EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the Executive Committee’s actions regarding venues for the 2025 and 2027 SBC Annual Meetings and a report on the second quarter 2019-20 EC and SBC operating budget.
NASHVILLE (BP) — The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee elected its first African American chair in a special called meeting Tuesday (June 16).
Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., was unopposed as EC chair and was unanimously elected by ballot vote. Outgoing chair Mike Stone called for a ballot vote, he said, to mark the historic moment.
“I think we all realize by what is going on in this country as well as in our convention, this timing is in many ways the providence of our Lord,” said Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga.
Many, including Slade, attributed his election to God.
“I don’t think there was ever a plan for me to be in this position,” Slade told Baptist Press. “I think it’s what God has done. … I believe God loves diversity; He created us and we are all diverse. I think for us to not embrace it is saying that, ‘We’ve got a better idea than You [God].'”
In other business, the EC voted to recommend SBC Annual Meeting sites for 2025 and 2027 in Dallas and Salt Lake City, respectively; elected a complete slate of officers and EC committee chairs; voted to allow the EC to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program if deemed necessary; and received Cooperative Program allocation and EC operating budget reports.
The called meeting was conducted on Zoom and livestreamed, as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the EC from meeting at its Nashville headquarters. The EC conducted business delayed by the cancellation last March of the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting, originally slated June 9-10 in Orlando, Fla.
Slade served the last two years as EC vice chair. As EC chair, Slade leads the SBC’s fiduciary, fiscal and executive arm. He was nominated by EC member Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. After the vote, Slade thanked EC members, his family and his church for their support.
“We praise God together and let’s pray together and let’s stay together,” he said, “because I’ve learned that a family that prays together, stays together.”
Marshal Ausberry, SBC first vice president, said Slade’s election shows how far the SBC has come, and also shows the “mighty hand of God at work.”
“His election shows the positive transformation that is occurring in the Convention,” said Ausberry, president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC and pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. “When you think of the founding of the SBC in 1845, largely over the issue concerning the ownership of enslaved persons by missionaries, to the election of Rolland Slade in the 175th year, this is a seminal moment for the Convention and all Southern Baptists.”
Slade served on the EC search committee that recommended in 2019 the hiring of Ronnie Floyd as SBC EC president and CEO.
“For the first time in the 103-year history of the SBC Executive Committee, we have today elected our first African American chairman,” Floyd commented during the meeting. “God bless [him] and may others follow [him] in days to come.”
SBC President J.D. Greear, who has made diversity a major emphasis of his term, has lamented that SBC leadership does not reflect current SBC diversity. He called Slade’s election an “exciting day for our convention.”
“Rolland Slade’s election demonstrates we are moving in the right direction,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., told Baptist Press. “During my two years as SBC president, I have worked alongside Rolland and seen his leadership and character to lead this body at this time.
Fred Luter, the only African American ever elected as SBC president, praised God for Slade’s election, especially in the midst of nationwide racial tension.
“Rolland is certainly deserving of this historical honor not just because of the color of his skin but because of his knowledge, skills, and leadership as a member of the Executive Committee through the years,” Luter said. “I am proud of Rolland and proud of the men and women of this committee for making this such a historic moment in the Southern Baptist Convention. To God be the glory for the things He has done!”
Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was SBC president from 2012-2014.
This article was originally published by Baptist Press at bpnews.net