Forty-four Executive Committee members were able to travel to Nashville to comprise a quorum—half of the EC’s eighty-two members, plus one—before an ice storm crippled the city during the EC’s February 16–17 meeting.
A State of Emergency
A state of emergency in Nashville and middle Tennessee was declared on February 16 as ice, sleet, and snow gripped the region.
Since members of the Cooperative Program Committee and other EC members had arrived in Nashville on the afternoon of February 15, EC officers and President Frank S. Page decided to move forward with the February 16–17 sessions. Canceled flights and treacherous road conditions prevented nearly forty EC members from traveling to Nashville on February 16.
Once the meeting was underway, a sense of Baptist normalcy eased over the auditorium in the SBC Building, buoyed by Page conducting a resolute singing of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by EC members and other attendees—including several SBC entity leaders and a number of state Baptist convention presidents and executive directors.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd
SBC President Ronnie Floyd, in his message Monday night, drew from Jesus’s words, “I Will Build My Church.”
Floyd challenged Southern Baptist leaders to build momentum for the upcoming annual meeting in Columbus; to tell “the compelling story” of Southern Baptists with conviction and clarity; to stand for religious freedom internationally amid onslaughts by ISIS against Christians and other Mideast minorities; and to encourage other like-minded congregations to become Southern Baptists.
Floyd also continued his often-voiced yearning for spiritual awakening in America to reverse the nation’s moral demise and to stir Christians to take the Gospel to the world’s unreached masses.
Noting the “Great Awakening” theme for the SBC annual meeting, Floyd said he knows of no other solution “than God coming down and meeting with us powerfully and miraculously like only God can do.”
EC President Frank S. Page
Page, in his EC report, recounted the work of the EC staff’s five divisions during 2014 and looked forward to the year ahead.
He reported that a CP promotion campaign called Great Commission Advance will launch in 2015 and conclude at CP’s one hundredth anniversary in 2025, while the work of various advisory councils continues in an effort to increase the involvement of racial and ethnic church leaders and other groups in the SBC.
Tuesday Morning Business
In their business session the morning of February 17, EC members approved several recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 16–17 annual meeting in Columbus.
Golden Gate Seminary Request. The EC recommended that the SBC amend Golden Gate’s articles of incorporation, as well as SBC Bylaw 14, to change its name to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention in conjunction with the move of its primary campus from the San Francisco Bay Area to the city of Ontario, part of Southern California’s Inland Empire region. The EC’s recommendation came in response to a request by the executive committee of the seminary’s trustees.
To take effect, the bylaw amendment must be approved by messengers at two successive SBC annual meetings. The articles of incorporation amendment must be approved by Golden Gate trustees in April and messengers to the SBC annual meeting in June.
Last July, Golden Gate finalized the sale of its property near Mill Valley, California, for a base price of $85 million along with other terms favorable to the seminary. The purchase agreement allows Golden Gate to remain fully operational in its current facilities through the summer of 2016. The seminary announced in August that it had signed a purchase agreement for the site of its new primary campus in Southern California.
North American Mission Board Ministry Statement. The EC approved a recommendation to enable NAMB to “provide specialized, defined and agreed upon assistance to the International Mission Board in assisting churches to plant churches for specific groups outside the United States and Canada.”
EC leaders said the possibility of military chaplains facing religious liberty constraints is a key factor for the recommendation, though the wording allows for other contingencies that may prompt NAMB-IMB cooperation in the future.
Our culture “is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity and to the Christian message,” EC chairman Mike Routt said in response to several questions raised before EC members voted without opposition to forward the recommendation to messengers in June.
“There might come a day to where our chaplains can’t really preach the Gospel,” said Routt, lead pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, where the Air Force Academy and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) are located, along with two Air Force bases and one Army base.
Implementation, if it is ever needed, can proceed in cooperation with the International Mission Board in matching stateside churches with potential church plants near military installations, said Ben Kelley, a healthcare executive from Montgomery, Alabama, who chairs the EC’s Cooperative Program Committee.
IMB President David Platt, in a January 15 letter to Page, wrote, “The leadership of IMB gladly affirms and supports this recommendation as a step toward further cooperation between the two entities, for the sake of the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.”
The proposed amendment was approved by NAMB trustees in February 2014. The SBC’s Organization Manual requires that changes to ministry statements of the SBC’s entities be approved by the EC as well as a majority vote of messengers at an SBC annual meeting.
Electronic Voting. In recommending SBC bylaw amendments to allow for electronic voting devices in the convention hall, the Executive Committee stipulated that their use, if approved, could begin after this year’s meeting in Columbus.
The bylaw change notes that voting by “ballot” may include electronic voting methods that protect “the integrity of the voting process and provides for messengers’ votes to remain confidential.”
According to background materials, 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.”
In recommending a quorum for voting on SBC business as those present at the time of a ballot, the Executive Committee 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.
SBC CP Allocation Budget
The EC approved a 2015–16 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $186.5 million for recommendation to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus.
The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board.
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent, which includes 0.24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents.
The budget proposal maintains a 1.65 percent allocation to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a 2.99 percent allocation to the SBC Operating Budget.
Appreciation for Tom Elliff. The EC approved recommending a resolution of appreciation for Tom Elliff, who retired August 27, 2014, after more than three years as the International Mission Board’s eleventh elected leader. EC members noted Elliff’s “boundless energy, a heart broken over lostness and a passion for prayer.”
The resolution will be presented during the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Other Business. In other business, the Executive Committee heard that its communications workgroup will present a report on progress in ethnic church and church leader participation in Southern Baptist life in view of recommendations adopted in 2011 by the SBC and the racial reconciliation resolution adopted by the SBC in 1995 at the EC’s June 15 meeting, and upon approval by the EC, make it available to messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Columbus.
In addition, the EC approved a new online daily devotional “Renew Daily,” a digital publication proposed by LifeWay Christian Resources to replace its LifeWalk Devotional; approved a request for an $80,000 reimbursement by the SBC Pastors’ Conference for use of the Greater Columbus Convention Center’s meeting hall and facilities as part of an annual reimbursement for costs in using the facility; elected William Lovell and Tom Boyd as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees for terms to expire in 2018; retained the firm of CapinCrouse, LLP, as the Executive Committee’s auditor for three years; authorized a 0.8 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2015–16 fiscal year; and received as information that C. Barry McCarty will be retained as the chief parliamentarian for this year’s annual meeting in Columbus.
Compiled from reports by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston, with reporting by BP managing editor Shawn Hendricks, special assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler, and chief national correspondent David Roach.