The letter Ronnie didn’t write…

Dear SBC Executive Committee Trustees and SBC Family,

I was planning to release this letter on Monday, October 11; however, I delayed the publishing of this letter until today, due to the death of my mother-in-law on Sunday and then the funeral which took place on Wednesday afternoon in Bridgeport Texas, October 13.

For many years, I have told you that I was “humbled” to lead Southern Baptists; however, today I can confess a level of humility — if not total humiliation — that I have not known in ministry. Writing this letter has been difficult, and even more so because of the recent death of my wife’s mother.

After serving as the senior pastor of the same church for over thirty-two years, I came here twenty-eight months ago in good faith because I believed in what we do together to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. It was this personal and pastoral commitment to the Great Commission vision that moved me to lead my church to invest heavily in the Cooperative Program and the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

There is no need to rehearse the sequence of events that have brought the Executive Committee and our convention to this moment of crisis. For the past 28 months, I have attempted to the best of my abilities to serve Southern Baptists in a role that I believed to be God’s calling on the last chapters of my life. I hit the ground running, and I gave it my very best before God.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 90:12 these words, “Teach us to number our days carefully so we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” We are told these words because each of our days are limited and we must determine how we believe God wants us to use them for His glory.

The prophet Jeremiah has been on my heart lately. In the eighteenth chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet is told by God to ”go down to the potter’s house.” There, he was to watch as the potter beat and molded and struck and fired and cast down a piece of common clay. God said to Jeremiah: “Like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you to me.” I know that God is doing something in my life, and in our convention, that is his divine prerogative. This has been a painful season, and we are not sure why God has brought us to this point. But I am trusting that God knows what he is doing.

While Jeana and I have no idea where we are going and what we will do in the future, today I submit my resignation as the President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. I will serve through Sunday, October 31, 2021.

I also know that my time on this particular potter’s wheel has come to an end. While it wasn’t the end I had hoped and for which I had desperately prayed, God has made it clear to Jeana and me that it is not his plan for us to remain at the Executive Committee. Today, I have tendered my resignation to Chairman Rolland Slade, effective immediately. I have promised to assist Chairman Slade in any manner he requests to facilitate a peaceful transition to the next leadership that God will provide.

In the midst of multiple challenges facing the SBC, I was asked to come here because of my proven personal integrity, reputation, and leadership. What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role.

The hurt we are feeling is compounded by the sense that we have been left to face this alone by some of our closest friends and longtime ministry partners. When I was elected, all of my contemporaries and peers were kind to provide strong statements of endorsement for my leadership. Each of them — all six seminary presidents, both mission board presidents, our publishing house and our annuity board leaders — told me privately and publicly that they were fully supportive of my leadership. In fact, I told them that I could not accept the position without their unqualified support. In recent months, I have been keenly aware how that support — both privately and publicly — has evaporated. I have none to blame but myself, and I feel that I have let down so many people, especially the survivors of sex abuse who have been calling for reforms for years.

As President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, I have fiduciary duties. The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters. Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC. In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make.

Since the 2021 annual meeting, I have struggled with determining the best way to honor both my responsiblities to the convention as its treasurer and my duties as the chief executive of the executive committee. Southern Baptists are facing an unprecedented challenge, and the Executive Committee is in uncharted waters. I sought to the best of my ability the wisest legal and theological counsel to help guide this process. But I admit, my primary calling is as a pastor. And while I have been frustrated by the process, I cannot imagine the frustration experienced by so many abuse survivors whose cries have gone unheeded for many years. In the end, I have failed both the convention and them. I am sorry.

Our SBC Executive Committee has had an unwavering commitment to doing this needed review. Our commitment has always been to fulfill the desires of the messengers, but the deliberations were about
“how to do this” in the most effective way. There was a way it could have been done that fulfilled these desires without creating these potential risks relating to the Convention’s liability. Sadly, even some of our laypeople who are serving as our trustees had to submit their resignation because their profession will not permit them to serve any longer due to these risks that now exist. Others will have to do the same also. This is unacceptable and should concern every Baptist layperson. The SBC entities need more laypersons, not less, who bring their professional expertise in law, finance, and other disciplines to us.

