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

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.

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