At the 2023 meeting in New Orleans, one common thing that came up over and over was proposals for a task force/committee. There were several calls, proposals, submissions, motions, and more about creating task forces. They were to study the BFM, study the seminaries, study the mission board, and study all sorts of things.
A couple were approved from the floor as Baptist Press reported: The convention also approved the appointment of a task force to study the impact of the Great Commission Resurgence recommendations adopted in 2009 and a task force to study how the Convention should regard churches “in friendly cooperation.”
There might’ve been a high number of calls for them this year, but a task force is a common feature in Baptist life.
They are sometimes they are called committees, councils, commissions, task force, or something else, but they all serve the same general purpose. A group that meets together for a specific purpose, that often reports back to the convention as a whole. After they have accomplished their task, they are disbanded. The authority of the task force is given to them by the convention for a specific purpose and for a specific time frame. That’s not to say that they cannot have a large impact on the convention, though, as many of them have brought about big changes.
Currently the abuse reform implementation task force is working to study the best way for the convention to move forward in protecting the vulnerable in our churches. They asked for another year to complete their work, which is not unusual for groups like this. They are often tasked with a big project that turns out even bigger when they get into it. The convention is usually glad to give more time as it’s important that the decisions made are the right ones.
The Great Commission Task Force was appointed in 2009 to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” That’s not to say that these task forces always reach consensus conclusions. The Former EC leader Morris Chapman warned against many of the dangers he saw in that task force’s final report.
During the conservative resurgence the Peace Committee was appointed in 1985 in Dallas “to determine the sources of the controversies within the Convention and to make findings and recommendations that would make it possible for Southern Baptists to effect reconciliation.” BP reported that “By design, the Peace Committee’s membership included some of the most conservative individuals in the SBC, some of the most leftward-leaning and some in between.” You can read the final report of the Peace Committee here.
In 1976 a “Committee of Seven” was appointed to “evaluate the committee in light of bylaw 9,” which at that time described the work and business of the Executive Committee. The findings and suggestions of the Committee of Seven illustrated places that needed correction or change. The work of this committee has still had significant impact on the SBC in recent years. Several of the suggested by law changes they gave are still in effect today, most of them reflected in the current by-Law 18 of the SBC. The messengers of the 2021 Convention sought to stay in line with the findings and suggestions of Hobbs, Criswell, the committee of seven, and the messengers of that convention, and even the work of the EC itself. This committee famously noted that “acting for the Convention ad interim” is not the same as “being the Convention ad interim.”
Of course three times committees have been formed to help form a confession of faith for the SBC to hold in common, the Baptist Faith and Message. It’s worth noting that each of the version of the BFM, 1925, 1963, and 2000, were drafted partly in response to cultural events and tides the desire to positively state the beliefs of Southern Baptists. Much of the work of “task forces” comes out of response to problems in the SBC or in the wider world at large.
During the 2001 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, Bob Stith, pastor of Carroll Baptist Church, Southlake, Texas, made, and messengers adopted, this motion:
“That the SBC establish a task force to inform, educate, and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.”
This task force gave a report to the SBC in 2012, which can be found starting on page 225 of the SBC Annual.
In 1942 a a committee was appointed by the president to study the constitution and by laws to “clarify any existing ambiguities and such other changes as shall provide for more democracy and better informed messenger participation.”
In 1989 a task force was appointed to study the relationship between SBC seminaries and accrediting institutions. In 1981 a task force was proposed to study the needs of SBC churches in the “vast metropolitan areas.” In 2107 Steve Gaines appointed an evangelism task force to study the challenges and increase Baptist’s passion for evangelism, among other things. And we haven’t even discussed the various task forces of different entities. Disciple making, church planting, church protection, financial resources, draw backs, bold visions, and so much more. There isn’t enough space to list all the task forces/committees/councils formed by the SBC, and definitely not enough space to list all those proposed. But suffice it to say they are a common feature in Baptist life and often used to accomplish good and important things.
I don’t know what will come out of the task forces proposed at the most recent SBC Meeting. I do know that they will join a long line of groups, committees, council, and task forces that have worked to meet needs, solve problems, cast vision, support, encourage, and admonish Southern Baptists that have done so over the years. I pray that the committees appointed by Bart Barber this year would help us keep working together for the goal of taking the gospel to the nations.