Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Just One Thought on the SBC Annual Meeting

Messenger registration for this year’s Southern Baptist Convention was dismal. Some 8,500 messengers registered, which was probably the lowest since the conservative resurgence began. I have an insight that might help us understand why.

The annual meeting has become a collage of preaching, music, information and business; with progressively less attention being given to business, which is after all, why “messengers” are there in the first place. “Attenders” can listen to the preaching and music, hear the reports, and watch the videos. They just can’t participate in the business of the convention.

In fact, only 55 minutes were allocated for “previously scheduled business” along with an equal amount of time (55 minutes) for disposition of resolutions. That alone should wake someone up. Resolutions are suppose to be “non-binding” and only express the mind of a particular gathered convention. Yet, convention leaders are scheduling as equal time for “business” and for “resolutions”. Excluding nominations and voting for officers and asking questions of entity heads, only 1 hour and 50 was scheduled for business during the approximately 16 hour meeting.

And no wonder. With all the “automatic referrals” and the “long-standing practice” messengers do virtually no business. The Wednesday evening agenda had “business” scheduled for 7:00-7:15 which wasn’t even used because there was no “business” to discuss. In fact, (someone help me with this since my memory is woefully short), wasn’t the Rick Garner BFM motion the ONLY motion that originated from the floor? And it in no way changed anything.

With the lock down of tight egalitarian control, we commoners can do very little to impact the direction of the SBC. So why bother trying? And if the convention isn’t about doing the business of the SBC but more about information and inspiration, most Southern Baptists will find cheaper and more alluring alternatives and will stop attending (as obviously they already are). We can attend preaching conferences of our choice, whether the preference is Founders or Emergent. And getting info about the institutions and agencies is usually a couple or key-clicks away. And CDs of the latest recording artist are a lot cheaper to purchase than plane tickets to the host city.

Many of the ruling intelligentsia may welcome the silence (or squashing) of the plebes. But it will come at a long-term price. This growing disconnect will translate into lower CP contributions over time. American colonists grew weary of shipping their taxes overseas and eventually embraced a “no taxation without representation” philosophy. It won’t be long before the SBC experiences the same.

I wish “the establishment” wouldn’t fear us so much. We’re not all of the Ben Cole type radicals, (though I’m not sure just how radical Ben really is). Last year, I presented two motions that would have allowed greater messenger participation (allowing a simple majority to override the Resolutions Committee or Committee on Order of Business rather than the current 2/3 majority). It is the only hope folks like Tom Ascol has for his resolution on church membership to be considered. The Resolutions Committee should allow it to be considered on the floor. For two years, they have refused to report it out. In my mind, this actually serves to benefit Tom’s position. It probably would have been voted down last year or even this year and the matter would have been put to rest (at least, to some degree); however, the committee’s refusal to allow a messenger from a cooperating church to have a moment of deliberative persuasion further alienates many from attending. And I can guarantee that 1/3 of the gathered messengers will always uphold a committee ruling anytime night or day—thwarting the will of the majority who have collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to affect SBC life.

Anyway, convention leaders had better relax control and allow greater messenger participation or boost their exhibit hall budgets to give out more than just pens and mints; otherwise, they’ll soon be meeting in a church fellowship hall.

PS: The mints were stale and the pens were lousy. Thankfully, Olan Mills is still snapping free that's worth the trip!


Jim Shaver said...

Well said.

I much prefer our meeting of 8 at Catfish Corner.

Jim S.

Rob Ayers said...

Ditto what Jim said. How good is the catfish?


Rod said...

Very excellent catfish. We don't raise ballots, though, so be prepared for the disappointment.

David Krueger said...

I share your frustration. It's been a bug-a-boo of mine concerning the state convention for as long as I can remember. I feel like we are always "rushed" when it comes to the business sessions. Something is wrong when you have to have two or three votes to extend the business session by 5 minutes in order to thorougly discuss an issue. I like the singing. I like the preaching. But we're there to do the work of the convention! Let's do it!
I will, however, ask one question: In the one hour and fifty minutes you figured was alloted to business during the SBC annual meeting, did you include the Executive Board Report times in that figure? That's were the messengers vote on recommendations that come out of the SBC Executive Board and I would consider that "business" even thought it's not listed in the program as a business session.

Rod said...


Thanks for the question/clarification. The answer is NO, I did not factor in the Executive Committee report. That lasts about one hour. I don't have my program handy, so I don't have the exact time.

I was writing with motions from the floor at the back of my mind...what messengers can do "off script" so to speak.

For those not familiar with the SBC, the Executive Committee presentations are important business matters. However, they originate from an elected committee, not from the floor--though they can be discussed and amended by any messenger.

Thanks, David, for bringing this to my attention and letting me clarify.

Also, remember the 1 hour 55 minutes is for "scheduled" business. I believe both the Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening sessions each had 15 minute slots "scheduled" that were not used because of the referral system.

Dick Clark, Springfield, MO said...

Rod, You wrote:
"With the lock down of tight egalitarian control, we commoners can do very little to impact the direction of the SBC. So why bother trying?"

You know that is not true. Blogers ARE impacting the direction of the SBC! See the following:

SBC Bloggers are committed ---
"I have decided to stick it out for the good of the missionaries on the field and the future of the SBC as a whole," Burleson, a pastor in Enid, Okla., said in an interview. "It has never been about me. It is about two competing visions of what our convention should look like in the years to come."
"In the end, the broad, cooperative, conservative, peace-loving, gospel-telling, missions-oriented view of the SBC must win out," Burleson said by e-mail. "I'm committed to ensure it does."

Rod said...


Perhaps I was overly dismal. Keep in mind, my post was about the SBC meeting itself--the actual sessions of doing business. With all the rules and referrals, it is nearly impossible for business to originate from the floor.

I do not share your optimism about the blogging world. Yes, some change is occuring, but I don't think it substantial to effect the internal operation of the SBC, per se.

Bloggers (of the Burleson stripe) backed David Rogers for 1st VP candidate. He was an exceptional choice but was still defeated.

Those same bloggers also backed the BFM motion, but it is very much open to wide interpretation. It was not a bylaw change and has no teeth unless messengers at a future meeting overwhelmingly concur with the Burleson camp's interpretation and pass something with staying power.

I think those bloggers, will in the end, lose their attempt to change the SBC and probably leave. That will be their influence.

Jim Shaver said...


When the front page of the Pathway leads with an article about the Interim Exec Dir. basically supporting Tom Ascol's resolution through an administrative decision, I think you have to say that some Bloggers are making a significant impact on the SBC's internal machine.

Now granted Tom Ascol in my opinion is an influential person apart from his blogging as he is the de facto leader of the Founders Movement.

But I think it significant what the Bloggers have done in such a short time.

Perhaps you and I will never reach the level of Tom Ascol or Wade Burleson in our blogs but I like to think that everything I write influences or impresses somebody, even if it's just my Mom!