Thursday, October 8, 2009

Intermission: Recalling Early Recommendations for the Task Force

Way back in May 2009, before we met in Louisville, before we had a Reorganization Task Force, and back when all of our agency executive suites had names on the doors, Gary Ledbetter wrote the best article so far on the subject of the Great Commission Resurgence. The time has come, I believe, to revisit Ledbetter's wise words; therefore, I am providing for you a link to his article.

For those of you who are too lazy to click the link (you know who you are), I provide a summary of Ledbetter's main recommendations to the yet-to-be-created task force. Reading my executive summary is no substitute for reading the whole article, but it would provide a good starting-place for you.

  1. “The makeup of the task force must be broadly representative of those who will actually attend the SBC annual meeting and participate in the convention’s business more than once or twice.”

  2. “I suggest that the members of the task force commit that they will not, for at least two years, accept any vocational ministry position (job) or be paid for writing a book related to or growing out of the work of the task force.”

  3. “The committee must find a way to do its work in the sunlight” (by which Ledbetter was suggesting that the press and the public be invited into the meetings). Golden line in this section: “Presenting the convention messengers with a fait accompli next spring will be less effective than keeping us all in the loop. Surprise us and we may still endorse it, but many of us will not support it.”

  4. “It would be timely and responsible to put a cap on what this task force can cost the SBC.”

Questions: Do you agree with me that this is good advice? Do you believe that the task force is following this advice? However you answered the previous question, how do you believe the task force's following or ignoring of this advice is affecting their effectiveness?


Scott Gordon said...

Yes. Very, very good advice.

Sola Gratia!

Dave Miller said...

I think the recommendations in general were sound. As to the way the Task force has operated:

1) Obviously, the task force is skewed toward mega-churches and males. I don't know if that is good or bad, but it is certainly not representative of the SBC as a whole

2) I would think this would be a good commitment, but the problem is defining what "growing out of the work of the task force" means. Most of these men were well known before they were brought on the task force.

3) Sunlight is important. They must work in public, as much as possible.

4) I hope that the task force will not cost too much money. But in the long run, it is more important that they do their work well than that they do it cheaply. If they do a poor job, we will regret what it cost. If they do a good job and the SBC's health is advanced, we will not regret the money spent.

RKSOKC66 said...

This is good advice.

I don't necessarily think that the GCR task force meetings have to be open to the public, but I do think there should be members of the Baptist Press in attendance such as the excellent journalism team that you have there in Texas who are on the staff of the Baptist Texan. They should attend the meetings and then give a general idea of what is going on.

The comittee meetings and the proceedings of the US House and Senate are public so I don't know why the SBC GCR task force should be any different. However, I think any journalists or photographers at the GCR task force meeting should not sit on the floor in front of the podium like they do in US Senate/House committee meetings. That is too disruptive!!

In any case, I think the task force recommendations should be vetted in public at least a couple of weeks prior to the SBC annual meeting so people can thoughtly consider them.

Also, I think the recommendations should be granular -- not just a big package that is "take it or leave it"

RKSOKC66 said...

My prior comment should be . . . "so that people can THOUGHTFULLY consider them"

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the make up of the task force. But there are other people with different profiles who could be on it.

I don't have a problem with the task force meeting and discussing ideas in private. Some private discussions and meetings are necessary.

The roll out - that is, whatever the task force is going to recommend, should not be done a week or 2 before the convention. It should occur over a longer period to allow for discussion.

The SBC is so diverse I have a hard time believing that anything major will come out of this that truly is ground breaking that will receive the full support of the SBC. Somebody's ox is going to get gored. And whomever that it is will show up en masse to oppose the recommendations at the convention.

I have no idea in the world what the task force will recommend.

I wrote yesterday that one of the task force's main contributions may simply be to identify areas that can be improved and by discussing that, it will "give permission" for churches to go in that direction.

Obviously, the big issue that I see is giving directly to Nashville (the EC) rather than through the states.

