Proposed bylaw change would give messengers more time to ‘process’ resolutions

This article was written by Lana Erlanson, managing editor of Baptist Press, and published at baptistpress.com

NASHVILLE (BP) – Members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee voted Tuesday (Sept. 20) to propose a change in the timeline for submitting and publishing resolutions to be voted on by messengers at SBC annual meetings.

“Many are very frustrated with the [Resolutions Committee] itself, how it plays out on the floor [of the annual meeting],” said Richard Spring, chairman of the Committee on Convention Missions and Ministry within the SBC EC. “A lot of people feel like they get the resolutions and they don’t have time to process them in their own mind, much less their church.”

If approved by messengers to the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, the recommendation from the EC would amend Bylaw 20, which governs the actions and procedures of the SBC Resolutions Committee.

Currently, Bylaw 20 stipulates that resolutions can be submitted as early as April 15 and as late as 15 days from the start of the next annual meeting. The 10 members of the SBC Resolutions Committee, appointed each year by the SBC president, then meet a few days prior to the annual meeting to go over submitted resolutions. They prepare the ones they wish to submit to messengers and may also draft their own. Their submissions are published for the first time in the daily bulletin on the first day of the annual meeting.

The proposed change would allow resolutions to be submitted as early as April 1 but no later than 20 days prior to the start of the annual meeting. It would also require the SBC Resolutions Committee to meet well in advance of the annual meeting, release an initial report no later than 10 days prior and then publish a final report in the first day’s bulletin.

“It’s the wisest decision we’ve made about the resolutions process in my lifetime,” said SBC President Bart Barber. Barber is the most recent past chairman of the Resolutions Committee. “It’s going to serve very well the messenger body and the Resolutions Committee to make these changes.”

The recommendation was the result of actions taken at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville, which saw three motions calling for messengers to have more time to consider resolutions before voting on them as well as one motion calling for the discontinuation of the Resolutions Committee.

Those motions, which were referred to the Committee on Convention Missions and Ministry within the SBC EC, prompted the previous chair of that committee to appoint an ad hoc committee in February of this year.

The ad hoc committee, made up of previous Resolutions Committee members and others familiar with the process, declined to recommend suspending or abolishing the Resolutions Committee, citing the “important theological, pedagogical, and functional role for the convention” the resolutions process plays. Members also said the lack of a vehicle for expressing consensus could cause messengers to attempt to do so through making “motions in the form of resolutions.”

“Such statements are better served through a process that is developed specifically for processing non-binding statements of opinion,” the ad hoc committee’s report stated.

They did, however, agree that messengers would benefit from more time to consider the resolutions they will be voting on.

“The task force believes that there doesn’t need to be a ‘rush’ response to important resolutions,” they wrote. “It is critical for the messengers to have time to examine and prayerfully consider such sensitive matters.”

Based on recommendations from the ad hoc committee, the Committee on Convention Missions and Ministry drafted and adopted the proposed bylaw change to present to messengers at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, to be held June 13-14 in New Orleans. If approved, it would go into effect at the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting.

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