Since the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, our resolutions process has often drawn more attention than much of the other business we conduct. Resolutions serve as non-binding statements that reflect the opinion of the messengers, but they can guide the way our entities function and testify to the world about issues related to our work as a convention of churches as well as critical matters of the day.
As a first-time member of the Committee on Resolutions and one who has written and submitted a resolution previously, I believe that despite its flaws, this process is an important aspect of the work we do each summer. Additionally, I think we are best served by a resolutions process that engages more messengers rather than fewer. With two weeks left until this year’s resolutions portal closes, I hope I can make a believer – better yet, a participant – out of you as well.
According to our bylaws, the convention president must publicly appoint a Committee on Resolutions no later than 75 days prior to each year’s annual meeting. It must be composed of 10 individuals, including at least three elected members of the SBC Executive Committee and two members of the prior year’s committee.
This group works together with the goal of bringing a slate of resolutions for adoption by the messengers. Under consideration are resolutions submitted by members of Southern Baptist churches as well as those originating from within the committee itself.
There is no format for a perfect resolution. Historically, some are only one paragraph while others go into much greater detail. Generally, the goal is to build a case for your resolution in the first half – the “whereas” section – using facts and appealing to Scripture and our confession. The second half – the “resolved” section – is where we state our collective opinion on the topic.
Coming up with an idea for a resolution isn’t that difficult. I’d imagine a number of messengers who have attended annual meetings in the past have thought to themselves at some point about a resolution they would like to see passed the next year. Writing one, however, takes some intention and forethought. What precisely do you want to say? How broad or narrow is your focus? How do you build a compelling case and summarize what you believe millions of other Southern Baptists believe (or should believe) about a topic you feel strongly about?
My advice is to spend time reading resolutions that have been adopted in prior years. This will help you see the types of topics we have historically spoken to (including whether we’ve said anything recently about the issue you’re thinking about), the average length of resolutions, and the general format they follow. Some of the most common subjects addressed in the past include abortion, religious liberty, evangelism, freedom of speech, the family, education, pornography and abuse.
I would have guessed that the number of resolutions submitted each year was easily in the hundreds. You can imagine my surprise to find out that, of the millions of Southern Baptists in our 47,000 churches, we only had 30 resolutions submitted last year. According to our recent ACP numbers, that averages out to one resolution submitted for every 440,000 Southern Baptists. I think we can do better than that.
At the end of the day, the work of the committee will always be constrained by multiple factors. Realistically, we only have so much time to consider and adopt resolutions. If you go back to 1978, you’ll find a year when we passed a whopping 23 resolutions – the most in our history. But if you look at the average number passed since 2000, it’s between nine and ten. Additionally, some things are germane at certain points in time that wouldn’t be relevant in another year – for instance, the 2021 resolution On The Coronavirus Pandemic.
But if you’ve ever thought about submitting a resolution, I say this is the year to do it. Of course, as a member of this year’s committee I’m biased. As we pray and consider what to bring before the messengers next month, I want the broadest cross-section of the Convention represented in our submitted resolutions and the best minds in our churches writing thoughtfully about relevant issues so we have a better starting point. But I also believe that engagement is one more way we can cooperate for the sake of the Gospel.
So think about it and pray about it, then start writing. Talk to a friend who is a good writer. Get some help from pastors and lay leaders who are informed about the topic. Consult old college and seminary professors. Use old resolutions as a baseline, and try to develop a consensus of facts and opinions on an issue important and relevant to Southern Baptists. Even reach out to a member of the committee if you have questions about format – I know I for one would love to help!
Sharpen your resolution into its best possible form and submit it before midnight on May 30 at the resolutions portal. There’s a short form you’ll need someone at your church to sign in order for the submission to be valid, but you can also attach a copy of your 2023 annual meeting pre-registration card as a substitute for that.
Keep in mind that each year good submissions won’t make it out of committee and onto the floor, not because they aren’t well written and well thought out or because the committee doesn’t agree with them, but because not every resolution is right for every year. So if you submit one and it doesn’t make it out, don’t get discouraged – just save it for next year, and we’ll see what happens then.
Rob Collingsworth is a member of Redemption Story Church in Fort Worth, Texas.