Here’s all you need to know about the Southern Baptist Convention 2017 annual meeting in Phoenix. Adam Blosser has done a good job prepping folks for the meeting but there are a few things left to cover. Here you go…
The 2017 SBC app
I’m all apped up and it’s actually pretty clever and covers the exhibitors, Baptist Press, even ‘locate me’ if you get lost. Under the ‘attendees’ section you can find both Bart Barber and myself, twice apiece. We both have doubles just for the meeting. His is because he is in such demand and can double his appearances. I use mine to take flak from critics.
Although these aren’t the glory days of the PC when Adrian would always give the closing sermon, this year’s PC features the best grassroots movement going in the SBC. The PC used to be the launching pad for presidential nominees but now it’s less about denominational politics and more about preaching. Go figure. Dave Miller, PC president and The Man of Vision, will tower above the event.
Advice from the locals
Freddy T. Wyatt has a blog about Phoenix hot spots. I’m thinking that includes the whole city. He and Trey Van Camp have a youtube video along the same lines. They mention that Phoenix is very hot which should be good to know for messengers flying in from Mars.
No, SBC annual meetings do not have “delegates” because registered attendees from the churches aren’t delegated anything. They cast their own vote according to their conscience without interference from their sending church and sometimes without influence from Jesus Himself. Gotta get the terminology right on this or be looked at like an uninformed SBC rube.
Sadly, no one has ever found a solution to the problem of the mind-numbing boredom of sitting through the reports of the various SBC entities. The Executive Committee report is the longest and most tedious but also the most important. It’s part of why we have the meeting, so we can vote on the Cooperative Program allocation budget which hasn’t changed appreciably in years. The annual SBC statistical report is part of the EC’s stuff which has lately occasioned grave lamentations, hand wringing along with some fussin’ and fumin’.
Questions for entity heads
Any issues with boredom would be instantly eliminated if the SBC annual meeting would schedule questions for entity heads in the format done in the U.K. with Prime Minister’s Question Time. Even that may not be helpful because SBC messengers aren’t bound by the same rules of decorum as are members of the British parliament who must call their opponents “the honorable member” or “the honorable lady.” As it is, a few minutes are allotted so that questions from the floor may be asked, sometimes hurled, at the leaders of IMB, NAMB, ERLC, and the other entities. Our highest level SBC employees, the CEOs, have sometimes been less than perspicacious, harsh in fact, in answering questions from their ultimate employers. Tsk, tsk, brethren.
Some questions that, alas, might be asked:
- …of Russell Moore, (Q: “Are you still building mosques?” A: “Never have. Never will. But we will stand for religious liberty.”)
- …of Kevin Ezell, (Q: “Why is NAMB starting Presbyterian churches?” A: “All NAMB church plants affirm the BFM, give to the CP, are partnered with Southern Baptist churches, and profess fried chicken. That’s as Southern Baptist as we know how to make them.”)
- …of David Platt, arms characteristically flailing as he is trying to fly off the platform, (Q: “Do you expect more missionaries to be fired.” A: “Our recent reductions in overseas personnel was accomplished by completely voluntary retirements. If Southern Baptists give more, we will send more.”)
There are legitimate questions that should be asked. While the few minutes given for this purpose at the annual meeting is not much, entity heads should answer fully, completely, candidly, and politely. They shouldn’t conspire to stack the mics with supporters who ask softball questions (“Do you like apple pie and are you nice to your dog?”).
You’ll not want to miss the times when messengers may offer motions because this can be a very interesting time. Any messenger can get to a mic and offer a motion on any subject and some of the brethren have some strange ideas about things they would like the SBC to do. Axes may be ground by motions. Last year a motion was made to fire all at all Southern Baptist officials or officers who support the rights of Muslims to build mosques in the U.S. I’m thinking about making a motion that the SBC meeting never be held in Houston or Dallas because they are too hot and humid and there’s nothing in either place worth seeing. A motion to provide free Chick-fil-a frosted lemonades would be welcomed also.
The value of SBC resolutions rank somewhere above a pail of tepid expectoration and below sliced bread. The main thing about resolutions is that they can easily hurt the SBC in the public eye but rarely help us. Nonetheless, the assembled brethren and sistren are usually keenly engaged in the process and, one hopes, don’t do too much damage. You will know we are in trouble if people are crowded at the floor mics. Usually, the Resolutions Committee has some pretty savvy people who know how to bury an unwise resolution in committee.
Look for our International Mission Board to have the most relevant exhibit in the exhibit hall. After all, it’s the original reason we have the SBC.
The seminaries will all have exhibits. Long years of close observation have shown that the most smug and pretentious people will be found at the Southern seminary booth. After all, these are the people who have amended the laws of capitalization and inflection so that when the definite article “the” precedes SBTS it is both capitalized and emphasized. Silly. Look for the most energy at the Southeastern seminary booth. Look for general contentment at the Gateway seminary booth, since they will enjoy their small fortune in revenue from sale of their Marin County, CA property for years to come. The people at the New Orleans seminary booth will look relieved because the humidity in Phoenix is a good bit lower than the 1000% humidity in the Big Easy. In an attempt to get attention Midwestern will pay you just to stop and talk.
Exhibitor trinkets and giveaways
I rank the freebies as follows:
- Hard candy: beneath contempt.
- Butterfinger or Baby Ruth candy bars: Now you’re talking.
- Anything white chocolate: home run!
- Pill boxes: a big hit with the seniors, GuideStone, keep it up.
- Letter openers: blah.
- Cheap pens: pffft.
- Craft beer samples: a Calvinist concession
Since no one buys books anymore, maybe their whole store will be discounted. If LifeWay wanted to help pastors they would give every pastor a free copy of Frank Page’s new book on search committees. Also, I have the forlorn hope that LifeWay will eschew Jesus junk just on general principle but am not optimistic.
Things to watch out for
- Self-important brethren who greet you with an aggressive handshake while looking over your shoulder for someone more important than you that they can greet.
- Anyone outside the convention center on public property giving away free lit. If it was worth having they would have been allowed inside the hall.
- Confederate flags. I’m willing to bet that someone shows up waving that flag.
- Dress is officially “business casual” so one should look askance at the defiant rebels who dare wear a tie. A tie and matching hankie may require drastic action. Some of the brethren find it difficult to dress down, though, and grace should be extended for their handicap.
- Be prepared. When IMB announces Lottie it will be down millions.
- The SBC statistical report. It will be lamentable but predictable. Don’t agonize over it…get out and make some disciples.
Extremely practical advice you will not get elsewhere
- For restrooms, get the app and find facilities less proximate to the main convention area. Lines will be shorter or nonexistent there. Getting Baptists to work together may be like herding cats but at conventions they are like sheep. They all bunch up.
- Wear a hat. Texans should get a nice cap so they don’t knock down people in the hallway with their silly cowboy hats.
- Don’t check social media during prayer times. It’s rude and some SBCers don’t close their eyes and will catch you.
- The Desert Botanical Garden is a really neat attraction in Phoenix but the workers will look at you like you’re an idiot if you show up this time of year. Too hot.
- If all the restaurants are crowded you get a special dispensation just this once to go to Hooters (but not with wife and kids). It will be less crowded.
- Leave a nice tip, cheapskate, not a fake tip tract which is an insult to hardworking wait staff.
- Avoid eye contact with exhibit workers or they will be on you like a spider monkey.
- No. You don’t have to sit through it all. There’s no extra credit for suffering through all the sessions.
- Have some fun. Steal a few sermons if they are worth stealing. Go back home feeling better about everything.
See you there. Look for me on the SBC app. Buy my lunch. Tell me something I need to know.