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McLaurin named SBC Executive Committee interim president/CEO

Willie McLaurin has been named interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, effective immediately, according to an announcement coming from the EC officers Tuesday (Feb. 1).

McLaurin has served as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization at the EC for two years, coming to the role in January 2020.

“We hope that he will help us to reset the tone by which the EC serves Southern Baptists,” said Rolland Slade, EC chairman. McLaurin served for 15 years at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board before joining the EC staff in January 2020.

Alabama EC member Neal Hughes, director of missions for Montgomery Baptist Association, added, “Willie is a gracious, kind, holy man of God. I think of my brother as one of the most powerful preachers in the SBC. Willie’s appointment as EC’s interim leader is a God-send to Southern Baptists.”

‘Cooperation and collaboration’

“I am humbled and honored to be selected and wholly dependent on the Lord to carry out His will in this time of transition,” McLaurin said in a statement released by the EC. “I desire to carry out the daily duties as needed for the cooperation of this convention of churches, and I am dedicated to doing that as a servant leader … [guiding] our staff team of dedicated professionals.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us as we plan for the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, as we continue to cooperate with the Sexual Abuse Task Force investigation, and as we prepare for the upcoming EC meeting later this month where I will address the committee and the SBC,” he said.

“In the meantime, our team at the EC is committed to serve Southern Baptists and serve them well. We seek to serve churches by fulfilling the ministry assignments given to us by the convention over the years. Each one of those assignments starts with the words ‘assist churches,’ and that’s what we will continue to do in a posture of listening and learning. And when we listen well and we learn well, we earn the right to lead.

“As I begin this role as interim of the SBC Executive Committee, I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 where he gave the mandate that His disciples reach out to our neighbors and nations. The last words of Jesus should be the first priority of our convention.”

Prior to serving at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, McLaurin was executive pastor at Greater Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, and senior pastor at Greater Hope Baptist Church in Union City, Tennessee. He has also served as an interim pastor for numerous Southern Baptist churches.

It was McLaurin’s pastoral experience, Slade said, that made it clear to the EC officers he should be their choice. “The messengers and churches of all sizes throughout the SBC need to know that they are seen, heard and appreciated,” he said.

McLaurin takes over the role after a challenging season for the EC. The process of waiving attorney-client privilege related to the ongoing investigation over allegations of mishandling reports of sexual abuse in the convention took a heavy toll on EC members and the way they are viewed by the SBC.

Restoring trust

McLaurin said he hopes to begin restoring trust in the EC during the interim period.

“No network of churches is without challenges. My prayer is that this season will bring healing and unity to our convention,” McLaurin said. “When we love each other the way Jesus loves people then we create the atmosphere for cooperation.”

Slade believes this should be McLaurin’s central focus. “Immediately before us is the challenge to regain the sense of trust of Southern Baptists,” Slade said. “Regaining that trust includes focusing on relationships within as well as outside of the Southern Baptist Convention. That has been the assignment [McLaurin] has carried [during his time] at the EC. It is also an assignment he carried for more than 15 years on behalf of the Tennessee Mission Board while serving as their associate executive director.”

SBC EC bylaws mandate that if an interim president/CEO is going to be named, then the person is to be chosen by the EC officers from the current EC vice presidents.

Three vice president roles currently exist at the EC. Along with McLaurin, Jeff Pearson is chief financial officer and Jonathan Howe serves as vice president for communications. Pearson recently announced his resignation from the EC, effective Feb. 15. Read more on Pearson in The Baptist Paper.

McLaurin previously served on the SBC Resolutions Committee in 2018 and as president of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network in 2011–2012. He also was on the executive board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention from 2003 to 2005 and was the inaugural president of the African American Fellowship of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

McLaurin is a member of Simeon Baptist Church in Antioch, Tennessee. He and his wife, Antonia, have two daughters, Sienna and SiChanna.

He is the first African American to lead an SBC entity and follows Ronnie Floyd, who resigned as EC president and CEO last October. Floyd served in the role for less than 30 months before leaving the post.

The EC’s next scheduled meeting is Feb. 21–22 in Nashville.

Slade said that while this is an important step for the EC, there will be more information regarding additional leadership assignments at a later date.


Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, with additional reporting and editing by The Alabama Baptist following the original post earlier today.