Memorandum on Convention Process and Procedures
Date: February 18, 2010
To: Executive Committee Members
From: Morris H. Chapman
Dear Member of the Executive Committee,
Greetings in Jesus’ Name! I trust that the Lord has blessed your ministries over the course of this long, cold winter.
Most of you are aware that Ronnie Floyd, chair of the Great Commission Task Force (GCTF), will present an interim report of the GCTF this coming Monday night to the SBC Executive Committee (EC). As we approach next week’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Executive Committee, I wish to place the Great Commission Task Force Interim Report in its broader context relative to your work as the Executive Committee of the SBC.
I appreciate the Great Commission Task Force bringing its first public report to the Executive Committee. These matters deserve our best attention, our clearest thinking, and our purest hearts as we seek God’s perfect will for our Convention. I know you will join me in asking for God’s divine guidance upon the GCTF and its chairman, Dr. Floyd, as well as upon your EC officers, fellow members, and the executive staff. Praying, deliberating, and deciding on these important recommendations are among the most important decisions considered by any body of EC members since the adoption of the Covenant for a New Century more than a decade ago.
Since, to my knowledge, the task force has not released any portion of its progress report, I am unable to forward any recommendations the task force may announce next week. I do, however, feel the responsibility to remind you of the role you play as the Executive Committee of the SBC. Your responsibilities are clear and are spelled out in our governing documents. Since I am unaware of the final form of any specific recommendations the task force may suggest, my comments apply generally: to whatever the task force announces Monday night, to any recommendations that are announced in the press release the task force has stated it will issue on May 3, 2010, and to any recommendations contained in the GCTF report to the Southern Baptist Convention during the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando.
The report and recommendations of the Great Commission Task Force have the potential to be one of the most significant moments in recent SBC history. Ronnie Floyd, chair of the task force, has said that this report is “historic.” It is likely that one or more of the recommendations contained in the GCTF final report to the SBC will be studied by the Executive Committee. This is as it should be. Over the years, the Convention has placed high value on careful deliberation, representative collaboration, and transparency in its processes. The Executive Committee process of conducting research, preparing comprehensive background statements, deliberating among 83 EC members representing the geographical and demographical diversity of the Convention, and producing an ultimate vote by the Executive Committee to recommend specific action to the SBC in its annual meeting is a time-honored and proven process.
The Report of the GCTF to the Southern Baptist Convention
- In accord with SBC Bylaws, the SBC Organization Manual, and Robert’s Rules of Order, the Great Commission Task Force may request the EC and/or certain entities to consider recommendations brought forward by the task force if, in fact, a specific recommendation refers to a matter already assigned by the SBC to the EC and/or a particular entity (see next section).
- The GCTF has stated its full report will be announced through media on May 3, 2010.
- The full report will be presented in writing to the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando.
- Recommendations that do not refer to assignments given by the SBC to its entities and/or Executive Committee may be recommended by the GCTF to the 2010 Convention in annual session unless the SBC Bylaws or other adopted procedures otherwise stipulate a later date for approval or impose delaying prerequisites.
Process and Procedures to be Followed by the EC in Considering Potential Recommendations of the Great Commission Task Force (GCTF)
Chairman Ronnie Floyd believes that the report shall speak for itself Monday night, thus no question and answer period or formal press conference has been planned during the plenary session. As far as I know, the GCTF Report is at this stage for information only. Any formal action or response by the Executive Committee will take place following normal Executive Committee process as outlined above. In addition, let me set out the logistical context for our work.
- The SBC Bylaws obviously control many of the elements that may be brought into play. As indicated in our bylaws, the most recently revised edition of Robert’s Rules of Order is also named as being authoritative with regard to how the Convention conducts its business.
- As you know, the Convention
approved a motion from the Convention floor that the president of the SBC appoint a task force to report back to the Convention in June, 2010. The task force by assignment is a special committee of the SBC. The
2009 motion made by Dr. Al Mohler and adopted during the 2009 annual meeting in Louisville reads as follows:
“That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 23-24, 2009, In Louisville, Kentucky, authorize the president of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a Great Commission Task Force charged to bring a report and any recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”
- According to both the SBC Bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order, the Executive Committee is a standing committee of the Convention; the task force is a special committee of the Convention. By definition a standing committee is a permanent committee of the Convention with Convention-adopted committee assignments (the EC assignments are listed in the SBC Bylaws). A special committee is approved for a chosen period of time and is given a specific assignment at the time of its creation.
- Specifically, Robert’s Rules of Order states: “A special committee may not be appointed to perform a task that falls within the assigned function of an existing standing committee.” (Robert’s Rules of Order, Section 50)
- Moreover, I provide
for you below information from the Convention’s counsel:
“The assignment which the Convention gave to this special committee must be understood in the context of the Convention's governing documents, its procedures, and the Convention-approved corporate structures. Thus the special committee must act with respect for: the autonomy of the local church and other general Baptist bodies; the exclusive right of boards of trustees of Southern Baptist entities to manage the affairs of their entities except for the right of the Convention to approve certain fundamental transactions; the right of other Convention committees to exercise their judgments, perform their functions, and to bring recommendations to the Convention; and the right of the messengers at each annual meeting to vote on matters properly presented to them.
A recommendation to the Convention from this special committee which is inconsistent with these principles would be out of order. For example:
1. If the special committee advances ideas which, to implement, would involve amending an entity's Ministry Statement, the process for amendment of Ministry Statements set forth in the Convention's Organization Manual should be followed.
2. Any ideas offered by the special committee regarding the management of the affairs of an entity would need to be handled with respect for the fact that the Convention has no right to direct the entities or to direct the boards of the entities in such matters.
3. The special committee may not be understood to have the right to perform a function assigned to the Executive Committee, a standing committee of the Convention.”
- Any recommendations contained in the GCTF report which touch on matters already assigned to the EC should, by bylaw, come before this body. Relatedly, any recommendations which touch on the governance or internal matters already assigned any of the entities of our Convention will be assigned by bylaw to that entity for its consideration. In turn, in accordance with established procedures, the entity shall take action on the recommendation and forward its action to the Executive Committee. The EC will then study the matter and forward its recommendation to the SBC. Of course, this series of actions is dependent on the Convention’s approval of the task force’s report in Orlando.
- Therefore, the report of the task force on Monday night is a courtesy to the Executive Committee and to Southern Baptists, permitting the Executive Committee and the broader Baptist public an opportunity to get a sense of the direction the task force is heading in its deliberation. It will open up the process for discussion of the issues involved, giving the Executive Committee the opportunity to be informed by those discussions and to respond in an appropriate manner at the appropriate time.
- As stated in the paragraph opening this section, consideration of issues and eventual recommendations under study at the EC shall proceed in accord with established Convention procedures. These are outlined in the bylaws, the Organization Manual of the SBC, and other governing documents of the Convention and its entities.
This is an exciting time to be a member of the Executive Committee. Only a few times in the history of our lives do we encounter decisions of this magnitude! Whatever the final recommendations may be that we take to the Southern Baptist Convention, we must be certain to ask the question we all try to remember to ask before any decision we make as EC members, and that is in the form of a prayer:
“Dear Lord, grant us the wisdom to discern what is in the best interest of the SBC now and for years to come. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
May God grant us grace, wisdom, and courage, a prayer many of us have prayed for the Convention and for the task force since its creation.
With joy in the Lord and in anticipation of hearing the GCTF Report, I am
Your brother in Christ,
Dr. Morris Chapman