For those who are interested I have written up a walkthrough of my experience on this year’s Committee on Nominations. It’s a little long but there are some things here that you might find interesting. I know I sure learned a lot in this process.
I must say this was nothing like I assumed it would be. When I was asked by Robin Purdy and Criseida Gomez (Louisiana’s two members on the Committee on Committees) to serve alongside Larry Johnson as the 2 representatives from Louisiana on the Committee on Nominations (NomCom) I was excited and considered it an honor. I figured it would be a breeze. There would be a couple of openings to fill, and I know a bunch of folks, so it would a be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong!
Our introduction to this work group was an email from the Chair of our committee. Her name was Leah Finn and the first thing I thought was “wonder if she’s related to Nathan Finn” (she is, by the way). With this email, she quickly launched out of the gate with poise and clarity and it was an immediate indication that she was not only on top of things, but that she was going to make sure we knew everything she did. It was refreshing and reassuring. In fact, we estimate the number of emails Leah sent out during the time of the NomCom’s work logged in at around 425. More on Leah later but suffice it to say that this group functioned so well because of her leadership.
Before I came onto the committee I just assumed this was a super easy gig, at least for those who are kinda “in the know.” You get to put friends into important spots on boards of the convention, easy enough, right? I now laugh at my naivety. Further, service on this team, for me and 6 others, covered 2 different “eras” so to speak. The first era was the work of the full NomCom. The second was the work of the subcommittee. The full NomCom effort included the work of 2 members from each state convention/region presenting candidates from within their own states to fill vacancies on boards and committees across the convention. That role was relatively cut and dried (except for the unbelievably high number of “no, thank you” responses that many of our committee received when approaching possible candidates). However, the specifics on who we could and couldn’t select were far more involved than I knew. The work of the full committee came to an end at our March meeting when we are required to vote on what would be the majority of our slate of candidates. This deadline is set in place by SBC bylaw 15. J., which requires the work of the NomCom to be published by Baptist Press at least 45 days before the coming convention meeting. As I recall, that particular Zoom meeting lasted close to 5 hours as we each had to give our reasoning for our individual choices. Our list was published in Baptist Press on April 29th.
For seven of us there was a second era of work with the NomCom, the work of the subcommittee. From the time of the conclusion of the full NomCom work and submission of our slate of officers to Baptist Press, there often remains a number of things left to be done. In our case, we still had to confirm some candidates who had not yet responded to our inquiry, replace a candidate or two who had decided to withdraw their names and tend to new resignations which required new searches. Honestly, it felt as if we had more work to do in those last couple of months than we did during the work of our large committee.
The subcommittee membership is selected by the Chair of the committee. Our subcommittee for this year was made up of: Leah Finn (SC, chair), Chris Griggs (NC, vice chair), Melissa Oursler (KS), Rebecca Nobles (MI), Nuno Norberto (KY), Clay Kitchings (GA) and myself (LA). Let me just say, this was a great group of hard-working people and I’m so proud to have met them and worked alongside them. We had a couple of involved Southern Baptists as well as a couple of SBC newbies and we had a great time together (even though I think Missy would have preferred to be with her church at FugeCamp this year). 😉
One of the biggest surprises in this process came in the form of the NomCom “Workbook.” I guess I should have expected some direction but the parameters laid out in this thing was a stunner. This monster weighed in at 160 pages and contained every pertinent bylaw, policy, and procedure that governs the task assigned to us. It had introductory material for each entity with excerpts from their specific governing document regarding requirements including more about the breakdown of ratios of CDR to NCDR representation on the balance sheet (I’ll explain that later). It gave us the lists of all trustees and their respective terms. It showed each entity’s openings including the current year’s spots to fill as well as any other incomplete terms for which we were responsible. It also broke down each state’s vacancies so that a member of the NomCom could see, at a glance, how many spots they needed to fill for their state. I could go on and on. The thing is an impressive but overwhelming document and Amy Thompson is its caretaker.
A quick word must be said here about Amy. She is the Director of Convention and Corporate Relations on the Executive Committee (EC) staff and she is a SUPERSTAR! Amy served as our liaison between our committee and the EC. She is the one that is responsible for the Workbook. She constantly kept us up to date with any new openings that came about through any resignation/death/out of state move that occurred. During the subcommittee season of the work she regularly sent us updated work lists so that we could keep track of who had been confirmed and what else needed to be worked on. I can’t even imagine the number of hours she and Leah spent organizing things for us. As a side note, I have no idea what Amy’s salary might be, but I’m telling you, whatever it is, I can guarantee she needs a raise.
This year’s NomCom ultimately had the responsibility to fill 108 vacancies (that’s a few more than normal), mainly attributed to the unusually high number of Executive Committee (EC) openings that came about due to 16 resignations stemming from the vote to waive privilege for the Sexual Abuse Task Force inquiry. We had a total of 26 vacancies to fill on the EC. In fact, how’s this for an interesting tidbit: last year’s NomCom also had 26 EC spots to fill for TWO YEARS of vacancies. We had 26 for just this one year. In other words, in the last two years, the 86 member EC has turned over or reelected 52 of its membership. That’s a huge shift.
Allow me a short detour to take a moment to speak to one particular issue. A few day’s back Leah had posted a short thread on Twitter (you should follow her @leahpfinn) where she spoke briefly about our work this year. In part of the thread she wrote:
“My vice chair @chrisjgriggs, and I made a commitment to two things in particular. We wanted to make contact with every entity head to find out their specific needs, and we wanted to ask every eligible returning trustee if they wanted to serve a second term. From our conversations with all the entities, we had a good ‘job description’ for our trustees— but that didn’t always make finding them easy! I cannot express how thankful I am for the hard work of the NomComm.”
