Tuesday, June 15, 2010

GCRTF Report passes, good spirit predominates at the SBC

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report (GCRTFR) passed with relatively little change. The expected fireworks never materialized despite ominous predictions by those on all sides of the issue. Component 3, on Great Commission Giving, had some language amended to reiterate that the Cooperative Program is still a valued means of supporting the work of the convention and is the most significant method that Southern Baptists have to work together for the advance of the gospel.

Johnny Hunt's convention sermon was an impassioned apologetic for the GCRTFR and Morris Chapman's final report as President and CEO of the Executive Committee was equally impassioned against it. Some people were a bit unnerved by the strong language that both men employed and more than one messenger referred to the "tensions" or "divisions" that marked the debate about the report.

As one who lived through the Conservative Resurgence battles in the 1980s and 90s, I found the alarm a bit amusing. Strong words were used, but there were no personal attacks and the debate was kept on a high level. That was greatly aided by the fact that some folks (who have repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to make unfounded and personal attacks on those with whom they disagree) were left standing at microphones, unable to speak before the final vote was taken.

At one point, at the request of a messenger, Dr. Hunt led the convention in prayer and expressed that he did not see any improper emotions being vented, but merely strong passion for competing visions about the future of the SBC. He mentioned Morris Chapman by name, thanking the Lord for him and acknowledging his love for the SBC and desire to see the gospel advanced. It was a gracious expression of the kind of attitude that disagreeing Southern Baptists ought to have.

A few parliamentary knots had to be untangled by Barry McCarty, the convention's parliamentarian. He navigated the chairman carefully through some muddy waters with grace and charity. I am convinced that the kindness and goodwill of Dr. Hunt and others on the platform ultimately won the day for the report. When the final vote was taken, it was an overwhelming majority that voted to adopt the report. I would estimate at least a 70%-30% margin.

What is perhaps even more surprising than the majority by which that report was adopted is the fact that in a 4 man race, Bryant Wright of Georgia garnered more votes that the assumed favorite of the GCR crowd, Ted Traylor. My take on that is that the vote was a clear indication of the numbers of younger Southern Baptists who participated. The runoff vote has not been tabulated as I am writing this. But I noted that many of the younger crowd had left the room when the second ballot was taken.

As I wrote last week, I support the Task Force report, though I listened to some compelling arguments against it over the last two days. I believe it is a step in the right direction. If it is not regarded as a type of panacea to all that ails us as a convention, it may provide a helpful road map forward for the next several years. At least it provides some talking points that involve things more important than programs and policies. The report is loaded with the language of the gospel.

Nearly everyone said that today would be a historic one in the life of the SBC. And it was without a doubt. Not necessarily for the GCRTF vote, though--at least not only for that. For the first time ever, a motion was made in rhyme (or hip hop, or rap, or lyrically--forgive me for not knowing the exact designation). Josh Shank, a church planter from Ohio, made a motion that we express appreciation to Acts 29 for the help that they have given to many of our Southern Baptist church planter. It was funny, and received in good spirit. Once it received a second I almost went to a microphone and to ask the chairman to repeat the motion for the messengers. Now that would have made history.

5 comments:

Nathan said...

Tom, I would appreciate your take on the decision to keep the records of the GCRTF sealed for 15 years.

Tom said...

I understand the need for confidentiality. I think this is an issue that should have been settled and publicly discussed before being announced in the 11th hour, however. The perception of any kind of inappropriate secrecy is not heathy an could have been avoided with some forethought.

James Hunt said...

This was my first SBC...though I've been a member of SBC churches since the early 90's.

I too went into the experience with good anticipation regarding the GCTF report. I thought I'd vote for it. Alas, I did not.

What struck me was that the report, while offering many things I can celebrate...didn't start at the place of transparency it should have.

I think second to the fact that we need revival and the empowering of the Holy Spirit resulting in obedience to the Great Commission and Great Commandment is the need to address WHERE cooperative dollars are distributed.

It's at the point of distribution where I find my biggest challenge.

We heard a lot of talk about how we were going to scale back the number of IMB missionaries...yet, we spent millions on getting together to talk about convention stuff (read: the cost of having a convention as we do it would fund a lot of missionaries!!!).

Also, currently, cooperative dollars by the hundreds of thousands are spent five times a year on IMB trustee board meetings alone!

My question: Can we not streamline and do things a different way that will still keep the convention strong yet free up funds to be reallocated for things more noble than the two illustrations of superfluous spending mentioned above?

Tom said...

James:

Your concerns resonate with me. I would have voted for much more radical recommendations than the report contained. I voted for it as is because I believe it points toward a new direction for the SBC--a direction where proposals like yours can be entertained seriously without throwing the proposer under the bus as a lunatic or disloyal to the cause. God is doing great things in stirring up people within the SBC. Go back and read the GCRTF Report and ask yourself if such language (especially in the challenge to churches section) would have been used even 5 years ago. That, along with the resolutions on the gospel and family worship all signal the dawning of a new day. At least that is my hope and prayer.

James Hunt said...

Thank you, brother, for sharing your insights. It helps as I'm processing my thoughts. I too hope for radical renewal.

God bless you,

James