Under the leadership of Chairman Rolland Slade, the Executive Committee has sought to honor the Lord, respect the messengers, and fulfill our ministry assignment. Perhaps, in my zeal to get our convention focused on reaching the world, I have neglected to give proper priority to the overwhelming charge of the messengers to the 2021 annual meeting. Perhaps, in my desire to lead boldly, I have not listened attentively. For this too I am sorry.

I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people. Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about “the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

In my strongest moments of ministry success, I have been able to bring people together and accomplish good for the Lord and his Kingdom, though I recognize I have failed to give the Lord the glory due his name for these successes. At times, I have taken too much credit for myself. The old man is not yet fully dead in me. But in my weakness, Christ is made strong. I am learning far too late in life what the mirror looks like, and I want God to keep making me into the image of his son. For him to do that, I have to be willing to forget everything that is behind and press forward, on my knees, and trust that God will use this broken vessel to do something glorious for the sake of the gospel.

Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention. I will also continue to carry out my ongoing responsibilities.

I simply do not know how Jeana and I can face another convention. It is going to be hard enough to attend church for a while. We are feeling, to some small degree, what so many who have been hurt in church must have felt. I want this experience to leave me marked — like Jacob at the Brook Jabbok — until everyone who will ever see me at a Southern Baptist Convention in the years ahead will know that I have wrestled with God, and he has broken me. If you see us in the coming years, I hope you will not see my failures but the Lord’s victories in my life.

We love Southern Baptists and will continue to love you and the mission we do together. As the Treasurer of the SBC, it is a privilege to announce to you this week, that over $702.6 million dollars have been given this past fiscal year through our Total Cooperative Program Giving, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. This generosity has occurred over these past twelve months as we have each navigated through this global pandemic.

Perhaps, what I will miss most about this job is the opportunity to serve at the nexus of 47,000 churches cooperating together on mission. Every week for the past 28 months I have rejoiced to get reports of Cooperative Program receipts. Through a terrible season of political, economic, and global health crisis, Southern Baptists have remained faithful and your generosity unto the Lord is overwhelming. Like no other entity leader, I have gotten to see how all the work Southern Baptists do in the earth is supported through the Cooperative Program and our various mission offerings. I will miss those weekly reports, though I will continue to celebrate with you as God’s people give sacrificially that the world might know Jesus.

As I walk away from these responsibilities that I have cherished and still cherish today, I know we have been faithful to champion the work we do together in the Great Commission and through the Cooperative Program. We have also led our Convention to adopt Vision 2025, a unified Great Commission vision. We have also led our team to prepare and serve the largest SBC Annual Meeting in decades. Furthermore, we have led our Convention to amend our SBC Constitution declaring that churches will no longer be in friendly cooperation with us who are acting in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse and even others who may be acting to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity. These actions will endure the test of time because they are now in the governing documents of our Convention. We have led our Convention to grant to our SBC Executive Committee the national ministry assignment to elevate the ministry of prayer in our churches. This is desperately needed, and it was my desire to do it in the highest manner.

While I am inclined to close this letter with a list of accomplishments during my tenure, I feel that impulse is at war with my sense of the Lord’s charge to me in the coming days. Proverbs 27:2 says ”let another’s lips praise you, and not your own.” If there is anything I have done that is praiseworthy, I trust that men of good will and charity will speak kindly of my leadership at the appropriate time.

To our staff team and trustees, as well as all of our partners in the Great Commission, we love you and thank you for this high honor to have served you. To all of the pastors and to all of the churches, and the missionaries across the globe, I have been faithful sought to be faithful to your causes daily and have always had you in my heart as I weighed the heavy decisions that came across my desk.

May God and His favor continue to rest on all of our Great Commission work together.

Ronnie W. Floyd

2 thoughts on “The letter Ronnie didn’t write…

  1. I have been unsatisfied with recent letters written by Ronnie Floyd. He uses precious space to seemingly defend himself from a straw man, while neglecting the clear mandates resulting from floor motions in Nashville.
    Your ‘unwritten’ letter is much more satisfactory. Therefore, I accept the above written letter of resignation.

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