SBC General Counsel to Split with Denomination after Vote to Waive Privilege
The longtime general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention is separating from the SBC and will no longer represent the group.
According to ChurchLeaders.com, the general counsel made the decision after SBC’s Executive Committee decided to waive attorney-client privilege as part of a sexual abuse investigation.
By waiving the privilege, records of conversations on legal matters among Executive Committee members and staff would no longer be confidential.
“We simply do not know how to advise a client, and otherwise represent a client, with the quality of advice and representation the client must have, and in keeping with the standard of practice our firm tries to uphold, when the client has indicated a willingness to forego this universally accepted principle of confidentiality,” Guenther and Jordan wrote in a letter to Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd.
Guenther, 87, has worked as general counsel for the SBC since 1966. He previously worked for the Baptist Sunday School Board, which is now known as Lifeway Christian Resources.
In the letter, Guenther and Jordan wrote that the firm has “been privileged to work with some good people who have served Southern Baptists admirably. We have endeavored every day to faithfully serve the Executive Committee and the Convention with integrity, competence, and professionalism consistently throughout these 56 years.”
Guenther and Jordan also said in their letter that attorney-client privilege was not used to “cover up” a scandal.
“That could not be further from the truth. In fact, the attorney-client privilege has been for centuries a pillar of this country’s jurisprudence and rules of evidence. The concept is rooted in a principle of judicial fairness and the belief that our nation of laws is best served if persons and entities can communicate with their legal counsel freely and confidentially. There is nothing sinister about it. It does not corrupt justice; it creates the space for justice.”
The latest development comes as Guidepost continues to conduct a third-party investigation to review recent allegations of sexual abuse in Baptist churches.
The investigation comes after leaked letters described leaders dismissing victims, clearing churches of accusation, and resisting some efforts to address the abuse.
The investigation will cover 20 years of allegations of abuse claims allegedly mishandled by the Executive Committee. It will also take an in-depth look at the committee to see if dismissal is necessary.
Photo courtesy: Southern Baptist Convention Facebook
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.