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BLOG: SBC Executive Committee meeting

NASHVILLE (BP) — Baptist Press is live blogging plenary sessions of the SBC Executive Committee meeting Sept. 17-18. Updates can be read here and at our Twitter account.

All times Central Daylight.

Tuesday morning

12:32 p.m. — The EC adjourned. Their next scheduled meeting is Feb. 18-19, 2019.

12:29 p.m. — The EC declined to study creation of a new SBC entity for evangelism. The recommendation adopted by the EC stated, “The Executive Committee encourages every Southern Baptist, every Southern Baptist pastor or church leader, and every Southern Baptist Convention entity and organization to fully implement the recommendations presented in the 2018 Evangelism Task Force report adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, June 12-13, 2018, in order to advance the gospel and win the lost for Christ.”

12:28 p.m. — The EC approved a recommendation that the SBC approve designating “Baptism Day” on all future SBC Calendars of Activities.

12:27 p.m. — The EC, acting for the SBC ad interim, approved setting aside the first $250,000 of 2017-18 CP Allocation Budget overage to fund SBC president J.D. Greear’s initiative “to study ways to address sexual abuse and related issues in a church or ministry context.” The complete recommendation follows:

“RECOMMENDATION: That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, on behalf of the Convention ad interim, approve setting aside the first $250,000 of Cooperative Program Allocation Budget receipts in excess of the 2017-18 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget goal to provide two years of funding for the SBC president’s initiative to study ways to address sexual abuse and related issues in a church or ministry context; and

“That the expenditures related to this initiative be administered by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in accordance with the attached detailed $200,000 budget proposal; and

“That the president of the Executive Committee (or his designees) liaise with the initiative, the Executive Committee staff be authorized to approve amendments to original budgetary allocations, and the Executive Committee officers be authorized to approve additional funding for good cause shown (but not to exceed a total of $50,000); and

“That the Executive Committee provide appropriate reimbursement to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission on a quarterly basis for documented expenses; and

“That any report, strategies, recommendations, or resources proposed or developed in the initiative be presented to the Executive Committee no later than February 1, 2020, for its review and subsequent report and/or recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention for consideration; and

“That, at the conclusion of work undertaken in the initiative, any unused portion of the funds allocated for that effort be distributed to the SBC entities in accordance with the 2017-18 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget overage percentages from which the funds were drawn.”

12:23 p.m. — The EC approved the a detailed 2018-19 EC and SBC Operating Budget of $7,575,000.

12:20 p.m. — Warren Peek delivered the Southern Baptist Foundation report. In addition to the Foundation’s financial services for Southern Baptists, the plan of salvation has been shared 699 times this year on the SBF website, he said. Over the past five years, total planned estate giving through the Foundation has increased from $22 million to more than $300 million.

12:13 p.m. — Jeffrey Bingham, interim president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered the seminary’s report. Despite turmoil at Southwestern during the spring and summer, he said, “we are moving forward because the Lord is with us … At the beginning of this semester, students from all over the world showed up at Southwestern Seminary,” including 600 new students from 25 countries speaking 13 different languages.

Total enrollment exceeds 3,200, Bingham said. Staff and faculty have continued to do their work and minister to students.

“We are not living in the past. But by God’s grace, we are moving forward,” he said.

Beginning in the spring, all students will participate in the Ministry Safe program to increase campus safety related to sexual abuse, he said. The seminary also will increase and improve harassment training for all employees.

Bingham requested prayer for Paige and Dorothy Patterson as well as SWBTS. He concluded the report by offering to listen and talk about any concerns Baptists have regarding recent events at Southwestern.

“Would you move forward with Southwestern Seminary? That’s what we’re doing,” he said.

12:04 p.m. — R. Albert Mohler Jr. delivered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary report. He thanked Southern Baptists for allowing him to serve 25 years as Southern’s president and noted the SBC’s transition back to theological fidelity during his tenure. Mohler reported enrollment exceeding 5,500.

“An institution that stands for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is transformed by that power,” he said.

Mohler expressed thanks for Southern Baptists’ ability to talk with one another about difficult issues and encouraged them to spend more time talking about the convention.

