SAN ANTONIO–Although more than 8,600 messengers were registered at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12-13 in San Antonio, the largest number voting for any balloted measure was 3,713 when the only debated motion passed by a 58-42 percent margin to declare the Baptist Faith & Message “sufficient” as a policy guide though neither a creed nor “a complete statement of our faith.”
Offered by former Texan Rick Garner, now an Ohio pastor, the motion called for adoption of a statement the SBC Executive Committee drafted last February in response to a motion Texan Boyd Luter of New Braunfels made last year.
The approved statement calls the BF&M the “only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the SBC and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.”
Luter sought stronger language to require a vote by the full convention on any “doctrinal position or practical policy” adopted by an SBC entity “which goes beyond, or seeks to explain the explicit wording of the duly constituted authoritative language” of the BF&M as approved in 2000.
Some Southern Baptists saw the approval of the motion as a response to SBC entities that have passed policies or guidelines in the past year addressing matters not specifically referenced in the BF&M.
Southwestern Seminary and the International Mission Board dealt with the views of prospective faculty or missionaries regarding private prayer language, with further scrutiny of missionary candidates on believer’s baptism as a testimony of the security of a believer, as well as limiting theology faculty to pastor-qualified men.
(The June 11 issue of the TEXAN analyzed this perception of the Executive Committee statement in an article on “Limiting SBC policies to BF&M parameters,” accessible at texanonline.net.)
As he opened the floor to entertain motions SBC President Frank Page insisted on respectful deliberation.
“We will act and behave as believers in the Lord Jesus,” Page said.
Page added that God’s rules were more important than Roberts’ Rules of Order, adding, “If someone says something you find objectionable, be kind. If someone says something that is absolutely stupid, be kind and we will be kind to you.”
Garner said a vote for his motion would indicate the doctrinal statement’s sufficiency to guide entities, while a negative vote would render the BF&M “anemic to accomplish its purposes.”
Robin Hadaway of Kansas City opposed the motion, asking, “Speaking in tongues is not mentioned in the BF&M, but do you want a seminary professor who practices glossolalia?”
Hadaway cited other issues absent from the BF&M such as alcohol and tobacco use, private prayer languages, gambling and divorce.
“Guide does not mean an exhaustive list,” he argued.
Arlington pastor Dwight McKissic countered: “When I give my church a doctrinal statement, all of our leaders are asked to read it and believe it. We buy into the convention based on that document. Then when agencies circumvent the document it leaves the church I pastor in a quandary.”
Bob Cleveland of Pelham, Ala., told of reading Herschel Hobbs’ commentary on the 1963 BF&M where he discovered “soul competency” as “the most responsible doctrine I’ve ever seen because it says it’s me and God. I’m responsible for what I believe. I cannot blame it on somebody else.”
Cleveland said if he wanted to change what Baptists believe he would never attack the BF&M but rather change the requirements for missionaries and professors.
“That would send out pastors into churches that believed just what I wanted them to believe. I’d never have to touch the Baptist Faith and Message,” he explained, urging passage of the motion.
Warning against the motion, Jeremy Green of First Baptist Church in Joshua said, “Baptist polity and our trustee system both necessitate that each individual trustee board maintain the right and responsibility to employ other doctrinal parameters as needed.”
After messengers voted to shut off further debate, the measure passed by a count of 2,137 to 1,565.
Cooperative Program defined
Messengers quickly dispensed with most Executive Committee recommendations, but slowed down when debating a definition of the Cooperative Program after 11 messengers raised questions.
The definition described the CP as “Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries.”
“There has been no approved definition of the Cooperative Program through these years,” explained Executive Committee President Morris Chapman, who insisted no current policies or practices would be affected.
Austin pastor and Executive Committee member Michael Lewis presented the recommendation, answering a question from Mark Dever of Washington, D.C., who was concerned at how a current requirement that a church give at least $250 to the work of the convention would be affected.
“It is toward convention causes and would have no bearing on that,” Lewis answered.
Church contributions to one of the mission offerings and undesignated gifts channeled around state conventions can count toward the minimal level required for credentials, Lewis added.
He explained that such designations are not computed as CP giving, a point the definition addresses by encouraging churches to give a portion of receipts to Southern Baptist causes by channeling them through the state conventions where state messengers decide the portion advanced to the SBC.
But Ron Wilson of California urged delay of the action, citing fear of a “connectionalism not meant in the beginning,” and arguing that churches in state conventions that refuse to give more generously to the SBC “are penalized in CP giving if we designate” around the state convention. “This is very dangerous,” he concluded.
“States determine how much money is forwarded to the national office,” stated Bob Rogers, Executive Committee vice president for CP and stewardship. “That’s not dictated. We would encourage a split, but the messengers to those states vote on that percentage.”
