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Committee on Nominations seeks more diversity

NASHVILLE (BP) — The Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Nominations says social media discussion helped reinforce its commitment to propose a diverse slate of nominees for trustee boards and committees when the SBC gathers in Dallas.

“The committee itself had a repeated discussion” at its March 15-16 meeting in Nashville “that our goal was to make sure that we increase the diversity of the nominees,” committee chairman James Freeman told Baptist Press. Despite that goal, the committee’s selection process generated 67 Anglo nominees for 69 open positions, according to the SBC Executive Committee’s tally.

During their meeting, the Committee on Nominations initiated measures to rectify the lack of diversity, Freeman said. The committee began to consider additional remedies this past weekend when Southern Baptists on social media expressed dissatisfaction over the committee’s preliminary report, which was published by BP April 25.

The Committee on Nominations is charged with making nominations to the Executive Committee, SBC entity trustee boards and the Committee on Order of Business. Nominees will serve if elected by the messengers to the SBC annual meeting June 12-13.

At its March meeting, the Committee on Nominations agreed that a subcommittee appointed to fill all remaining trustee and committee slots and all vacancies that come open before the SBC annual meeting would “make sure we can find qualified individuals of ethnicity to fill those slots,” Freeman, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney, said.

As of May 1, there were six open slots. The Committee on Nominations subcommittee is called upon to fill some 5-10 open positions annually, according to the Executive Committee.

Among social media commentators expressing concern over the preliminary report, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin tweeted April 27, “This is extremely disappointing in terms of ethnic diversity. Very! We have got to do better than this. Our trustee boards must reflect the whole SBC.”

In a follow-up tweet the next day, Akin said, “I am hearing hopeful things from the SBC Nominating Committee about their final report and the need for greater ethnic diversity. Their work is not finished and they are sensitive to the concerns being expressed. I say pray for them & give them a chance.”

Freeman expressed appreciation for social media feedback and said it moved the committee to consider additional nominations of ethnic minorities beyond tapping them for remaining vacancies.

In discussions this week, Freeman said, some Committee on Nominations members have raised the possibility that some Anglo nominees may “wish to withdraw and then recommend that those slots be filled with individuals reflecting the diversity of the convention.”

The ethnically lopsided preliminary report, Freeman said, stemmed in part from limitations of the process the committee followed in selecting nominees. Typically, Committee on Nominations members recommended individuals to fill positions representing their own state or territory before they knew the overall ethnic breakdown of the nominee slate. Sometimes nominee options were limited, he said, as when one territory only had one open position to fill and when one entity specifically requested a trustee with expertise in managing a foundation.

In every case where a suggested nominee was non-Anglo, the committee affirmed the individual, Freeman said. A few non-Anglo nominees either declined to serve or did not respond to the committee’s queries about their willingness to serve. One non-Anglo nominee was discovered to be ineligible under SBC Bylaws because of a spouse’s SBC service.

In all, the committee proposed 141 total nominees, but 72 were individuals already serving who were eligible for second terms. Though not required by SBC Bylaws, eligible trustees and committee members typically are granted re-nomination.

Some Committee on Nominations members, Freeman said, are discussing possible adjustments to the process by which the committee operates in order to help facilitate the nomination of individuals from ethnic minority groups.

According to SBC Bylaws, the Committee on Nominations is elected annually by the convention following the nomination of members by the Committee on Committees, which is appointed by the SBC president.