By Baptist Press
NASHVILLE (BP) — After nearly an hour of discussion, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s officers withdrew a recommendation to propose granting representation on three key SBC committees to Baptists in pioneer regions. EC leadership promised, however, to make an alternate proposal with the same goal but addressing logistical concerns raised by EC members.
In other business during the EC’s Feb. 22-23 meeting Nashville, the committee recommended a change in the method for asking questions of entity leaders during SBC annual meetings; approved a one-time transfer of funds from the North American Mission Board to the International Mission Board to assist IMB personnel leaving the board during its “organizational reset”; and withdrew the convention’s fellowship from a South Carolina church whose pastor performed a same-sex wedding ceremony with the deacons’ approval.
The initial recommendation on “representation from new states and territories” would have asked the SBC’s legal counsel to present a recommendation to the EC’s Bylaws Workgroup for consideration in June on providing “representation on the Executive Committee, the Committee on Nominations, and the Committee on Committees for the following states or defined territories: The Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Montana, and Puerto Rico-U.S. Virgin Islands.”
The recommendation also proposed “limit[ing] to four the maximum number of members which any cooperating state or defined territory shall be entitled to have on the Executive Committee” and “request[ing] Baptist Press to report the foregoing information to Southern Baptists so that any comments in response to the proposal [could] be included in the background materials for the Executive Committee’s consideration on June 13.”
Currently, EC representation for any state or territory is capped at five members, with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas having maximum representation. According to SBC Bylaws 18 and 30, having 15,000 members in cooperating Southern Baptist churches qualifies a state or territory for initial representation on the EC, the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Nominations. When a state or territory reaches 250,000 church members, it qualifies to have a second EC member. Each additional 250,000 church members qualifies a state or territory for an additional EC member up to the maximum.
The recommendation would have granted one EC member to each pioneer state and territory listed while maintaining at present levels the representation of states and territories with 1-4 EC members.
The recommendation was affirmed by EC officers, the Bylaws Workgroup and the Administrative Committee. However, when the matter came before the full EC, members raised questions such as:
— Why does the proposal reduce EC representation from states whose Baptists support the Cooperative Program with some of the largest financial gifts?
— Why does the proposal specify a set number of EC members from each state and territory rather than establish a formula to determine representation?
— To what extent is the reduction of EC representation from certain states driven by a need to limit the EC’s spending?
After 40 minutes of discussion, SBC President Ronnie Floyd, who serves as an ex officio EC member, asked, “Could we simply say the will of the body would be that it is our intent to study seriously, without involving the negative of taking away [EC members], … a way, if possible, to give representation to every state convention, period?”
EC President Frank S. Page said he believes “the big issue” is granting EC and other committee representation to Baptists in every state and territory. He asked that all recommendations and amendments be withdrawn so that officers and staff “might … come back with a cleaner way to say, ‘We want to add five'” EC members from the states and territories mentioned in the recommendation. He said EC staff can, if instructed to do so, re-appropriate funds to allow five new members without reducing any state’s current representation.
The committee opted to follow Page’s advice.
Entity questions at SBC annual meetings
In a separate action, the EC recommended amending SBC Bylaw 26 regarding questions to SBC entity leaders from the floor during the annual meeting, which will be presented to messengers during the SBC’s June 14-15 sessions in St. Louis.
Intended to provide consistency in the time allotted for messengers to ask questions, the proposed amendment would stipulate that segments for questions “provide no less than four (4) minutes times the number of entities included for discussion during that time.” The total time in any segment, however, “need not be evenly apportioned” among the entities included in that segment.
The bylaw amendment was drafted, as stated in EC resource materials, “In the interest of promoting greater transparency, amenability to the constituency, and a broader understanding of the work of the Convention’s entities.” A chart included in the background material noted that the average length of time allotted for questions to each SBC entity over the past 20 years has been about four minutes per entity, spaced across multiple sessions of the annual meeting. The new proposal will allow for consolidating question and answer segments to specific times on the agenda.
NAMB funds transfer
The EC approved a one-time transfer from NAMB to the IMB of up to $4 million, with three conditions which must be approved by NAMB’s trustees:
— The transfer must be drawn from the reserve portion of NAMB’s unrestricted assets.
