I have seen several comments by bloggers on this site and others advocating off-site, electronic voting for the SBC. Travel to the SBC cost me a lot of money (well, my expense account) and the time off can be a hardship. Of course, that results in fewer churches sending messengers and taking part.
Here’s one vote against electronic voting in the SBC. It may happen, but for the time, I am going to speak against it and vote against it if given the chance. Here are the reasons why I do not think it is a good idea.
1) The Ideal, Theoretical Reason: Most churches have rules against proxy or absentee balloting. This roots in a long-standing belief that God speaks when the Body of Christ comes together. (Please, I’m not arguing that the SBC Annual Meeting is a church – but it is a gathering of God’s people to do God’s work). We expect that as we deliberate together, as we talk and pray and seek God together, he guides us.
I know, I know. The SBC is controlled from the top-down and we are all mind-numbed robots whom Ronnie Floyd and Johnny Hunt manipulate at their whims. But honestly, the GCR debate was not that way. Yes, there was a parliamentary faux-pas (worst I’ve seen), but the spirited debate was reasoned and temperate, even if it was passionate. We worked through this thing together.
I know that this argument comes from an ideal that may not be met. But I just don’t think that internet voting offers that same sense of the Body of Christ coming together that we get when we are there together.
2) The Practical Reason: Yes, I know people can watch streaming video of the convention. And they could click a mouse to cast a vote, which could be counted almost immediately. But the perspective they get there is simply not the same as you got in the convention center. One blogger argued that the vote on the GCR was about 52-48, from his computer observations. I sat in a section full of anti-GCR partisans and not a one of them argued that the final vote was anything less than overwhelming.
It seems to me that the internet observers did not get the full flavor of the discussion that came from live attendance. They got what seemed to me to be a somewhat skewed and unrealistic view of things.
You also open the convention up to manipulation by those who control the cameras. You aren’t seeing things with your own eyes, but with the eyes of another person.
3) The Integrity Problem: To vote at the SBC, you have to have credentials. You have to have ballots. If I held up 10 sets of ballots, everyone around me would see it. I’d like to believe that Baptists are above electoral skullduggery, but let’s admit the truth. There are always people who would cheat.
If electronic balloting is allowed, my church could sign up 10 messengers, then I could sit in my office and vote all 10 votes the way I want. Are there people out there who would do this? Of course there are! Wish it were not so, but it is.
How do you police the electronic balloting to make sure there is no proxy voting or absentee balloting? Seems impossible to me.
4) The Fellowship Reason: I do not go every year to the convention. In fact, I’ve only been going every 4 or 5 years. But it is a great time of fellowship. I got to see old friends and got to know a lot of the guys I’ve crossed swords with here on blogs.
The fellowship was wonderful. The time was encouraging.
Some of those who advocated internet balloting also have an anti-SBC (or SBC leadership) mindset. I would guess that for some of them, the fellowship is not a huge issue, since they find SBC folks so distasteful. That is certainly not true of everyone who advocates internet balloting, but it may explain some of it.
But I like the fellowship. I like sitting in a room of 10,000 people and hammering out the future of the SBC. I like standing in the hallway talking things over with Tim Guthrie and Dwight McKissic. I heard some good sermons that inspired me. I was 1500 miles from home, so I didn’t have to run to the office or take a phone call or visit the hospital.
I’m a little bitter I didn’t win any of the free iPads offered in the exhibit room, but it was fun to sign up!
I know there are probably some good arguments on the other side, and my thoughts off the top of my head will probably not devastate anyone who supports e-balloting. But those are my reasons I’d like to stay with our current system.
What say you?