After four months of pleading with authors and advocates of a directive to the SBC Executive Committee related to waiving attorney-client privilege, Ronnie Floyd shifted his attention to a different kind of waiver — the right to step away from his current position.
In an Oct. 14 emailed letter addressed to EC trustees and the SBC family, Floyd announced his plans to resign from his role as president and CEO of the EC effective Oct. 31.
“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 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 for me to make.”
Plagued by conflict
Floyd’s two-and-a-half-year tenure as EC president has been plagued by growing conflict within the convention ranks.
Even as messengers to the June SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville adopted Floyd’s Vision 2025 to reach the world with the gospel, messengers also overwhelmingly approved a motion calling for action related to the EC’s handling of sexual abuse cases within SBC life.
The motion called for a task force to be appointed to oversee a third-party investigation into the allegations of mishandling abuse claims and mistreating abuse victims by the EC between Jan. 1, 2000, and June 14, 2021.
SBC President Ed Litton appointed the Sexual Abuse Task Force, chaired by North Carolina pastor Bruce Frank, in July.
While the investigation itself was not opposed by the EC, the call for EC staff and trustees to waive attorney-client privilege for the investigation did cause concern.
After four intense sessions over the course of two weeks, the EC voted to waive privilege by a vote of 44 to 31 on Oct. 5.
Doing so, Floyd said in his letter, places “our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters,” and led to his decision to resign.
The decision to waive attorney-client privilege also led to a decision by Nashville law firm Guenther, Jordan & Price to end its long tenure as legal representation for the SBC and the EC.
In an Oct. 11 letter signed by James P. Guenther and James D. Jordan, the firm said, “The decision causes us to carefully consider the prospect of moving forward … in an alien environment.
“We simply do not know how to advise a client, and otherwise represent a client, with the quality of advice and representation the client must have, and in keeping with the standard of practice our firm tries to uphold, when the client has indicated a willingness to forego this universally accepted principle of confidentiality.”
‘Leaves us no choice’
“For these reasons, we believe our commitment to a certain standard of professional conduct leaves us no choice but to advise you that we are withdrawing from our role as general counsel to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
To read the full text of Floyd’s resignation letter, click here.