We are receiving reports of some churches, particularly church plants, having difficulty preregistering messengers for this year’s convention in Dallas. We’ll talk about some of the reasons for that later, but first, we want to provide a practical guide for those trying to navigate the process of making sure you’ll be able to fully participate in #SBC18.
Step 1: Contact the EC Church Relations Office
If your church wants to be involved the 2018 SBC Annual Meeting and is having trouble preregistering on the SBC website, it would streamline the process to contact the Church Relations office at the SBC Executive Committee (CR@SBC.net). They can help you navigate all of the SBC policy questions and vet whether or not your church matches these criteria before you just show up to the Annual Meeting. If this doesn’t solve the problem…
Step 2: Appeal to the SBC Credentials Committee
If your church is still having trouble registering messengers for the SBC, the credentials committee can certify it on-site and seat its messengers if it meets these criteria:
- You must be constituted as a church that has a demonstrable track record of cooperating with the SBC. That means that your church, regardless of how it may be identified by your state—mission, watch care, or just hasn’t been voted on at a state convention’s annual meeting—has declared itself a local church autonomous from any parent church and is in friendly cooperation with the SBC. To demonstrate this, your church should write a letter on church stationery stating that as of __/__/__ this church is “self-governing” and “free-standing” and bring that letter with you to Dallas.
- You must have given money through the Cooperative Program or to SBC causes in the fiscal year preceding (prior to September 30, 2017). You need to state how much your church gave to SBC causes through the Cooperative Program and/or through Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, or other SBC designations in the year ending September 30, 2017.
If a pastor or any other representative from a cooperating Baptist church shows up in Dallas, the representative can make an appeal to the credentials committee to seat messengers from his/her church. Bring the letter with you and have the information about how much your church gave between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017.
If you’re having trouble registering, we want to hear from you. You can email us or leave a comment below.
Why Is This Happening?
There may be other causes in some cases, but the most common and concerning problem we’re hearing is that some state conventions have different criteria for when a mission or church plant counts as a church. A church plant that we would all recognize as an autonomous local church may, for technical reasons (like that it receives outside financial support), be hindered from sending messengers. A number of state conventions and associations have additional criteria they have set in place to register as messengers for their respective bodies, but the SBC is not bound by any additional criteria beyond its Article III.
Here’s the key: State conventions are not gatekeepers for whether a church can send messengers to the SBC. In the same way, the SBC does not serve as a gatekeeper for how state conventions determine who can be messengers to their respective states.
So especially if you’re running into this specific problem, please follow the steps outlined above. Persevere and work through the process. We at SBC Voices and many, many others in the SBC want your voice to be heard and your votes to count.