Pursuing Broader Ethnic Involvement in the SBC
by Erin Roach
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee released a review of ethnic church and ethnic church leader participation in the convention February 22, setting forth recommendations “to foster conscious awareness of the need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
Based on a motion presented at the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, an Executive Committee study group examined “how ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level.”
The group reviewed all resolutions adopted at annual meetings regarding ethnic participation and relationships; analyzed the ethnic identities of program personalities on the platform at recent annual meetings; studied the ethnic identities of entity staff, mission board personnel, seminary faculty and recent graduates; and heard testimonies from ethnic leaders.
Also part of the study was a review of the numbers of ethnic congregations and ethnic members within the SBC, pictorial representations in convention literature, coverage of ethnic diversity in convention publications and a review of the ethnic identities of convention committees, boards, and commissions.
The Executive Committee found that on numerous occasions through resolutions adopted at SBC annual meetings, the convention expressed a desire to see “greater ethnic participation” in SBC life. The report included eleven relevant resolutions dating back to 1961.
?The convention has seen steady, significant growth in the number of churches and church-type congregations identified as primarily non-Anglo congregations,? the report said, adding that since churches have never been asked to report on the ethnic composition of their membership, it was impossible to know with certainty the number of individual church members of any ethnic group.
?In spite of the convention?s frequent affirmations expressing its desire to see greater ethnic involvement and participation in SBC life, the convention has not adopted a consistent means by which it can ascertain participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in convention life,? the report said.
Anecdotal testimony indicated that the percentage of ethnic church leaders involved in visible, elected roles in SBC life has lagged behind the percentage growth in the number of ethnic congregations.
?One reason for such a perceived lag, according to testimony given by ethnic fellowship leaders, is that many of our ethnic brothers and sisters have been more active in their respective ethnic fellowship ministries than in local Baptist associational ministries and/or cooperating Baptist state convention ministries,? the report said.
Another reason for the perceived lag, the Executive Committee found, is that the convention had failed to develop a broad-based strategy to keep the issue before convention leaders in the nominating and hiring processes at various levels of SBC life.
The Executive Committee, though, affirmed past processes in which the concept of “quotas” was resisted, choosing instead to support the selection of Southern Baptists “who are well qualified, without regard to any of the unalterable personal characteristics which God has bestowed upon them.”
In light of their findings, the Executive Committee recommended that the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix in June
?? Entities annually submit a descriptive report of participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in the life and ministry of each entity.
?? The SBC President?s Notebook given to each newly elected president encourage him to ?give special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within the convention, and particularly ethnic diversity? among his appointees to various committees.
?? The SBC president report the total number of appointees that represent the ethnic diversity when names for committees are released to Baptist Press.
?? The SBC President?s Notebook encourage the president to encourage the selection of annual meeting program personalities that represent the ethnic diversity within the convention.
?? The Committee on Order of Business consider the ethnic identity of program personalities for annual meetings.
?? The Committee on Nominations form be amended to provide a place where a nominee may indicate his or her ethnic identity.
?? The Committee on Nominations include in its annual report the number of individuals among its nominees that represent the ethnic diversity within SBC life.
?? Entities give due consideration to the recruitment and employment of qualified individuals who reflect well the ethnic diversity within SBC life.
?? The Executive Committee, through its various publications and news outlets, continue to provide news coverage of interest to individuals of all ethnic interests and to highlight what God is accomplishing through Baptists of ?every tribe and tongue and people and nation.?
?? The Executive Committee receive a report from EC staff each year during its February meeting concerning the participation of ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders in SBC life.
Furthermore, the Executive Committee recommended that the convention “respectfully request the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference and other groups which meet as part of the larger event of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting be sensitive to the desire of our ethnic brothers and sisters in Christ to see and hear individuals from their respective cultural heritages address attendees of these related groups.”
Also, the Executive Committee recommended that the convention “strongly encourage church workers and leaders from all ethnic backgrounds within Southern Baptist life to involve themselves to the highest level possible in associational life and through state convention ministries so that their participation in broader denominational life becomes the platform from which their greater involvement in visible roles of leadership in the convention will naturally follow.”