SBC Executive Committee begins new search after rejecting nomination of Jared Wellman

Several members of the new search committee and others gather for prayer after the May 1 EC meeting.
Photo by Marc Ira Hooks/The Baptist Paper

SBC Executive Committee begins new search after rejecting nomination of Jared Wellman

Meeting behind closed doors in executive session yesterday (May 1), the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention rejected the nomination of Jared Wellman as its new president/chief executive officer by a vote of 50–31.

Wellman, 39, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, informed his church on April 30 that he was the nominee to lead the EC.

There were 81 of the 83 EC trustees in Monday’s executive session, according to The Baptist Paper.

TBP reported 12 of the 83 joined via Zoom due to health and other issues preventing their ability to attend in person. One staff member, the parliamentarian and legal counsel, also participated in the meeting.

Hours after Monday’s vote, a press conference was held in Dallas and was made available via zoom for media members who were not able to attend in person. David Sons, EC chairman and member of the previous presidential search committee, fielded questions from reporters during the roughly 25-minute press conference.

New search underway

Sons noted the process of finding a new president/chief executive officer began almost immediately after Monday’s vote had been tabulated and finalized. He said the first step was to form a new search committee, which was done after nominees were given from the floor.

Sons said he did not know, and would not speculate, on a potential timetable for the new search committee to present a candidate.

In response to the May 1 vote from the initial search committee, Sons said he and other members were disappointed but said it is ultimately the role of the trustees — not the search team — to choose a candidate. “We respect (their decision),” he said.

Wellman’s response

Wellman spoke to the EC after the decision, noting his appreciation for serving with the group.

“My heart is with you. God bless you. My prayers are with you,” he said as the EC members gave him a standing ovation.

He also posted on Twitter a few hours later: “It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve the Southern Baptist Convention through the Executive Committee. Our lives are in the hands of a sovereign God. We’re called simply to be faithful and put our ‘yes’ on the table (Gen. 22). My prayers are with the EC. I’ll always cherish getting to serve.”

Order of events

Wellman served as a member of the EC from 2015 to 2023 and had been chairman since June 2022.

Baptist Press reported April 30 that Wellman stepped down from the position in a confidential letter to EC officers on April 17, according to Adron Robinson, who chaired the search committee.

Wellman is one of three EC trustees who have stepped down from their seats in recent days for various reasons, according to The Baptist Paper. There are 86 seats on the EC board representing the full scope of the SBC.

The full body was made aware of Wellman’s decision to resign from the board and his role as chair in a confidential communication on April 19, Sons told Baptist Press. Yet, the decision to call a special meeting on May 1 was announced on April 4.

It was also in the April 19 email that the full body was made aware of Wellman’s selection as the presidential candidate. Sons said it was kept confidential among EC trustees “to give Jared the opportunity to inform his church of his candidacy when he could do so in person.”

Wellman served on the presidential search team as an ex-officio voting member until he recused himself on Jan. 26, Sons told Baptist Press.

Wellman ‘did not insert himself into the process’

During Monday’s press conference, Sons said the committee did not consider Wellman’s time on the search team to be a conflict of interest, noting that there were other examples “in SBC life” where similar situations had occurred.

Sons also said Wellman “did not insert himself into the process” of being a candidate and was instead “invited” by other team members to be considered.

Robinson said the group was impressed by Wellman’s leadership of the EC since being voted chairman last June.

“Jared’s demeanor and experience fit with both the candidate profile of the search team and with much of what we had heard from those we surveyed,” Robinson said.

Concerns about process

As news leaked late last week of Wellman’s nomination, Baptists from a wide variety of backgrounds and opinions expressed concern over the process of how Wellman’s nomination came about.

The Baptist and Reflector published a column by Chris Turner and Lonnie Wilkey on its website April 29 titled “So Much for Restoring Credibility.” The editorial raised several questions about the nomination process, including questioning why Willie McLaurin — the EC’s interim president and CEO — was disqualified for the position. To see the follow-up article that was posted on Tuesday (May 2), click here.

When he was elected as interim president and CEO, McLaurin became the first person of color to lead one of the SBC’s ministry entities in its more than 175-year history

The National African American Fellowship also raised questions about the search team bypassing McLaurin. In a letter to Sons — which was made public on NAAF’s Twitter account — the organization said it was expressing “disappointment and bewilderment at a search process gone awry.”

The letter said, “The primary concerns were matters of integrity and transparency with the introduction of a new candidate that served on the EC trustee board, who was now a candidate for the EC CEO position.”

The letter continued, “As you know, the SBC has come under much scrutiny over the past few years for what, some have called, a lack of transparency, cover ups and ineffective leadership. To add to this already tarnished image a process that has raised so many questions is unconscionable. Others have questioned why a highly-qualified, extensively experienced denominational worker, and former vice president, who has pastored and been well received in a variety of SBC circles as the interim CEO, was not given the opportunity to serve permanently in that role?”

New search committee members

B&R’s Turner and Wilkey published a follow-up column May 2 with a challenge to the new search committee. To read the column, click here.

The new search committee members are:

  • Corey Cain, Tennessee
  • Neal Hughes, Alabama
  • Drew Landry, Virginia
  • Nick Sandefur, Kentucky
  • Sarah Rogers, South Carolina
  • Nancy Spaulding, Michigan.
  • Sons also will serve as an ex-officio voting member of the committee.

The search committee will meet the week of May 8 via Zoom to select officers and determine next steps.

The next meeting of the Executive Committee is scheduled for Monday (June 12), just before the kickoff of the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Lonnie Wilkey and David Dawson and was originally published by Baptist and Reflector. The Alabama Baptist staff updated the article with new information that became available May 2.

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