First, I am endlessly thankful that the convention’s registration secretary, Jim Wells of Missouri, has made the SBC Book of Reports available to every messenger to the annual convention free of charge. I’m not sure how many messengers actually read the Book of Reports, but for the past several years I have made it my personal commitment to absorb the reports in their entirety prior to the entity presentations.
This year I’m offering the following primer on the Book of Reports to highlight items of interest that have captured my attention this year:
1. The Executive Committee works diligently to respect the province of our convention’s system of trustees. Most motions that are referred to the Executive Committee, therefore, end up being declined by the same because the original movant seek too much. Modest motions with limited objectives and wide latitude are more likely to get things done than are the kinds of motions offered by frustrated messengers who unwittingly attempt to usurp convention polity in order to force an issue or action upon the convention’s trustee boards.
2. The Executive Committee will refer motions to the appropriate entities in order to facilitate a poorly worded motion to reflect the spirit of the messenger who made the motion. For instance, a recommendation asking the Executive Committee to “study Calvinism” is not appropriately addressed. Lifeway Christian Resources, and specifically the Research Division of Lifeway, is the best equipped agency in the Southern Baptist Convention to conduct such a study. Rather than declining to take any action, as is their prerogative, the Executive Committee refers the motion to Lifeway instead. (Page 17, Number 5)
3. Frivolous motions are given the same consideration as legitimate motions. In other words, every motion made in any given year and referred to the appropriate entity must be reported the following year. There are no exceptions, even when a messenger is concerned about an epidemic of influenza, whooping cough, or smallpox that could jeopardize the gathering of Southern Baptist messengers. (Page 21, Number 11)
4. The primary stewards of our Cooperative Program dollars are concerned to foster agency accountability and trustee
oversight to maximize Southern Baptist investment in ministry and not in executive perks. (Page 22-23, Number 13) And in case Jim Smith from the Florida Baptist Witness is wondering, I wrote that motion too. :)
5. The seminary with the least growth in student population seems to project again the greatest increase in its 2007-2008 annual operating budget. (Page 24, “Comprehensive Summary Operating Budget,” SWBTS)
6. The Baptist General Convention of Texas still contributes more dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention than does the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. (13,813,563.84 versus 11,173,150.95; Page 34)
7. While the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has far surpassed Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in student enrollment and FTEs, they still get an equal percentage of the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget. (Page 39)
8. The Adopt-an-Annuitant program is one of the greatest ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. We have 45,000 churches in the SBC that support 2143 retired ministers who live far below the poverty level. We gave out $200 Christmas checks to 1,807 monthly recipients, and the numbers of ministers and widows needing assistance is growing. (Page 51)
9. While the International Mission Board is worried about working with different Christian groups on the foreign mission field, it is refreshing that Guidestone is conducting a study to determine the benefit of opening up our program to non-Southern Baptists. We at Baptist Blogger wonder how long it will take Malcolm Yarnell to raise the accusation of a compromised Baptist identity over in Dallas.
10. Last year’s referral of the Burleson Motion is reported on page 59.
11. There is a great disparity between the way the IMB trustees regard the BFM2000 and the way the Executive Committee regards it. Compare page 61, Section (4) with page 17, Section (4).
12. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the greatest instruments of prioritized Great Commission initiatives funded and governed by the Southern Baptist Convention. Under the leadership of Dr. Jeff Iorg, Golden Gate is expanding beyond all anticipated horizons. Fortunately, the SBC Executive Committee recognizes that a greater investment of Southern Baptist resources in the West Coast seminary is necessary to develop that center of Gospel outreach to its full potential. Yesterday the Executive Committee voted to increase the funding to Golden Gate by approximately $350,000.00, and I expect to see a greater percentage of Cooperative Program allocation being direct to Golden Gate in the coming years. The GGBTS report can be found in the Book of Reports, pages 89-91.
13. Dr. Phil Roberts and the Midwestern board of trustees has got it right. In paragraph three of the Book of Reports, Midwestern states that “affirmation and support for the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the essential theological commitment of our teaching corps.” The use of the definite article “the” qualifies that, while other doctrinal affirmations may be accepted, professorial affirmation of the BFM2000 is the sole requirement for elected faculty status. We at Baptist Blogger hope that Dr. Roberts will use all due influence on the Great Commission Council to persuade his fellow seminary presidents to hold the line in similar fashion. Like Golden Gate, Midwestern is experiencing phenomenal growth and due to receive approximately $350,000.00 in increased CP funding.
14. Dr. Chuck Kelley continues to prove that materialism and elitism are not caused by a genetic predetermination, though we at Baptist Blogger have had occasion to wonder. The New Orleans report highlights the recent success of its prison ministry in Angola State Penitentiary to train and graduate prisoners through an extension program offered by the seminary. I know of no other program like this among Southern Baptist seminaries, and Chuck Kelley is to be commended for this visionary ministry of social and evangelistic concern. Truly this ministry to the “least of these” warrants convention recognition and emulation.
15. We at Baptist Blogger believe that Dr. Danny Akin and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary are the hottest ticket in evangelical theological education in America. Of course, we must confess some partiality for our alma mater. Among the Southern Baptist seminaries, Southeastern continues to recruit and enroll the most aggressively evangelistic and theologically sophisticated students in the SBC. Akin has reversed trends of confessional narrowness and fiscal irresponsibility that marked the final years of his predecessor. This morning, it was announced at the Founders Breakfast that SEBTS and the Founders are jointly hosting a conference concerned Reformed theology scheduled for next November. Of course, we remember the days when Paige Patterson wouldn’t allow two students to host a meeting to read the Institutes under the name “Founders.”