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Motion to amend BF&M passes, task forces approved

Alabama pastor Jared Cornutt makes a motion to amend the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to include the words "elder" and "overseer" as synonyms of the word "pastor." Photo by Sonya Singh

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Messengers voted to amend the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the statement of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention, to clarify the role of pastor Wednesday, June 14, at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

The convention also approved the appointment of a task force to study the impact of the Great Commission Resurgence recommendations adopted in 2009 and a task force to study how the Convention should regard churches “in friendly cooperation.”

BF&M revision

Messengers approved a motion by Jared Cornutt, pastor of North Shelby Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., to amend Article 6 of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to add elder/overseer alongside pastor.

The amended article on the church now reads: “In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its two scriptural offices are that of pastor/elder/overseer and deacon. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

“We should never take lightly the prospect of amending our statement of faith,” Cornutt said. “The document has existed for almost 100 years, and it serves as the backbone of our doctrinal unity. … I believe that we have unintentionally found ourselves with a lack of clarity that can be remedied by a small and non-substantive change.”

GCR impact study

Messengers approved a motion by Randy Chestnut of Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio, to authorize the president to appoint a task force to study the impact that the recommendations from the Great Commission Resurgence Report adopted in 2009 have had on the effectiveness of the SBC’s North American Gospel effort and on relationships between SBC ministry partners.

Chestnut’s motion said the task force “should represent all SBC partners serving from all regions of North America” and that the task force report should include “any recommendations to enhance and unify our cooperative missions effort to penetrate darkness in North America.”

Cooperation study

Messengers approved a motion by James Merritt, a former SBC president and pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., to authorize the president to appoint a “broadly representative task force” to study how the Convention should deem churches to be “in friendly cooperation on questions of faith and practice” as written in Article 3 of the SBC Constitution, referring to the statement of faith.

The task force should bring recommendations to the next annual meeting “for how we can move forward together in biblical fidelity, missional clarity, and cooperative unity.”

Standing with Merritt as he made the motion were former SBC Presidents Ed Litton, J.D. Greear, Steve Gaines and Bryant Wright.

Entity referrals

The following motions were determined to deal with the internal operations of entities and are automatically referred under SBC Bylaw 26B for consideration and report to the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis.

To the International Mission Board:

  • A motion by Don McAllister of The Way Fellowship Church in Peoria, Ariz., to request the IMB print prayer requests from the Tuesday Mission Sending Celebration in the Wednesday SBC Bulletin.
  • A motion by John Jones of Cadet Baptist Church in Cadet, Mo., requesting that the IMB allow missionaries to abstain from vaccinations that go against their consciences.
  • A motion by Clay Hall of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., requesting that the IMB study the long-term effects of COVID vaccine requirements on missionaries.

To the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:

  • A motion by David Hobson of Union Hill Baptist Church in Hueytown, Ala., requesting that the ERLC expand their focus on the sanctity of life to include adoption.
  • A motion by James Smith of First Southern Baptist Church of Warren in Bisbee, Ariz., to appoint a blue ribbon committee to review the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to address gender identity.

To the ERLC and the Executive Committee:

  • A motion by Keith Myer of Harvest Baptist Church in Salisbury, Md., to amend the SBC Organizational Manual so that the ERLC assists churches and entities in responding to abuse.

The following motions were referred to the EC for consideration and report to the 2024 annual meeting:

  • A motion by J.D. Strouth of Northeast Park Baptist Church in Evansville, Ind., to clarify whether the Baptist Faith and Message requires closed communion.
  • A motion by Barry Holcomb of Calvary Baptist Church in Belmont, Miss., to adjust policies and practices related to selecting presidential executive leaders.
  • A motion by Tim Overton of Kingston Avenue Baptist Church in Anderson, Ind., to provide timely trustee training.
  • A motion by Rhett Burns of First Baptist Church in Travelers Rest, S.C., to require entities to submit the information found in IRS Form 990 to the convention.
  • A motion by Ben Bowden of First Baptist Church in Enterprise, Ala., to ask the Executive Committee to study whether any executive staff member should also serve as the treasurer of the SBC.
  • A motion made by David Norman of University Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, to amend the Business and Financial Plan for printing of financial reports in the Book of Reports and to include information required by Form 990.
  • A motion by Jason Weir of Rock Creek Baptist Church in Crowley, Texas, to amend Article 3 of the SBC Constitution to change “closely identifies with” to “in accordance with.”
  • A motion by Thomas Beckwith of New Beginnings Church in Boone, N.C., to request the EC study its financial practices.
  • A motion by Troy Walker of Mosaic Church in Provo, Utah, to request the EC form a workgroup to study the missional impact of hosting the 2027 SBC Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City.
  • A motion by Paul Kim of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., to request the EC to study how churches can work together for the cause of the Great Commission.
  • A motion by Lyda Wilbur of Community Baptist Church in Coweta, Okla., to request the SBC consider hosting the 2028 Annual Meeting in Maui, Hawaii.
  • A motion by Parker Roberts of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Baxley, Ga., to direct the SBC to end all formal relationships with Guidepost Solutions.

A motion by John Michael LaRue of First Baptist Church in Miamisburg, Ohio, to remove the fourth category for the Ministry Check website was referred to the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force.

The following motions were ruled not in order as they direct an entity or are in conflict with the Convention’s governing documents:

  • A motion by Aaron Wright of Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston to suspend the rules to bring out a disposed resolution.
  • A motion by Samuel Gilliam of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., to request that Baptist Press release security footage from the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting related to the interaction between an SBC presidential candidate and a sex abuse survivor.
  • A motion by Dusty Deevers of Grace Community Church in Elgin, Okla., to ask the Credentials Committee to investigate any churches involved in LGBTQ+ affirming ministries.
  • A motion by Michelle Lesley of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., to suspend Bylaw 26B and direct Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to fund and conduct an independent, third-party investigation of allegations related to seminary employees mistreating an abuse victim.
  • A motion by Tyler Gresham of Fairhaven Baptist Church in Demopolis, Ala., directing the North American Mission Board trustees to form a task force to study church planting results since 2012.
  • A motion by Bill Ascol of Bethel Baptist Church in Owasso, Okla., to reallocate the 2023 ERLC budget to fund the Abuse Response and Implementation Task Force.
  • A motion by Tim Overton of Kingston Baptist Church in Anderson, Ind., to request Lifeway publish homeschool textbooks.
  • A motion by Samuel Gilliam of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., to request the EC study the effectiveness of NAMB and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • A motion by Brian Gilmore of Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, to request the SBC president form a task force on the role of women in churches, church officers and staff titles.
  • A motion by Paul Michael Vaca of First Baptist Church of Liberty City in Kilgore, Texas, to request the EC form a task force of ethnically diverse individuals to study racial inequality in SBC institutions.

The committee determined that although the following motion was in order when it was made, it was no longer in order following the Convention’s action on EC Recommendation 3:

  • A motion by Michael White of Hickox Baptist Church in Nahunta, Ga., to make resolutions available to the public in writing 12 days before the annual meeting.

The committee asked the Convention to affirm by common consent a motion by Matt Dunn of First Baptist Church in Bates City, Mo., to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and SBC President Bart Barber led in prayer.


    About the Author

  • Erin Roach