I believe that younger churches will do this anyway, regardless of what the task force suggests. But the mere discussion of that issue may encourage others to follow.

We shall see...


Andrew said...

1.Dave: I agree with your assessment of the skew, but can women (who obsteniably should be cooking and cleaning...haha) or small church pastors really be able to make all the meetings at diverse locales?

2. Again, Dave - I think what was intended is that they not create a new job for themselves and then politick for the position

3. I'm not sure that too much notice would be good...Louis' comment is telling: do we really want another floor fight in Orlando?

4. If they plan to make the Convention more efficient at money and stewardship, then the task force should model that as well!

5.(a response) I agree with Louis: direct giving and CP distribution at the state level will be the issue...see Akin's own words in the (original) GCR document.

6.(my own original thought) What changes do we anticipate? The dreaded shuttering or merging of entities? Or a top-down reworking of state/national split of CP money?

Bart Barber said...

Now that some others have had a chance, I give my own opinions:

Obviously, I believe that this article contains good advice. Looking at Ledbetter's suggestions point-by-point, I observe thusly.

1. The task force is skewed toward mega churches in the Southeast. I do not believe that this came about maliciously. I do believe that the task force must make up for this lack of balance by producing strong results that do not in any way create further advantage for mega churches in the Southeast.

2. Reading the article in its entirety, I do not believe that the meaning of this commitment can be restricted solely to the filling of previous nonexistent jobs by task force members. Ledbetter cited two reasons for this commitment explicitly: (a) The task force members' motives would be "kept pure" by the commitment. In other words, Ledbetter is suggesting that the members of the task force resist the natural temptation to parlay this assignment into personal career advancement. (b) The people of the SBC would be more inclined to accept the recommendations of the task force as being in the best interests of the SBC rather than the best interests of the task force.

The obvious unstated parallel here is the Covenant for a New Century. Bob Reccord chaired the Implementation Task Force that headed our last restructuring. He subsequently came to preside over NAMB. His tenure there ended in controversy. The controversial end of his successor's tenure must provide at least partial vindication for him (i.e., NAMB's problems obviously neither began nor ended with the President), but the appearance of self-dealing left a bad taste in many a Southern Baptist mouth.

Ledbetter is not saying that our present task force members are not qualified apart from their task force service to give leadership to the denomination. Indeed, many of these people are already in denominational leadership. Rather, I take Ledbetter to be saying that, if the purpose of the task force is so critical, the members of the task force ought to forswear any other new position in denominational life in order to protect the perceived integrity of their service on the task force. Their acceptance of denominational posts will automatically lessen the credibility of their recommendations, not because they are bad people, but just because of the historical context in which they serve.

With three prime slots vacant in Southern Baptist life, I've heard non-gambling Baptists offer to wager hard currency that all three slots will go to members of the task force. Southern Baptists are a passive-aggressive people. If it goes down this way, the SBC will not likely prevent the appointments, but a great opportunity for the SBC to move forward in an entirely positive manner will have been lost.

Bart Barber said...

3. Ledbetter is obviously calling for press attendance at all of the deliberations. This is obviously not happening. I believe that it would be better if it would. Nevertheless, I am not so naïve as to think that there would not be unofficial private conversations if all of the official conversations were public.

The important thing is that the recommendations be made public for a very long time before Southern Baptists are expected to offer up a vote. I also agree with Roger that Southern Baptists should not be confronted with any sort of an "omnibus bill" requiring all-or-nothing endorsement.

So long as the committee provides full, timely, and honest information to Southern Baptists about not only the details of their recommendations but also the entire rationale behind them, I believe that the spirit of Ledbetter's recommendation can still be accomplished.

4. I don't believe that there is any sort of a formal expense cap on the committee's deliberations, but I am not suspicious of lavish wastefulness. The expenses of the committee simply ought to be reported to the convention transparently.

All-in-all, I'd say that the fulfillment of the spirit of these recommendations is still on the table. That's why I posted the article again—so that it might have an opportunity to influence the task force positively as they complete their work.