The 2021 Book of Reports of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), containing reports from SBC entities and recommendations from the SBC Executive Committee (EC) to messengers at the 2021 SBC annual meeting, has been released.
Notable topics include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SBC, the proposed Vision 2025 initiative, a proposed update to the SBC business and financial plan, a progress report on efforts to promote diversity in the SBC and proposed changes of ministry assignments for Lifeway Christian Resources, the North American Mission Board and the SBC EC.
Additionally, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) responded to a referral of a motion requesting the seminary “pursue … the lawful recovery of seminary property … and any official records that may have been removed from the presidential home or other campus facilities without authorization between the dates of May 30, 2018, and Feb. 27, 2019.”
The seminary’s response asserts that after the firing of then-president Paige Patterson for the alleged mishandling of sexual assault claims, “boxes of documents that belonged to the Seminary,” including “confidential donor information, student records, institutional correspondence, financial records, historical files, and meeting and Convention records,” were “improperly removed.”
The document also asserts SWBTS had “repeatedly requested” the return of the documents, but that “[r]ather than return the records, the Pattersons advised the Seminary that the documents had been ‘purged.’” The school alleges that “the Pattersons have continued to use institutional records for their own personal benefit and to the detriment of the seminary,” including use of the confidential donor lists in attempts to divert funds from SWBTS and to the Sandy Creek Foundation, Patterson’s nonprofit organization.
At the time of publication, Patterson had not responded to a request made through his attorney by Baptist Press.
(The full response from SWBTS can be found at page 176.)
Vision 2025, a “call to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation,” will be presented to messengers. It was originally to be presented at the 2020 SBC annual meeting, which was canceled because of the pandemic.
If adopted, Vision 2025 would include five strategic actions: increasing missionaries by a net gain of 500; adding 5,000 new congregations; emphasizing “calling out the called” to increase workers in the field; turning around the “ongoing decline in reaching, baptizing, and discipling 12- to 17-year-olds”; and increasing annual Cooperative Program giving in successive years in order to achieve Great Commission goals.
(The Vision 2025 proposal can be found on page 73.)
The Book of Reports details the proposed SBC Business and Financial Plan, which the SBC Executive Committee is recommending messengers adopt at the 2021 SBC annual meeting.
A motion made at the 2019 SBC annual meeting by Morris H. Chapman, former president and CEO of the SBC EC, acting as a messenger from Triune Baptist Church in Arrington, Tenn., requested the EC to amend the Business and Financial Plan “to strengthen the fiscal accountability of SBC entities to the convention and to promote greater transparency regarding the use of Cooperative Program dollars.”
(The proposed update to the Business and Financial Plan can be found on page 58.)
The SBC EC provided a progress report on recommendations that were adopted in 2011 promoting diversity in response to a motion requesting “a comprehensive report.” The response was to be given at the 2020 SBC annual meeting; when that meeting was canceled because of the pandemic, the matter was pushed to 2021.
The SBC EC report “highlights the ongoing growth and participation of racially and ethnically diverse congregations” in the SBC, noting that 22.3% of Southern Baptist churches are “ethnically and racially diverse,” an increase from 3.9% in 1990. The report includes current snapshots of the diversity on 2020-21 SBC trustee boards and lists the EC’s response to the 2011 recommendations as it “continues to cultivate awareness, recognizing the need to be proactive and intentional in efforts to increase inclusion of all ethnicities” in the SBC.
(The progress report can be found on page 30).
The report includes recommendations from the Executive Committee on revisions to ministry assignments of Lifeway, NAMB and the EC. Included in the changes is a transfer of ownership of the collegiate ministry assignment from Lifeway to NAMB. The EC has recommended an addition to its mission and ministry statement to “assist churches through elevating the ministry of prayer.”
(Recommended Lifeway ministry assignment changes can be found on page 68, NAMB changes on page 71 and the EC changes on page 53.)
(EDITOR’S NOTE – George Schroeder is associate vice president for convention news with the SBC Executive Committee.)