As chairman of the 2018 SBC Committee on Resolutions, I write to ask for members and messengers of Southern Baptist churches to pray for the committee during this season where we carry out our work and to provide a brief overview of our responsibilities.
Jason G. Duesing
What are resolutions and what is the Resolutions Committee?
The Resolutions Committee exists to serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and has the entrusted duty of preparing and submitting resolutions for adoption by the Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting.
Resolutions are non-binding statements and are intended to express the collective opinion of the messengers at that particular annual meeting on pertinent moral, ethical and public policy issues, often providing suggestions for cooperating churches and entities to speak with biblical clarity on a wide range of theological, social and practical topics.
The duty assigned to the Resolutions Committee is one of prayerful service to and for the messengers of the churches. In such, the committee functions as an editorial board of sorts that receives and evaluates all properly submitted resolutions and then works to determine which ones are best suited for recommendation. The Southern Baptist Convention has adopted resolutions at the annual meeting every year since 1845.
The function of the committee has changed over time to better position the committee to serve the messengers. Prior to 2002, the committee received and evaluated proposed resolutions during the annual meeting from messengers physically present. While most years this would mean processing a few dozen resolutions, in 1990, messengers proposed 81 resolutions. Over the next several years, as many as four dozen resolutions were often read into the microphones on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the then three-day annual meeting. Following a period of evaluation, in 2002, the convention voted to amend SBC Bylaw 20 to give the committee more time for evaluation in advance and to allow more participation from church members at cooperating Southern Baptist churches to pre-submit proposed resolutions.
Even though the committee starts its work 75 days in advance of the annual meeting, no resolution has official standing until it is introduced to the messengers at the annual meeting by the Resolutions Committee. Therefore, the committee labors to ensure that the first presentation of their recommendations is to the messengers rather than in some other form of advanced copy. In other words, the resolutions come as recommendations to the messengers from the committee, but they only represent the collective voice of the messengers once they are adopted.
At the annual meeting, there will be a printed list of all properly submitted resolutions in the Convention Bulletin. There, prior to the official report of the Resolutions Committee, everyone who submitted a resolution will see what determination the committee made, along with a brief explanation if the resolution was declined. If the committee declined to advance a properly submitted resolution that a messenger would still like the convention to consider, the convention can do so only by a 2/3 vote.
How is the 2018 Resolutions Committee going about our work?
Practically speaking, given the amount of resolutions we receive and the 35-minute window the committee has to present its report, the committee has to make determinations to decline resolutions, not because they may not be good or helpful, but because they are not, in the opinion of the committee, the best fit for this particular annual meeting of the SBC.
Further, it is the usual and longstanding practice for the committee to edit, amend or rewrite submitted resolutions before they are brought for recommendation to the convention. This evaluative function allows the committee to serve the convention by considering, as a committee, various topics from a variety of perspectives and extended research. The committee works hard to ensure the initial spirit and intent of each properly submitted resolution is preserved.
However, once a resolution is finalized for recommendation, the convention now sees each resolution as the committee’s rather than the original author’s. Further conversation with the author or other experts on that topic can and sometime does take place, but ultimately the committee makes the final evaluation. The limited time this committee of volunteers has to do its work precludes extended dialogue with authors, especially given the volume of resolutions submitted. That said, this year, I am personally writing each author of a properly submitted resolution to thank them and give a brief overview of our process to avoid any misunderstanding or miscommunication.
Prayerfully speaking, the committee is conducting its work in conversation with each other and with God. The committee will have met three times since April 1 via video conference for prayer and discussion. In addition, every properly submitted resolution is given to a subcommittee for prayer and initial evaluation in the weeks leading up to the meetings of the committee in Dallas.
The committee convenes in Dallas for three days of working sessions in advance of the annual meeting and there we will, as a committee, read aloud each properly submitted resolution followed by prayer and discussion before making our final recommendations. The day before the annual meeting begins, the committee will meet for one final session to proofread, pray and finalize the report. Once the annual meeting begins, the committee remains available and ready to respond to the work of the messengers as we present our recommendations during our allotted time for reporting.
SBC President Steve Gaines has appointed a phenomenal Resolutions Committee this year of gifted and wise men and women. Our desire is to follow his leadership in carrying out our work “with a genuine unity of spirit and purpose.” Following 1 Peter 4:11, please pray that the Resolutions Committee would serve the convention with “the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”