It's been a busy week with the ABSC, so I didn't get my book review written, with apologies to President Bush, his memoir will have to wait a couple of weeks. I also did not get this week's "Does it matter?" written, so I can't post it either. I thought that, for the sake of the curious, I'd give you some background on the meeting I spent the first half of my week in so you'd know a little more about it:
1. What is the ABSC?
The ABSC is the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
2. What are you, a politician? That's no answer: what is the Arkansas Baptist State Convention?
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) is really two things. The first is this: a 2 day meeting, with a 1 day pastor's conference, that happens nearly every fall. It is made up of messengers that are sent by various churches that participate voluntary in the ABSC. This participation is based on a level of assumed like-mindedness in belief and goal. The ABSC is the meeting that makes adjustments to plans, goals, and when necessary, stated beliefs.
The other usage of ABSC is the collection of churches that could participate in the meeting if they wanted to, throughout the 365 days of the year. So, the ABSC is the voluntary associations of churches within the state of Arkansas that share plans, goals, and beliefs based on the Constitution and By-laws of the ABSC.
So, the ABSC is both a meeting (convention) and a year-round partnership.
3. When you say "assumed like-mindedness in belief and goal" what do you mean?
The Constitution and By-laws of the ABSC gives as the purpose of the group this: to assist the churches…in fulfilling their mission, and to encourage cooperative support of and involvement in our worldwide mission enterprise. Further, the ABSC officially uses the 1963 edition of the Baptist Faith & Message as a doctrinal guideline for the activities of the ABSC.
What the ABSC does not do is investigate every last detail of every church that wants to participate. The ABSC declares those two aspects and that regular Baptist churches in sympathy with those items are permitted to send messengers to the Annual Meeting (part 1 of the above definition). It is typically assumed that a church that is willing to contribute financially and participate in activities is of like-mindedness. However, there is a procedure for investigating if a church does not belong among the ABSC and ending their participation.
Churches are not required to copy and paste the identical purposes or beliefs of the ABSC, but generally are expected to agree with the spirit of those beliefs. After all, why else do you want to be a part?
4. Isn't there a 2000 Baptist Faith & Message? Why don't you use that?
Yes there is. However, the ABSC has not adopted that statement. There are differences in the two, but the major doctrinal expressions remain the same. Having been in Georgia in the time the BFM2K (shorthand for the new BF&M) was adopted, I do not know what happened regarding changing to the 2000 from the 1963. However, Baptist life is marked by independence, so nothing requires the ABSC to use the same faith statement as the SBC.
5. Why are people at the ABSC called messengers?
The terminology reflects an important concept: the people that attended the meeting were messengers from the churches. In this, they were selected by the church however the church chose to select them. The ABSC does not vet individual messengers: a committee at the meeting assists with making sure each person presenting themselves as a messenger is approved by their church, but the ABSC does not get involved with the process.
Also, the messengers are empowered by their churches to vote per the messenger's conscience. They are not expected to call home for instructions, but instead to act as they believe God is guiding them through the Bible and their own understanding. There is a general pre-published agenda for the meeting, but additional business can come up---and must be addressed when it does. Since most of our churches operate under a congregational principle, you can't get a spur-of-the-moment church decision, so the church sends trustworthy messengers whose judgment should be trustworthy.
6. Was there any major controversy at the ABSC?
7. Who can present business at these meetings?
Any credentialed messenger. Including my 8-year-old daughter if she had registered this year, which she didn't because I forgot to give her the messenger card with her name on it.
That includes nominating officers like President of the ABSC and being nominated to those positions. Any one that is a member of a participating church is eligible to serve on a committee or as an officer.
8. What changes as a result of the ABSC?
Various things: some folks go home encouraged and help their church move forward in obedience to Jesus Christ. Some folks go back and increase their financial support, enabling missionaries to do more ministry work. Some go and plan trips to help the Children's Homes or BCMs.
We also register opinions on issues, in things called resolutions. Nothing changes by way of resolution, but it does express an opinion if anyone wants to know what Arkansas Baptists think. Finally, we approve the budget for the whole ABSC and the trustees that will guide agencies and institutions for the year. If we elect good people to those jobs, then places like Ouachita Baptist University have further opportunities to thrive.
9. What did you do the whole time?
Mainly, I spent time helping a committee or listening to the good preaching that's interspersed between business sections. I also spent time getting ideas from other ministers and trying to pass along some encouragement to hard-working folks that needed it.