(AP) — Tennessee Pastor Willie McLaurin, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, resigned Thursday from his position as interim president and chief executive after it came to light that he presented false information about his educational qualifications on his resume.
The Executive Committee’s hiring team was considering McLaurin as a candidate to permanently replace former chief executive Ronnie Floyd who resigned in 2021. On a resume he submitted for the job, McLaurin falsely listed that he had earned degrees from North Carolina Central University, Duke University Divinity School and Hood Theological Seminary, according to the Baptist Press, an official SBC news outlet.
McLaurin has served as the Executive Committee’s interim leader since February 2022. At the time, he became the first African American to lead one of the denomination’s ministry entities in its more than 175-year history. The SBC is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
McLaurin could not be reached for comment Thursday. In a statement, Executive Committee Chairman Philip Robertson shared an excerpt from McLaurin’s resignation letter: “In a recent resume that I submitted, it included schools that I did not attend or complete the course of study.”
The Executive Committee said it will issue updates about the future of the presidential search team and the SBC Executive Committee’s staff leadership “in the near future.”
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, SBC President Bart Barber quoted McLaurin asking for forgiveness “for the harm or hurt that this has caused.” Barber shared in the same post that he had granted that request: “Biblical Christianity offers you one and only one response to that plea, fellow Southern Baptists. Yes, Willie, I forgive you.”
The job of the chief executive involves leading the day-to-day business of the committee, which acts on behalf of the convention when it is not holding its annual two-day national gathering in June. His predecessor, Floyd resigned amid turmoil over the Executive Committee’s handling of a third-party investigation into how the committee addressed sexual abuse reports.
In addition to serving as the Executive Committee’s vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization since the post was created in 2020, McLaurin also worked at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board for 15 years. He has served in state and national convention roles, including on the SBC Resolutions Committee, on the Tennessee Baptist Convention executive board, as president of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network and with the African American Fellowship of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
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