An update to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) constitution regarding qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting was adopted during the Executive Committee’s (EC) report to the convention June 11 in Baltimore.
Describing the recommendation as “small church friendly,” EC chairman Ernest Easley said the proposal to revise Article III is a response to a motion from last year’s annual meeting in Houston that requested updating messenger qualifications. It was the 16th motion in the past 35 years to call for a reevaluation of Article III.
Messengers adopted the recommendation without debate or questions from the floor. In order to officially revise Article III, the recommendation will need to be approved by messengers a second time during the 2015 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
“The Executive Committee floated the recommendation out across the convention the last several months in order to build consensus which has really proved beneficial in the current recommendation that we have today,” Easley said just before messengers voted to adopt the revision.
Easley addressed initial concerns with the recommendation that involved the perception by some that it negatively impacted smaller churches. He noted that most of these congregations “give proportionately to the Cooperative Program” and that the recommendation now includes a reference to Cooperative Program (CP) support.
The recommendation also addressed concerns that earlier proposed Article III revisions could have been interpreted to “impose a confession of faith upon a church,” Easley, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said. That perception “was never our intent,” he added.
Easley said the wording in the first part of the recommendation – No. 1, (1) of Article III – was adjusted. See full text of the proposed revision to the Article III below this story. It now reads, “Has a faith in practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.” Easley said the words “closely identifies” were taken directly from the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
Article III currently states that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention can send one additional messenger for every 250 members or for each $250 per year “paid to the work of the Convention.” The $250 amount dates back to 1888.
Under the new proposal approved by messengers, each cooperating church that contributed to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year would automatically qualify for two messengers.
“In the years where records have been kept, most churches send two messengers,” Easley said in a question-and-answer session carried by Baptist Press on March 4. “The second largest category of representation,” Easley said, “is of churches that send only one messenger.
“Second, pastors are often accompanied by their wives,” he said. “We thought it reasonable to encourage them to come as a couple, no matter the size of the church or the amount of the church’s gifts to the convention.”
According to a Feb. 19 report in Baptist Press, a cooperating church would be able to send additional messengers by one of two options, whichever allows them to send the greater number of messengers:
One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts through any combination of gifts through the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity, the report said.
One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the same combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.
The $6,000 figure was selected by adjusting for inflation and other factors since 1888, the report said. The amount is meant to be comparable to the $250 figure adopted 126 years ago.
During the Executive Committee’s report, messengers:
adopted the 2014-15 SBC Operating Budget in the amount of $7.2 million, with $5.6 million through the Cooperative Program. A total of $2.1 million is budgeted for SBC administration expenses and $5 million is allocated toward operating expenses for the Executive Committee.
approved Birmingham, Ala., as the site of the 2019 SBC annual meeting, to be held June 11-12.
approved Orlando, Fla., for the SBC 2020 annual meeting, to be held June 9-10.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)
Following is the text of the proposed Article III that was slated for consideration by the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 10 opening session in Baltimore:
Article III. Composition: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention. The following subparagraphs describe the Convention’s current standards and method of determining the maximum number of messengers the Convention will recognize from each cooperating church to attend the Convention’s annual meeting.
1. The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that descriptive term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:
(1) Has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)
(2) Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)
(3) Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.
2. Under the terms above, the Convention will recognize to participate in its annual meeting two (2) messengers from each cooperating church, and such additional messengers as are permitted below.
3. The Convention will recognize additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the options described below. Whichever method allows the church the greater number of messengers shall apply:
(1) One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity; or
(2) One additional messenger for each $6,000 which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity.
4. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by their church to the Convention, but the Convention will not recognize more than twelve (12) from any cooperating church.
5. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he or she is appointed.
6. If a church experiences a natural disaster or calamitous event and, as a result, the church is not qualified to appoint as many messengers as the church could appoint for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event, the church’s pastor or an authorized church representative may, for no more than the three (3) annual meetings after the event, certify the facts to the registration secretary and obtain the same number of messengers it could have certified for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event.