Archive for July, 2008

“We need to talk”: trustees and entities (3 & 4)

July 29, 2008

Needed modes of communication for united denominational life:

1) messengers to trustees

2) trustees to messengers

3) trustees to entities

4) entities to trustees

5) messengers to entities

6) entities to messengers

Now we have arrived at the part of the discussion of communication within the SBC…that you might not think is a problem: the conversation between trustees and entities. Granted, some may think that the behind-the-door discussions are the cause of the problems today, but my perspective is that they too must maintain the chain of accountability to the churches and the messengers.

There has been some discussion of entity heads and trustee leadership turning their trustee boards into rubber stamps. There have been allegations of entity heads involving themselves in issues beyond their responsibility and purview. This is very distressing to me..that such behavior could even be conceived among our body! No, openness and humility must reign among our representatives and leaders. They should not allow themselvs to be lured into a sense of superiority of thought or opinion…or into an exaggerated view of their own importance to the denomination.

Before I get myself into any more trouble, let’s get to the solution I am proposing. Every trustee should be mindful of the decisions being proposed by the board, particularly if they are of staff origin. New trustees, dont be shy…ask questions…get involved! Trustee leadership, most notably those on their second term of service, please consider that this is not your opportunity to set doctrine or make history (there I go again, making people mad!) Entity leadership and staff, please advise and recommend, but know that we elected trustees for a reason…to provide oversight and leadership for your choices.

I will close here…because there’s not much more I can say…without digging the hole any deeper! I’ll post again sometime around August 14, as I am in my borther’s wedding this Saturday and then packing to get back to KCMO!

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“We need to talk”: trustees to messengers (2)

July 17, 2008

Needed modes of communication for united denominational life:

1) messengers to trustees

2) trustees to messengers

3) trustees to entities

4) entities to trustees

5) messengers to entities

6) entities to messengers

Full disclosure: I have sent a (modified) copy of my post containing my proposed amendment to several entity heads (those I thought might feel threatened or concerned by it) and to the chairmen of the boards of trustees (at least those I could identify from the most recent release of that information). To those entity heads I sent my letter, I do not intend to provoke you and I do not think that you need to be threatened by the recent upswell in interest in trustee accountability. Yet the problem remains: we FEEL left out of the loop and abandoned by you. To those trustee chairmen who received a letter, please consider discussing and debating this amendment at your next meeting. I would much appreciate your comments and concerns as to how this change might affect your business at the entity or your perceptions of those of us who are not on your board. Regardless of whether you support, reject, or choose to remain neutral in regard to my proposal, please make efforts to “include” us, your denominational constituency, in future decisions. We want to feel a part of the process!

Indeed, it is the feeling of factionalism and back-room politics that has motivated this effort (and those like it by others) to change the way entity trustees set/define their policies. Biased as they are, my opinions about why we had such a heated debate concerning the Garner motion in 2007 and the tenor of the SBC blogosphere concerning recent, controversial policies is that much of this anger or dissent is fueled by frustration at what seems to be a deaf-ear policy by the trustees concerning what the Convention at large might think about their decisions.

(to use the voice of the angry brothers and sisters) In fact, that is the crux of the matter: We don’t even know if you know what we actually do think. You don’t seem to care what we want or don’t want, but only what your tight-knit group wants…sometimes it even seems like you actually want to change us to fit your narrow(ing) view of what it takes to be a Southern Baptist!

(returning to a calmer tone) To fix this problem, it does not require my amendment…in fact, I would be happy if we would change our behavior without such “legalism” about our polity! If the boards tried to be more transparent, surveying the churches, their pastors, or their entity staff, and attempted to ascertain what the messengers desire in new guidelines, we might not have such animosity! Consider this situation: the trustee chairman of XYZ entity, or some other trustee on that board, proposes a resolution about some issue or a motion to study the issue by the entity BEFORE policies are made, feelings are hurt, and reputations come under scrutiny. The Convention meeting in LargeCity, America would consider the resolution or approve the motion and the entity would have the authority to find what the consensus on that issue is, rather than appear to be setting it.

We don’t want much…only the primary issue of the Conservative Resurgence: accountability of the entities and their trustees to the people who sit in the pews. In 1979 and the years that followed, we fought for the right view of Scripture. Now, we are fighting about our open, yet orthodox identity as Baptists. But we don’t need to fight…we need to talk! Perhaps we can put down the flaming arrows and pick up the banner of our commonality…and then we won’t have to make new rules….

Another totally random idea requiring your input…

July 11, 2008

Several indicators are leading me to believe that there is a need for Nooma-style videos with solid, conservative theology…thoughts on this?

If I do them, they’ll debut this fall in KCMO where I live…but I would be willing to export if interest is there…details to come!

“We need to talk”: messengers to trustees (1)

July 10, 2008

Needed modes of communication for united denominational life:

1) messengers to trustees

2) trustees to messengers

3) trustees to entities

4) entities to trustees

5) messengers to entities

6) entities to messengers

Last time, I wrote concerning a motion to provide Convention oversight on controversial policies enacted by the entities and their trustee boards. Today, I will continue that theme, focusing more on how we might avoid this rather contentious and divisive action.

The problem, it seems, is that the trustees either do not know or do not care what the messengers or the churches think about certain issues. I am hopeful it is the first option, though some actions seem to indicate the second is not as unlikely as we would think. Regardless, if the people, in the form of the messengers they send or by a mass letter/email campaign, spoke out about these problems, the entities would have to respond either by enacting what they now know or explaining why they differ from the status quo.

I have taken the liberty of collecting the addresses of the entities for those with some concern or gripe to send. Where I could find the information, I have listed the administrators (at or above the level of vice president) and the chairs of the various subcommittees as well as a listing of trustees by states. I do this so that you can more specifically direct any questions or comments to the committees within each board of trustees responsible for your area of interest. Also, any suggestions, I feel, should be first directed to your state’s representatives as an overture of friendly participation in the process of entity business. Also local trustees might be more apt to contact or meet with you to discuss your ideas before presentation to the whole board.

When one considers the small number of motions that each entity deals with in a given year, it is surprising that more is not done to present concerns to the entity boards directly during their inter-Convention terms. Certainly they are busy with budgets, hirings, appointments, and the like, but I feel that we might have less contention at Convention each year if we would take advantage of the opportunity to address our concerns directly. Most trustee meetings are open to the public (though whether public comment periods are schduled is unclear) and most trustees, it would seem, do not come to their assignments with any agenda other than to seek the best for the entity and for the Convention.

Let us discuss for a moment an alternate history of the most divisive debate in the past few years: the decision by two entities (IMB and SWBTS) to establish a policy on charismatic speech. Had those on the other side of the discussion from the majority of the board taken to writing to the board, appearing at their meetings, or otherwise engaged them in irenic conversation, we might not have had the anger of the 2007 convention nor the need for two trustees (W. Burleson and D. McKissic) to publicly step down in protest.

Indeed if we had more cross-talk, we might not need motions and changes such as I have previously proposed. Next time, we will discuss how trustees might report to the messengers and the churches more effectively, in a way in the spirit of cooperation of my proposed action without the messy and potentially volatile requirement.

The denominational stool revisited…part 4: trustee accountability

July 1, 2008

Four problem areas in SBC life:

1) trustee accountability

2) evangelistic emphasis

3) cooperative giving

4) discipleship and baptismal retention

It’s time, my loyal reader…onto the number one issue for the Southern Baptist Convention: trustee accountability. This is most definitely a touchy subject…and one that will most likely not be solved by my discussion of it. Indeed, this post may be my downfall for anyone who may in the future search this blog for dirt (there goes my denominational career!)Triangle of intended interactions among SBC members

As I see it, there are three populations that interact with and interdepend on each other in denominational life. At least, they are SUPPOSED to interact and interdepend! Too often, in recent years, the pattern has been reduced to:
1) Entities and their leadership report annually to the messengers (6)
2) Messengers elect the annual slate of new trustees (1)
3) The trustees supervise the entites (3)
4) The entities report to their trustees (4)
…and the cycle continues.
Rarely, messengers will question and contact the entities (5). But I have never personally, in 5 Conventions in the past 12 years, seen the trustees or the entities report to the messengers about their decisions (2 or 6).

This is the problem: our view of church/denominational polity has become unbalanced in practice. We elect messengers and trustees in order to take care of our denominational well-being while we minister and live in our individual communities. Yet somehow we have lost touch with the entities, beyond the official annual report and any communications they may send to the churches.

Many have become disenchanted with this “party line” method, resulting in anger and discontent over some policies the elected boards have enacted. It also seems that there is no recompense, other than overturning the decisions by replacing the trustees. In fact, this method was effectively utilizied during the Conservative Resurgence to regain control of the entities. But this is not an option for us today.

First, we lack the grass-roots support to attempt to overturn the Committee on Nominations’ nominees (this may not even be a option, given Bylaw 15-K) or to elect Convention presidents for three consecutive years that will appoint Committees on Committees, which will appoint Committees on Nominations that will enact the new slates of trustee nominees (yes children, it requires five or more years of concerted effort to bring about top-down change!)

Second, it is not in the best interest of the denomination to force the trustees and the entities to “circle the wagons” and require a Convention floor fight over issue that those irritated themselves see as tertiary. In my opinion, this year’s controversy-free Convention was a refreshing respite, one that I personally would not sacrifice if I could help it.

Third, to be frank, it is those who are best at that method that it seems to be the ones who some want removed themselves! Again, it is not in the best interest for us to fight among ourselves. WE are not the enemy…we are just in disagreement!

So, you might ask, what is the solution? If I may be so bold, we simply need more communication and respect when it comes to potentially (or actually) controversial issues and decisions. But how can that be fostered in the present system? It must be (at least at some level) systemized itself…it must become part of our denominational/Convention DNA…a habit we begin and maintain.

Let us return to the two directions of accountability that I have found lacking or absent in recent years…I did research this phenomenon (in the Convention proceedings back to the late 1960’s) and have found little evidence of it since the early seventies, when the Sunday School Board changed the name of Training Union and was called on the carpet for it! So what is needed is a mechanism so that controversial trustee decisions, but not all entity choices, can be reviewed by the messengers.

First off, we do not need to hobble the trustees, making them bring every jot and tittle to the Convention floor for our approval. To do so would negate the need for trustees in the first place and would overwhelm the Convention. If we had to approve every allocation of funds, every appointment or hiring, we would become quickly bogged down with trivialities…think of how few messengers attend all the entity reports, much less actually pay attention and desire to ask questions!

No, the solution lies only in the area of controversy: policy making. I propose the following rough draft of a amendment to the ministry statements which govern the entities and the trustees in their decisions:

Any action by an entity which acts to interpret the Baptist Faith and Message, as approved by the Convention, or any governing policy set by the Convention must be, following its approval by the trustees of the entity, disclosed to the subsequent Convention and be approved by a majority of the messengers in attendance therein.

Thus hiring decisions, budgets, and other decisions which we can in good faith entrust to the wisdom of the trustees will not unintentionally be put on hold until the next June. However, any additions to or expansions of BFM or other Convention policies will be brought before the scrutiny of the messengers…again in good faith and as a check against the machinations of some thirty or forty like-minded individuals against the will of the larger community of Baptist churches.

Similar action is not unprecendented. First, the Convention has historically approved the governing charters of the entities, some of which include interpretations of Baptist views (i.e. the Abstract of Principles). Second, the Convention retains the right of review of changes to the ministry statements themselves….why not their application in the real world? In my opinion, my motion is in the spirit of and in accordance with the letter of rights #5 and #7. Third, most entities have yet to even seem to contravene the will of the Convention or her member churches…so very few of these reviews would take place at any time.

Having finished my expansion of my four needs in these past few posts, I will later discuss these lines of communication (see below) and they can be strengthened and used appropriately. I encourage you to respond with your thoughts and comments. Once I have processed any feedback you may have, I will forward this amendment to the trustee boards of each entity for their feedback, as is the recommended method for any major policy change. Again, if we work together, we can achieve harmony nad understanding on the issues that threaten to keep us distracted and divided.

Needed modes of communication for united denominational life:

1) messengers to trustees

2) trustees to messengers

3) trustees to entities

4) entities to trustees

5) messengers to entities

6) entities to messengers