In the preface to Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.” We see a need in the Southern Baptist Convention, and our desire is to provide a means to strengthen that weakness.
The SBC Leadership Diversity Initiative is designed to be a networking tool that helps open channels of communication within our convention. We are receiving nominations of ethnic minority leaders and women who may be available, interested, and willing to serve the SBC in leadership capacities – committees, boards, elected roles. We will compile the names of those submitted, along with some basic information, and make that available to anyone responsible for nominating or appointing these leadership positions.
For example, if the Committee on Nominations is looking for a pastor from Florida or a lay representative from South Carolina, our goal is that they could contact us and we would be able to provide a number of potential nominees whom the nominations committee could then consider. Or if a state convention is searching for minority pastors to join their board or a committee there, we could help open channels for that to happen.
We want to open the floodgates and remove as many barriers as possible to achieve our goal: A convention where ethnic minority leaders and members, as well as Southern Baptist women, know they are valued and considered an indispensable, integral part of our denominational life together.
Will you help us build our network? Do you know of SBC pastors or leaders who are willing to serve our convention? All you have to do is fill out our short nomination form and click submit. You can click here or on the image below to visit the nomination form.
We want to open communication networks. One comment we’ve heard form SBC leaders is that we need to build more friendships across ethnic lines. Many have the desire to appoint diverse committees and boards. Sometimes we’ve seen them be very successful in that desire. Other times they’ve tried and have failed, but afterwards have admitted that much of the problem is that we need to know more people of various backgrounds who are willing to serve.
We want to see our effort duplicated. We have no desire to become a centralized institution – the one place where people come to find suggestions for minority nominees. We believe this effort should happen first through organic relationships, but we also know that is not easy and progress on that front has not been as quick as it should have been, therefore other means have become necessary. In addition to growth in organic relationships, we believe the Executive Committee, state conventions, associations can all play a role in making leadership diversity a priority. We would like to be the first (or maybe the 5th) crack in the dam – where water begins leaking through slowly at first, but before you know it the entire dam collapses and water rushes through unimpeded.
We want to raise the prominence of “lay” leaders and nominations. Many times our mind first goes to pastors who can serve in these capacities. Many of our boards and committees actually require a certain number of lay representatives, and we believe this is a largely untapped resource for making sure diverse voices are included in leadership roles.
We want to help educate Southern Baptists about the process of leadership selection and how they can be involved. Honestly there are many people who have been active in convention life for years who don’t fully understand how all these boards and committees function. Sometimes it seems pretty complicated. We want to simplify as much as possible and clear the path – if you want to participate and you’re doing what you can to be involved, then we want to help clear any remaining hurdles out of the way.
Ultimately, our goal is this: That the SBC would be a convention where ethnic minority leaders and members, as well as Southern Baptist women, know they are valued and considered an indispensable, integral part of our denominational life together.
Whose idea was this?
This project has been months in the making. It’s primarily the result of work that Alan Cross and Brent Hobbs have engaged in over the past few years. They have worked through aspects of the nomination process and have talked with various leaders about the hurdles they encountered through that process. They saw a need for opening up communication channels in this area and have received positive feedback when suggesting this initiative.
Can you guarantee a name submitted will be chosen for any given committee, or even selected at all?
Absolutely not. All we are able to do is pass along the information we receive to those who are responsible for those decisions. On the other hand, many people in convention leadership share our goals and priorities so we believe we can make a real difference with this project. Please keep in mind the appointment and selection process is slow, usually on a yearly basis, so it may be that someone nominated through our website now might be two or three years before they see an opportunity to serve.
Can I nominate myself?
Yes, there is a checkbox on the form if you are nominating yourself and you don’t need to fill out the last section requesting information about the nominator. It won’t be held against anyone that they nominate themselves rather than getting a friend to nominate. We want as many people willing to serve as possible, so feel free to nominate yourself.
What about church size diversity?
In the nomination form, we include information on church size as well. Those committees who are looking for nominees from smaller and mid-size churches will have easy access to that information.
Why do you ask about Cooperative Program Giving and Great Commission Giving?
There are many indicators of participation within the SBC and we ask about some of the others as well. We agree with many who say too much emphasis is sometimes placed on how much a church gives to the Cooperative Program, particularly when it’s made to sound like that’s really the only thing that matters. However, financial support does matter. It’s one way we show that we’re invested and wanting to participate together. Those amounts are not required on our nomination form. Sometimes you may not even know those figures.
Are there other ways, besides financial support, that increase the likelihood of being chosen for a leadership role?
Yes! One important factor is to make sure your church fills our its Annual Church Profile. That way the state convention and SBC have information about your church, including figures like baptisms, attendance, location, etc… that may be considered in the nomination process. Another factor is to participate and serve in your local association, state convention, or other denominational posts. This helps with organic networking but it also shows your personal willingness to commit and participate in these kinds of leadership roles.
Was this a response to the recent controversy over the Committee on Nominations report?
No, this is an idea and project we’ve been considering and thinking through for months now, well before any of this latest cycle of nominations were announced. Recent controversies, in our minds, confirm the need for a project like this, but our work on this has not been driven by that or any other specific event.
Are you promoting any particular tribe or theology?
No. We have no interest in using this to promote one view or another. This is designed to make contact information available of members and leaders of cooperating SBC churches. There are no questions on the nomination form about theological views or anything like that.
Help us by nominating people you know, by sharing this project on social media and among your friends, and by providing helpful feedback for us. We will use the comments section in this post exclusively for questions and constructive feedback, it will be moderated more heavily than our normal posts. Disagreement or other concerns may be expressed through email.