Thursday, October 23, 2014

(in?)Frequently Asked Questions About the SBC

In light of the imminent adoption of Northland into the SBTS family in the SBC tribe, I thought it might be useful to add a bit of my own misinformation to all the rest that's swirling around certain crannies of the internet. Now I should admit, I'm going to over-simplify some of the complexities. So if you'd prefer official, vetted information to some yayhoo (it's a Southern term) blogger, this is your place.

What is the SBC?

The Southern Baptist Convention is a partnership arrangement for roughly 45,000 churches in the United States. Through established agencies, governing documents, and theological parameters, these churches cooperate to spread the gospel, plant churches, and train pastors throughout the United States and to the ends of the earth.

Technically, the Southern Baptist Convention exists for a couple days out of the year to conduct Convention business during the annual meeting. I’m not sure whether it’s still the case, but for a long time the annual meeting was the largest deliberative body in the world. In the interim between annual meetings, the Executive Committee manages operations for the Convention, and various agencies carry out the mission.

What are those agencies?

In addition to the Executive Committee, the International Mission Board (IMB) focuses on international evangelism, church planting, and pastoral training. David Platt was recently elected its president. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) performs similar functions in North America.

Six seminaries train pastors, missionaries and other Christian workers, listed here in order of size: Southern (Mohler, 2,000), Southeastern (Akin, 1,588), Southwestern (Patterson, 1,497), New Orleans (Kelley, 1,335), Midwestern (Allen, 507), and Golden Gate (Iorg, 433). (Incidentally, it might be interesting to compare the size of the smallest SBC seminary with the total full-time equivalent enrollment of IFB seminaries at BJU, PCC, DBTS, CBTS, VBTS, FBTS, BBS, and MBU.) The SBC operates no colleges except those that function under the umbrella of some of these seminaries.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) trains churches to engage with issues related to ethics and policy both internally and in the public square. It also serves as the public voice for the Convention on those same issues. Guidestone Financial Resources manages insurance products and retirement savings. Lifeway Christian Resources publishes curriculum, performs research, and provides training resources. The Woman’s Missionary Union mobilizes churches for missions.

The SBC president (presently Ronnie Floyd) serves no more than two years. This role is largely ceremonial, similar to British royalty, though its appointment powers were pivotal in the Conservative Resurgence and remain crucial to the long-term fidelity of the Convention. The Executive Committee president (Frank Page) exercises administrative oversight of the Convention's year-round operations. In other words, he’s really the most powerful person in the Convention. Russell Moore’s leadership in the ERLC makes him the functional spokesman for the Convention. He’s the guy you’re mostly likely to see speaking on behalf of the Convention in the media.

Just a little prediction I can’t resist. And let me say first that I have zero—repeat, ZERO—inside information. When Ronnie Floyd’s second term as president ends in 2016, watch for Al Mohler to be elected the next president. And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Frank Page announces his retirement from the ExComm about the time Mohler’s presidency ends in 2018. Then, well, you can see where I’m going with this.

More info on the SBC agencies here, and again, that stuff is all fact-checked and official.

Lot's more questions to come (though no promises on when), including . . .

  • What does it mean to be an SBC church?
  • Are SBC churches autonomous?
  • