NASHVILLE (BP) – Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Chairman Philip Robertson announced to EC members Friday (Aug. 18) that Jonathan Howe will take over the role of interim EC president and CEO following the sudden resignation of Willie McLaurin on Thursday (Aug. 17).
“The SBC Executive Committee’s bylaws require that the Executive Committee officers appoint an existing SBC Executive Committee Vice President to serve temporarily, pending full trustee board approval,” Robertson said in a statement. “Therefore, we have tasked Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications, to step into that role in partnership with the officers until our next trustee meeting on September 18-19. At that trustee meeting the full board of trustees will elect, without restrictions, a continuing interim president/CEO.”
Howe has served as VP for communications since joining the EC staff in 2019. Howe also has been instrumental in organizing the SBC annual meetings in Nashville, Anaheim and New Orleans. He coordinated the logistics of relocating the 2023 meeting to New Orleans after it became apparent the Charlotte convention center would not accommodate the meeting’s growing number of messengers and exhibitors.
Since 2015, Howe has cohosted, along with Amy Whitfield, the popular “SBC This Week” podcast.
“For as long as I’ve been in denominational life, my chief desire has been to serve Southern Baptists,” Howe told Baptist Press. “I appreciate the trust the board officers have placed in me.
“I look forward to working with our state and entity partners, along with our Executive Committee members and staff as we continue to steward the resources Southern Baptists have generously entrusted to us.”
Howe will take over the role from Willie McLaurin, who had served in the interim role since February 2022. McLaurin’s resignation was precipitated by the findings of the search team that had been vetting him for the permanent president/CEO position.
In its effort to verify McLaurin’s educational credentials, the team learned from the schools listed that he either never attended or never completed a course of study. McLaurin also submitted at least two diplomas that were found to be fraudulent, the team said.
The development is the latest in a long line of turmoil at the beleaguered entity, including the resignation of previous EC president Ronnie Floyd in 2021 and an ongoing reckoning with the EC’s handling of sexual abuse claims.
“Know that as chairman, I am committed to working alongside the 85 professional and gifted women and men, who represent Southern Baptists across our convention, to carry out the work with which we have been tasked, with purpose, transparency, and reliability for such a time as this,” Robertson said in his statement. “I am grateful for our partnership as Southern Baptists toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”