The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee will launch an internal investigation into how its recently removed interim president deceived the denomination for years about his educational background and military service — both of which appear to be bogus.
Although Executive Committee officials have not publicly stated the full extent of Willie McLaurin’s lies on his resume, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation have told BNG McLaurin attended none of the three schools he said he graduated from and did not serve in the military as he claimed.
A basic online background check conducted by BNG with publicly avaialable information returned no educational record for him.
McLaurin was on the brink of being named permanent president of the SBC’s top coordinating entity when the presidential search committee could not independently confirm his academic record — even though McLaurin produced diplomas that were discovered to be fake. When confronted by the search committee, McLaurin admitted his lies and immediately resigned Aug. 17.
How the internal investigation will be handled and who will do it were not announced in the story published by Baptist Press, in-house news service of the Executive Committee.
Jon Wilke, Executive Committee director of media relations, told BP: “We have recently begun an internal review of these matters and anticipate the completion of this review in time for the September SBC Executive Committee meeting.”
Meanwhile, speculation has increased that in his role as interim president McLaurin might have perjured himself in testimony given related to ongoing litigation against the SBC.
Benjamin Cole, who writes under the pen name The Baptist Blogger, on Aug. 18 tweeted what appeared to be transcripts of a deposition given by McLaurin in an unidentified court case. In that deposition, the examiner first asks McLaurin if he is a “doctor,” to which McLaurin replies, “Your understanding is correct.”
The transcript also shows McLaurin saying he is a 1993 graduate of North Carolina Central University, which reportedly is not true. He says in the deposition he majored in biology and minored in sociology.
McLaurin further testifies under oath that he served six years in the U.S. Army, first at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and then at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Fort Campbell, Ky. He claims he was honorably discharged with the rank of captain. He says he was deployed at one point to Korea but he can’t recall how long he was there.
He recalls being at Fort Huachuca for two years but says he cannot recall how long he was at Fort Leonard Wood.
The examiner then asks: “Did you stay on in any kind of a reserve role after your discharge?”
McLaurin responds: “Yes, it was whatever that phrase was, kind of — it was, like, a two-year they can call you back type of thing.”
To this point, no public comment has been made about what appeared on McLaurin’s resume when he was hired at the Executive Committee as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization just four years ago, in 2019.
Prior to that, he worked more than 15 years at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Its current leadership has said all those who were involved in McLaurin’s hiring there are retired or dead. At some point after McLaurin’s hiring, a new executive director implemented more stringent background checks.
What Southern Baptists in the pew will learn about the depth of McLaurin’s deception depends now on how much information the Executive Committee releases from its internal investigation.
“Any findings will first be shared with the members of the Executive Committee,” Wilke told BP, “and what findings can be made public will be made public at that time.”
The Executive Committee is scheduled to meet in Nashville Sept. 18-19.
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