NASHVILLE (BP) – While the rewritten Business & Financial Plan up for vote at the SBC annual meeting next week has generated a lot of discussion, its overarching goal is to generate more transparency and accountability among SBC entities.
That’s the assessment of Robyn Hari, chair of the Committee on Convention Finance and Stewardship Development with the SBC Executive Committee. Hari’s daily role as director and managing partner of the Nashville office for Diversified Trust lends to her understanding of the issues outlined in the Business & Financial Plan.
The motion by former SBC EC President and CEO Morris Chapman, then as a messenger to the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting, for “greater transparency” in the Business & Financial Plan was the first of its kind in at least 30 years, said Hari. She noted that the updated version covers several key areas.
Among those is the preamble, which Hari said “outlines the intent of the Business & Financial Plan, the spirit and cooperative nature behind it.” In short, it outlines what the document does and does not speak to as well as serves as an outline to the structure and organization of the SBC.
That provides messengers with a basic view of how the SBC functions and polity, according to Hari.
“It states the expectation we have of cooperating together – Executive Committee, entities and the entire SBC family,” she said. “It also addresses the legal authority within our entity boards and expresses the goal of the Business & Financial Plan, which is to give Southern Baptists confidence that business is being conducted properly and we’re being good financial stewards.”
Other changes included updated language and “all of the current and highest standards of accounting” as well as the annual entity confirmation.
While the responsibility of the Business & Financial Plan was placed upon the Executive Committee, Hari called it “a group effort.” That began with the Committee on Convention Finance and Stewardship Development, which formed an ad hoc group of six members to focus directly on the assignment. In particular, the group was assigned with enhancing transparency and creating more accountability of entities, all the while understanding the autonomy of those entities and recognizing the responsibility of their respective boards. Honoring SBC messengers and churches in the process was paramount.
EC staff and leadership played key roles in keeping the project on time and on task, she pointed out. SBC legal counsel and leadership from all 11 entities, as well as others with expertise or knowledge for specific areas, also brought input. The perspectives of those entities and others provides “great guidance and best practices” in helping form the Business & Financial Plan.
Hari addressed Article VI.C. and concerns that it can prohibit messengers from nominating and electing trustees from the floor during the annual meeting, saying that was “not at all” the case.
“Keep in mind that serving on one of our boards as a fiduciary for that entity is a huge responsibility,” Hari said. “The Business & Financial Plan provides for the training of trustees prior to their nomination to … help them understand their responsibility and confirm their willingness to serve.”
It is the right of messengers to be able to nominate and elect a trustee from the floor, if an uncommon one, Hari added. But any who are would complete the assignments outlined in the Article prior to their first meeting with the entity board.
Article XIII.A. also has created discussion as to transparency. In actuality, Hari said it would lead to more transparency by creating a clear path for access of financial information.
“Remember, we as SBC messengers are the ones who elect the trustees to our various entities,” she said. “The boards are responsible for establishing those approved policies in order to respond to questions about finances. These board members we’ve elected allow a direct path to them rather than us going through entity staff.”
Hari said another area of discussion, the annual entity confirmation, also provides greater transparency.
“First, it provides a summary and synopsis of key elements of the Financial Plan,” she said. “It lays out the expectations of the entities and requires affirmations not just from the entity CEO/CFO but also the board chair. It also defines any consequences for noncompliance.
“The goal is to give members of Southern Baptist churches confidence that the things outlined in the Business & Financial Plan are being followed and there truly is cooperation among the entities and Executive Committee.”