(SBC) — The longtime general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to cut ties with the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
The decision came after members of the SBC’s Nashville-based Executive Committee decided to waive attorney-client privilege as part of a sexual-abuse investigation. That decision means that records of conversations on legal matters among Executive Committee members and staff would no longer be confidential.
That decision made it impossible for the denomination’s legal counsel to continue its role, wrote attorneys James Guenther and James Jordan of Guenther, Jordan & Price.
“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,” Guenther and Jordan wrote in a letter to Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd.
Guenther, 87, has been general counsel for the SBC since 1966. Before then, he spent a decade working for what was then known as the Baptist Sunday School Board, now LifeWay Christian Resources.
Guenther told the Baptist and Reflector that his firm has represented the SBC in about 50 cases where the denomination was being sued over the actions of a local congregation.
“Because Southern Baptists are not hierarchical, and the convention does not control churches, Guenther and his firm have never lost an ascending liability,” the newspaper reported.
The attorney warned Southern Baptists to stay true to their theology in order to protect themselves legally.
“We have got to always be diligent that we practice what we preach and conventions need to take care to respect what the Baptist Faith and Message says about local church autonomy,” he told the Baptist and Reflector.