Immediately, a couple of folks, who clearly do not understand how the NomCom works, took her to task. At best they gave her an unfair reading, at worst they charged her with doing something that “shouldn’t be done.” The fact is, we contacted entity heads, not to ask for names of candidates but to ask them about their needs. The Presidents do not get to pick their trustees. In other words, we asked if they needed business types, academicians, accounting/finance oriented folks, etc. to fill those openings. That is EXACTLY what should be done. What is the alternative? Just placing our pastor/friends and old seminary buddies in these spots whether or not they are qualified or needed? Would we be doing right to ignore the actual needs of the entities we are helping to populate with trustees? That sort of uneducated grandstanding was frustrating to see and just showed that folks haven’t given much thought to how this process actually works.
As a quick example, I am very proud to have been able to help place a few members on the Board of Trustees at my Alma Mater, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). There were a few resignations after the work of the large committee due to a trustee moving and another couple with health issues, so I worked with our team to find candidates to fill those spots. I spoke with a couple of the administrators at NOBTS and found that they could use some help in the area of finance so we found them a fantastic chief financial officer at a large church in the west. We also know that they are focusing on building up their undergraduate program at Leavell College so we found them a BCM director from a few states to our north. By the way, we also added a Chairman of the Deacons and a Louisiana Baptist Pastor to that board.
This is how it is supposed to be done and I am thankful to say that Leah Finn and Chris Griggs lead us to do things the right way. Our job is to make phone calls, ask for recommendations, research backgrounds, etc. I’m telling you… this is way harder than I thought it would be.
First of all, because the candidates are representing a particular state/region, they have to be residents of the state in which they serve for a minimum of three years to be considered available for nomination. That’s one I didn’t know.
One of the most difficult areas to navigate was the entity’s Charter-imposed requirements regarding candidates who are classified as either Church/Denominational Related vocation (CDR) or Non-Church/Denominational Related vocation (NCDR). Each entity has a stipulation on the percentage of its trustees who can be employed by a church or denominational group (CDR) and the balance who must NOT be from that area of employment. It is generally a 2/3 CDR and 1/3 NCDR split for each entity. The difficulty here is that several SBC entities were “out of balance” this year, meaning they were too heavy with one or the other (typically too heavy with CDR members). Thus, for a couple of entities we couldn’t even consider CDR candidates. They had to be NCDR.
I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find NCDR candidates to serve in these roles if you are not very well connected in the convention. Thus, for those laypersons who serve on the NomCom it feels like double duty having to research and reach out to people you just don’t know for referrals and suggestions. Too often the temptation is to look to a pastor’s wife for a NCDR candidate. Of course, if that pastor’s wife happens to receive any income from the church or a denominational entity, then she is a CDR and is, herself, ineligible. Not to mention, for those who are not employed by churches/denominations it is a BIG ask to serve in this way. They often have to take vacation days. Also, professors at our seminaries, administrative assistants at churches and even non-ordained staff who work for state conventions are all CDR’s and not NCDR (my personal opinion is that the definition here needs to be looked at and a changed considered).
Further, in our search, we wanted to be as sensitive as we could not to select candidates from churches who already have members serving on boards. We deliberately tried to spread that out as much as possible.
In Leah’s address to the convention (which you can watch HERE) she spoke of some of the difficulties of our task this year and although we didn’t quite reach all the self-imposed benchmarks we hoped to, I believe the members of this committee did a fantastic job serving the convention. She notes, in part,
“This slate includes nominees from churches with memberships under 20 people and churches with memberships over thirty thousand. Our nominees range in age from their twenties to their seventies. Over a third of our nominees are Women, and 16% are non-Caucasian. They come from churches that live missionally and give generously, with the average CP giving at 6%. In addition to these stats, our slate brings a diversity of experience, skills, background, and ethnicity that will benefit the SBC and build the kingdom of God. We have Pastors, Church Planters, and Pastors’ wives on our slate. It also contains CPA’s, Accountants, Lawyers, Teachers, Writers, Data Analysts, Business Owners and Higher Education Administrators. The 2022 Committee on Nominations could not be more proud of this slate and we think they will serve the SBC and her entities to God’s glory and the furtherance of the gospel.”
We longed to see greater diversity than the ultimate result but it didn’t play out with as high percentages as we would have liked to see. However, we are extremely happy about the quality of our candidates and the amazing skill sets and experiences they bring to our entities.
In the End
I could spend another 2,000 words here talking about the job itself, the things I learned about the process and the new friends I’ve made but let me just close again by saying what a great job Leah Finn and Chris Griggs did in managing our group and leading us to what I believe is one of the most successful (and challenging) jobs a NomCom has ever executed. Leah Finn was the first female to ever lead this Committee and she has done a masterful job. I hope next year’s Chair will reach out to her for how to rightly run this team. Leah did it right and she should be used as an example for those who will follow.
I am excited about the quality of candidates we were able to secure this year. I believe this is a great slate of men and women who will serve the SBC with distinction through almost the next full decade. I am especially proud of the men and women we had the privilege to place on the EC. I’ve been concerned about that group for almost 2 decades and I am now completely at ease with the leadership we have serving as our Executive Committee.