11:55 a.m. — The EC amended the EC staff retirement plan.

11:54 a.m. — The EC adopted a memorandum of understanding stating that, “except where otherwise directed by specific associational leaders, the Executive Committee will use the title Associational Mission Strategist (or its plural, Strategists) when referring to associational leaders that cooperate with the SBC.” Changing the title of associational leaders from director of missions was a recommendation this summer by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders.”

11:53 a.m. — The EC adopted a resolution of appreciation for Lynn Nikkel, retiring state missionary of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network.

11:52 a.m. — The EC adopted a resolution of appreciation for Robert White, retiring executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

11:51 a.m. — The EC declined a request to study further the feasibility of remote participation in the SBC annual meeting. Among the reasons cited: “Diverting missions’ offerings to pioneer the use of such technology (there being no known model for web-based constituent participation in any similarly-sized, deliberative body, nor even in any state Baptist convention) would be an inappropriate prioritization” and “The simplicity of conducting business at a single site is preferable to the complexity of doing so via innumerable off-site computer configurations.”

11:49 a.m. — The EC postponed discussion of request that the EC strengthen trustee training for SBC entities. A request was made that the EC reconsider this matter at its February 2019 meeting.

11:48 a.m. — The EC forwarded to the SBC a recommendation that the convention’s Organizational Manual be amended to urge entity administrators to “reinforce with their trustees the principle that entity trustees are to represent the interests of the entire Convention as well as those of the entity.”

11:47 a.m. — The EC, acting for the SBC ad interim, elected to the Committee on Order of Business Carolyn Fountain, a layperson at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

11:45 a.m. — EC interim president Augie Boto led an open discussion on issues and concerns in the SBC. Topics addressed included the leadership transition at Southwestern Seminary, cooperative agreements with state conventions and the ERLC. Among the questions and answers:

— Jim Gregory of Utah/Idaho said Southern Baptists in his area are concerned that the funds they receive through cooperative agreements has reduced during the past decade. Baptists in smaller state conventions also feel their representation on boards and committees has decreased. Boto responded that all parts of the SBC are important and necessary, including churches, state convention and national entities. “I feel your pain. I hear about it from more sources than yours. I sympathize with it and aim toward ameliorating it,” Boto said.

— Joe Knott of North Carolina said Baptists have expressed concern the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee executive committee appeared to overturn the decision of the full board in its decision to terminate former SWBTS president Paige Patterson. Were allegations against Patterson properly investigated before the full board’s decision was overturned, Knott asked.

Boto responded that SBC Bylaw 18(e)(9) states the convention relies on the trustee system and expects communication from trustees. “Whatever we do must be … delineated within our governing documents,” he said, adding the EC and other Southern Baptists may communicate with SWBTS trustees directly. The Southwestern board has been asked to report back to the convention next year on their action.

— Paul Hicks of Alabama said Baptists have expressed “dissatisfaction and confusion” about the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the leadership of its president, Russell Moore. Boto said the SBC posts contact information for entities online and in the Annual so Baptists can communicate directly with the entities. He urged concerned Baptists to contact the ERLC directly.

— Guy Fredrick of Minnesota/Wisconsin suggested the SBC hold an annual meeting in the North. Boto said the convention is open to that possibility and has criteria for determining annual meeting sites. Bill Townes, EC vice president for convention finance, said he would investigate that possibility.

— Mike Lawson of Texas asked if there is a way to help younger Southern Baptists see the value of SBC entities and processes. Boto said he would be glad to help facilitate such discussion.

11:22 a.m. — Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas, presented a report from the Executive Committee’s presidential search committee.

“I want to thank you for electing such a diverse and strong committee,” Swofford said, noting the committee has agreed on every action taken thus far. The committee has prayed together, organized itself, developed a profile of the president they are seeking, received resumes and begun narrowing the field of candidates. In the coming months, the committee will conduct interviews with and background checks on candidates.

“Anything you hear about who [the presidential nominee] is that does not come from us through Baptist Press is rumor,” he said. “So we hope you will not believe” rumors.

The committee wants to be “expeditious” but does not feel pressured to rush, Swofford said.

