NASHVILLE—After nearly an hour of discussion, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s officers withdrew a recommendation to propose granting representation on three key SBC committees to Baptists in pioneer regions. EC leadership promised, however, to make an alternate proposal with the same goal but addressing logistical concerns raised by EC members.
In other business during their Feb. 22-23 meeting in Nashville, the committee approved a one-time transfer of funds from the North American Mission Board to the International Mission Board to assist IMB personnel leaving the board during its “organizational reset”; and withdrew the convention’s fellowship from a South Carolina church whose pastor performed a same-sex wedding ceremony with the deacons’ approval.
The initial recommendation on “representation from new states and territories” would have asked the SBC’s legal counsel to present a recommendation to the EC’s Bylaws Workgroup for consideration in June on providing “representation on the Executive Committee, the Committee on Nominations, and the Committee on Committees for the following states or defined territories: The Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Montana, and Puerto Rico-U.S. Virgin Islands.”
The recommendation also proposed “limit(ing) to four the maximum number of members which any cooperating state or defined territory shall be entitled to have on the Executive Committee.”
Currently, EC representation for any state or territory is capped at five members, with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas having maximum representation. According to SBC Bylaws, having 15,000 members in cooperating Southern Baptist churches qualifies a state or territory for initial representation on the EC, the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Nominations.
When a state or territory reaches 250,000 church members, it qualifies to have a second EC member. Each additional 250,000 church members qualifies a state or territory for an additional EC member up to the maximum.
The recommendation would have granted one EC member to each pioneer state and territory listed while maintaining at present levels the representation of states and territories with 1-4 EC members.
The recommendation was affirmed by EC officers, the Bylaws Workgroup and the Administrative Committee. However, when the matter came before the full EC, members raised questions, such as:
-n Why does the proposal reduce EC representation from states whose Baptists support the Cooperative Program with some of the largest financial gifts?
n Why does the proposal specify a set number of EC members from each state and territory rather than establish a formula to determine representation?
n To what extent is the reduction of EC representation from certain states driven by a need to limit the EC’s spending?
After 40 minutes of discussion, SBC President Ronnie Floyd, who serves as an ex officio EC member, asked, “Could we simply say the will of the body would be that it is our intent to study seriously, without involving the negative of taking away (EC members), … a way, if possible, to give representation to every state convention, period?”
EC President Frank Page said he believes “the big issue” is granting EC and other committee representation to Baptists in every state and territory. He asked that all recommendations and amendments be withdrawn so that officers and staff “might … come back with a cleaner way to say, ‘We want to add five'” EC members from the states and territories mentioned in the recommendation. He said EC staff can, if instructed to do so, re-appropriate funds to allow five new members without reducing any state’s current representation.
NAMB funds transfer
The EC approved a one-time transfer from NAMB to the IMB of up to $4 million, with three conditions which must be approved by NAMB’s trustees:
n The transfer must be drawn from the reserve portion of NAMB’s unrestricted assets.
n The transfer must not “negatively impact the performance of NAMB’s ministry assignments.”
n The transfer must be “designated to the IMB for the specific purpose of assisting transitioning IMB missionaries who have accepted the IMB’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive or its Hand Raising Opportunity.”
NAMB President Kevin Ezell told Baptist Press NAMB’s “main motivation (for the gift) is that we’re family.”
“We’ve walked down this path before,” Ezell said. NAMB “let 817 people go in a transition. I know how hard that is along with trying to balance a budget. We look at the IMB as a sister entity. We are a family. When families hurt, you make sacrifices for family.”
S.C. church disfellowshipped
The EC’s decision to withdraw fellowship from Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., acting on behalf of the SBC ad interim, was based on “public information provided by the church which amounts to clear evidence of the church’s affirmation and approval of homosexual behavior,” according to the recommendation.
Article III of the SBC Constitution stipulates that “churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.”
Background material provided to EC members stated Augusta Heights pastor Greg Dover “sought and acquired approval” from the church’s deacons to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony and did so Oct. 10, 2015. Dover told EC staff in a letter the congregation “does not have a marriage policy, or any official position or doctrinal statement on issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage.” The church, Dover said, “does not wish to end our relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Augusta Heights, which also has been disfellowshipped from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Greenville Baptist Association, was invited to send representatives to the EC meeting but did not do so.
In other items on its agenda, the Executive Committee:
— approved a 2016-17 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $189,000,000 for recommendation to the SBC during the June 14-15 annual meeting in St. Louis.
The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to IMB and 22.79 percent to NAMB, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for mission ministries nationally and internationally.
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The budget proposal maintains a 1.65 percent allocation to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing the SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, would receive 2.99 percent of the budget. (BP)
David Roach and Art Toalston