tabled at the February meeting before its adoption with the amendment.

In other action spurred by recommendations from the officers, the EC:

  • Amended the Executive Committee Bylaws to allow for the election of officers by a majority of board members present, as opposed to the majority of the full body regardless of attendance;
  • Revised the authorized list of signatures for bank deposits to include the interim president and chief executive officer, the interim chief financial officer, vice president for communications, director of convention and corporate relations, and administrative assistant to the president and chief executive officer.