INDIANAPOLIS–Messengers to the SBC annual meeting accepted a sweeping report on child abuse prevention, approved a $205.7 million Cooperative Program Allocation Budget for the coming year, and approved a resolution on regenerate church membership that incorporated amendments from the floor by a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and a Florida leader of the Founders Ministry.
Local Southern Baptist churches in Texas sent 416 messengers to Indianapolis–half the number reported at last year’s meeting in San Antonio. This year’s unofficial messenger count was 7,277, down from 8,630 at the 2007 meeting, however heavy rains and flooding were blamed for some of the decrease with some of those who registered in advance declared no-shows.
Twenty-three motions were presented by messengers to this year’s annual meeting in Indianapolis–none of them making it to the floor for debate this year. However, SBC President Frank Page guided the efforts of those seeking to amend the much-discussed resolution, as if moderating a local church business meeting to successfully air all concerns.
Messengers adopted a resolution that incorporated baptistic concepts of believers-only baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper and church discipline. It also called for repentance in failing to maintain regenerate church membership and negligence in correcting wayward members. The resolution asked denominational servants to encourage churches implementing church discipline.
Practical recommendations to help local churches prevent sexual abuse were wholeheartedly embraced by messengers during a report from the Executive Committee that was submitted after two years of study. The report in response to a 2007 motion referred to the Executive Committee urges churches to screen prospective volunteers and employees through the Department of Justice’s national database, found at nsopr.gov (A link is available from sbc.net under Resources for “Sex Abuse Prevention.”).
The committee rejected suggestions that it recommend creating a Southern Baptist database of sexual offenders. Such a database, the report said, would have its shortcomings.
While presiding over the referral of various motions, Page told messengers: “Some of you are new to the convention, and we welcome you. We have people coming from other denominations, from independent status. Sometimes people do not realize, for example, that this convention is an autonomous convention and does not hold authority over state conventions that may have colleges or other entities or organizations.”
Baptist associations, state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention are each independent, Page said, adding that “none can direct the work of the other.”
“Also, we have a longstanding practice to elect trustees for those entities that we do support–and we allow those trustees to do the work that they are called to do in those entities,” Page said. “So there’s a clear delineation of responsibility, of accountability and of autonomy.”
A motion submitted by North Carolinian Bill Sanderson that called for a declaration that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth is not “in friendly cooperation” with the SBC was referred to the Executive Committee.
The church is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Tarrant Baptist Association and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and recently delayed a decision on whether to include photographs of homosexual couples in its church directory.
“The Broadway Church has not sent messengers to this convention, so this is not a credentials issue [that] must be resolved during the convention,” said Gearl Spicer, chairman of the Committee on Order of Business. “Although the question of a church’s affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention is a very vital issue, there is not sufficient time to deal with this issue appropriately between now and [adjournment].”
Other motions referred to the Executive Committee included those proposals related to the SBC constitution and bylaws:
• that Bylaw 10 be amended to provide that presidents of Southern Baptist Convention entities or the president of the Executive Committee are ineligible to serve as SBC president, submitted by Jack Wilkerson of Tennessee;
• that Bylaw 10 be amended to change rules for runoffs of candidates at SBC annual meetings, submitted by Scott Wilfong of Louisiana;
• that the bylaws be amended to establish additional criteria for denominational service, such as membership in churches supporting the Cooperative Program, abstention from alcohol and support of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message or other parallel “declarations of faith,” submitted by Jeff Purvis of Missouri;
• that Article III of the SBC Constitution be amended to provide that churches with a female senior pastor are not in cooperation with the SBC, submitted by Chuck Sams of Ohio;
• that Article IV of the SBC Constitution be amended to limit SBC entity trustees to a single seven-year term of service, submitted by Barrett Lampp of Florida; and
• that the Executive Committee study and recommend bylaw changes to accommodate other events during the annual convention week, such as conferences and seminary classes, submitted by Ben Smith of Georgia.
MOTIONS RULED OUT OF ORDER
Six motions were ruled out of order by SBC President Frank Page who accepted the recommendation of the Committee on Order of Business to do so after Spicer explained that motions may “request but not direct” an entity to take an action.
Among the motions ruled out of order were those:
• directing certain Bible translations not be used in convention meetings or “official Convention literature,”
• requiring SBC seminaries to charge students the same fee structure for on-line and on-campus classes, as well as
• an Illinois pastor’s appeal for disaster relief assistance for his church.
In several cases the requested action had already been provided, including a call for recordings of the Pastor’s Conference and convention sessions to be provided “at cost” to messengers. (Complete coverage of all SBC sessions is already provided on-line at no charge, however the SBC cannot direct the Pastors’ Conference regarding the sale of its recordings).
The messenger asking that hearing-impaired equipment be provided on request was told those service are already provided. Messengers later approved a report from the Executive Committee describing additional ministries for people with disabilities as requested the previous year.
An effort to require universities and seminaries that receive Cooperative Program funds to teach creation science was turned down since the convention has no authority to direct trustees not appointed by the SBC or to exercise authority of any entity’s board of trustees.
A motion to take a disaster relief offering designated for recent storm victims in Indiana was withdrawn after messengers were encouraged to contribute online at namb/net/dr.
A motion proposed by Mississippian Jon Kittrell that SBC entities should plan convention events to be more family oriented or to provide childcare was referred to all SBC boards, institutions and commissions. Preschool care as well as day camp for children and Centrifuge for teenagers is already offered at the annual meetings.
Beauford Smith of North Carolina offered a motion that convention meetings should post the American flag with an honor guard representing the five branches of the U.S. military. Smith’s motion was referred to the Committee on the Order of Business.
Other motions referred to the executive committee included:
• that the Executive Committee reconsider affiliation of the SBC with the Baptist World Alliance, submitted by Larry Walker of the First Baptist Church in Dallas;
• that the Executive Committee have the Baptist Faith and Message translated into the top five languages most used within the SBC, submitted by Alan Thompson of California;
• that candidates appear on the platform or their photos be shown to messengers during nomination times at annual conventions, submitted by William Bloch of Florida;
• that the Executive Committee study how Articles 14 and 15 of the Baptist Faith and Message can be better implemented, submitted by Wiley Drake, pastor of California.
No action was taken on a motion by Drake that the “Executive Committee … lead our SBC to repentance and a new emphasis on biblical holiness and godly living.” Even so, Spicer said the committee “commends the high ideals and the actions expressed in the motion, not only to the Executive Committee but to all the entities and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Page said “any call for the Executive Committee to lead this Southern Baptist Convention in emphasizing elements of revival such as repentance, biblical holiness and godly living or purity certainly does transcend any parliamentary procedure and certainly is a call from the heart of God that we honor.”
A single motion was referred to LifeWay Christian Resources asking that churches and associations be provided with video conferencing capability through the LifeWayLink product, submitted by Andy Perryman, director of missions from the Georgia Baptist Association in Washington, Ga., and messenger from the First Baptist Church in Greensboro, Ga.
Three Executive Committee recommendations were approved without objection, including the 2008-2009 proposed Cooperative Program allocation budget in the amount of $205.7 million which represents an increase of 2.5 percent over the current year.
Messengers also approved sites for the three future annual meetings—Nashville in 2013 and 2019 (where attendance was particularly high in 2005) and Baltimore in 2014. Other upcoming meeting sites already approved include Louisville in 2009, Orlando in 2010, Phoenix in 2011, and New Orleans in 2012.
Also during the meeting, David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, was this year’s recipient of the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award for his distinguished support of Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan.