Sex Abuse Fight at Southern Baptist Convention Leads Top Church Official to Quit

The chief of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) executive committee, Ronnie Floyd, resigned from the organization after an internal conflict from an ongoing sexual abuse investigation.

The committee, which manages denomination business when the full SBC isn't in session, recently met to vote on waiving attorney-client privilege in an investigation regarding their handling of abuse allegations. Floyd agreed with legal counsel and advised the committee against removing that privilege.

The group voted to do so regardless, and Floyd said his resignation was a result of that decision.

"Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC," Floyd said in a Thursday evening letter sent to the executive committee members.

The decision to waive attorney-client privilege allows a third-party investigator, Guidepost Solutions in this case, to access otherwise privileged communications and legal documents between the executive committee and the law firm that's represented it for the past 56 years, Guenther, Jordan, & Price.

Reviewing the information would allow the investigator to determine if committee officials were advised by attorneys on how to manage the reports of sexual abuse.

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The chief of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) executive committee, Ronnie Floyd, resigned from the organization after an internal conflict about an ongoing sexual abuse investigation. Pictured: A sign at the front of the Community of Faith church is seen in Houston, Texas on February 12, 2019. - The United States' largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is facing a sexual abuse crisis after a bombshell report revealed hundreds of predators and more than 700 victims since 1998. LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty Images

Floyd said the decision to waive the legal privilege placed "our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters" and that "in the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision" than to resign.

Floyd's resignation marks him the highest-ranking member to leave the committee, but not the first. According to the Tennessean, the executive committee's law firm and the entire SBC resigned on Monday. Last week, 10 executive committee members also resigned.

The Southern Baptist Convention, based in Nashville, is the nation's largest Protestant denomination with 14 million members and a network of churches across the country. Over the years, the SBC has faced controversy for how it responded to allegations of sexual abuse.

In June, the SBC met for its annual meeting where voting delegates who represent local churches—called convention messengers—approved an inquiry into the executive committee's handling and told the group to waive its legal privilege.

The executive committee voted to approve the measure during a third, and final, meeting in October. Prior to the meeting, Floyd and other committee members were criticized by a number of pastors for ignoring the request of the messengers.

"It is incumbent upon me to remind everyone that the best way to accomplish this objective for all concerned is to listen to and follow the advice of our counsel so that we can avoid unintended consequences and confusion," Floyd said during the Sept. 28 executive committee meeting.

He clarified that he supported the investigation but not waiving the privilege because it could affect their insurance. Floyd was elected head of the executive committee in 2019 after serving as the pastor of a megachurch in Arkansas and is a former president of the SBC.

"In the midst of multiple challenges facing the SBC, I was asked to come here because of my proven personal integrity, reputation, and leadership," he said in his resignation letter. "What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role."

Floyd will serve in his role for the remainder of the month.

News broke of sexual abuse at SBC after two Texas newspapers revealed that hundreds of predators abused more than 700 victims, mostly children, since 1998.