There really is no good time for writing an article like this. It always runs the risk of having motives assigned to it that I assure you do not exist. I started writing this article after last year’s convention, but I never finished or published it. I pulled it back out and edited it some more several months ago, but I still did not publish it. I am publishing it now because I still agree with what I have written here, and while it’s a relatively minor thing, it is something I think should be considered.
Please do not interpret this article as a slight against the current recording secretary. John Yeats has been the Southern Baptist Convention’s recording secretary for almost 22 years now. He was re-elected in Dallas for his 22nd term. It has been announced that he will be nominated for the position again in Birmingham. He has faithfully served Southern Baptists in this capacity for a long time. If re-elected I have no doubt that he will continue to do so.
With that being said, it is my opinion that we would be well-served by an SBC Bylaw change regarding the position of recording secretary and his/her ex officio place on the Executive Committee.
According to the SBC Bylaws, “The Executive Committee shall consist of the president and the recording secretary of the Convention, the president of the Woman’s Missionary Union, and one (1) or more members from each qualified and cooperating state or defined territory of the Convention, subject to the provisions of Section 30 of the Bylaws.”
Per the SBC Bylaws, members of the Executive Committee are elected to serve a 4 year term. EC members are then eligible to be re-elected to serve another 4 year term.
Therefore, the fact that we have had the same recording secretary for 22 years means that the recording secretary is our longest tenured member of the Executive Committee. In fact, the current recording secretary has served as a voting member of the EC for nearly three times as long as any other member is eligible to serve.
The only other members of the EC by virtue of office are the convention president and the president of the WMU. Both of these offices have their own term limits which limit the length of time they will serve on the EC by virtue of their office.
The office of recording secretary, however, does not have a term limit. This seems wise. The very nature of the role means that we are well-served by having a long-tenured recording secretary. In last year’s announcement, Bart Barber stated it well when he said, “Our annual meetings are the largest exercise of inter-congregational polity in the world. The experience spans the gamut from boilerplate actions of formality to moments of breathtaking near-chaos. For it all to matter, we need someone to whom we can entrust the task of recording and publishing the fruit of our actions on the convention floor.”
According to Baptist Press, “The SBC recording secretary is responsible for the record of the proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention, training volunteers for convention business sessions and the final edit of the SBC Book of Reports and the SBC Annual.”
Dr. Yeats has served us well in these crucial responsibilities.
So rather than establishing term limits for recording secretary like we have for other elected offices that automatically receive a place on the EC, it is my opinion that we would be well-served by making the recording secretary a non-voting member of the EC. This would still allow him/her to attend the EC meetings as he/she works closely with the EC to fulfill his/her duties, but it would remove the conflict between wanting a long tenured recording secretary while also not wanting a person to remain as a voting member of the EC for far longer than any other normally elected member.
In the scope of issues facing our Southern Baptist Convention, this one ranks pretty much at the bottom. It’s a small matter with what I perceive to be a simple fix. I’d love to hear your thoughts.