Nashville, Tenn. | The nominee for President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) has withdrawn his name, after the search committee told EC trustees it had a candidate and would reveal his name ahead of their February 19 meeting and vote.
He is Thomas Hammond, Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Hammond’s name was not officially released, but widely discussed on the SBC grapevine. On Tuesday, Baptist News Global (a non-SBC news site) reported that Hammond notified the executive committee of his state convention that he had been under consideration, but was withdrawing his candidacy.
According to BNG, Hammond wrote, “Over the past week, it has become clear that God’s will is for us to remain in Georgia. We are resolved to continue our efforts in ministering to pastors, their families and to strengthening churches to reach Georgia for Christ.”
Hammond has served as the top leader in the Georgia convention for five years. He led the body to reduce the budget from $40 million to $31 million annually, and last week, the board announced the sale of their large and relatively new office building for $32 million, about half its appraised value. Hammond previously led evangelism ministry for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He served with NAMB for 13 years.
Other reasons for Hammond’s withdrawal were not stated, but the SBC EC continues to wrestle with its own financial losses and the continued fallout from the handling of sexual abuse claims by previous denominational leaders.
EC Vice President Jonathon Howe remains as interim CEO. No permanent leader has been elected since Ronnie Floyd resigned in October 2021 over abuse handling and the convention-wide investigation conducted by Guideposts Solutions. One candidate was presented, but EC trustees did not approve election of Texas pastor Jared Wellman, mostly over questions about the selection process that allowed Wellman, once a de facto member of the search committee, to become the nominee. That was in May 2023.
The first interim CEO, EC Vice President Willie McLaurin, resigned after revelations that he padded his resume with schools and degrees he did not earn that were reveal in vetting for his own candidacy for the permanent post.
Howe assumed the interim post under SBC bylaws, but the new chair of the EC, Phil Robertson, indicated within a month that he wished to replace Howe. However, the next candidate for interim also withdrew his name unexpectedly the night before a vote in October.
The search committee had promised a permanent CEO candidate before the EC’s full trustee meeting Feb. 19-20. But now, it appears that helming the SBC ship of state has become the job no one wants.