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166 years in, SBC still wrestling with ‘how to’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Almost 166 years old, the Southern Baptist Convention is still discussing how best to conduct its business.

From its 1814 roots in a group that assembled only every three years, through the formal organization of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 as a group that met every other year, and into its 2010 gathering in Orlando, Fla., messengers continually bring proposals intended to improve the efficiency of the SBC annual meeting.

Case in point: During the Orlando meeting, motions were made to change the convention to an every-other-year gathering and to require resolutions be posted five days prior to the annual meeting. The SBC Executive Committee responded to both those motions during its Feb. 22 session in Nashville, Tenn.


During the Orlando meeting, Daniel Palmer, a messenger from North Carolina, moved that the Executive Committee explore the feasibility of the convention meeting only every other year so churches could use money spent on attending the gathering for missions purposes.

In its response to that motion, the EC said that a close study of “the fiscal implications of the possibility of returning to a pre-1866 bi-annual meeting schedule” led it to decline returning to that format because:

— “Southern Baptists are not hierarchical and therefore need to meet annually to discern the will of the messengers through God’s leading to effectively and efficiently facilitate our cooperative mission endeavors to reach a lost and dying world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

— “The SBC Bylaws and Business and Financial Plan require the publication and presentation of annual ministry, financial, and budgetary reports.

— “Southern Baptists have always been a relational people;”

— “The current annual meeting schedule of the Convention enables messengers the opportunity to facilitate timely consideration and discussion of the interests of the Convention.”


Also during the Orlando meeting, Suzanne Phillips, a messenger from Florida, moved that the Executive Committee “consider posting resolutions no less than five days before” the annual meeting so messengers could inform themselves about the issues and “seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance” regarding their votes.

In its response to the motion, the EC said posting resolutions that early is impossible because of the time needed for the Committee on Resolutions “to deliberate, complete, proof, run final edits, and post” its proposed resolutions and the desire to allow Southern Baptists to “submit resolutions as close as possible to the start of the … annual meeting.”


The Executive Committee also voted Feb. 22 to:

— recommend St. Louis as the site for the June 14-15, 2016, Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

— declined action on a motion from the 2010 SBC annual meeting to amend the SBC constitution to require that convention officers be members of churches that give at least 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.

The EC noted that “messengers at any annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention are capable of expressing their collective sentiments about officer qualification through the casting of their individual votes.” But the EC noted that it “affirms that the Cooperative Program is an essential and central component of our Southern Baptist identity and success as suggested by the final report of the Great Commission Task Force, believes that leadership models do have a significant impact since they are emulated across a constituency, and further believes that local church autonomy is in no way impinged by setting exemplary qualifications for Convention leadership.”

— declined action on a motion from the 2010 SBC annual meeting to prohibit individuals to serve as trustees of an SBC entity when their employment or support is drawn from Cooperative Program funds. The EC stated that “the provisions of SBC Bylaw 15F adequately convey the appropriate extent to which employment aspects preclude trustee service,” particularly prohibiting the nomination of employees or spouses as trustees of the entity when they are employed or supported by the entity or are involved in administration of the entity’s funds.

— continue the current policy requesting reimbursement by the SBC Pastors’ Conference for the use of convention facilities, with the amount increasing from the current $38,000 to $50,000 for the 2012 conference. EC staff will document the “variable cost” of the gathering for Pastors’ Conference leadership.

— receive as information a report that C. Barry McCarty will be retained as the chief parliamentarian for the June 14-15 annual meeting in Phoenix.


In January, the SBC’s Committee on Order of Business announced significant changes in the annual meeting schedule they hope will encourage more people to participate.

Committee chair Will Langford, pastor of Great Bridge Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., said the changes include holding two missionary appointment services, fewer business sessions and no night sessions.

Proposed changes include trimming the program to morning and afternoon business sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 14-15, and scheduling missionary appointment services for both of the convention’s two mission boards, said Langford, pastor of Great Bridge Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., and the chairman of the Committee on Order of Business.

Consolidating the meeting into four morning and afternoon sessions, eliminating the evening sessions and trimming the number of program items will allow a greater focus on the Great Commission work of the SBC entities and missionaries, as well as free up time for fellowship, discussions and family, Langford said.

“By these changes we seek to promote greater attendance and participation in our annual meeting, and in providing this general preview the hope that anyone who has not yet made plans to attend might be encouraged by these new enhancements to do so,” Langford noted in January. “These are high bars to hurdle, and we are still working on details, but feel confident that when we announce the program on the traditional date of May 1, the new format will be one that is well-received by the vast majority of Southern Baptists.”


In other business during their Feb. 21-22 meeting, EC members:

-– formally elected William E. (Bill) Townes as vice president for convention finance. Townes, who has been serving in the role under appointment by Page since Dec. 1, had been the North American Mission Board’s chief development officer since 2010 and was NAMB’s national financial coordinator from 2007-09. He was with the Georgia Baptist Convention from 1992-2006, serving as director of the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Norman Park from 1999-2006 and as chief financial officer from 1995-99. Townes holds an MBA degree from Liberty University and is a licensed CPA. He and his wife Deanna have two teenagers, Davis and Marianne.

— adopted a resolution of appreciation for Bill F. Mackey, who will retire May 31 as executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The resolution commended Mackey for numerous facets of his 13 years of leadership in Kentucky, including an increase of about 20 percent in Cooperative Program receipts during the past 10 years and a 7 percent increase in the number of KBC churches during his tenure.

— authorized a 1.5 percent increase in Executive Committee salary structure for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

— re-elected Jack E. Shaw and William C. (Bill) Lovell as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees for terms to expire in 2014. Shaw is chairman and CEO of Shaw Resources in Greenville, S.C. Lovell is president of Lovell Inc. in Brentwood, Tenn.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.

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