[But I don’t know what the answers are. They will be dribbled out to the hinterlands eventually, I suppose, unless some Baptist pundit gets his hands on them and tweets them.]
This is a long-running, slow motion deal. It is critical in many ways that we get this right.
SBC Executive Committee creates ERLC study task force. This was back in February. Mike Stone, chairman at the time, said:
“This is not a governance issue. This is a budget issue related to their fulfillment of their mission and ministry assignment. We continue to hear reports that are largely anecdotal but increasing in number where churches are either decreasing or withholding Cooperative Program funds related to concerns with the ERLC. We have a responsibility that we are granted under the bylaws of the SBC to look at this.”
The ERLC’s own Executive Committee (presumably not the entire trustee board of the ERLC) responded by declaring the SBC EC’s action as
“sowing needless division, treating trustees with disrespect, and spreading suspicion with this unnecessary task force. Even if the appointment of this task force does not violate the letter of the law, the existence of the task force and the process by which it was created unquestionably violates the spirit of friendly cooperation.”
The ERLC EC then asked for the convention in session to ratify or reject the SBC EC’s action. We have no meeting of the SBC this year. The request stands and cannot be countermanded by any SBC vote.
Chairman of the EC at the time, Georgia pastor Mike Stone said this about it:
“The ERLC Task Force was initiated on the top floor of the Baptist Building. I agreed with it 100% but the motion that eventually created the Task Force was written in Nashville, Tennessee, not Blackshear, Georgia. It was prepared and offered by the senior-most staff, unanimously approved by the officers, unanimously approved by a subcommittee of about 25 people, unanimously added to the plenary agenda, then unanimously moved into executive session (not my request) where it was overwhelmingly approved. That’s a lot of unanimous for a singlehanded action.”
One might be angry at the process or at one or more EC officers or staff involved in this. One might be angry at the result of the process. But, it’s tough to argue against a couple of unanimous votes and one overwhelming vote.
One might make a few points about all of this.
- SBC messengers elected Executive Committee trustees who overwhelmingly voted to look into the ERLC budget relative to their ministry assignment. You can’t blame this on the trustee chair at the time or the trustee executive committee at the time. The whole EC voted to do this.
- The SBC EC has a responsibility to “to study and make recommendations to entities, and the Convention when advisable, concerning adjustments required by ministry statements or by established Convention policies and practices, as described in SBC Bylaw 18.E(9); and…is directed by the Convention to present to the Convention recommendations required to clarify the responsibilities of the entities for ministries and other functions, as provided in SBC Bylaw 18.E(13); Like it or not, the EC is doing what they see as their job. Many may disagree with the task force creation but it was properly constituted and approved by members of the EC who were nominated and elected by the SBC in Annual Session.
- Sides have been chosen, generally for or against certain personalities involved with both the EC and the ERLC. Fine. That’s the way Southern Baptists generally divide themselves, over personalities, not issues or proper protocol.
- The ERLC may not like being scrutinized but, absent legal reasons to refuse, they should fully comply with the inquiries and provide the information requested by the SBC EC. The ERLC EC may not like it. They don’t have to like it, but it’s our system. They should comply.
- What would have happened if the EC was more proactive and aggressive in their task of administering the SBC allocation budget when other SBC entities were having major issues? Would it have ameliorated any of these crises if the EC was more attuned to their tasks?
- The SBC EC has new leadership. They can vote to rescind their previous action if they wish.
Editors and contributors here at SBC Voices differ on the matter. In the recent past here are some articles published here that touch on the matter:
An appeal to the ERLC Study Task Force, Bart Barber.
So, dear task force, we need you to discharge your duty in a way that shows your full neutrality, your respect for the stated will and opinions of the messengers, and your ability to work in a fraternal and cooperative manner with ERLC trustees.
ERLC Responds Powerfully to Mike Stone and EC Task Force, SBC Voices Editorial Team. This team includes Dave Miller, Todd Benkert, Adam Blosser, Brent Hobbs, myself, and perhaps others. I don’t know who wrote and reviewed the article. Dave Miller is on the ERLC’s Leadership Council.
The EC and the ERLC: A Dangerous Overreach, by Jay Adkins, a contributor and editor of Voices, as well as a member of the ERLC’s leadership council. Jay reviewed some of the legal docs that are relevant, concluding that the EC “is taking an area of authority not ascribed to them by the By-Laws of the SBC of “reviewing the past and present activities” of another entity that is constitutionally on the same organizational level as they are.” I don’t know that this description is accurate, but it is the position of many here. I’m inclined against that conclusion.
The Executive Committee’s investigation of the ERLC should be scrutinized, by William Thornton. It’s always fair to put such thing under a microscope. The EC’s action has been scrutinized, and found wanting by many. I maintain that whatever the prudence of their action, the ERLC should fully answer the EC’s questions. The EC can always vote to cancel the whole thing.
Our system of trustee governance is brilliant in its conception but often downright disastrous in its implementation. Case after case after case can be offered as examples confirming this. It’s not a small thing for the SBC EC to take such action, but they did. If the ERLC stiffs the EC, we have some degree of constitutional crisis in the SBC. I’d rather see the ERLC cooperate and the EC decide what they want to do. Those who say that the convention has already decided have a point but it manifestly doesn’t preempt subsequent EC inquiries by people elected by the same body. Thus…
To the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission: Comply with the requests freely, openly, and to be best of your ability. If you feel the need to stand your ground and stiff the EC, then inform the entire SBC with the answers to the questions asked by the EC. More openness and transparency is not poison to our convention. It is a balm.
Those who strongly object to the conduct of the SBC Executive Committee may work assiduously and tirelessly to replace the members thereon. See you in Nashville next June for that.
We here at SBCV don’t always agree. This is an area that shows that. I’m of a mind that the best course is for the ERLC to answer questions.
I have an opinion about Russell Moore. I like him and most of the work the ERLC does. I have an opinion about the ERLC budget also. It’s not personal. I think they are over budgeted.
This is very deep weeds stuff, even for the SBC. I can’t imagine many people care about it, except for the pro-Moore and anti-Moore camps.