Willie McLaurin has stepped down as interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee and is no longer considered to be a candidate for that position by the presidential search team.
McLaurin confessed to EC Chairman Phillip Robertson and EC Presidential Search Committee Chairman Neal Hughes Aug. 17 that his education credentials were forgeries.
In an email statement to EC members shared with Baptist Press, Robertson said, “While considering Willie as a candidate, your Presidential Search Team discovered disqualifying information during their process of vetting and due diligence.”
On his résumé, McLaurin listed earned degrees from North Carolina Central University, Duke University Divinity School and Hood Theological Seminary. Those entries proved to be false.
Hughes said three different search committee members did individual investigations into the validity of the credibility of McLaurin’s degrees.
“They spent four weeks investigating and applying for answers,” Hughes said in a letter to EC members.
In the end, each institution confirmed McLaurin had never graduated from the institution.
“These matters were turned over to our EC officers, who also act as the personnel team for the EC,” Hughes said.
After admitting the truth, McLaurin tendered his resignation.
“To the Southern Baptists who have placed their confidence in me and have encouraged me to pursue the role of President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, including pastors, state partners, entity servants, colleagues, and SBC African American friends, I offer my deepest apologies,” McLaurin said in a resignation letter submitted to EC officers and shared with Baptist Press. “Please forgive me for the harm or hurt that this has caused.”
In a statement to Baptist Press, McLaurin said, “I am thankful for the trust that Southern Baptists placed in me to serve as Interim President and CEO. Now, I am trusting Southern Baptists to pray for me and my family as we navigate this part of the journey.”
McLaurin was named to the interim role on Feb. 1, 2022, stepping into the position that had been vacated three months earlier by Ronnie Floyd. Previously, McLaurin had served as vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization at the EC.
Prior to his role at the EC, McLaurin was on the staff of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board for 15 years. He also served as executive pastor at Greater Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., and senior pastor at Greater Hope Baptist Church in Union City, Tenn.
McLaurin was on the SBC Committee on Resolutions in 2018 and president of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network in 2011-2012. He also was on the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention from 2003-2005 and was the inaugural president of the African American Fellowship of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
The EC is scheduled to meet in person in Nashville on Sept. 18-19.
Hughes said the search team will resume their search for the next candidate to lead the EC.
Robertson called on Southern Baptists to join him and Hughes in prayer.
“The need for God’s wisdom and direction is paramount at each and every point in the process of searching and selecting the next president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee,” Robertson said.
— Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.