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Wellman believes Cooperation Group recommendations will strengthen SBC

Jared Wellman

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) – To be on a Zoom call with Jared Wellman is to observe his love for professional basketball. In addition to family pictures, his workspaces are filled with photos, jerseys, basketballs and other collectibles connected to NBA legends.

It’s fitting, then, that the Texas pastor thinks in terms of basketball when he describes the work of the SBC Cooperation Group, which was appointed by SBC President Bart Barber in 2023 and chaired by Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church, to bring clarity to what it means for churches to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptists Convention.

“If you think of a basketball game and you have these boundaries … lines all over the court,” Wellman told Baptist Press. “The nature of the Convention sometimes is like a game. We’re all in this together but sometimes we’ve not necessarily defined a line.”

He said the group has been working since last summer to look at the lines that could look “a little blurry” and find ways to make them “a little bit more clear.”

The group released four recommendations and a suggestion May 1 that they believe will help Southern Baptists stay in bounds when it comes to partnering in friendly cooperation.

The phrase “in friendly cooperation” comes from the SBC Constitution, and its qualifications can be found in Article III.

At the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, messengers greenlighted a motion for a broad and diverse group to study “how we can move forward together in biblical fidelity, missional clarity, and cooperative unity.”

In a 40-minute interview to be released on the May 3 edition of the “SBC This Week” podcast, Wellman said he believes both of those objectives were accomplished.

“We had male and female, we had ethnic diversity, ecclesiastical diversity in the structure of the various churches that were represented. We had geographic diversity as we had people from all over the country,” he said about the task force assembled by Barber.

Like a good preacher, Wellman said the group paid careful attention to the text. The text being the language of the motion and its specific reference to biblical fidelity, missional clarity and cooperative unity.

“I would just point people back again to the text of the motion and how all of our recommendations fit neatly into these categories,” he said.

“I think there’s two (recommendations) on unity, one on clarity and one on fidelity. We did that intentionally.”

For those hoping the group would deal with specific issues in the SBC, such as the so-called Law Amendment, Wellman said the group wasn’t asked to study the “trees” in the Convention but rather “the forest of the Convention.”

Here’s a summary of the group’s recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1 is for the SBC Executive Committee to create a more robust process for amending the Baptist Faith and Message.
  • Recommendation 2 is aimed at helping messengers preserve sole authority for seating messengers at the annual meeting in light of the Convention’s now having a standing Credentials Committee.
  • Recommendation 3 is to ask the Executive Committee to propose changes to the SBC’s governing documents to require the Committee on Nominations to nominate as entity trustees and standing committee members only those candidates who affirm the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.
  • Recommendation 4 asks the Executive Committee to evaluate the usefulness and accuracy of a public list of churches.
  • An addendum to the report encourages Southern Baptists to refrain from using the word “disfellowship” for churches that messengers determine no longer to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention.

On the first day the recommendations were released publicly, Wellman said he had received “grateful and positive” responses, including from “the one who made the motion.”

The motion was officially made by former SBC president James Merritt in New Orleans as former presidents Ed Litton, J.D. Greear, Steve Gaines and Bryant Wright stood with him.

The Cooperation Group report is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, at 7:45 p.m. during the evening session of the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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