— The transfer must not “negatively impact the performance of NAMB’s ministry assignments.”
— The transfer must be “designated to the IMB for the specific purpose of assisting transitioning IMB missionaries who have accepted the IMB’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) or its Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO).”
NAMB President Kevin Ezell told Baptist Press NAMB’s “main motivation [for the gift] is that we’re family.”
“We’ve walked down this path before,” Ezell said. NAMB “let 817 people go in a transition. I know how hard that is along with trying to balance a budget. We look at the IMB as a sister entity. We are a family. When families hurt, you make sacrifices for family.”
S.C. church disfellowshipped
The EC’s decision to withdraw fellowship from Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., acting on behalf of the SBC ad interim, was based on “public information provided by the church which amounts to clear evidence of the church’s affirmation and approval of homosexual behavior,” according to the recommendation.
Article III of the SBC Constitution stipulates that “churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.”
Background material provided to EC members stated Augusta Heights pastor Greg Dover “sought and acquired approval” from the church’s deacons to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony and did so Oct. 10, 2015. Dover told EC staff in a letter the congregation “does not have a marriage policy, or any official position or doctrinal statement on issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage.” The church, Dover said, “does not wish to end our relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Augusta Heights, which also has been disfellowshipped from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Greenville Baptist Association, was invited to send representatives to the EC meeting but did not do so.
In other items on its agenda, the Executive Committee:
— approved a 2016-17 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $189,000,000 for recommendation to the SBC during the June 14-15 annual meeting in St. Louis.
The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to IMB and 22.79 percent to NAMB, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for mission ministries nationally and internationally.
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will be: Golden Gate Seminary, 2.15 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 2.65 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.82 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 4.17 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.06 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 4.07 percent; and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)
The budget proposal maintains a 1.65 percent allocation to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing the SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, would receive 2.99 percent of the budget.
— approved a resolution of appreciation for David Waltz, who will retire March 31 after 23 years as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, rebranded under his leadership as the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey 15 years ago. The resolution of appreciation also noted Waltz’s 37 years of ministry among Baptists in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
The Baptist Resource Network ministry model, with its strategy for strengthening existing churches and starting new churches, has yielded diversity to where “more than one-half (52 percent) of the convention’s cooperating congregations are predominantly minority populations,” the resolution for Waltz stated.
Additionally, nearly 80 percent of the network’s 400 churches have been giving regularly through the Cooperative Program during the past decade in support of missions and ministry in the Penn/Jersey convention and by Southern Baptists nationally and globally. The churches also have recorded 60,000-plus baptisms in the past 15 years.
Page noted the resolution’s clause on Waltz’s pastorate at First Southern Baptist Church in Williamsport, Pa., from 1978-1990, when the church grew to 315 members from less than 100, Vacation Bible School at times equaled or exceeded the church’s Sunday worship attendance; more than 320 people were baptized; and an average of 12.4 percent-plus of undesignated offerings was shared with the Cooperative Program.
“This is a man who not only led that great convention,” Page said, “but a man who did it before he told others how to do it.”
— recognized two Executive Committee staff members who are retiring at the end of January: Donald R. Magee, associate vice president for convention finance, who has been on staff for 18 years, and Martha Clark, financial systems associate for 12 years. Page noted that Magee and Clark have had key roles in maintaining the Executive Committee’s financial integrity.
— elected Darren Elrod and Robyn Hari to three-year terms as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees. Elrod is senior vice president of finance and operations at Provident Label Group — Sony Music Entertainment. Hari, a member of the Executive Committee, works with Diversified Trust in Nashville.
— approved a new online publication, “Family Journey,” a digital publication proposed by LifeWay Christian Resources as a daily devotional guide for parents to use with their children.
— approved a $90,000 reimbursement request to the SBC Pastors’ Conference for use of the America’s Center in St. Louis for its meeting hall and other facilities, June 12-13, preceding the SBC annual meeting, as part of an annual reimbursement for costs in using the host facility.
— authorized a 0.7 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
— received as information that C. Barry McCarty will be retained as the chief parliamentarian for this year’s annual meeting in St. Louis.