11:16 a.m. — Sandy Wisdom-Martin presented the Woman’s Missionary Union report. In anticipation of the 2019 SBC annual meeting in WMU’s home city, Birmingham, Ala., she reviewed highlights from WMU’s history. Promoting the Cooperative Program and special offerings are a key facet of WMU’s work, she said. “Come to Birmingham next year, and immerse yourself in our heritage.”

11:09 a.m. — Chuck Kelley presented the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary report. He noted the seminary’s 100th anniversary in the 2017-18 academic year. “From our very beginning, our students and our faculty have been engaged in reaching our city,” he said. Last year, NOBTS students had more than 21,000 Gospel conversations and saw more than 1,600 professions of faith.

“Our Gospel has the power to transform any life anywhere,” he said.

Kelley also reported online and prison education programs at NOBTS.

11:00 a.m. — Danny Akin presented the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary report. Southeastern has experienced 10 consecutive years of record enrollment and is committed to being a “Great Commission seminary,” he said. The seminary’s commitment to the Great Commission was evidenced by an International Mission Board report indicating five of the 10 top missionary-sending churches in the SBC are geographically near SEBTS, Akin said. Last year, Southeastern gave $600,000 in scholarships to IMB personnel.

To combat sexual abuse in the church, Southeastern is training ministers to prevent and respond to inappropriate behavior, Akin said.

10:48 a.m. — Ken Alford, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Valdosta, Ga., presented a devotional from Joshua 7-8. “Like Israel of old, we are called to warfare … The enemy, of course, is the devil,” he said. The task, however, “is going to take us all.”

10:31 a.m. — The morning Executive Committee plenary session has been called to order with singing of The Doxology.

Monday night

9:16 p.m. — Jimmy Draper closed the evening plenary session with prayer.

9:14 p.m. — Elevating the “Gospel above all” is the “anchor” priority of J.D. Greear’s SBC presidency, Greear said in his report to the Executive Committee.

“Southern Baptists have always been a Gospel people … It is why we come together,” Greear said. God’s power “flows from the Gospel and the Gospel alone.”

Politics, traditions and the finer points of theology should always be secondary, Greear said, though not ignored, by Southern Baptists.

One oft-discussed finer point of theology, Calvinism, “is never an issue to me,” Greear said. Southern Baptists have always held in tension God’s free will and man’s sovereignty. Believers must not lean too heavily in either direction, he said.

Southern Baptists have unity in Christ “beyond anything that divides us,” Greear said. The convention must reflect the diversity of our community and proclaim the diversity of the Kingdom, he said. Southern Baptists also must deal kindly with one another.

The “Gospel above all” emphasis of Greear’s presidency will lead to an evangelism initiative — called “Who’s your one?” — that will ask every Southern Baptist to pray for and share Christ with at least one person in 2019, he said.

Church planting/sending and college graduate mobilization are also initiatives stemming from the “Gospel above all,” emphasis, Greear said.

Greear gave an update on the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group he has launched in partnership with the ERLC. “This is not just a reaction to the political winds of the day,” he said. “It really is a Gospel issue.”

If people don’t feel safe at Southern Baptist churches and trust them enough to attend, Southern Baptists will not be able to minister to their communities effectively, Greear said. Among other steps, Southern Baptists must listen better to abuse victims and help the hurting, he said.

The Sexual Abuse Study Group will involve a “rotating group” of advisers and experts that will help formulate recommendations for the SBC, Greear said.

“We can’t just go along with business as normal,” Greear said, “and waive all this [talk of sexual abuse] off as media hype.”

Greear concluded with a challenge for Southern Baptists to take the Gospel to lost people at home and abroad.

8:33 p.m. — Kevin Ezell delivered the North American Mission Board report. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units are prepared to serve 400,000 meals per day in the Carolinas, he said. In partnership with Baptist state conventions, mudout, chainsaw and other SBDR units also are prepared to act.

8:29 p.m. — Russell Moore delivered the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission report. Sexual abuse in Catholic and Protestant churches has shown there is “no safe harbor from human depravity anywhere in the world.” People are asking, Moore said, “do the people who represent the teachings of Jesus Christ actually believe what He said?

