The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee approved legal documents September 18 to allow GuideStone Financial Resources to set up five new subsidiaries providing, among other things, investment financial advice, its own property and casualty insurance, and its own life insurance.
The Executive Committee passed the recommendation following one hour of discussion, most of which focused on whether the committee should study the issue for several more months until its next meeting in February. In the end, the recommendation passed on a show of hands.
"This is something we've been working on a long time," GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said, adding that the new services of the subsidiaries will be consistent with GuideStone's ministry assignment. "… This is all about serving our pastors at the crossroads."
One of the more significant changes will be GuideStone's ability to offer investment advice to pastors and other participants who currently have their retirement funds through GuideStone. GuideStone has not yet determined whether the advice will be free or fee-based.
"If you were on our call center today, you would be hearing scores of pastors saying, 'Please help me know where to put my funds,'" Hawkins said. "… They need advice on where to put their funds. We can't even give it to them now."
GuideStone also will offer churches property and casualty insurance directly, which it now provides through a third party. With its own insurance company, GuideStone will be able to lower costs, Hawkins said. Other denominations have followed that model, he said.
And GuideStone would have its own life insurance company, which will allow it to expand what it offers participants, Hawkins said.
In various other business matters, the Executive Committee:
• stated its agreement with a motion referred from the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio that the Executive Committee "give serious consideration in the future to select cities as sites for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that have not hosted the annual meeting for the past twenty years."
• responded to a referral from the San Antonio meeting calling for an amendment to the SBC's bylaws that would stipulate the disclosure of disagreements nominees for the SBC's various boards and committees may have with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
The Executive Committee stated: "… [A]long with a nominee's objection to any portion of the Baptist Faith and Message, there are innumerable other specific details about board nominees bearing on their fitness for service and about which messengers may inquire during the Committee on Nominations report." Declining to recommend a change in the SBC's bylaws, the Executive Committee stated that it prefers "to encourage the continued inclusion, in the questionnaires and interviews of both the Committee on Committees and Committee on Nominations, of specific inquiries designed to disclose candidates' affinity for and commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message as well as Convention policies, practices, purposes and activities."
• declined to recommend to the Convention the creation of a task force on "the spiritual gift of tongues" and "private prayer language" proposed in a motion at the San Antonio meeting. The Executive Committee stated that it "respectfully declines to appoint or act as a task force to develop a doctrinal policy on tongues or any other doctrine aside from the Baptist Faith and Message." Akin to its previous statements on the BF&M, the Executive Committee stated that the BF&M is "sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention … [and] likewise sufficient to guide the Convention's Committee on Nominations in its selection and qualification of trustee nominees."
• approved LifeWay Christian Resources' request to publish a new magazine named LifeWalk, a daily devotional for reading through the Bible in one year.
• elected Dave Hill, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Springfield, Ohio, to serve as chairman of the 2007-08 Committee on Nominations, filling a vacancy in the post created by the recent death of Glenn Weekley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The Executive Committee also elected Ken Polk, senior pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to replace Weekley as a member of the committee.
Times of focused prayer during the Executive Committee meeting included:
• Executive Committee member Darrell Orman of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Florida, asking for prayer for his twenty-five-year-old daughter's ministry in a Muslim country.
"… [T]his father who loves his daughter has had a request from her, 'Will you see if there are other prayer partners who will pray for me?'" Morris H. Chapman said while introducing Orman's request.
Orman's daughter told him how she couldn't sleep one night and felt led to go to a nearby park, where a middle-aged Muslim approached her and said, "Allah told me to come to the park and told me to sit down and ask you what you believe."
• Executive Committee chairman William Harrell reporting that vice chairman Randall James will be undergoing treatment for a recurrence of lymphoma. James, president of First Orlando Foundation in Florida, has faced nineteen sieges of cancer over the last nineteen years. "He's confident and we're all confident that the Lord's going to bring him through and heal him again like He has before," Harrell said.
James is known to Executive Committee staff members as having led one of the SBC Building's security guards to faith in Christ just before the man died of cancer a couple of years ago.
• R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking on behalf of the presidents of the SBC's various entities, noted to the Executive Committee that "there is an unprecedented level of attack upon some of our own leaders … in the form of innuendo and smear and caricature and character assassination." Mohler also noted, "Two of our own have suffered in particular along these lines," referencing Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his wife Dorothy.
Mohler stated that the SBC entity presidents have committed "that we will not ourselves tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues," and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, then led in a time of prayer for the Pattersons.
The Executive Committee adopted resolutions of appreciation for:
• John R. (Jack) Wilkerson, who retired September 30 after fourteen-plus years of service as vice president of business and finance at the Executive Committee.
Wilkerson's responsibilities have included the logistics for the planning and execution of SBC annual meetings. The resolution said Wilkerson has "warmly welcomed numerous notable personalities at the annual meetings, including several United States government officials and dignitaries, serving as an excellent and appropriate representation of Southern Baptist hospitality."
Wilkerson also has given oversight to "the annual reception and distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in Cooperative Program and designated gifts, totaling more than $4.7 billion over the course of his tenure," the resolution stated. "Because of his conscientious and efficient performance of these duties, thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries and seminary students, and untold numbers of Southern Baptist ministry endeavors, have benefited from the seamless distribution of those sacrificial gifts from Southern Baptists across North America."
Wilkerson additionally has been in charge of the daily management and maintenance of the seven-story SBC Building in Nashville.
Executive Committee members said Wilkerson "maintained and exemplified the highest standards of fiscal responsibility and biblical stewardship" and "displayed exemplary Christian character" in his work, along with a passion for evangelism in his dealings with personnel in host cities for SBC meetings.
• Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, who retires January 31 after eight years in the position.
The resolution of appreciation noted Wade's leadership during "an extensive process of reorganization resulting in enhanced efficiency" within the state convention.
The resolution said Wade, as pastor of First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, "provided exemplary leadership in promoting ministry to the physical needs of thousands in the surrounding community."
• Michael Weeks, who retired June 30 after five years as president of the Southern Baptist Foundation.
The resolution said Weeks "provided exemplary, professional, and Christian leadership during his tenure" and he "exercised the highest standards of Christian integrity, ethics, and stewardship" as president of the foundation. It also noted that the proceeds from the foundation's assets "have been used to finance the advance of the cause of Christ around the world through Southern Baptist enterprises."
Executive Committee members also recognized Weeks' ten years of "exemplary service to Tennessee Southern Baptists as trustee of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, serving three years as chairman," and they mentioned his "successful and laudable career in the banking industry" prior to his tenure with the foundation.