Last Thursday, our own William Thornton helped potential resolvers by laying out the steps to properly submit a resolution, along with a few details on what happens after the resolution is submitted.
Monday Resolutions Committee chair Jason Duesing provided an extended explanation of their committee’s work and process in Baptist Press. If you’re interested in the resolutions process and some of the more technical details, you’ll find a ton of good info there.
So you already know the official process. But there’s a trend recently that goes beyond those official steps. More and more people are self-publishing and self-publicizing the resolutions they submit to the committee. This is what I want to think about today: Is this trend of self-publishing resolutions helpful, detrimental, or somewhere in between?
Especially after the two most recent conventions, the resolutions report has gained some additional prominence. There were key convention moments in St. Louis and Phoenix during the resolutions report, in both cases dealing with resolutions that had been published and received a good amount of attention before the convention.
In 2016, Dwight McKissic published his resolution “On the Elimination of the Confederate Flag from Public Life”, which was taken up by the committee with some revisions, and then passed in St. Louis by the messengers. In 2017, Dwight published the original version of his resolution against the Alt-Right & White Nationalism. The rest of that story is history. This year, McKissic worked with 3 other leaders and pastors to publish On Racial Unity Among Southern Baptists. In addition to this published resolution, there have been others – too many to count. SBC This Week joked that the count was at 627, and quite a few people took that tweet seriously. Here at Voices, we’ve published the resolution On Racial Unity mentioned above, a resolution On Praying for the Plight of Arab Christians, and another on Repudiating Predatory Behavior.
All, None, or Some?
We’ve published resolutions here at SBC Voices the past few years. So you might guess that most of us don’t believe none should be self-published. Some argue that self-publishing is short circuiting the process. That it places a kind undue pressure on the committee to bring out the resolution rather than leave it quietly alone. I find those arguments to have some validity, but I’m not sure they outweigh the benefits that sometimes accompany having the resolutions publicized. Reaction can be weighed and considered, which may be a benefit to the committee. Feedback given on certain facets of an issue. Potentially a broad array of wisdom and understanding can be brought to bear on a given pre-published resolution.
A stronger argument for not publishing, in my view, is that the resolutions are not official until the committee releases the report. So all of the resolutions we’re reading now are unlikely to be the final result. We could debate endlessly the merits of this clause or that word choice now, only to have the committee come out with something considerably different for the convention to consider. We’ve also seen a few self-published this year that are, to be quite honest, an embarrassment to the convention sometimes picked up in secular news outlets. I’m not sure the nuance always comes across that these poorly written and ill-conceived resolutions have no official stature other than the fact that an individual decided to write, submit, and self-publish. Because the process isn’t widely understood, it can and has made us all look bad.
Even still, I can’t bring myself to think that no resolutions ought to be self-published. It’s mostly a theoretical question anyway. Even if a large number of us were to reach that conclusion – that none ought to be published – we’re living in a day where self-publishing is too easy. The cat’s out of the bag and we’re not getting it back in. In my mind, that’s not a bad thing anyway.
Some of our editorial team believe we should publish some and not others – that we should be selective in which resolutions we decide to promote, publish, share, and bring attention to. This is where I tend to fall. In my opinion the publication of the Confederate Flag resolution and the anti Alt-right resolution brought enough public awareness that messengers were able to prepare and consider these important issues ahead of time. I’m proud of the three resolutions we’ve published here at Voices this year and hope the committee will consider each of them, but I realize that decision is up to them. There are also several resolutions we’ve declined to publish. Some because they’re not fit to print. Others because some of us didn’t feel they spoke to an issue we felt needed to be highlighted. Some for other reasons. Many of them are fine resolutions, and I would be glad to vote in favor of them, I’m just not sure they need the extra attention that comes with being pre-published.
There are others on our team who lean toward publishing (almost?) all resolutions available. This is mostly out of a conviction that more information is better for our convention and its messengers. That we want to report and let everyone make up their own minds. They desire for transparency and the free flow of information on this issue. I’m somewhat sympathetic to that view, but ultimately don’t think the sheer volume or quality (of some) warrants a general approach of publishing everything.
The Committee is the Decider
So at the end of the day I think self-publishing serves the good of the convention. Should everyone post their submitted resolution? Probably not, but who’s going to make the determination about who should or who shouldn’t? There’s no way of making that call, of objectively drawing a line. So I’m comfortable with leaving it up to the author and his/her preference. Ultimately we trust the committee to navigate all those waters and produce a good report for us Tuesday morning of the convention. I’m confident in this year’s committee that we’ll see some of the highest quality work we’ve seen in years. As Committee chair Jason Duesing asked, pray for them to have supernatural wisdom as they work.