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SBC entity trustee meetings move primarily online due to COVID-19 restrictions

NASHVILLE (BP) — The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee meeting scheduled to be held in Nashville Sept. 21-22 has been canceled and replaced with a special called meeting, to be held online Sept. 22.

EC Chairman Rolland Slade said given the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting virtually was the best decision for the safety of EC members, their families, congregations and others who might participate.

“Canceling the in-person meeting and moving to virtual, though not what we wanted to do, was and is the right thing to do for all concerned,” Slade said.

Slade noted that because of restrictions in their local areas, some EC members might have needed to self-quarantine for up to 14 days in order to travel to or from Nashville. Others might have been unable to travel for health reasons. And there’s uncertainty as to what conditions and restrictions in Nashville and other parts of the country might be in September.

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“There is the real possibility that we would come in from our various cities and with emergencies (or) flight cancellations not have a quorum,” Slade said. “Then we have wasted valuable time and resources.”

But Slade said the goals and reasons for the meeting still remain.

“My hope for the meeting is to bring us together to focus on the main things we need to focus on,” he said. “We need to focus our attention on what the Southern Baptist Convention cares about, reaching a lost world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The special-called EC meeting will be live-streamed for those wishing to watch online. More details will be announced later.

In light of COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions, several other SBC entities have also moved board and trustee meetings online.

LifeWay Christian Resources will hold its trustee meeting Aug. 24-25 through video conference technology.

“While we will miss the in-person interaction and fellowship, we are working on making this virtual meeting informative and God-honoring, as we discuss how LifeWay is adapting to current church practices and continuing to serve churches in these extraordinary days,” Ben Mandrell, LifeWay’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Guidestone Financial Resources trustees have also moved their meeting, originally scheduled for July 27-28, online in late September. President O.S. Hawkins said he looks forward to gathering in person when it is safe to do so.

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“We were disappointed that we were not able to meet in person,” Hawkins said in a statement, “but are thankful that technology allows us to gather together with our trustees from the relative safety of their homes so that we may provide updates on our ministry and for our trustees to conduct their important work.”

Likewise, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has converted its Sept. 15 board meeting to a virtual format.

“While meeting virtually certainly presents unique challenges, we are thankful that modern technology affords us the opportunity to safely move ahead with the important business of our trustees,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC chief of staff. “We’ve touched base with multiple entities to learn from their experiences with online board meetings and we are planning to incorporate the best practices from each of them with our own meeting in September.”

Julie McGowan, associate vice president of communications at the International Mission Board, said the success of a virtual trustee meeting last May provided confidence in holding the Sept. 29-30 trustee meeting in the same format.

“We have an excellent internal audio, visual production and support team who served our trustees well in their May virtual meeting, and we’re looking forward to another good meeting in September,” McGowan said.

The North American Mission Board has shifted its Oct. 5-7 trustee meeting from Boston to Alpharetta, Ga., where NAMB is headquartered. The meeting will be a mixture of in-person and online components.

“We try to have our board meetings in our Send Cities so trustees can meet the missionaries and see the ministry firsthand,” said Mike Ebert, director of public relations at NAMB. “But due to all of the COVID-related restrictions we are moving the meeting to our building in Alpharetta, Ga., north of Atlanta. We will also have an online option for trustees who can’t make it for various reasons.”

SBC seminaries also have trustee meetings scheduled for later in the fall. Information on those meetings should be announced by the schools in upcoming weeks.