ANAHEIM, Calif. – Texas pastor Jared Wellman didn’t jump at the chance to become chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, which has been navigating a tumultuous couple years amid a lingering sexual abuse scandal.
“When I was originally asked, I said no, and I referred to someone else to serve,” Wellman said at a Monday press conference at the Anaheim Convention Center. “I think I gave four different names, and they all said no. I wrestled with it and prayed through it, and at some point along the way, I read Ezekiel 22. … In that chapter, the Lord is looking for someone to stand in the gap.”
Ultimately, Wellman agreed to be nominated. He was elected by fellow Executive Committee members at a meeting Monday morning.
“The Lord looks for people to serve in this fallen world that we live in, and a lot of times when it comes to leadership, we tend to want to find leadership positions that are of benefit to us, rather than a cost to us. Through the scriptures the Lord encouraged me that these are the moments that he really needs people to serve.”
California pastor Roland Slade, who served as Executive Committee chairman for the past two years, will finish his term in office this week.
Thousands of Southern Baptists are in Anaheim for the annual meeting that has been overshadowed by controversy over the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse complaints.
A seven-month probe by outside investigators from the secular firm Guidepost Solutions found sexual abuse survivors had been “met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility” from the Executive Committee.
SBC President Ed Litton has pledged that Southern Baptist messengers will “address the scourge of sex abuse within our churches and entities.”
Wellman signaled that he wants the Executive Committee to assume a more low-key posture.
“The Executive Committee, when it’s at its best, is not unlike an NBA referee,” he said. “An NBA referee who is doing a good job, you should never recognize that they’re on the court. So, the Executive Committee, the way the SBC is structured, I think it’s best when we are following the will of the messengers and being faithful to what our marching orders are.”
Despite his initial reluctance to serve as chairman, Wellman said he’s “excited about serving.”
“It’s a tremendous honor to have this opportunity, and I’m really appreciative to the Executive Committee for entrusting us with this.”