Home Christian News SBC Executive Committee Says Yes to Waiving Attorney-Client Privilege

SBC Executive Committee Says Yes to Waiving Attorney-Client Privilege

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Messengers vote during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at Music City Center, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Nashville. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

The executive committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention has voted to waive attorney-client privilege (ACP) in the investigation into whether or not the it mishandled allegations of sexual abuse. The SBC Executive Committee approved a motion from Pastor Jared Wellman on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

“This is one small step forward, for which I am thankful,” said survivor Jules Woodson, “but it’s only the beginning of a long road ahead. May truth prevail. May justice prevail. May accountability prevail. May restitution prevail. May change prevail. Amen.”

Wellman’s motion, which stipulated there must be a waiver of attorney-client privilege in the investigation, was approved by a vote of 44 to 31 after weeks of delay, debate, and often tense meetings. Some EC members fear waiving ACP will jeopardize the SBC’s insurance  and expose the convention to liability. Six EC members have recently resigned (more are expected to after today’s vote); 67 were present at today’s meeting. 

“I’d like to really express my relief that this present challenge seems to be behind us,” said EC chairman Rolland Slade after the motion passed. “Also I want to express sorrow over the conduct that we have displayed as Southern Baptists over the course of this absolutely necessarily deliberative process…Frankly, I think there are some apologies that are in order.”

SBC Executive Committee Votes to Waive Privilege

The Oct. 5 meeting, which lasted for over three hours, had an unpromising start. An attorney named Jim Murray who specializes in questions pertaining to insurance shared that he was retained by the SBC Executive Committee several weeks ago. Murray said he had “strong views” on the question of whether or not to waive ACP, but that his advice on the topic was itself privileged. So less than 20 minutes after the meeting began, the livestream ended as members went into executive session, presumably to hear Murray’s advice.

When the stream started again, EC member Jim Gregory gave a report. Gregory was among the EC members who met with the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) on Sept. 27 in an attempt to come to a “workable solution” prior to last EC meeting on Sept 28. For further reading about that meeting, see the following article:

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Gregory’s ultimate point was that the EC and SATF were still at an impasse. SBC president  Dr. Ed Litton expressed surprise at this and revealed that an “eleventh hour” meeting had taken place the previous night. Litton said that the meeting had indicated that a “special master” process for the investigation would be a solution acceptable to all parties and that even EC president and CEO Ronnie Floyd had responded favorably to it. Gregory said, however, that the model would not work and was even worse than other options members had previously entertained.

After more discussion, Jared Wellman put forth a motion similar to those he had offered in the past, emphasizing that the waiver of privilege has always been selective and not a blanket waiver. His motion reads as follows:

I move that the Executive Committee authorize our Chairman to execute the contract with Guidepost that we received on October 1, 2021 which includes waiver of attorney-client privilege in accordance with the action of the messengers to the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention.