1988 ARCHIVES: Accountability includes Executive Committee

The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee is composed of 76 members elected by the Southern Baptist Convention consisting of the president of the convention, the president of the Woman’s Missionary Union of the SBC and one member from each cooperating state of the convention. When the membership of cooperating Baptist churches in a given state shall have reached 250,000 there shall be an additional member for each 250,000 members with a limit of five. Thus Texas has five members.

Among their responsibilities is to “act for the convention ad interim in all matters not otherwise provided for.” Another task given the Executive Committee is to present a “comprehensive budget for the convention and all its agencies.” In this responsibility the Executive Committee “shall recommend the amount of convention funds which may be allocated to each cause.”

Another statement of function says, “It shall not recommend any direct allocation of funds for any agency or institution for which the convention does not elect trustees or directors.” Interpretation of this statement has led to debate. Some say since all of the members of the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs are not elected by the SBC, the BJCPA is not eligible for funds other than through the Public Affairs Committee which is elected by the SBC. But others say the SBC has representation through the 18 members of the SBC Public Affairs Committee, elected by the SBC, who comprise about a third of the BJCPA.

Thus enters a debate concerning funding the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, a religious liberty organization of nine Baptist bodies based in the nation’s capital with which Southern Baptists have related for more than 50 years with primary funding coming through the SBC. In the 1988 SBC in San Antonio the convention, upon the recommendation of the SBC Executive Committee, cut the budget of the BJCPA from $448,000 to $400,000 with the Public Affairs Committee receiving a budget of $24,200.

Thus it was surprising that action was initiated in the recent meeting of the business and financial plan working group of the SBC Executive Committee to “immediately” strip direct funding from the BJCPA and give the money to the PAC for “distribution under its discretion and authority.”

As could be expected, this kind of action was questioned. But not expected was the rather strong sentiment of the workgroup to “immediately” take the funds from the BJCPA in action different from the convention.

Convention attorney James P. Gunther checked the move by giving a legal opinion that the SBC Executive Committee does not have authority to override the SBC. Guenther said of the matter, “The Executive Committee only has authority to disburse the funds as the convention allocated them. The Executive Committee must recognize the sovereignty of the SBC.”

Good for Guenther! It is disturbing that any would consider pushing for action on the budget that would be different from what the convention voted. The SBC Executive Committee has authority, but they don’t have the authority to go above the convention. Any attempt to do so can be interpreted as saying they fell they are not accountable to the SBC, and this violates the trust of the convention that elected them.” — Presnall Wood, writing for The Baptist Standard, 1988.