Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The GCR recommendations passed. Bryant Wright was elected president. Lots of little things happened in between. This hereby ends my week-long venture into blogging about the SBC.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
What Goes On and Where to Watch It Happen
Every year the convention has three main parts: Crossover, the Pastors' Conference, and the Annual Meeting:
Crossover is a large-scale evangelistic effort that takes place in the convention city (Orlando this year) the week leading up to the main events. Crossover Orlando is happening right now and continues through June 12, so please be in prayer for it.
The Pastors' Conference will be on Sunday and Monday. During this time, 14 preachers will deliver sermons to encourage and challenge pastors. Be sure to check out the schedule and the live stream.
The Annual Meeting is where the business of the SBC gets done. It will happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. Lots of things are included, but essentially it is a business meeting. Most of what's below deals with this part of the convention. Be sure to look at the schedule so you can decide when you want to follow along on the live stream.
How the Annual Meeting Works
The SBC is a denomination controlled by its churches, not one that controls its churches. In other words, it is a democracy. I am not an expert in the parlimentary procedures of the meeting, but here are the main points to know:
-Each church that is affiliated with the SBC can send up to 10 messengers to the Annual Meeting. Each messenger can cast one vote on any given issue. In this respect, a seminary president and a Sunday School teacher are on equal ground.
-Messengers can bring resolutions and motions. Honestly, I don't understand all of the differences between these two, so you're welcome to enlighten me in the comments if you're knowledgeable. But in general, resolutions must be submitted well in advance and motions can be brought to the floor during the scheduled Introduction of New Motions. These motions can get a little goofy sometimes, but they are an essential part of having a democratic denomination. I'll say more on this below in the section on Twitter.
-The heads of various SBC entities and organizations give reports on what has gone on in the past year. They have a great deal of freedom in what they can say in these reports, so sometimes they are more like sermons than reports.
-Several denominational positions are filled by a vote of the messengers. These include SBC president, first VP, second VP, and president of the following year's Pastors' Conference. The president is the most important of these because of the general influence that this role brings, as well as the power to make a number of committee appointments.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report
By far, the biggest issue leading up to the SBC Annual Meeting this year is the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. The messengers at the 2009 meeting voted to form this task force in order to bring recommendations this year of how the SBC can better fulfill the Great Commission.The report contains seven components/recommendations:
1) A new mission satement
2) Eight core values for the SBC
3) Creating a new category of financial contributions made by churches called Great Commission Giving, which would formally recognize designated contributions to SBC entities. (The current system only records undesignated contributions made through the Cooperative Program.)
4) Phasing out cooperative agreements between state conventions and the North American Mission Board so that NAMB's missionaries will be under its own control instead of state convention control. (Currently, NAMB sends over $50 million annually to state conventions, who then employ the NAMB missionaries in their states.)
5) Allowing the International Mission Board to evangelize foreign people groups who live in the United States
6) Moving promotion of the Cooperative Program from the national level to the sate level
7) moving about $2 million of annual budget money from the Executive Committee to the International Mission Board
Most likely, the recommendations will be voted on individually. #3 and #4 are the most controversial of these. Those who are opposed to the recommendations argue that the Great Commission cannot be carried out by moving money around and restructuring bureaucracy, and that what is needed is to encourage churches to do a better job at evangelism and giving. Those who support the recommendations argue that churches have been told to do a better job for many years with no results, that the current system has a bloated bureaucracy that wastes money intended for missions, and that the the worst option is the status quo.
Of those not serving on the task force, the biggest proponent of the recommendations is probably Jerry Rankin of the IMB (see his "Alternative Futures" blogs starting here). The biggest opponent is Morris Chapman of the Executive Committee (see his open letter).
Electing a President
Another issue to watch is the election of a new president. Johnny Hunt will complete his second one-year term at the meeting, and four men are expected to be nominated to take his place. Jed Coppenger has interviewed each of them on the Baptist 21 website. As a Floridian being nominated in Florida, Ted Traylor probably has the best chance of being elected. Still, anything could happen, including the nomination of someone completely unexpected at the last minute.
