Howell Scott, in the comment stream on Rick Patrick’s article, “Informal Descriptor or Officially Approved Optional Replacement Name”used SBC Bylaws section 19 as proof that Bryant Wright’s appointment of the Name Change Task Force was inappropriate.
I would like to take a moment and address the specific issues that Howell raised.
I am not a lawyer, nor some kind of constitutional expert, but I do believe that Howell’s interpretation is faulty here. He is using a section of the bylaws that has nothing to do with this task force and using faulty reasoning to condemn the task force appointment without due cause.
1) Howell misapplies Section 19 to question the constitutional authenticity of the Name Change Task Force’s appointment.
Here is the entire section 19. Howell referenced the last section (bold):
Committee on Committees: A Committee on Committees, composed of two (2) members from each qualified state and the District of Columbia, shall be appointed by the president, in conference with the vice presidents, of whom one (1) shall be designated as chairperson. Persons named to the Committee on Committees shall have been resident members for at least three (3) years of Southern Baptist churches either geographically within the states or affiliated with the conventions of the states from which they are appointed. Members so named shall be notified by the president in writing, at least 45 days before the meeting of the Convention. Their names shall be released by the president to Baptist Press no later than 45 days prior to the annual meeting of the Convention, and their names shall be published in the first issue of the Convention Bulletin. The president may fill any vacancies on the committee when those originally named do not attend the Convention. This committee shall nominate all special committees authorized during the sessions of the Convention not otherwise provided for. All special Convention committees shall transfer, upon their discharge, all official files to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.
According to Howell, this section would make the appointment of the Task Force unauthorized. It simply doesn’t do that.
The Committee on Committees, appointed by the president, is authorized here to nominate members for all special committees authorized during the convention (unless otherwise provided for). If a special committee is authorized by the SBC, the Committee on Committees is responsible to name that committee.
But what this passage does not say, which Howell seems to be interpreting it to say, is that all special committees must be authorized by the convention and nominated by the C on C. The work of the C on C is limited to convention authorized special committees, but there is no limit place here on entities of the SBC appointing their own task forces or special committees under their own authority.
The section deals with the nomination of special committees authorized at the Annual Meeting. It in no way limits appointment of special committees to the annual meeting.
This section of the bylaws has absolutely nothing to do with the president’s task force. It is about x and Howell is applying it to y. Section 19 does not govern the work of the EC or the appointment of a special task force.
2) The Executive Committee of the SBC is authorized to study such matters.
It is wholly appropriate for the EC to undertake a study of something such as a name change.
Section 18 of the Bylaws, subsection B says this:
The Executive Committee shall be the fiduciary, the fiscal, and the executive entity of the Convention in all its affairs not specifically committed to some other board or entity.
The EC is the executive entity responsible for affairs not specifically committed to another board or entity. It is totally appropriate that the EC study something like a change in the name of the SBC.
But someone might say that it should have been done at the SBC Annual Meeting. There is nothing in the bylaws that says that such matters have to be initiated at the SBC Annual Meeting or that it was inappropriate for the EC to undertake the study.
In fact, the same subsection E goes on to say that the EC is “specifically authorized, instructed, and commissioned to perform the following functions.” First among those, in paragraph (1), is this:
To act for the Convention ad interim in all matters not otherwise provided for.
The EC acts in the place of the convention when the convention is not in session.
Paragraph (5) goes on to say grant this authority to the EC:
To act in an advisory capacity on all questions of cooperation among the different entities of the Convention, and among the entities of the Convention and those of other conventions, whether state or national.
The authority to study the name of the convention would seem to me to be authorized as functioning as the convention ad interim. It would also seem to be an issue of cooperation under paragraph (5).
But I think that I have established two things:
1) The EC is completely within its purview to explore an issue such as this.
2) Section 19 does not apply to this issue, contrary to assertions that have been made.
One more point needs to be made.
3) The Executive Committee determines its own bylaws and procedures.
Was the president authorized to appoint a study committee. That authority is neither granted nor prohibited in the SBC Constitution or Bylaws, which are meant to give only the broad guidelines of convention operation.
The EC is authorized by the bylaws to form its own bylaws and operate by them. Section 18, Subsection E, paragraph 10 authorizes the EC as follows:
To make its own bylaws in keeping with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Convention in carrying out these instructions to the Executive Committee; to hold meetings whenever deemed necessary; to make reports of all meetings to the Convention; to notify all the boards, entities, and institutions of the actions of the Convention and to advise with them as to the best way of promoting all the interests of the Convention.
The last sentence adds further to the point made above, that the EC is authorized to “promote all the interests of the Convention” including if a name-change is authorized.
But the key point here is that the EC makes its own bylaws under the broad parameters of the Constitution and Bylaws and then follows them.
It is those bylaws that would govern the formation and appointment of the Task Force. I have not been able to locate a copy of the bylaws of the EC, but I would note that while some members of the EC were not happy with the appointment of the Task Force, I did not see any challenges based on constitutionality.
I conclude from this, and from what understanding I have of Robert’s Rules of Order, that the appointment of a task force by the President of the SBC to study an issue and report on his behalf to the EC is not contrary to the bylaws or established procedures of the Executive Committee. This is especially true since the Task Force members traveled at their own expense, so no budgetary issues were involved.
My conclusion is that the Task Force route used by Bryant Wright was in no way contrary to the Constitution or Bylaws of the SBC.