It amazes me how quickly information flows in the blogosphere. It has only been two hours since the resolutions committee made their report to the convention and already many readers of this blog know almost as much about it as I do...and I was there (a special thanks to all those live bloggers and commenters who kept folks informed!). So, in blogotime, this is like yesterday's news, but here is what happened this morning with my resolution on Integrity in Church Membership.
I learned as I was waiting to board a bus at my hotel to take me to the convention center that the published report of the resolutions committee showed that they declined to recommend my resolution to the convention. Bylaw 20 states a properly submitted resolution that the committee rejects can nevertheless be considered by the convention if 2/3 of those voting agree. So, I went to microphone #1 and asked for a point of order. President Bobby Welch recognized me and very kindly asked me if I would wait until the committee had finished the first part of their report. Once that was done, he returned to my concern and asked about my point of order.
I asked how and when I could follow Bylaw 20 in an attempt to get my resolution before the convention. Dr. Welch explained the procedure and allowed me to read my resolution from the floor. After the resolution was read, he asked Tommy French, the chairman of the committee to explain why they did not recommend my resolution to the convention. I do not want to misquote him, but others who have commented here have it right, as far as I can remember. I will check the video record and correct any mistakes or misrepresentations that I may inadvertently make in this account.
Basically, Dr. French (who is a very nice man and treated me and my concerns with real respect) said while the committee shares my concerns they concluded that the figures that I cited could not be verified and that besides that we don't want to throw out all those members who don't attend because they are some of our best prospects for evangelism.
I must admit, I was incredulous at what he said, but in all fairness to him, I doubt that Dr. French would try to defend that position if we could sit down and talk about it. I hope he simply mispoke. Perhaps he was caught off guard by attempt to get the resolution before the SBC, although I have publicly blogged that I would do that and informed two members of the resolutions committee that this was my intent. Nevertheless, he did make these statements and on the basis of his statements considerably less than 2/3 of those gathered voted to consider the resolution. I turned and looked at the raised hand vote and would guess that 75% voted not to consider the resolution. For accuracy's sake it is important to note that the convention did not vote down the resolution, they voted not to consider it.
What is my take on all this? Well, I am disappointed that the committee did not bring it out for debate. I think the discussion could have been very healthy. I am disappointed that our inactive members were identified as legitimate because of they are such good prospects for evangelism. That certainly gives a whole new definition to "prospective church member!"
On the positive side, I am very grateful to God that I was allowed to read the resolution before the whole convention. I appreciate Dr. Welch and the parliamentarians for allowing me to do so. I am grateful that 25% of the people wanted to have the resolution debated. And I am very grateful for all of the encouraging conversations--mostly with younger pastors--after the failed attempt. This is a conversation that Southern Baptists need to have. I believe that it is inevitable that we will have it.
Two young pastors who approached me shortly after the vote expressed their deep concern and disillusionment with the SBC in light of what they had just witnessed. Here is what I said to try to encourage them. In a war, if you want to do the most good you must ride toward the sounds of the gunfire. The revelation of how bad things are, while sad, must not deter us from our commitment to reformation. Rather, it should call us to feel the burden all the greater.
I have long contended that many of the doctrinal and spiritual problems that we have in the SBC are deep and systemic. It does not do us any good to pretend that things are better than they are. It is painful and at times disheartening to be confronted with the depth of our problems, but honesty is necessary for an accurate diagnosis. And an accurate diagnosis is absolutely critical for any prospect of getting real help.
So, overall, I am very encouraged. Thanks very much for your prayers and encouraging words. I think the Lord was glorified in the effort. At the end of the day, that is all that really matters.