Messengers overwhelmingly approved the CP recommendation.
New Orleans: 2012
The afternoon session served as a forum for courteous disagreement at the SBC’s refusal last year to head to New Orleans for the 2008 annual meeting to provide a more rapid infusion of spiritual and financial help to the Katrina-affected area.
Earlier in the meeting Steve Mooneyham of Gulfport, Miss., thanked Southern Baptists for their ministry to Katrina-devastated areas.
“On August 30, 2005, our Father unleashed his tidal wave of grace and mercy in the persons of you, our brothers and sisters,” he said, calling it a sensitive response to the hurricane’s fury.
Louisiana pastor Jay Adkins of Westwego recalled the action of the first Southern Baptist Convention meeting in 1845 to promote “a strong and vibrant Baptist identity in the city of New Orleans,” expressing gratitude that a seminary was built there.
“Although New Orleans doesn’t have a Magic Kingdom where we can come and play,” Adkins said he favored the SBC coming to New Orleans so residents could learn of a greater kingdom.
The Executive Committee Business and Finance vice president, Jack Wilkerson, explained the convention arrangement committee’s concern that the Superdome still lacks necessary adjoined facilities, as well as their reluctance to pull out of upcoming convention sites in Indianapolis or Louisville where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid in contracts.
“When we go to a city, we have an integrity issue that we stand behind that unless there’s a serious emergency that would cause us to change,” Wilkerson said.
But Shannon Davis of Oxford, Miss., countered, “There is no greater time that now to realty shape that into a Christian city.”
Instead, messengers overwhelmingly approved the recommendation to go to New Orleans in 2012 with Orlando approved for 2010 and Phoenix for 2011. The 2008 convention is scheduled for Indianapolis, with 2009 in Louisville, Ky.
LifeWay Research Assignments
LifeWay’s ministry statement was amended to include a research assignment. Messengers asked the entity to compile additional statistics relating to Calvinism, the emberging church movement, elder leadership and other topics of interest among Southern Baptists in light of future trends and effects on churches.
The 2007-2008 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $200.6 million approved by messengers includes a change in allocation for the .75 percent previously given to GuideStone that will be reallocated, resulting in a net increase of $320,962 for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, an additional $160,480 for the Executive Committee-directed stewardship ministry, and a one-time distribution of $347,710 to each of the convention’s three smallest seminaries: Southeastern, Midwestern and Golden Gate.
GuideStone previously utilized its CP share for retiree relief benefits and will now depend on continued designated gifts from individuals and churches.
Questioned by Ken Cranes of Southcrest Baptist in Lubbock as to why GuideStone would no longer need the CP dollars for the retiree relief program, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins answered, “We believe God is blessing us so much that we’re able to raise that much money and get more of them in it, and still have the money to do it. As partners in the harvest, our trustees felt this was what we ought to do,” he added, explaining the refusal of CP missions funding.
The ministry statement of GuideStone Financial Resources was amended to remove a requirement that the facilitating ministry execute a cooperative agreement with the Southern Baptist Foundation prior to offering financial services to SBC entities.
Also in SBC business:
>The SBC Constitution was amended to require a two-year waiting period between trustee service terms on entity boards and the Executive Committee, the second of two required approvals. The by-law companion to the constitutional amendment on trustee service was similarly amended.
>A calendar change moves the church-planting emphasis in 2008 to March 30 to avoid a conflict with Easter Sunday. Messengers adopted the 2011-2012 calendar of activities.
Of the dozen motions presented, only the one relating to the BF&M was placed on the floor of the convention while five were referred solely to the Executive Committee, two were assigned for study by the Executive Committee and all SBC entities, one was sent to LifeWay and the North American Mission Board, and one the Committee on Order of Business. Three were ruled out of order.
This year’s body operated with a few new rules—requiring two-thirds vote of the convention to allow a messenger to speak for more than three minutes during a time of debate and also preventing any messenger from introducing a second motion during a business session as long as any other messenger who has not made a motion is seeking the floor.
Motions referred to the Executive Committee asked:
>That the Executive Committee “conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist clergy and staff who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches,” submitted by Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla.
>That the SBC president appoint a task force that would “develop a workable solution to the difficulties that have arisen as a result of policies adopted by trustee boards concerning the practice of the spiritual gift of tongues generally and as a private prayer language specifically [and] develop a policy that is consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” submitted by Lee Saunders, minister of church development at Garden Oaks Baptist Church in Houston.
>That the Executive Committee cover reasonable travel, housing and meal expenses for convention officers during the annual meeting, submitted by Wiley Drake of Buena Park, Calif., who served as second vice president the past year.
>That SBC Bylaw 15-J, which specifies that the Committee on Nominations report be release no later than 45 days prior to the annual meeting, be amended to publicize “any disagreements various nominees may have concerning the BR&M 2000,” submitted by Tim Rogers of Statesville, N.C.
