SBC business plan change rejected, constitution amended

Messengers resoundingly defeated a change to the Southern Baptist Convention business and financial plan proposed by the convention’s Executive Committee. Critics said the proposal would have granted the EC too much authority and left the six SBC seminaries in trouble with accreditors.

The defeat was part of messengers’ mixed reception to a series of recommendations presented by the EC June 15 at the 2021 SBC annual meeting at Nashville’s Music City Center.

An amendment to the SBC Constitution listing racism and mishandling sexual abuse as grounds for disfellowshipping a church gained the second of two required approvals. A request from Lifeway Christian Resources to amend its Mission and Ministry Statement was defeated on a ballot vote after raised-hand and standing votes were too close to call.

Additionally, an attempt to amend the Cooperative Program allocation budget to cut funding from institutions advocating Critical Race Theory (CRT) was ruled out of order.

Business and Financial Plan

On the convention floor, the proposal was defeated by a raised-hand vote after Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin said the six SBC seminary presidents oppose it. The proposal, he said, would “jeopardize our standing with our accrediting agencies” because they worry about “outside interference with respect to funds.”

Among points at issue was a section in the proposal stating CP funds “may be escrowed” by the EC unless an “entity is operating in accordance with the convention’s expectations.”

Two other messengers, Jon Canler of Kentucky and Vance Pitman of Nevada, said the EC’s recommendation gave the committee too much authority at a time it is being investigated for allegedly mishandling sexual abuse.

Racism and Sexual Abuse

An amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution added to the definition of a cooperating church that it “does not act in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse” and “does not act to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.”

The amendment took effect immediately, having received its first required messenger approval at the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

The convention already has disfellowshipped three churches for improper handling of sexual abuse (one in 2019 and two more this February) and one for racism in 2018. The newly adopted constitutional amendment does not grant the convention new powers to disfellowship churches. Rather, it makes explicit the types of behavior that make a church liable to exclusion from fellowship.

Lifeway Ministry Statement

The challenge to Lifeway’s proposed ministry statement revision arose when messenger Michael Schultz of Kentucky spoke against its adoption because the statement proposed deletion of Lifeway’s responsibility to “assist churches with Christian schools and home-school ministries.”

“I am a father and increasingly distrust our public education system in the United States,” Schultz said, “and I think that there are a lot of other people with me in that. At this time in America’s history, I think it would be a mistake for the Southern Baptist Convention to step away from supporting home schools.”

Following an initial vote by raised hands, SBC President J.D. Greear declared the recommendation adopted. When some in the crowd reacted with audible disapproval, he called for a standing vote. He declared that too close to call and took a ballot vote, which defeated the recommendation 5,850 to 4,448.

The defeat rendered moot another EC recommendation adding collegiate ministry to the North American Mission Board’s Ministry Statement. That recommendation depended on collegiate ministry’s removal from Lifeway’s ministry statement, a facet of the rejected EC motion that wasn’t discussed by messengers.

CP Budget and CRT

Messengers adopted a 2021-22 CP allocation budget of $190 million after an unsuccessful challenge by Florida pastor and Founders Ministries leader Tom Ascol over CRT.

— David Roach is a writer in Mobile, Ala.