ST. LOUIS (BP) — The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s June 13 decision not to recommend amending SBC Bylaw 26 has forced the cancelation of a panel discussion scheduled for June 15 with SBC entity heads fielding questions from messengers to the convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis. Instead, each entity president will answer messenger questions for four minutes at the end of his report.
The EC also referred back to its Bylaws Workgroup for further discussion of a proposal to grant EC representation to Baptists in five pioneer regions of the United States.
In other action at the EC’s meeting in St. Louis prior to the June 14-15 SBC annual meeting there, committee members elected new officers, honored retiring Woman’s Missionary Union executive director Wanda Lee and heard a report from outgoing SBC President Ronnie Floyd.
Entity questions at SBC annual meetings
The EC’s Administrative Committee considered a recommendation to amend Bylaw 26 that would have permitted two or more entities to be grouped together by the Committee on Order of Business for a messenger Q&A session. The recommendation stipulated that each Q&A session would allot “no less than four minutes times the number of entities included for discussion during that time.”
After discussion, only one of the Administrative Committee’s 27 members — not all of whom were present — voted for the recommendation. The committee also voted without opposition to recommend rescinding a similar Bylaw 26 amendment recommendation the EC adopted in February. The full EC likewise voted to rescind the February proposal without opposition.
EC rules prohibit direct quotation or attribution of statements made during its subcommittee meetings.
Administrative Committee chairman Shane Hall told Baptist Press after the meeting, “In our Administrative Committee meeting, there was an opportunity for one of our members to express opposition to the amendment and ask to hear from our entity leaders, several of whom were present at the meeting.” Two entity leaders expressed their concerns about potential unintended consequences.
“Their argument was at least strong enough that it persuaded the committee to rescind the recommendation,” said Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla.
Andrew Hebert, chairman of the SBC’s Committee on Order of Business, told BP he is “disappointed” with the EC’s decision and may work to “strengthen the recommendation and try again with more buy-in from the entity heads.” Following a Committee on Order of Business meeting tonight (June 13), a revised SBC annual meeting agenda will be published in the daily bulletin and on the SBC annual meeting app.
Small state and territory representation
The Administrative Committee considered a recommendation to amend SBC Bylaw 18 to grant EC representation to five regions whose Southern Baptists currently are not represented on the committee: the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Montana and Puerto Rico-U.S. Virgin Islands..
After nearly an hour of discussion, the committee voted to refer the proposed amendment to the Bylaws Workgroup for consideration at the EC’s September meeting in Nashville. The proposal stemmed from a discussion at the EC’s February meeting, which led to the body’s officers’ withdrawing a separate proposed Bylaw 18 amendment.
The Administrative Committee’s action required no follow-up action from the full EC, but EC chairman Mike Routt said at the plenary session, “Thank you to the members of the Executive Committee for our conversation on this issue. It’s been really good.” He asked members to seek God’s will regarding Bylaw 18 rather than merely to express their personal opinions.
Currently, EC representation for any state or territory is capped at five members, with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas having maximum representation. According to SBC Bylaws 18 and 30, having 15,000 members in cooperating Southern Baptist churches qualifies a state or territory for initial representation on the EC, the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Nominations. When a state or territory reaches 250,000 church members, it qualifies to have a second EC member. Each additional 250,000 church members qualifies a state or territory for an additional EC member up to the maximum.
Election of officers
Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., was elected Executive Committee chairman, succeeding Routt, pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. Rummage, the lone nominee, was nominated by John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Rummage is this year’s chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee.
Hall was elected as the lone nominee for vice chairman, with Becky Illingworth, a layperson from Royse City, Texas, re-elected as secretary.
Also elected: Kent Choate of Oklahoma as chairman of the Administrative Committee; Steve Swofford of Texas as chairman of the Business and Finance Committee; and Rolland Slade of California as chairman of the Cooperative Program committee.
Seven members of the Executive Committee were recognized in completing their terms: G. Harris Warner Jr. of Virginia, 2007-2016; Tom Biles of Florida, Robert O. (Rob) Freshour of Michigan, John Mark Simmons of Nevada, Charles R. Chambers of Ohio and Phil Harper of Tennessee, all 2008-2016; and John H. Moore, Missouri, 2012-2016.
Wanda Lee appreciation
The Executive Committee adopted a resolution of appreciation for Wanda Lee, who has announced her retirement after 16-plus years as WMU’s seventh executive director upon the selection of her successor.
The resolution, to be recommended to messengers at the SBC annual meeting, expresses “sincere and profound gratitude to God for the extraordinary life, ministry, and contributions” of Lee and her husband Larry.
Under Lee’s leadership, WMU “worked closely with the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, state Baptist conventions, local Baptist associations, Southern Baptist churches, and all Southern Baptists to raise almost $3 billion for the missions work of these two missions boards — more than $2 billion for international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and approaching $900 million through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.”
Those totals, the resolution of appreciation noted, constitute “more than one-half of the total amount raised through these two offerings since they began being reported in 1888 and 1907 respectively.”
The resolution also noted that Lee led WMU in:
— Organizing 80 short-term mission trips encompassing more than 750 volunteers in underserved countries and in major cities around the world.
— Expanding hands-on missions ministries such as the Baptist Nursing Fellowship, WorldCrafts, Christian Women’s Jobs Corps and Project Help.
— Expanding WMU’s New Hope Publishers, with more than 100 new titles in the last four years and being named Publisher of the Year in the Golden Scroll Book Awards in 2015 and 2009.
SBC president’s message
Floyd, in his last message as SBC president to the Executive Committee, said, “It has been two years that have been robust with joy.”
He thanked Southern Baptist pastors and churches as well as convention staff for the “privilege and joy” of “speaking, leading and learning.” As SBC president, “not one time” has he ever regretted being elected to the position or wanted it to come to an end.
Floyd also thanked Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where he has been pastor nearly 30 years, for having covered every expense related to his service as SBC president, without expending any SBC funds.
“As your president, in all kinds of settings, in all kinds of places, I’ve stated with conviction and clarity … the number one need in America is the next great spiritual awakening,” Floyd said.
“It does not matter which political party dominates the White House in November, who the president will be — while all those matters … do matter,” Floyd said “… Our greatest need is higher than financial and higher than political; it is a spiritual awakening in this country.”
It is “incumbent on Southern Baptists to be the prophetic voice in the nation, the prophetic voice and encouragement to evangelicals,” Floyd said. “But before we can call anybody else to repent, we need to lead the way.”