Attendance at the SBC Annual Meeting in my active SBC lifetime has ranged from under five thousand to over forty-five thousand. We can expect less then the convention is outside of the traditional southern cities that regularly host the meeting (Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, Orlando, St. Louis, Kansas City, San Antonio; more recently Louisville, Birmingham, Greensboro and others). We Baptists like to travel and it’s a boost for SBC work outside of the traditional south for the meeting to be held in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Portland, and other cities. The farther from where the churches are located and over 80% of all SBC churches are in the Southern states from Oklahoma to Virginia, Kentucky to Florida, the less attendance. We Baptists like to fight as well, so the less contested conventions, last year in Birmingham for example but not this year in Orlando, the smaller the attendance.
The populist idea that a convention of small churches should have the messengers from those small churches voting on all of our budgets, offices, elections, motions, and resolutions will never be killed. It always has appeal. I mean, if two-thirds of SBC churches are under 100 on an average Sunday why shouldn’t those churches get an allotment of messengers who can vote in person or remotely?
If readers are interested in an answer to that, and most are not, they can read this most recent article on the matter and follow links going back years on it. When we check clicks from the Voices site, there is almost never more than two or three, occasionally they will get up to ten or twelve. So, no one is much interested in actually reading whatever background and previous discussions are relevant to the question. The reflexive position (Dang straight! We ought to have remote voting so all the small church guys can vote!) is taken, reason has no place in the discussion.
Just for fun here are a few points about SBC annual meetings:
- We have the system we have always have. The messenger formula has been tweaked a time or two but we’ve never had any system of proxy or remote voting.
- We had the Conservative Resurgence, the most dramatic illustration that a grassroots movement can use the existing system and change the convention. People (I’m one of them) thought it important enough to find the funds and show up to register and vote.
- The convention messenger system is already weighted towards small churches. Those megachurches get far fewer messengers than their membership would permit if there was not a cap of 12 messengers per church. Podunk Number Two Baptist Church with an attendance of 12 could get the maximum, as could Super-Mega-Baptist Church with 12 thousand in attendance. How fair is that?
- Thus, those who think the route to whatever reform is needed by the SBC is through small churches voting might look at the current system as already favoring them. Any changes may hurt them. Unanticipated consequences abound.
- No one, even those who support remote voting (like Randy Adams candidate for SBC president) has made a concrete proposal. If all SBC churches were allotted the number of votes based on their giving (again, 12 maximum) and these votes could be voted apart from appearing physically at the Annual Meeting, then I suspect we would see the convention politicized like never before.
- And, hey, the Annual Meeting is sausage-making as it is. Imagine if the moderator had to allow for discussions, motions, or voting from remote locations.
- Besides, the Annual Meeting is an essential corporate meeting with legal requirements that prohibit remote voting.
But, we can have fun thinking, scheming, and demagoguing the idea. We do it every year.
A deal for my populist brethren/sistren: You make a concrete proposal and I’ll either post it here or use it in an article of my own here.