A week after the South Baptist convention The executive committee voted to follow the will of the messengers of the convention on the advice of their legal counsel and relinquish the privilege of a lawyer and client to investigate sexual abuse, and his longtime legal counsel informed him to end their relationship.
“We believe that our commitment to a certain standard of professional conduct leaves us with nothing but to inform you that we are withdrawing from our role as General Counsel of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said a letter from Jim Guenther and Jaime Jordan of Guenther Law Office. Jordan and Price.
Jim Guenther, 87, has represented SBC since 1966. In an August interview with Tennessee Baptist and spotlight, said his firm has never lost a lawsuit for growing liability against SBC. He estimated that he had handled about 50 such cases over the years.
Currently the Executive Board he is one of a dozen defendants named in a federal lawsuit alleging a “defamatory conspiracy” to cover up cases of sexual abuse in denominations. The existence of this lawsuit – which has been widely reported by the national media – has yet to be acknowledged by SBC’s own news service, Baptist Press, which is controlled by the Executive Board.
The allegations of harassment victim Hannah Kate Williams are among the many examples cited for the creation of the SBC Sexual Abuse Working Group, which was approved at the SBC annual meeting in June due to complaints from Executive Board staff seeking to prevent this from happening. That working group hired a third-party consulting firm, Guidepost Solutions, to conduct the investigation. The report was delivered to congressional messengers at its annual meeting in June 2022 in Anaheim, California.
The guide, the working group and the messengers of the convention said that the Executive Board should relinquish the privileges of a lawyer and a client in this investigation, but it took the Executive Board three months and three disputed meetings to finally agree to those terms. The matter was finally resolved on Tuesday, October 5.
The guide, the working group and the messengers of the convention said that the Executive Board should give up the privilege of a lawyer and a client within this investigation.
Six days later, on Monday, October 11, Guenther, Jordan and Price have announced they will no longer represent the SBC.
Missouri Pathway, an online magazine with news about the Missouri Baptist Convention, published the full text of the resignation letter, which alternates between forgiveness and accusations of extreme ignorance by members of the Executive Committee who followed the will of the convention.
“Some have portrayed the privilege of the lawyer-client as an evil means by which in some way the exclusion of misconduct is allowed so that offenders can escape justice and violate the legal rights of others,” the letter reads. “It cannot be further from the truth. In fact, the lawyer-client privilege has been a pillar of the jurisprudence and rules of proof of this country for centuries. The concept is rooted in the principle of judicial justice and the belief that our nation of law is best if individuals and entities can communicate with their legal representative freely and confidentially. There is nothing sinister about that. Do not corrupt the truth; creates space for justice. ”
The letter complains about that Members of the Executive Board – who were under intense pressure from other heads of SBC agencies, several state Baptist conventions and prominent pastors – agreed to waive confidentiality “unaware of the communication affected by this waiver and without the effect it would have on the Executive board. conventions and those who were members or employees of the Executive Board. “
“Some have portrayed the lawyer-client privilege as an evil means by which in some way the exclusion of misconduct is allowed so that offenders can escape justice and violate the legal rights of others.”
Last Tuesday’s vote “fundamentally changed the understanding that has always existed in terms of communication between our firm and the Executive Board or Convention,” the letter added. “Privacy has always been expected in this communication. We relied on that understanding and advised the Executive Board and its officers, employees and board members that they too can safely rely on that expectation. … However, in the future, we can no longer guarantee to the Executive Board and Convention staff we work with that the privacy of their communication with their attorneys will be secure. ”
Executive Committee Chairman Ronnie Floyd, who has been sharply criticized for his lack of leadership in the matter, praised the law firm and said the loss of this connection would be significant. He said that they “grew into the most prominent legal experts for the South Baptist state and were a key guide through numerous changes in our culture, politics and conventions. The loss of their institutional knowledge will be irreplaceable. ”
What was not clear with Monday it was announced whether an additional legal adviser who had come to assist the Executive Board in the investigation, from the Dallas-based firm Locke Lord, would remain at work or not. His two chief attorneys working with the Executive Board have loudly advocated against the waiver of the attorney-client privilege.
Jennifer Lyell, another victim of abuse whose allegations directly relate to allegations of personal defamation by the Executive Committee and the Baptist Press, tweeted Monday afternoon that she feared the relevant material “could have already been destroyed or that information would be withheld.”
Her stance on the resignations of Guenther, Jordan and Price was also shaped by her past observations of how the SBC works, she said. “Probably the company realized that the legal attitude they have held for a long time and poured into the leadership of the EC is being kept to light and will not last, so they go as long as it is their decision and when they can continue the way out. That’s my cynical – but experienced – guess. “
Other defense attorneys of the Executive Board staff and management expressed their version of “I told you” on social media, again arguing that the Executive Committee should have kept the line and not waived privileges.
Kirk Ward, whose Twitter profile describes him as a reformed Baptist and deacon, wrote on Twitter: “The naivety of the EC will damage every SBC entity. When court lawyers smell cash in the water, it will be feeding madness, and we will deal with it to deal with it in 10-12 years. The investigation did not require the waiver of privileges. “
Meanwhile, in the days following last week’s Executive Board meeting, some board members and other South Baptists continued to name individual Executive Board members they believe illustrate why things have come to an instant disintegration. Among them was strong criticism from board member Guy L. Fredrick, pastor and leader of the Sheboygan Association, Wisc.
Frederick announced on August 27th on a Facebook meme showing a man inappropriately hugging a cautious woman with the message, “Why does this happen if your boss says‘ Have sex with me or you’re fired ’is considered coercion, but your boss says‘ Shoot or you ‘fired again’ and that isn’t it coercion? They both want to stab you with something you don’t want. “
Board member Dean Inserra, a pastor from Tallahassee, Florida, called Frederick by name on Twitter: “This was announced by a fellow EC commissioner. Yes, this is not a ‘I agree we disagree, let’s have unity’ scenario. We are dealing with this. His name is Guy Fredrick. Wicked. ”
The post was removed from Fredrick’s Facebook page — which is otherwise filled with information against vaccines and mask protection — but Fredrick seems to have addressed this post with nervousness: “It occurred to me that some, with obvious intentions to do harm, are using posts posted in a completely different context to portray me as someone who is sympathetic to sexual abusers. God has a place in hell reserved for sexual abusers and for those who falsely accuse. Rest assured, I walk with integrity as a man saved by grace through faith. “
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