The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee now has its third leader in 18 months.
Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications, has been named interim president following the sudden resignation of Willie McLaurin last Friday. McLaurin was named interim president in February 2022 after President Ronnie Floyd abruptly resigned in a dispute with his trustees.
McLaurin quit after the presidential search committee discovered major elements of his resume were fraudulent — including academic degrees and a record of military service.
That news rocked the SBC’s inner circle, which already is reeling from controversies over sexual abuse, women in ministry and more.
Executive Committee trustee Chairman Philip Robertson said the entity’s bylaws require officers to name an interim president immediately, pending full board approval later. That means Howe could be the long-term interim or could hold the post only until the full board convenes in February.
Howe does not fit the traditional profile of Executive Committee presidents in that he has not come from a pastorate. He began his career as an athletic coordinator at McNeese State University and doing marketing for the Birmingham Barons Baseball Club. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sports administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.
He then took a job as marketing and sales manager for New Hope Publishers, an imprint of the SBC-related Woman’s Missionary Union. That led to a role as director of strategic initiatives at the SBC’s Lifeway Christian Resources.
While at Lifeway, Howe enrolled at Criswell College, where he earned a master of arts in theology degree. Although not one of the SBC’s six seminaries, Criswell College is closely affiliated with the SBC through First Baptist Church of Dallas.
He was named vice president for communications at the SBC Executive Committee in 2019, just months before the global pandemic shut down churches and denominational gatherings for a year and a half. In that role he serves as the chief communications officer for the denomination and oversees the in-house news service Baptist Press. He also carries primary responsibility for planning SBC annual meetings.
The Executive Committee staff is relatively small compared to the importance of its work. The entity serves as a coordinating hub for all SBC entities, plans annual meetings, speaks for the denomination and collects Cooperative Program giving from churches and state conventions and redistributes that money throughout the SBC.
Meanwhile, the chair of the presidential search committee said its work will resume and is once again receiving resumes.
In February, the search committee presented another candidate for election who was not affirmed by the full trustee board. McLaurin was in the final stages of being selected for nomination.
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