Monday, October 2, 2006

The Thorny Problem of Texas Appointments

One of the issues that people will be watching as SBC 2007 approaches is the list of committee appointments from Texas. Much discussion has taken place asking what would be a fair delegation from Texas. Sometimes people act as though the answer to this question is an easy one. It isn't.

The structure of the Southern Baptist Convention simply doesn't anticipate the current situation in Texas. Right now in Texas there are two Southern Baptist state conventions, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. BGCT's relationship with the SBC is less friendly than SBTC's relationship with the SBC. The SBC has a limited number of options available to it:

  1. It can make some effort to distribute appointments evenly between BGCT-affiliated churches and SBTC-affiliated churches. The SBTC is a smaller convention than the BGCT, but it fowards 52% (it will be 53% by the time of SBC 2007) of its CP receipts to the SBC. The SBTC plans eventually to max-out at a 55%-45% split. The BGCT has a much larger budget, but it forwards only 21% of its CP recepts to the SBC (a number that may possibly decline further by the time of SBC 2007). The net effect is that each convention forwards about the same dollar amount to SBC—something in the neighborhood of $10 million. If one uses dollars forwarded in CP as the standard for apportionment of appointments, then an even split would seem to be appropriate. Several problems complicate this approach:
    1. What is a BGCT church? What is an SBTC church? A significant number of churches in Texas are dually-aligned with both the BGCT and the SBTC. If a member from such a church is appointed, does that count as a BGCT appointment or an SBTC appointment? People sympathetic to the BGCT tend to treat such appointments as SBTC appointments, but is that really accurate or fair?
    2. What about equity with other state conventions? The end result of this approach is that both BGCT and SBTC wind up with about half the number of appointments as that of other state conventions that forward fewer dollars to the SBC CP than either of these Texas state conventions. In the case of SBTC, it would have half the appointments of states that underperform it both in the measure of percentages and the measure of dollars. Is that fair? I think not.
    3. Do the BGCT's recent actions vis-a-vis the SBC not have some impact on what is fair? BGCT has locked SBC seminaries out of the exhibits at the BGCT annual meeting. BGCT has started a missions network to compete with the IMB, a literature publisher to compete with Lifeway, a Christian Life Commission to counter the ERLC (although the CLC's creation far predates the present controversy), and multiple seminaries to draw students away from the SBC seminaries. Why is the SBC bound to practice some overly restrictive notion of "fairness" toward the BGCT when the BGCT does not reciprocate with any goodwill toward the SBC?
  2. It can ignore the BGCT and appoint people solely from the SBTC. Yet this is not particularly fair, either. Not everyone in the BGCT agrees with what BGCT leadership is doing. Some churches turn a blind eye toward convention politics. Although BGCT keeps all but a trickle of its CP money in Texas, some BGCT churches designate around the BGCT budget and continue to support faithfully the SBC. Some people would gladly join SBTC but are in the minority in their churches and therefore remain in BGCT. Also, the BGCT has not yet consummated its plan to leave the SBC. So, there are faithful Southern Baptists whom conservatives could support who are somehow still within the confines of the BGCT. It would not be fair for BGCT affiliation to be an ipso facto disqualification for appointment to an SBC committee.
  3. It could completely re-evaluate the current system of state-by-state apportionment of nominees. This would give the opportunity for a new set of answers to address new questions posed by a new reality in Southern Baptist life, because Texas is not the only state either facing these problems now or soon to face them. Nevertheless, it is difficult to conceive of a solution that would be able to gain sufficient support to move forward. The SBC could apportion nominees to each participating state convention, but such an approach would encourage states to have as many state conventions as possible—not a desirable outcome. The SBC could apportion nominees proportionally either by membership or by contributions to SBC CP causes, but such an approach would kill any idea of meaningful membership reform and would be open to a whole host of abuses. Somebody may be brilliant enough to develop a panacea, but that person is not me.
In conclusion, I have to ask this question: Is the point of appointments and nominations really some sort of a "fair distribution"? Maybe we ought to be focusing on effectiveness rather than fairness. I think that we ought to select people to serve our convention who are in theological agreement with the messengers, are well equipped to serve in the area in question, and whose loyalties are not divided among the SBC and the CBF or other institutions. If we are putting into service people who meet these criteria, I am prepared not to care which state conventions may contain their home churches.

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