Recent history makes this longtime SBC observer wonder if we would not be better off to find another approach to issues of note.
What would that approach look like?
I’m not sure but if the current system is a net negative then smart SBC people should find the more positive alternative.
For some years I’ve taken the more radical position that we should eliminate resolutions entirely as an agenda item for the annual meeting. We’ve had, supposedly, the smartest people around to lead and populate the Committee on Resolutions, a committee that is directly appointed by the SBC president, and have still had difficulty with the end result.
Here are some reasons to think about elimination of the resolutions process:
Resolutions are viewed to be the position of “the SBC” but often are not. Yeah, I know what SBC resolutions are and I’ll let SBC FAQs: A Ready Reference by Keith Harper and Amy Whitfield say it: “Resolutions only reflect the will of a particular Convention in a particular year…they don’t speak for all of the churches…are not binding on any church, association, or organization.” They add, “However, these statements often have lasting public impact.” Clever pair Harper/Whitfield. They don’t add that they often have lasting public impact for good or ill but I yield to their superior wisdom.
When knowledgeable SBCers talk about resolutions, they speak of resolutions that “age well” or that are consistent over time. When demagogic SBCers talk about resolutions they are not so restrained. The SBC as a whole is still paying for unwise resolutions of the past.
Resolutions have limited value. They do not formally constrain any SBC member, church, association, institution, or entity although all SBC entities are wise enough to pay attention. There are resolutions that are properly and totally ignored by our entities and those that properly advise their behavior. A prominent SBC leader’s statements may be and often are taken by the listening public far more seriously than resolutions. This raises the question of whether or not the negative aspects of the process outweigh the positive aspects.
Resolutions may be formed or amended for ill, not good. The Committee on Resolutions is appointed by the elected president of the SBC. Imagine if the dissenting SBC organization’s candidate had won this year. Who would end up on his COR, appointed by presidential fiat?
In an attempt to avoid impulsive, train wreck resolutions, rules were changed a few years ago so that resolutions had to be submitted in advance of the meeting. This helped. The COR can choose not report to the floor wayward, goofball, or unwise resloution. But the assembled body (takes a two-thirds majority vote) may do as they wish and bring it out for debate and a vote. If the COR lacks a persuasive spokesperson on a given matter, the outcome may harm us all, an eventuality that has occurred more than once. Amendments to resolutions, the prerogative of the body, are often poorly worded and not understood by the messengers.
The time allotted for resolutions at the annual meeting is laughably too limited some years. Even though the annual meeting has been shortened, mainly because less messengers want to endure more than a couple of days of reports and business matters, many messengers are ambivalent about resolutions and skip the sessions. The remaining messengers in the hall may be a decidedly non-representative portion of registered messengers. This year the abortion resolution was poorly worded, shabbily handled, and confusing as to its impact. Resolution supporters are known to stack the mics and if the COR doesn’t hit the right notes in response, knowledgeable debaters may not get to speak leaving the debate to be among wily sponsors, the uninformed and the ignorant. But this is the system we have at the moment.
The time for resolutions could be better used at the annual meeting and just about anything would be better. There could be more time for question to entity heads. There could be more time to handle motions, etc.
There are other ways to express “the SBC’s” views on a matter. Granted, there’s something that is golden about the “real” SBC, assembled messengers voting in annual session, speaking on a matter. But, voting on these statements of opinion it’s less clear if it is something to be valued, disparaged, or ignored. (Example: If there is a state considering a viability law or any other incremental anti-abortion law, is the ERLC prevented from supporting it because of this year’s resolution? Technically, no, they may totally ignore the resolution but look for critics to use it to bash the ERLC.) Unfortunately, I doubt if there could be a consensus on this. One alternative would be to leave to each state convention or association the role of speaking to issues. Some already do. But since state conventions are less reliable and trustworthy in my view that idea may never find traction. My guess is that it would be difficult to do away with SBCAM resolutions because of the lack of a suitable alternative. My weakest point on this matter, I admit.
After following 40 years of SBC annual meetings, it would bother me not in the least if there was never another COR report. If dissidents, troublemakers, and demagogues can use the resolutions process to embarrass entity heads, candidates, or opposing SBC groups they will.
There is something about SBC resolutions that energizes guys in suits and ties to go to great lengths to get mic time. Waste of time. But other suits and ties argue forcefully to maintain the historic process, etc. etc., that “lets the SBC join together and speak to important cultural and moral issues, etc. etc.” If reduced to “etc., etc.-s” the matter may not be worth salvaging.
Yes, I am aware that SBC insiders value the idea of an elite committee and their role in such.
SBC axiom, T-shirt worthy: “What the Committee on Resolutions can craft with diligence and somber reflection, a few messenger-demagogues can uncraft and turn into nonsense with five minutes of annual meeting mic time.” Ah, too much for a T-shirt.
Luke Holmes has a nice article here on the history of resolutions at the SBCAM. Worth reading.
Savvy SBC junkies know that we can never rescind our resolutions on slavery or whatever -our Plessy v Ferguson moments. It’s there for history.
One curmudgeonly SBCer’s opinion here. Not to be presumed to be the SBCV position.