New EC Proposed Changes for Messenger Qualifications to SBC Annual Meeting

Baptist Press recently announced the Executive Committee of the SBC has voted to place on its June 9th meeting a recommendation to be presented at the annual meeting in Baltimore to change Article 3 of the SBC constitution dealing with qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting of the SBC. Article III currently states that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention can send one messenger and one additional messenger for each $250 per year “paid to the work of the Convention,” an amount dating back to 1888.

Under the new proposal to be considered at the June EC meeting on the Monday before the SBC annual meeting, each cooperating church that contributed to Convention causes during the preceding fiscal year would automatically qualify for two messengers. Additional messengers would be recognized from a cooperating church by one of two options, whichever allows 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.

– 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 arrived at by adjusting for inflation and other factors since 1888. It is meant to be comparable to the $250 figure adopted 126 years ago.

You may read the BP article in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

What is interesting to me is the idea that smaller churches may be upset with the newer proposal. Every church has gone from one messenger to two, which represented the highest number of messengers sent from churches in the first place. This allowance makes it possible for the pastor and his wife to attend as messengers. The next highest group of registered messengers is one single messenger. I do not see why smaller churches ought to be upset with the proposed changes.

There is one thing I do not understand. Why do we need the $6000 qualifier for additional messengers? Why does the EC believe a church that has $1,000,000 in undesignated giving get 1 additional messenger for $6,000 instead of the 1% figure of $10,000? Why should a church whose undesignated giving is $10 million get additional messengers for $6000 instead of the 1% figure of $100,000?

I believe the 1% rule ought to apply to ALL giving of ALL churches with no provision for a reduced allowance. In addition to that, I believe the giving ought to apply to CP giving since that is the engine that drives the convention. Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon giving ought to be considered as well.

Personally, I do not believe monies given directly to entities ought to be considered for messenger qualifications. I do not believe Great Commission giving ought to be considered for messenger qualifications. These figures do not represent monies given to promote the financial budgeted items that are adopted and approved by the messengers at the annual meeting. CP funds currently drive the SBC and those churches who support the CP are the ones who ought to be able to send the most messengers to the annual meeting.

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6 Responses to New EC Proposed Changes for Messenger Qualifications to SBC Annual Meeting

  1. DP says:

    Dr H, help me out a little. Do more messengers translate into more votes on key issues?

    • sbcissues says:

      DP

      Realistically, this is more like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic; there will be roughly 4000 messengers at the annual meeting in Baltimore. With 30K+ plus churches I am not sure this argument is one really worth having.

      But, if a church does want to send additional messengers to the annual meeting there are rules that need to be in place to determine who can send additional messengers and how many. Registered messengers are the only one who are allowed to vote at the annual meeting. Anyone can come and listen but only registered messengers get to vote.

      Now to answer your question; more messengers do not necessarily mean more votes. Messengers attend certain sessions and then miss others. However, if only 4000 messengers attend, that does limit the number of votes that can be cast.

  2. DP says:

    Titanic? Sounds pretty bleak!

    Are the messengers briefed ahead of time on the issues that will be voted on? Do you know if there are any formal attempts/plans on changing the doctrinal statements of the SBC to more Calvinistic language? Do you think that a split over the issue is realistic? Is there majority passion or majority indifference to changes? No rush. Just wondering what you think and how it all works.

    • sbcissues says:

      My point on rearranging the chairs on the Titanic was based on 4000 messengers at an annual meeting; with 35K+ churches it is obvious that churches are not sending the maximum number of messengers to the meetings.

      Will this cause any problems? I seriously doubt it. No moves to do so at this time but I am confident that is what is around the corner. There are some rumblings about language in this proposed change (that is scheduled for a final reading at the Executive Committee meeting June 9th). If the EC decides to bring it out then there will be a vote of the messengers at the annual meeting. There is a phrase “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)

      There are some questions regarding the what it means to be in “friendly cooperation”. One example is a church’s stand on open communion for example. Some churches welcome any born again believer, whether they are Baptist or not and even not baptized. With this language, the day could come when a church or group of churches that practiced open communion MIGHT be asked to leave. Another issue might be ordained women and their roles in churches.

      Of course this is not the intended purpose of the wording but who knows how the wording might be used at a future date.

      I do believe the day is coming when the movers and shakers of the SBC WILL move the BF&M toward a more reformed position and I do not believe that day is very far off but there will be no significant move in that direction in Baltimore.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob, on the issue of “Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith.”

        “How would this be enforced? i.e. how would whoever is in charge of deciding that a church? minister? has “intentionally” “operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith” flush this out? Wait till it sort of bubbles up and becomes known? Or wait till someone else reports that church or minister? Maybe self reporting?

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        Your question is being discussed more and more and my personal position is that the EC today would say… no big deal. The problem I see is that is no guarantee how a future EC or group might seek to use the language if approved this year.

        I do not believe the constitution needs to be modified to this degree; if they want to change the $250 figure; go for it. However, the 1-5 additional provisions need to be dismissed.

        I will write another article about the following provision in the proposed change:

        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 not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently 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.)

        Who will determine what constitutes “friendly church” and what constitutes demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the most recently adopted statement.

        The example given is fine but who is to say that some time later an expansion of how “opposition to the doctrine expressed” is defined; we already have serious differences in how certain aspects of the BF&M are to be interpreted and that is only going to get worse. Te EC is moving in to territory that they have no business treading if the intention was to speak to monetary qualifications of additional messengers.

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