One of the signs that the SBC Annual Meeting is fast approaching is the announcement in Baptist Press of the nominees to serve on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the four denominational boards — International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, and GuideStone Financial Resources, — the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the six seminaries, and the Committee on Order of Business.
The announcement is usually pretty unnoteworthy. I must admit that I did not read through the entire list. But as far as I know, this year’s report is free of concerns. The report is released now because doing so is required by the convention bylaws. We don’t want any surprises in Phoenix. If you want to research each name in the report, you have plenty of time to do so before joining a sea of raised ballots to approve the report. If you do object to a name, you have time to express your concerns to the committee. If those concerns go unheeded, you can even offer a substitution from the floor of the convention when the report is presented.
But there is one issue that pops up every year related to this report. The report is not final. There will be changes. And the changes will not be announced until the morning that they are to be voted on. Unless you already know the names of those who have been added to the report, you have no opportunity to inform yourself before casting your ballot.
Our own Doug Hibbard made a motion last year asking the Executive Committee to explore the possibility of releasing the names of substitute nominees at least 7 days prior to the convention. The motion was referred to the Executive Committee. They contacted Doug for further information. But the EC ultimately decided that such a change is unnecessary.
Under normal circumstances it doesn’t matter. We trust the committee to put forward qualified nominees to fill the various trustee vacancies. The concern, however, is that the current system is ripe for foul play. Want to put forward a controversial nominee for a vacant trustee slot? Don’t announce it in Baptist Press a month and a half before the convention. Wait until the day the report is to be voted on and slip that name in as a substitute nominee. That gives those who might object little time to find out any information about the nominee or attempt to make a substitution from the floor of the convention.
The point is that there is a reason this report is being released now. It protects the integrity of the process. But all of that is undermined by the process we have for late additions. I realize that announcing the changes 7 days in advance would require the committee to get their ducks in a row a whole week sooner and that it may even result in a trustee slot remaining vacant for a year, but that seems like a small price to pay to protect the integrity of the process.
What say you?