By Baptist Message staff
DALLAS (LBM) – Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee trustees, during a special called meeting May 1, voted not to elect Jared Wellman as the next president and CEO.
According to news reports, only 30 of the 81 trustees at the meeting inside the Grand Hyatt DFW hotel cast their ballots for Wellman.
Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas, took to Twitter after the meeting to thank Southern Baptists for the opportunity to serve as a trustee of the EC. He recently served as EC chairman and a member of the search committee.
“Our lives are in the hands of a sovereign God,” he wrote. “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.”
David Sons, EC chairman and a member of the previous search committee, said in a news conference after the meeting that a new search committee will be formed.
According to the Baptist Paper, the new search committee members are: Corey Cain of Tennessee, Neal Hughes of Alabama, Drew Landry of Virginia, Nick Sandefur of Kentucky, Sarah Rogers of South Carolina and Nancy Spaulding of Michigan. Sons will serve as an ex-officio voting member of the committee.
Willie McLaurin, EC interim president and CEO since February 2022, will continue to serve in his role. McLaurin is the first African American to serve in that position.
Philip Robertson, pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville and Alexandria, and a member of the previous search committee, said he believed the vote by the trustees not to elect Wellman was the right outcome. He said that trustees were encouraged to vote their convictions and their consciences as led by the Lord.
“While I am incredibly grateful for Dr. Wellman’s faithful service on the Executive Committee as a member and chairman, I feel that Dr. McLaurin, our interim CEO and President, is better qualified to lead us at this time,” Robertson told the Baptist Message. “I believe we have been given an opportunity to bring diversity to our SBC leadership by electing an extremely qualified, proven, minority leader to lead the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Sons also praised McLaurin for his leadership.
“He has done a tremendous job as the interim,” he said. “Our hope again is that we would one day soon not only see more diversity in the first seat but we would see more diversity in every seat on our trustee boards, at our seminaries.
“I think the trend of the SBC is moving, at least if the data is to believed, toward seeing more and more of our African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American churches coming on board with the work of the SBC,” he continued. “Certainly the search committee was not trying to set that trend back. We are committed to seeing the SBC enjoy the best and brightest days which I believe lay ahead of us.”
Prior to the meeting, others had voiced concerns over the nomination of Wellman. The Tennessee Baptist & Reflector posted an editorial on April 29, claiming a lack of transparency by the search committee, and African American pastors A.B. Vine and Dwight McKissic recently questioned on Twitter why a person of color had not been considered for the position.
Wellman, who has been an EC member since 2015, served as ex-officio member of the search committee from June until he recused himself Jan. 26. He stepped down from the EC in mid-April.
During the news conference, Sons said Wellman did not insert himself into the process, but the search committee invited him to consider the position after they reached an impasse with some of the candidates.
“As we began to think through what’s the path forward from here, are there other candidates we would perhaps like to interview, Jared’s name was brought forth from within the committee,” he said. “Again, he did not insert himself at the last moment. I think there has been a little bit of narrative that he kind of waited until the end and just put himself in the process. That’s not at all how it worked. He did not ask for this. We invited him into the process, invited him to consider being a candidate. He prayerfully considered, agreed, recused himself from the process and the search team went about interviewing Jared as our candidate.”
“I do know that today the trustees spoke and said they wanted to go in a different direction than what the search team had presented to them,” Sons said. “We certainly respect it. It is certainly within their purview to do. Ultimately it is not the search team that selects a candidate or selects a president. It is the role of the trustees to select their own president. So they made their decision today and we moved onto the next place of impaneling a new search team and are hopeful to work together to see our cooperative enterprise continue and to see the Great Commandment and the Great Commission fulfilled.”