The news on this is that the state convention for which Randy Adams is CEO, Northwest Baptist Convention (Oregon, Washington, northern Idaho – around 500 churches) had a “virtual participation Annual Meeting” last week.
As he describes it in his blog (Virtual participation at the 2020 Northwest Baptist Annual Meeting) Messengers voted remotely on six items “in real-time through an on-line polling system” and the results were announced during the meeting. Participants could “chat” and ask questions that were read and answered. I gather this was like many FaceBook meetings.
Adams has touted the same idea for the SBC as a way to involve more people and accommodate those whose finances and work schedule prevent their attending an SBC annual meeting in person.
We’ve dealt with this suggestions often over the years. SBC bylaws prohibit remote voting, proxy voting. Those present can vote and no one else. Bathroom, snack, and social breaks should be timed so that the messenger is actually in the convention hall when there is a vote. No exceptions.
A few previous looks at this:
There are more but who reads the links anyway?
So, Adams and the NWBC actually did this during this age of social distancing, ubiquitous Zoom meetings and extraordinary measures.
Did it work and is it workable for the SBC? I take Adams’ word that it did indeed work for the 330 NWBC messengers who virtually attended. Presumably most of these voted. Adams declares that his success “removed all doubt that the time has come for virtual participation in the SBC.”
Not so fast my dear brother. A few observations:
The “registration” of messengers. Currently, a messenger can already pre-register for the SBC, online. But, the messenger has to take his printed pre-registration form to one of the registration people at the meeting. He or she has to present it in person. I don’t recall if identification is required when this is done.The NWBC virtual system isn’t a secure system. There may be additional measures not described but it looks like not one messenger was actually, personally identified.
In the NWBC meeting Adams wrote that “Messengers provided their names, church name, church SBC ID number, and an email address.” This sufficed to confirm that the person participating and voting was the person whose name, church, and email address was previously given. I don’t see how it confirms that at all.
One can see how any pastor could recruit his church’s allotted number of messengers, get their names and email addresses and log them in for the meeting and vote, even if they didn’t have time to actually, virtually attend the meeting and hang around for real time voting. The pastor or other person could just vote for them. After all, the pastor covered the issues and had agreement to do whatever he thought best. This is called proxy voting and is specifically prohibited in the SBC.
Voting. Move from an outlying convention with 330 messengers to the SBC as a whole and ten thousand or so messengers and problems arise.
First, if there’s a highly contentious issue that will receive a vote we will surely see proxy voting if done online. People lie online in the SBC. They will lie about whatever is necessary to cast someone else’s vote.
There will be “ballot” harvesting. Activists and intensely interested individuals would harvest emails and names and vote them. After all, they might say, if not us, who? If not this, what? We rationalize our sins so easily.
Participation. At an SBC annual meeting, people get in line for a mic. There are open mics for almost every session where people can make motions, speak, and make other parliamentary moves. Jam 8k people online. Who can make a motion? Who can raise a point of order? Who controls the floor? I’m not seeing it, brethren.
Adams touts a virtual SBC meeting as somewhat of a panacea: mission support would increase, overseas personnel could participate, bivocational pastors too, etc. Still not seeing it. Any of these can already participate by watching online.
The SBC Annual Meeting is a corporate meeting. Legal votes must be cast. We do things not because we’ve always done them this way but because no corporation has seen it possible to maintain security and have remote voting. The idea that major decisions are made and approved or denied by unseen numbers is not acceptable.
It is possible with the necessary bylaw and constitution changes to have corporate style proxy voting where each church is given “shares” to vote, and can mail or vote their unique “shares” online where they are collected and cast by actual people “directors” or other individuals who have obtained approval to collect proxy votes. The same can be done for decisions that need a vote. Such would take months of planning and execution. I doubt anyone in the SBC would like this system. We show up, vote, and it’s done in a couple of days with no directors to cast any messenger’s vote.
But, for now, I commend Randy Adams. He has led his convention to do this. That autonomous state convention has made decisions they think are proper and which do not need anyone else’s approval.
Keep it in Portland, Randy. The SBC will be better off without that west coast idea.
Randy Adams was a candidate for SBC president until the Covid-19 crisis cancelled the meeting and gave JD Greear a third term. Al Mohler is the only announced candidate for 2021. I like the idea of choice, so I hope Adams runs again. He has some ideas I like and I commend him for speaking up and speaking out. Better to put your ideas out for reaction than to try and work them in the back rooms of the SBC.
We just had a presidential election with mail in ballots, absentee ballots, electronic ballots…and everyone is happy, right?