By Baptist Perss
COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — An amendment to the mission statement of the North American Mission Board and a name change for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary were among the recommendations affirmed by messengers during the Executive Committee’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention June 16 in Columbus.
Messengers confirmed an update to the SBC constitution regarding qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting. Messengers also approved a recommendation to approve the use of electronic voting after passing an amendment from the floor on the recommendation.
North American Mission Board
Messengers approved an amendment to the North American Mission Board’s ministry statement to include planting churches overseas in agreed-upon instances with the International Mission Board.
The amendment is similar to an amended IMB ministry statement in 2011 to allow the IMB to assist with unreached people groups in the U.S. and Canada. EC members were told during their February meeting that the amended NAMB statement will relate particularly to military chaplains stationed at bases overseas.
The possibility of military chaplains facing religious liberty constraints is a key factor for the recommendation, the EC had reported, though the wording allows for other contingencies that may prompt NAMB-IMB overseas cooperation in the future. See related story.
Our culture “is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity and to the Christian message,” EC chairman Mike Routt had said in response to several questions raised before EC members voted to forward the recommendation to messengers in June.
Golden Gate name change
Messengers voted to approve a name change for its seminary in the West, from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. The vote was the first of two required to confirm the name change.
Messengers at the 2016 SBC meeting will give final approval. The change is part of a transition process to move the main campus of the seminary from Mill Valley, Calif., to Ontario, Calif.
Messengers gave the necessary second-year approval to officially revise qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting. In order to officially confirm the recommendation, it needed to be reaffirmed by messengers for the second time during this year’s SBC annual meeting.
Describing the recommendation as “small church friendly,” last year’s EC chairman Ernest Easley told messengers the proposal to revise Article III — with additional recommended adjustments to Article 14 and SBC Bylaw 8 — was a response to a motion from the 2013 annual meeting in Houston that requested updating messenger qualifications. See related story.
All of the amendments will take effect at the end of this year’s annual meeting and can be found on p.33-36 in the 2015 SBC Book of Reports.
Before the change, Article III stated that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention could 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 contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year will automatically qualify for two messengers. One additional messenger can be added for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity. And churches can now send up to 12 messengers rather than 10.
While one messenger voiced concerns of increased cost and possibly hurting small-church participation during annual meetings, messengers overwhelmingly approved the recommendation.
“The reason I’m against this is I want to have representation as messengers from a broad perspective as far as we can go,” said Bob Davis, Beulah Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.
“There are many of our churches that cannot send that kind of money. I realize there is an alternative that the percentage that you give to the Cooperative Program will also qualify you for a messenger. I’m from Virginia. Our convention has a lot of new starts. I preach in a lot of places as an evangelist. I know there are a lot of small churches that cannot do either one.”
EC chairman Mike Routt noted the amendment does not inhibit people from coming but rather invites more to the table by allowing churches to send up to 12 messengers.
“We understand that the majority of our Southern Baptist churches are smaller churches,” he noted. “We also understand that on the average, two persons come per church. So we have gone from one member, one messenger from each church to two.”
Routt also said the reason for increasing the amount from $250 to $6,000 was an adjustment to the rate of inflation. “In 1888, for each messenger, to the convention there was $250 given,” he said. “Today, many years later, 126 years later, the figure $6,000 was the same amount of money that it was in 1888.”
The results of a vote on a recommendation for SBC bylaw amendments to allow for electronic voting devices in the convention hall was delayed during Tuesday’s business session (June 16) when a proposed amendment from the floor to the recommendation went to a ballot vote. The amendment passed and messengers approved the recommendation Wednesday (June 17) after voting to strike a portion of the EC’s recommendation that removed the quorum requirement.
The EC’s recommendation on electronic voting defined a quorum for voting on SBC business as those present at the time of a ballot. The recommendation left bylaw requirements in force that a messenger must be present at the time a vote is taken in order to participate. Voting by proxy is not permitted. The tabulation of all votes is under the supervision of the registration secretary.
William Blosch of First Newark Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ga., expressed concerns on Tuesday that allowing a quorum to be based on those present at the time of a ballot left room for too few informed messengers to be present to vote.
“Eliminating a specific quorum requirement and changing it to whomever happens to be in the convention hall at that time is highly unwise on the part of the messengers,” Blosch said.
The EC’s Shane Hall, noted Tuesday “it is true that when we look at the issue addressing the quorum that there are situations that may arise where smaller-in-attendance meetings would address this very concern. However, we felt like there was an overriding concern,” he said. “And the overriding concern is that in the previous years there have been numerous times when it has been questionable whether there has been a quorum present. And there have been opportunities in the past where a quorum could have been called and business would have been impeded because there is not presence of a quorum.
“We feel that if there is business to be dealt with by the convention those messengers who are most concerned with the work of the convention will be in the hall at the time that the issues are dealt with,” he said.
In its February meeting, the EC reported electronic voting could allow the ability to schedule elections closer together and “to make the best and most efficient use of time in annual meeting programming.”
During the Executive Committee’s report, messengers:
— honored former International Mission Board president Tom Elliff with a resolution of appreciation for his three-plus years of service as president of the mission board. Elliff retired in August 2014 and was honored for his lifetime of service in Southern Baptist missions and ministry.
The resolution notes Elliff’s faithfulness and vision in his leadership of IMB. As IMB president, Eliff initiated the Embrace outreach to unengaged, unreached people groups; the Ready Reserves strategy to engage former missionaries in ministry; the Global Strategic Mobilization of Southern Baptist business professionals; Global Connect, which trains local churches in international ministry; the School of Prayer for All Nations, focused on prayer training; and Internationalization of Missions, which assists national Baptists and other Great Commission partners in effective mission endeavors.
Elliff served with his wife Jeannie in missions to Zimbabwe and pastored eight churches over a 42-year period. He and Jeannie were unable to attend this year’s annual meeting. Messengers prayed for Jeannie, who is battling cancer.
— approved a 2015-16 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $186.5 million, designating $136,518,000 (73.2 percent) of that for world missions, $41,328,400 (22.16 percent) for theological education, $3,077,250 (1.65 percent) for ethics and religious liberty ministries and $5,576,350 (2.99 percent) for the SBC operating budget. The International Mission Board is slated to receive $94,014,650 of the world missions budget; the North American Mission Board, $42,503,350.