Proposal for new messenger qualifications passes first hurdlecomment (1)
June 19, 2014
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, Md.
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 the 2013 annual meeting in Houston that requested updating messenger qualifications. It was the 16th motion in the past 35 years to call for a re-evaluation 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.
He 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” (CP) and that the recommendation now includes a reference to 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,” said Easley, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga. 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. It now reads, “Has a faith and 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 Q-and-A session 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.”
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 CP, designated gifts through the EC 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 CP, designated gifts through the EC 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.
Also during the EC’s report, messengers:
- adopted the 2014–15 SBC CP allocation budget of $188,000,000 representing a $3.5 million decrease from the current year. Of that amount the International Mission Board will receive 50.41 percent of the budget receipts while the North American Mission Board will receive 22.79 percent. That means 73.2 percent of funds are going to the SBC’s two missions boards.
- approved Birmingham 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.
In other business-related actions messengers passed one motion from the convention floor requesting prayer for persecuted Christians, which led to an extended time of prayer.
A number of other motions offered from the floor were either referred to appropriate SBC entities for consideration or ruled out of order.