Editor’s note: Proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws were printed in the Sept. 15 issue of the B&R with follow up Questions and Answers regarding the changes in the Sept. 29 issue. The Q&A also can be found at https://baptistandreflector.org/tbc-constitution-and-bylaws-frequently-asked-questions/.
Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Messengers at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention on Nov. 17 approved four recommendations regarding the convention’s Constitution and Bylaws. See list of recommendations in box.
The first three recommendations dealt primarily with issues that occurred in 2020 when the annual meeting had to be canceled due to COVID-19.
Recommendation one, amending the constitution, passed with two-thirds majority on first reading. It will need two-thirds approval by messengers to the 2022 annual meeting.
Recommendation two, amending the bylaws, passed with two-thirds vote and does not require a second reading next year.
Recommendation three, amending the Business and Financial Plan, passed with a simple majority and does not require a second reading.
Recommendation four, which also amends the constitution, passed with a two-thirds majority after discussion from the floor of the convention. It will need two-thirds approval by messengers to the 2022 annual meeting before it goes into effect.
The fourth recommendation essentially makesTennessee Baptist Convention churches eligible for messengers to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention if they contribute through either the Cooperative Program or through the Tennessee Baptist Convention portion of the Cooperative Program without restriction or designation. Current constitution requires cooperative giving for eligibility, which means the church must give to all SBC entities. This creates a connectionalism that is contrary to Baptist polity.
Messenger Jacob Harris of First Baptist Church, Huntingdon, spoke against the recommendation, expressing concern whether the TBC would remain committed to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, explained that prior to 2007, churches did not have to give through the Cooperative Program in order to have messengers. That provision was added to encourage churches to give through the Cooperative Program but it has not increased the number of cooperating churches, he said.
What’s more, he noted, the Southern Baptist Convention does not require that churches give through the Cooperative Program to seat messengers at the national meeting. A church can contribute to any SBC institution and qualify for messengers at the SBC.
Davis affirmed his support of the Cooperative Program. He noted that he has been an advocate of the Cooperative Program in every church he has served as pastor and has advocated CP during his 11 years as executive director.
“I will continue to give all I’ve got to promote the Cooperative Program,” he pledged.
Yet, Davis cautioned that CP “is not a Baptist golden calf. The autonomy of the local church is important.”
Messenger Larry Robertson of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, opposed the change, noting that “it could come with unintended consequences. It is fostering disunity, not unity,” he said.
William Maxwell, a TBMB staff member and messenger from Brentwood Baptist Church, stressed that the change does not change the definition of the Cooperative Program. It changes the definition of a cooperating church,” he said.
Maxwell related that some churches have expressed dissatisfaction with what is happening at the SBC level.
“We want to keep churches engaged in Tennessee with the Tennessee Baptist Convention,” he said.
“It is intended to keep people at the table, not to be divisive,” Maxwell added. B&R