“The stakes could not be higher when it comes to whether the people of God live transformed lives,” Moore said.

Moore noted the ERLC’s partnership with SBC President J.D. Greear to form a study group on sexual abuse in the church. Moore thanked the EC for considering the funding of that study group.

Other ERLC ministries noted in the report included pro-life initiatives, racial reconciliation and encouragement for families.

8:19 p.m. — Jason Allen delivered the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary report, noting enrollment continues to increase and the seminary completed its most recent fiscal year $7 million in the black.

Multiple campus construction projects are underway, he said. “I stand before you profoundly encouraged, profoundly grateful for what God is doing.”

“We are fanatically committed to serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Allen said.

8:16 p.m. — O.S. Hawkins delivered the GuideStone Financial Resources report. Because of GuideSone’s “ability to aggressively manage costs,” health insurance rates have remained essentially flat, he said.

GuideStone retirement investments, the Mission:Dignity ministry to support retired pastors and Hawkins’ books were among other ministries highlighted in the report.

GuideStone’s move to a new office building in Dallas will save $3.5-4 million every year, Hawkins said.

8:09 p.m. — Thom Rainer delivered the LifeWay Christian Resources report, including presentation of $637,000 raised by LifeWay’s summer campers for international and North American missions.

Addressing his recently announced retirement, Rainer said after 13 years, “I knew it was time to depart.”

“As the page turns,” Rainer said, LifeWay will say once again, “We have marveled at the grace of God.”

8:05 p.m. — Edgar Aponte, an International Mission Board vice president, delivered the IMB report. He encouraged EC members to think more about the world’s lost people than about the presidential vacancies at SBC entities.

While some may view the IMB as navigating difficult circumstances currently, Aponte said, Southern Baptists’ international missions entity “is as strong as it’s ever been.” The mission force, he said, “is no longer declining.”

“Humanity is sinfully lost,” and “we cannot lose sight of that. Lostness has to be at the forefront of what we do and what we think,” Aponte said.

7:55 p.m. — Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg reported the seminary has completed consolidation of its Southern California programs, with record enrollment. With the transition of Gateway’s main campus complete, the budget no longer includes transition-related expenses. Gateway will soon graduate its 10,000th graduate, he said.

7:52 p.m. — In part one of his report, EC interim president D. August Boto reviewed notable features of the SBC Annual, which was printed just before the September EC meeting. Among those features:

— The SBC Charter, adopted in 1845, which states convention exists for the “propagation” of the Gospel;

— EC ministry assignments;

— The Baptist Faith and Message;

— Reports of the EC and SBC entities.

As emissaries of the SBC, Boto said, EC members can use the Annual to explain to Southern Baptists “what we believe, what we do and why we do it.”

To get “a full expression” of Southern Baptists’ views and concerns, EC chairman Mike Stone will lead an open discussion between EC members and Boto Tuesday during part two of Boto’s report.

7:42 p.m. — Bill Townes, EC vice president for convention finance, said the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., with be the first time the SBC has met there in 78 years.

7:37 p.m. — EC members approved minutes from their June 2018 meeting and adopted the agenda for this meeting with minor amendments.

7:28 p.m. — A roll call noted 79 Executive Committee members present. Among reported absences, only one member was prevented by Hurricane Florence-related weather from traveling to Nashville.

7:24 p.m. — Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, led in prayer for North and South Carolina as they recover from Hurricane Florence. Among other requests, Kelley prayed for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers “who are even now there, those wonderful yellow hats and yellow shirts.”

“Bless those who are building new lives out of old rubble,” Kelley prayed.

7:17 p.m. — Mike Holloway, pastor of Ouachita Baptist Church in West Monroe, La., read 1 Samuel 8:1-9 and led a devotional comparing Israel’s transition to the monarchy with transitions occurring in the SBC. “We’re a convention at a crossroads,” he said. “… We need God’s will and we need God’s blessing.”

Holloway added, “I believe the Word of God is not going to return void. We’ve just got to get the Word out there” by sharing the Gospel with lost men and women.

7:00 p.m. — The evening session has been called to order after singing of “To God Be the Glory.”