The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee eliminated 20% of its staff Sept. 13 but has not indicated what positions or people were affected.
An announcement was made through Baptist Press, the in-house news service that is run by Executive Committee staff members. That announcement said five staff positions and two contractor positions were eliminated, leaving 21 full-time employees at the Nashville organization.
The Executive Committee serves as a coordinating body for all denominational entities, receiving and disbursing Cooperative Program funding, planning annual meetings and setting policy for the denomination between annual sessions.
The 2022 SBC Annual listed 27 staff members. Of that number, four were associate vice presidents with specific responsibilities for relating to specific constituencies, supported by two administrative assistants. Some of those positions were funded through a joint agreement with the SBC North American Mission Board.
Whether any of those positions are among those eliminated was not clear. As of the evening of Sept. 13, the entity’s website still listed 26 employees.
More than one-third (10) of the staff listed in 2022 worked in communications, including five with specific assignments in Baptist Press. Only three held job titles related to accounting or financial management.
The current online staff listing does not include the associate vice president position previously held by Willie McLaurin, who had been serving as interim president until a presidential search committee learned he fabricated most of his resume. Another essential position, chief financial officer, is not shown either, because that position is vacant and is currently filled by an interim.
Overall, giving from churches to the national body is running less than 1% behind budget.
The SBC’s fiscal year runs from October through September, meaning there’s less than a month left in the current fiscal year. For this fiscal year, the Executive Committee’s convention-approved budget is $8.3 million. Overall, giving from churches to the national body is running less than 1% behind budget.
Because of a delay in the way annual financial statements are published within the SBC, the latest public numbers available are for fiscal year 2021. Those statements show the Executive Committee ended 2021 with less than half the cash or cash equivalents it had on hand at the conclusion of the prior year: A decrease of $1.84 million from $3.49 million to $1.65 million. However, other parts of the financial statements show stability in income, investments and assets.
Between then and now, however, the Executive Committee has expended an unreported amount of money on a sexual abuse investigation, as well as litigation and settlements related to that investigation and other legal claims.
In February, Executive Committee members were told the organization realized a net loss of more than $6 million in assets during the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Executive Committee officials have said in general terms that the entity’s operating reserves were at risk of being depleted. That was verified in a statement to Baptist Press from Mike Bianchi, interim chief financial officer: “Over the past few years, the Executive Committee has incurred significant expenses from investigations and legal fees. This has led to a substantial erosion of Executive Committee reserves, necessitating considerable expense reductions to avoid entirely depleting cash reserves.”
Thus, it was not surprising to convention insiders when Interim President Jonathan Howe said Sept. 13: “Our financial realities have led to an organizational restructuring and the reduction of staff and operational expenses.”
Bianchi added: “The adjustments are an important stopgap to extend the life of the cash reserves, but despite the expense reductions, the Executive Committee will still have to draw from reserves to cover ongoing investigation and legal expenses in the 2023-2024 budget.”