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Executive Committee hears from ARITF, receives budget updates

SBC Executive Commitee Chairman Jared Wellman answers a question at the EC meeting in Nashville on Feb. 21. (Baptist Press/Brandon Porter)

NASHVILLE (BP) – The February 2023 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee meeting featured an update from the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF), recommendations from the SBC Credentials Committee, an update from the EC presidential search team and the approval of a National Cooperative Program Allocation budget of more than $195 million.

Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF)

Marshall Blalock, chairman of the ARITF, gave an update to the EC of task force’s recommendation to the SBC Credentials Committee to utilize Guidepost Solutions in establishing and maintaining a “Ministry Check” website database for those credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Blalock said Guidepost has developed a new faith-based division called “Faith Based Solution.” The new division is led by Samantha Kilpatrick, a graduate of Southeastern Seminary who helped create the SBC’s Caring Well curriculum.

Blalock told Baptist Press he estimates the cost to build the site and get it off the ground will be $1.5-2 million. The ARITF was given $3 million by Send Relief last summer to accomplish the work mandated by the messengers.

Recommendations from the SBC Credentials Committee

EC members affirmed recommendations from the Credentials Committee that Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and five other churches are “not in friendly cooperation” with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Saddleback, along with four other churches, were deemed not in friendly cooperation for having a female functioning in the office of pastor.

The four other churches are New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Ga.; St. Timothy’s Christian Church in Baltimore, Md.; Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.; and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

A sixth church, Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla., was deemed to be not in friendly cooperation because the church failed to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding an abuse allegation. Freedom Church denied the charge to Baptist Press, pointing to a matter investigated and resolved by the Anglican Church of North America.

Executive Committee presidential search committee  

Adron Robinson, chairman of the presidential search committee, told members the committee is continuing to interview candidates for EC president/CEO. He said the committee will meet Feb. 22.

Financial update, net losses

SBC Executive Committee members approved a 2022-2023 Operating Budget of $8,335,000 and were told of a $6,704,285 loss in net assets was determined for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Mike Bianchi, interim chief financial officer for the EC, responded to concerns over the loss in net assets. He confirmed those losses can be attributed to the cost of the Guidepost investigation and subsequent implementation of sexual abuse reforms in the SBC, including legal fees and the ongoing Department of Justice investigation.

CP Allocation

Members approved the 2023-24 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in the amount of $195,250,000. It will be presented for action to messengers at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting.

Allocations include:

  • IMB – 50.41%
  • NAMB – 22.79%
  • Theological education ministries – 22.16%
  • ERLC – 1.65%
  • SBC EC & SBC operating budget – 2.99%
  • Vision 2025 initiative and CP Centennial Celebration – $250,000

Interim EC Chief Financial Officer

Members also received as information the action of EC officers to contract Michael Bianchi to serve as interim chief financial officer for the entity.

Bianchi has over 30 years of experience serving nonprofit organizations as a trusted advisor in the roles of board member, executive management, external auditor, internal auditor, and consultant.

This experience includes holding staff positions as the executive director of administration, CFO, and controller and serving as an auditor and consultant to many high-profile churches and ministries across the country and around the world.

He is the founder of GuideServe, a professional accounting solutions firm exclusively dedicated to serving non-profit organizations.

EC Members Code of Conduct

A motion was approved to table discussion related to the EC officers recommendation for the creation of an Executive Committee members code of conduct until the EC meeting on June 12, 2023.

Removal of Recording Secretary from the Executive Committee

Members approved a recommendation from the Committee on Convention Missions and Ministry, which changes the EC bylaws to retain the position of SBC Recording Secretary as a member of the EC, but be prohibits the person in the role from serving in an officer position.

The bylaw change states all ex officio EC member (SBC President, SBC Recording Secretary, WMU president) may not be nominated for or serve as an officer of the board, and may not be nominated for or serve on the presidential search team.

Baptist Press editorial independence

In response to a motion by SBC messenger Rob Collingsworth, the Committee on Southern Baptist Relations approved the following recommendations to grant Baptist Press greater editorial independence:

  • The inclusion of a section defining the relationship between the Executive Committee & Baptist Press in the Personnel Policies of the SBC Executive Committee.
  • Requesting the members of the GCC to review Baptist Press’ journalistic guidelines and reaffirm their commitment to cooperating with Baptist Press as they seek to fulfill the vital ministry assignment they have been given.
  • The formation a small, independent, advisory team to consult with the editor of Baptist Press in matters of opinion content and news coverage. This group would be selected by the editor and serve at his/her discretion. The advisory team will have no formal authority over the editor or Baptist Press but will be available to provide helpful feedback when sensitive or complicated issues arise.

SBC Annual Calendar of Events approved, updated

Members approved the 2028 SBC Calendar of Activities and amended to the 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027 calendars to include Caring Well Sunday on the last Sunday each September.

SBC Bylaw Change: Daily Bulletin

Members approved a recommendation from the Committee on Convention Events and Strategic Planning to bring to messengers at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans an amendment to the SBC constitution to provide for alternative measures for the printing and publishing of the Daily Bulletin at annual meetings. The recommendation stated that “due to the volatility of the printing industry, efforts will be made to produce the SBC Bulletin in print form, however, should print form be unattainable for an overnight turnaround, the publication will be published online.”

The recommendation affects several bylaws of the convention and will make uniform the terminology regarding printing and publication.

Parliamentarian for the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting

The Committee on Convention Events and Strategic Planning also approved a contract to secure Al Gage as the chief parliamentarian for the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting. Gage has served as assistant parliamentarian at each of the past two annual meetings.

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  • Timothy Cockes and Brandon Porter