There is a good chance that big changes will be happening in the SBC because of the GCRTF recommendations, so the role of the president could be very important in how all of this unfolds.
Other Current Events and Things to Watch For
-Three SBC entities--Executive Committee, North American Mission Board, and International Mission Board--have presidential vacancies to fill. The new presidents will be picked by the trustees of those organizations, so this will not be a matter of business at the Annual Meeting. Still, it could be an important fact to know.
-People will be listening closely to Morris Chapman's Executive Committee report and Jerry Rankin's IMB report. This will be the last report before retiring for both of them, and as I noted above, neither have been holding back their opinions lately. No one knows whether these men will try to end on a pleasant note or voice their convictions candidly since they have nothing to lose.
-The number of Calvinists and/or non-Southern Baptists who have been invited to preach at this year's Pastors' Conference is much higher than usual. There have been a few grumblings over this, so it could become an issue. My prediction is that the preaching will be of a consistently high enough quality to keep Kevin Ezell from taking much heat over his invitations.
-Some of the minor issues from last year might come up again, including mixed opinions about Mark Driscoll and his Acts 29 church planting network.
-Ergun Caner, president of the seminary at Liberty University, is currently facing an internal investigation to determine whether he has been lying about the circumstances surrounding his conversion to Christianity from Islam. This will not be an issue of official business, but I would be surprised if it does not get brought up from the floor at some point. Depending on whether this happens and whether other people get named in the motions, it could cause a minor stir.
Keeping Up on Twitter and blogs
If you care to know what's going on at the convention, Twitter will be a valuable tool. Tweets about the meeting will be marked with #SBC2010 (and possibly also #GCR), so you can search for that and find out what's going on at any given moment. BUT, be aware that not everyone who tweets understands what's happening. 2009 was the first year that Twitter was widely used to comment on the proceedings, and a huge percentage of the comments were complaints about something that was said during the Introduction of New Motions (which is essentially an open mic time). These people did not understand that the denomination is a democracy in which any messenger can make any motion, no matter how strange it may be. So, it's good to use Twitter (and Facebook) to keep up, but pay attention to the tweets that give facts and not the sensational ones.
In addition to searching for the #SBC2010 hashtag, there are some key Twitter accounts you can follow to see what the SBC insiders and/or leaders are saying. Some that I'll be checking from time to time are Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Danny Akin, David Platt, Baptist Press, Thom Rainer, Jerry Rankin, Ed Stetzer, and James Smith.
Blogs can also be good places to keep up with what's going on. Baptist Press usually does a live blog of the meeting while it's going on. Some other blogs that will help you keep up are SBC Voices, SBC Today, and Baptist 21.
The SBC and the Kingdom of God
Some will hear the discussions of SBC business and dismiss them as political and irrelevant, not recognizing that the decisions that are made could potentially have a profound effect on the advancement of the gospel around the world. Others will get so caught up in the business and the controversies that they will lose sight of the big picture, confusing the Southern Baptist Convention with the kingdom of God. I hope that you and I can avoid both of these extremes. Many of the decisions made at the SBC Annual Meeting are of truly eternal importance, but our hope is in Christ and not in a denomination.
I've bumped into a handful of new issues to watch for that have come up in the few days since I wrote this post. Actually, the first one's not new, but it's come up again so I reconsidered my decision not to include it:
-There are two candidates for next year's Pastors' Conference president, both of whom have now been interviewed by Baptist 21. Troy Gramling's nomination is controversial, which is mostly because one of the staff members who serves under him at his church is a woman who calls herself a "pastor." He has a decent chance of winning despite this controversy since he is from Florida.
-Les Puryear has announced that there will be multiple small-church pastors nominated for the offices of 1st and 2nd VP as part of his SBC Majority Initiative.
-James Smith, editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, announced today in an editorial that he will bring a motion to make Baptist Press it's own entity with an independent board of trustees. This would remove it from the control of the Executive Committee. This could potentially be the second-biggest piece of business at the convention behind the GCRTF recommendations.