>That “serious consideration” be given to cities as future sites for the annual meeting that have not hosed the SBC during the past 20 years, submitted by Bob Lilly of Baltimore, Md.
All SBC entities and the Executive Committee were asked to study the following motions:
>That “each convention entity study the feasibility of providing regular reports of the voting and attendance records of all trustees of all Southern Baptist Convention agencies and institutions on all matters on which voting occurs and that these people be available in a timely matter both online and offline,” submitted by Leslie Puryear of Lewisville, N.C.
>That “the Southern Baptist Convention implement more ministries for handicapped people,” submitted by Graham Jones of North Charleston, S.C.
Other referred motions included:
>A request by Dennis Piercy of Kiowa, Okla., that a task force be established “to find ways to help build up small churches with programs and books that are designed for one-staff churches.” It was referred to LifeWay Chritian Resources and the North American Mission Board.
>A proposal by Beauford Smith of Colfax, N.C. “that an honor guard representing five branches of the military present the American flag at the call to order of the SBC annual meeting,” which was referred to the 2008 Committee on the Order of Business.
A fourth of the motions were ruled out of order because they sought to have the convention exercise authority over an SBC entity’s board internal matters.
>A motion that LifeWay Christian Resources reconsider its policies allowing “promotions and distribution of fables and allegories such as ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’” which Oklahoma pastor Bob Green of Broken Arrow said “the Word of God specifically forbids.”
>A motion that SBC entities and staff avoid supporting the doctrines, leaders, publications or other resources of “the emerging church,” offered by Steve Fox of Riverton, Utah.
>A motion by Bart Barber of Farmersville asking that an ad hoc committee be created to study the salaries of Southern Baptist seminary professors in comparison with other members of the Association of Theological Schools.
Barber appealed the decision of the Committee on Order of Business chairman Allan Blume, stating, “Respectfully, the motion did not really usurp any authority of the trustees.”
Parliamentarian Barry McCarty was asked by Page for a response and stated, “We came to this conclusion together,” referring to legal counsel and other parliamentarians.
Robin foster of Perkins, Okla., disagreed with the ruling, stating: “State conventions do salary checks for pastors of other denominations and that hasn’t forced any church to pay a certain salary. I think that it is good to have the knowledge and understanding of what is common among other seminary schools,” he added, insisting the motion did not force the convention or any entities to take a certain action.
Messengers, however, sustained the ruling that the motion was not in order.
Page later sought to encourage those who made motions that were then referred for study by an SBC entity or committee, explaining, “When a motion is referred as in appropriate accordance to our bylaws, that does not mean those motions are killed.”
Connie Saffle of Shalom Adonai Messianic Fellowship of Wichita, Kan., asked what had become of a motion offered two years ago seeking recognition of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship. Page directed the Committee on Order of Business to chase down the answer, later reporting that a response was included in last year’s Book of Reports.
“The entities take seriously what Southern Baptists mention,” Page told messengers in San Antonio.
He spoke of the deliberations he observed in various SBC entity meetings during his yearlong tenure, noting, “I’ve heard them deal with sincerity and integrity the motions of concern of Southern Baptists.”
Barber, the Farmersville pastor, and Gary Dyer of Midland served on this year’s Committee on Committees appointed and tasked last year by SBC President Bobby Welch to “work hard and don’t mess up.” That group named Texans James T. Egan of Post and Spencer Dobbs of Odessa to serve on the 2007-2008 Committee on Nominations.
The following Texans were approved by messengers in the report of this year’s Committee on Nominations to serve on SBC entities:
>Bud Jones of First Baptist, Woodway and David Dykes of Green Acres Baptist, Tyler, to the Executive Committee;
>Ron D. Murff of Prestonwood Baptist, Plano, to GuideStone Financial Resources;
>Marshall D. Johnson of MacArthur Blvd. Baptist, Irving, to a second term along with Jay T. Gross of West Conroe Baptist in Conroe;
>William S. Moody of First Baptist, Silsbee to the North American Mission Baord;
>Mark Estep of Spring Baptist, Spring, to a second term at LefeWay Christian Resources; Mike Mericle of Great Hills Baptist in Austin to Southern Seminary;
>Lash Banks of Parkside Baptist in Denison to Southwestern Seminary along with second terms for Gary W. Loveless of Second Baptist, Houston, and Jack S. Smith of First Baptist, Dallas;
>K. Wayne Lee of First Baptist, Euless, to Midwestern Seminary;
>Gene Kendrick of Mims Baptist in Conroe to a second term on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and
>Domingo Ozuma of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie to the Committee on Order of Business.
Next year’s annual meeting in Indianapolis will be held June 10-11. Housing information will be available in October at sbc.net.