Much has changed for David Sons since mid-April. As the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting approaches in June, Sons is now the chairman of the Executive Committee and therefore an ex-officio member of a new search team tasked with finding a candidate to lead the EC.
Per EC bylaws, Sons, who was elected vice chair of the EC in June 2022, took over the chairmanship upon the resignation of former Chairman Jared Wellman April 17. Sons also is serving as the chairman of the 2023 SBC Committee on Resolutions.
Sons, pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, S.C., led the May 1 special called EC meeting in Dallas without the in-person attendance of the previous search committee’s chairman Adron Robinson, who was home recovering from COVID-19. Robinson joined the EC meeting via Zoom.
A little more than an hour after the EC had announced it was declining the recommendation for Wellman to serve as the next president and CEO of the entity, Sons, who had served on the search committee that presented the recommendation, sat alone to field questions from reporters.
He said many of the EC members were leaving Dallas disappointed in the outcome or the process. But he believes most of them still have hope for the future of the beleaguered entity.
“What we have seen is that the Executive Committee is filled with men and women who have been appointed by the messengers who will vote their convictions and their consciences,” he said.
Sons said that anyone who believed the members “were just kind of a rubber stamp committee” shouldn’t anymore.
EC members voted by a margin of 50-31 to decline Wellman as the group’s new EC president and CEO.
Speculation around the Wellman nomination swirled online late last week and over the weekend. Among concerns, Southern Baptist pastors Dwight McKissic and A.B. Vines expressed respect for Wellman, but raised questions about the search process and why a minority wasn’t the right fit.
EC interim president and CEO Willie McLaurin became the first African-American to lead an SBC entity when he was named to the spot in February 2022.
Sons said the committee, which included Mike Keahbone, a Native American, and Adron Robinson, an African-American, put forward the candidate “we felt the Lord leading us to bring” in Wellman.
He said the committee’s shared hope was that “we would one day soon not only see more diversity in the first seat, but we would see more diversity in every seat on our trustee boards and at our seminaries.”
“I think that the trend of the SBC is moving toward seeing more and more of our African-American churches and Hispanic churches and Asian churches and Native American churches coming on board with the work of the SBC,” he said.
The search committee that nominated Sons and the other members was formed at the February 2022 EC meeting in Nashville, with Rolland Slade presiding as chairman. The committee members were nominated by EC members in open nominations and then voted on by secret ballot.
In the press conference, Sons was asked about speculation that Wellman had stacked the committee and inserted himself at the last minute.
“Jared did not insert himself into the process. Jared was invited into the process by the search team,” Sons said.
Wellman was voted chairman of the EC at the body’s June 13, 2022, meeting just before the SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. At that point, he became an ex-officio member of the search committee.
“We invited him into the process, invited him to consider being a candidate. He prayerfully did … and recused himself from the process,” Sons said. Last week, Sons told Baptist Press that Wellman stepped away on Jan. 26.
Monday afternoon, Sons said the committee “had kind of come to a little bit of an impasse” when they asked Wellman to consider being a candidate. According to Sons, they had eliminated one of their final candidates, another withdrew, and the group was split on another.
Sons said the committee had examined the EC’s bylaws before asking Wellman to submit his name and had gotten “legal counsel to make sure that we were not doing anything illegal or unethical.” When they believed they were in the clear, they moved forward.
Now Sons fills the ex-officio spot on the search committee left vacant by Wellman.
“Ultimately, it is not the search team that selects a candidate or selects the president. It is the role of the trustees to select their own president,” he said.
Sons says he is hopeful they can “work together to see our cooperative enterprise continue and to see the Great Commandment and the Great Commission fulfilled.”
— Brandon Porter serves as associate vice president for convention news at the SBC Executive Committee.