I didn't actually attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this year, as it was in Phoenix, Arizona, and I just didn't have the time, money, or inclination to make the trip. I did watch most of the sessions via the webcast. Here’s a few observations:
1. This was the first year with no night sessions. This sounded like a good idea, but it does conflict with the logic behind moving the meeting all over the US. The moving meetings are designed to make it possible for more people to be involved from time to time. By not having anything at night, even local folks could not participate if they couldn’t get time off of work. So, there was a motion asking that future conventions restore at least one evening session.
2. This ties into something from this year that was good: every year, several times a year, both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board hold appointment services for new missionaries serving with them. This year, both IMB and NAMB held services at the Annual Meeting. The suggestion was that the night session be restored and include at least one of the appointment services. Without getting into the ideas about merging the boards, I think we would be well served to have a joint appointment service as part of one night session that is generally a missions-celebration type meeting.
3. One part of how the SBC operates is a two-day business meeting. There are times to introduce motions that are open to any credentialed messenger. That means that, as long as your church has approved you to be there and the church is a cooperating SBC church (which is a very broad statement), anyone can propose anything. Anything. There weren’t all the crazy motions that I’ve seen the past two years, but there were a few odd ones. It is very rare that any motion actually gets voted on, though. Every motion is automatically given to the “Committee on Order of Business” to determine if it will be voted on. Most are referred to an existing board or committee: for example, if you make a motion about something Lifeway should do, it will be referred to their board. A few are out of order because they are more like “Resolutions.” We’ll talk about those later this week. Some are out of order because the rules prohibit them. For example, you can’t vote to establish a committee to do something already being done by a committee. Bureaucracy, after all, does not always need redundancy.
That was the fate of a couple of motions, but most just referred on off to committee. There always seem to be a few that are ruled out because they would usurp the authority of a board. The SBC entities, like Lifeway, the IMB, NAMB, or Guidestone Financial Resources have a Board of Trustees that are in charge of their operations. The SBC messengers can vote to sack a board member (or the whole board) or can ask the board to consider something, but you can’t tell them what to do.
Later this week we’ll take a look at the resolutions and officer elections. That’s where the real zaniness went on this year.