EC extends working group negotiations and still hopes for a resolution

By SCOTT BARKLEY, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE (BP) – A five-hour meeting of executive committee members on Tuesday included debate on three different motions and amendments to negotiate a contract with the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost Solutions. The end result brought another deal to extend the talks for another seven days to seek a potential deal through what has been called the Michigan model.

In a statement by an EC spokesperson, Southern Baptists were asked to pray “that in seven days we finally have a working group and executive committee of the board united not only in its commitment to address concerns related to sexual abuse (through review) but also confident in a process in accordance with the will of the messengers and attentive to all other fiduciary and legal considerations.

“We pray that Southern Baptists will see this exhausting and deliberative process as necessary, and in accordance with the rules of the Convention, as the board of directors, the task force and the leadership of the executive committee all work diligently, in the prayer and as quickly as possible to do the right thing the right way. We are all in there.”

In the Michigan model, the investigative team – in this case, Guidepost – can see all of the evidence while only reporting non-privileged information. The task force would contract not only with Guidepost, but with a law firm.

The law firm would provide the umbrella of lien, Guidepost would conduct the investigation in conjunction with the law firm on the questions of lien and Guidepost would have access to all information,” said Guidepost CEO Julie Myers Wood . “Guidepost was unable to account for inside information in its public report. ”

A point of negotiation comes with who gets to determine the law firm. The chair of the working group, Bruce Frank, was invited to join the EC call on Tuesday. Frank said that on Monday, representatives of the executive committee wanted to be able to choose the law firm under contract.

“This would put them in a fiduciary relationship as the people being investigated,” he said. “We said that as long as the task force is the one that contracts, thus eliminating the conflict of interest, the Michigan model is doable.”

On three occasions, EC members discussed and voted on motions. The first, presented by Arlington, Texas pastor Jared Wellman, largely echoed the motion he put forward at last week’s meeting in Nashville, which was defeated 55-20. This motion explicitly waived solicitor-client privilege and was again defeated on Tuesday, albeit by a much smaller margin by a vote of 39-35.

Later another motion from Rapid City, SD, Pastor Joshua Bonner went into more detail and requested that the subject of solicitor-client privilege be addressed at the end of the investigative process. This motion was also defeated. A third motion presented by Rod Martin, of Destin, Florida, was finally approved by the EC members and reads as follows:

“I suggest that we give officers seven days to complete negotiations with the task force and the guiding post, if possible using the Michigan model.”

Discussions rebounded on the proximity of EC officers and task force members to reaching an agreement on solicitor-client privilege at weekend meetings. Members questioned how to respond to the will of the messengers who voted at the SBC’s annual meeting for an independent third-party investigation into allegations of mismanagement of sexual abuse complaints while being true to their fiduciary responsibilities to the name of the EC.

While the Michigan model doesn’t tick all of the boxes on the task force’s wishlist, Frank said, it could potentially lead to what the messengers are really hoping for.

“I think we can stand up [and say to SBC messengers], although we have not waived solicitor-client privilege, you can believe this report. This report was complete.

Frank pointed out, “It can be a very good connection to the Michigan model.”

SBC President Ed Litton remained praying that the executive committee “ultimately chooses to take the necessary action to waive solicitor-client privilege and demonstrate that its commitment to fully cooperate is more than just words.”

“After failing to come to an agreement during the previous seven-day extension, I am sorry that the executive committee determined that even more time was needed before honoring the clear will of the messengers regarding the solicitor-client privilege, ”he said. “As task force chairman Bruce Frank made clear today, there is no doubt that the investigation will take place. The only question remaining is whether the Executive Committee will commit to doing its utmost. support and cooperation in this process by adhering to the leadership of the messengers.

Compared to what it was a week ago, the President of the EC, Rolland Slade, felt that the two parties were much closer to an agreement and “a fair and factual investigation”.

“It’s about the people, the people who have been injured. I hope this is where our hearts will continue to stay, ”he said. “I think we are closer to something [workable].

At the start of the meeting, Slade expressed disappointment at the unsuccessful outcome of eight hours of meetings on Monday, September 27.

“We have tried,” he said. “We underlined at the beginning where we had a difference [of opinion] and plucked the fruits within easy reach, clearing them out of the way.

“The big fruit in the room, of course, was solicitor-client privilege.”

In the 24 minutes leading up to the executive session, EC members and those watching the live webcast of the meeting also heard from EC agent Robyn Hari and EC President and CEO Ronnie Floyd. Although full agreement was not reached, Hari said there was “a good spirit in the room” which led to “a healthy … respectful conversation”.

“We certainly know how important it is to honor the request of the messengers [but] it also allowed us to present the challenges we faced. … At the end of the day, we are all trying to gather information and make the most informed decision possible.

Floyd offered to “reaffirm” his commitment to his personal walk as a Christian as well as his position within the EC “to do all we can to prayerfully eliminate all incidents of sexual abuse in our churches” .

“This is why I support the independent review of the SBC executive committee that has been taking place since 2000,” he said. “This organization and its members – past, present and future – should always view any kind of sexual abuse as unacceptable.

“In my role with you, it behooves me to remind everyone that the best way to achieve this goal for all concerned is to listen to and follow the advice of our advisors in order to avoid unintended consequences and the confusion. And above all, our legal counsel, we pray, will assist us in the most professional and ethical manner possible so that we can all respond appropriately to the challenges ahead.

“I am committed to working with everyone during this very difficult time, and quite frankly, a time filled with enormous challenges for all of us.”

About the author