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Georgia Baptist leader Thomas Hammond withdraws from EC consideration

SUWANEE, Ga. (BP) – In an email to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s executive committee on Tuesday (Jan. 23), GBMB Executive Director Thomas Hammond revealed that he had been selected as the candidate to lead the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee but had withdrawn his name. The search team had kept the candidate’s identity confidential.

“You may be aware that I was asked to be considered as a candidate for the role of President & CEO of the SBC Executive Committee,” he told leaders in the email, adding that he and his wife Kerri had been open to the opportunity but that “over the past week, it has become clear that God’s will is for us to remain in Georgia.”

Throughout the interview process, Hammond said, he and Kerri prayed Colossians 3:15, “asking God for peace and clarity.”

In written comments for Baptist Press on Wednesday (Jan. 24), Hammond said he let his name be considered because he loves Southern Baptists.

“I have been a Southern Baptist all my life and have a large amount of gratitude for the investment they’ve made in my life,” he said. “I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is the most evangelistic entity in the world, and I want to do my part in helping our Convention move forward.”

The search team tasked with finding the new SBC EC president and CEO announced Jan. 8 they had selected a candidate, though they did not reveal his name. They had planned to announce the candidate Feb. 18, one day prior to the EC’s regularly scheduled February meeting.

However, search team chairman Neal Hughes sent an email Tuesday morning (Jan. 23) telling EC members the unnamed candidate had withdrawn. In the email, Hughes encouraged them to “press on, trust in Jesus, and approach each day with the joy of the Lord.”

In written comments for Baptist Press Wednesday, Hughes said the committee was “deeply blessed to spend a season with [Hammond] searching for God’s will.”

“The Shunamite woman said to her husband when Elisha passed by, ‘There goes a holy man of God,’” Hughes told BP. “I’ve known Thomas for the past 20 years, and I’ve always known him to be a holy man of God.” He added that the team has the “highest regard” for both the Hammonds and for Georgia Baptists.

Hughes said he has drawn comfort from Psalm 32:8 in recent days, trusting that God will instruct the team in the way they should go and will keep His eye on them and give them counsel.

Hammond has been in his role at the GBMB for four years and has led that convention to a better financial outlook by downsizing and decentralizing staff, encouraging disciplined spending and, most recently, selling its office building. He has also elevated the issues of pastor wellness and serving the state’s most vulnerable.

“I’ve always lived my life with a desire to be obedient to God and open to wherever He may lead,” Hammond told BP Wednesday, “but as I prayed through this decision, I came to the clear conclusion that God was not finished with me in Georgia.”

Hammond had praise for the team that had chosen him.

“I want to say that the search committee is seven Spirit-filled leaders who led out in a process that was thorough and professional,” he said. “While the EC has many challenges, none of them are insurmountable as long as we depend upon the Lord and stay united in the power of His might. I believe the Executive Committee plays a significant role in supporting our entities to serve at the pleasure of Southern Baptists.”

He said he looks forward to the days ahead as he continues to “partner with all Southern Baptists, to reach the world for Christ.”

Hughes asks Southern Baptists to “join us in praying for the Executive Committee and asking the Lord to guide us in our process to find our next leader. We will discuss the next steps of the search process with our Executive Committee members on or before the Feb. 19 EC meeting.”

In addition to Hughes, who also serves as director of missions for the Montgomery (Ala.) Baptist Association, search team members are Corey Cain (Tennessee), Drew Landry (Virginia), Sarah Rogers (South Carolina), Nick Sandefur (Kentucky), Nancy Spalding (Michigan) and EC Chairman Philip Robertson (Louisiana, ex officio).