Another top-level leader with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee is leaving his post — after only 15 months on the job.
However, unlike others who have recently left the Executive Committee staff, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Pearson made it clear in his resignation letter that he supports the current independent investigation into accusations of mismanagement of sexual abuse claims in the denomination.
Pearson’s departure comes on the heels of resignations by Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd and Executive Vice President Greg Addison in October 2021. Both Floyd and Addison resigned in protest of the vote by trustees to waive attorney-client privilege in the investigation.
Executive Committee trustee Chairman Rolland Slade, although a full-time pastor in California, has been giving interim leadership to the Nashville-based staff and called Pearson’s resignation “unexpected.” He told Baptist Press Pearson is “a man of tremendous integrity who has served the SBC and the SBCEC with distinction over these last 15 months.”
Pearson’s departure leaves only two top-level staff members in place at the entity that coordinates cooperation between all SBC entities and manages the convention’s finances. Willie McLaurin remains as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization, and Jonathan Howe remains as vice president for communications.
Pearson joined the Executive Committee staff in October 2020, moving from a job as chief financial officer of the fundraising and awareness arm of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
In an unusual sign of the troubled times at the Executive Committee, Pearson’s resignation letter includes sections with the subheadings “important point of clarification” and “advice and counsel.”
On the first point, he explains: “It is critically important to me that it is crystal clear, I have always been and I remain fully in favor of the current investigation of the Executive Committee. I am committed to fully cooperate and have instructed our staff and those assisting the Executive Committee with this investigation to fully cooperate. To my knowledge and everything I have witnessed indicates everyone associated with the Executive Committee staff and those assisting the Executive Committee have fully complied (with) these instructions. We at the Executive Committee, like the messengers of the 2021 annual meeting, want the truth to be revealed so the Southern Baptist Convention can move forward with recovery, reconciliation and healing.”
“I have always been and I remain fully in favor of the current investigation of the Executive Committee.”
And on the second point, he adds: “This resignation comes after my receiving advice and counsel from multiple attorneys, none of which have ever served the Executive Committee in any professional capacity. One is an expert in nonprofit law serving at a major international nonprofit organization and one is a lifelong member of Southern Baptist churches who is deeply committed and passionate about the Cooperative Program.”
Floyd had sought to convince Executive Committee trustees — mainly through a series of attorneys who issued dire warnings — that the entire Southern Baptist Convention could be endangered if they voted to waive attorney-client privilege.
The decision to fully cooperative with an independent outside investigation — with no control over its findings — also led 15 trustees to resign and caused the entity’s longtime legal counsel to quit.
Nevertheless, Pearson concluded his resignation letter with a word of hope for the SBC: “My prayer is the Southern Baptist Convention will find a way forward, producing recovery, reconciliation and healing so we can once again turn our full focus to the work of the Great Commission.”