Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee deliberated heavy business items during its Feb. 20–21 meeting in Nashville. They also heard from the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force and the EC presidential search committee.
Still, serious questions of financial sustainability for the EC and the decision to deem six churches not in friendly cooperation with the convention captured much of the group’s attention.
Discussions around whether to amend the SBC constitution to read “does not affirm … a woman as pastor of any kind” will continue. A vote is anticipated at the group’s next meeting in June.
Five of the six churches being recommended for removal were related to female pastor concerns.
The churches are New Faith Mission Ministry in Griffin, Georgia (which labels itself as nondenominational on its website); St. Timothy’s Christian Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland; Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi; Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky; and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.
The sixth church — Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Florida — reportedly has not properly handled a sexual abuse allegation.
The right to appeal
While the recommendations came from the SBC Credentials Committee to the EC, the churches were evaluated because someone turned them in to be assessed.
The churches have the right to appeal the recommendation, which would bring the matter up for a vote by messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans in June.
Credentials Committee chair Linda Cooper was unable to be present during the Feb. 21 portion of the meeting and thus unable to offer additional details.
As far as the EC’s financial concerns, trustees learned more than $6 million of the group’s investments were spent in 2022. During the previous February EC meeting, financial reports indicated the EC had $15 million in investments and a little under $3 million of those were designated as restricted so that left around $12.2 million available for use.
“The assets have been cut in half,” said EC member Monte Shinkle of Missouri. “We dropped $6 million this past year. We have $6 million left … it doesn’t look good.”
Mike Bianchi, interim chief financial officer, noted the EC received an unqualified opinion (which is good) on its 2022 audit report, but the auditors emphasized “the sexual abuse issues, the DOJ investigation and the deteriorating liability of the EC” as concerns.
The current pace is “unsustainable,” Bianchi said, noting options such as liquidating assets (including the EC building), changing financial arrangements, obtaining other financing, etc., were discussed with the auditors.
Willie McLaurin, EC interim president and CEO, added, “Everything is on the table in terms of how we are going to maintain and move forward. We are monitoring … on a daily basis (and) believe God has given us a plan to maintain as much vitality as we can … (while) making the best decision that will benefit all Southern Baptists.”
Along with hearing current financial concerns, the EC trustees also adopted a proposed 2023–24 SBC operating budget of $8,305,500 (roughly the same as the 2022–23 budget) and a proposed 2023–24 SBC CP allocation budget of $195,250,000 (down slightly from the 2022–23 budget of $196 million with percentages to entities such as IMB, NAMB, ERLC, seminaries, etc., remaining steady).
Variety of reports
EC chair Jared Wellman of Texas presided over the meeting, which included routine recommendations and reports from the EC officers and each of the four committees — missions and ministries, finances and stewardship development, events and strategic planning, and Southern Baptist relations.
A few EC decisions were not clarified, such as why the SBC’s chief parliamentarian for more than 35 years, Barry McCarty, will no longer be the parliamentarian.
A contract was approved for vice parliamentarian Al Gage to step into the role of chief parliamentarian during the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting, but the reasoning behind the change was not reported.
Regarding the abuse-related task force report, Cooper acknowledged her appreciation for the group’s work. “We realize we have a lot of work ahead of us and look forward to working as a team about how to respond to abuse (and abuse prevention).”
More details also are coming on financial specifics related to the EC, the latest news from the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force and how the denomination’s news service functions.
To read the latest from the EC presidential search committee, click here.