The issue of confidentiality and attorney client privilege was a subject of intense debate in recent weeks among Southern Baptist leaders, as was the issue of local church control over national SBC entities such as the Executive Committee.
The debate centered around a decision made by the denomination’s annual meeting to investigate how the Executive Committee has responded to allegations of sexual abuse and how Executive Committee members and staff treated abuse survivors.
The Executive Committee had originally ordered an investigation of its own, but local church delegates took control of that investigation. Those delegates, known as messengers, specifically directed the committee to waive privilege if asked to do so by the outside firm doing the investigation.
During meetings this fall, committee members argued that waiving privilege could bankrupt the SBC by exposing it to lawsuits. They also argued that waiving privilege went against the advice of Guenther and other attorneys brought in to consult on the matter.
Other committee members, including committee Chair Rolland Slade, argued they were obligated to follow the instructions of local churches’ messengers.
After weeks of deadlock, the committee voted on Oct. 10 to waive privilege. At least 10 committee members, most who opposed the waiver, have resigned. In their letter to Floyd, who also raised questions about the issue of waiving privilege, Guenther and Jordan defended attorney-client privilege.
“The attorney-client privilege has been portrayed by some as an evil device by which misconduct is somehow allowed to be secreted so wrongdoers can escape justice and defeat the legal rights of others,” they wrote. “That could not be further from the truth.”
Floyd praised Guenther’s firm for its long service to the SBC.
“With deep regrets, we accept their decision and fully understand their reason behind it and their need to withdraw,” he told Baptist Press. “We are extremely grateful for their 56 years of superior service to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Committee.”
After news of Guenther’s break with the SBC, former Executive Committee President Morris Chapman posted a comment that appeared to be a response on social media.
“Southern Baptists will always have faithful representation before the throne of God,” he wrote.
This article originally appeared here.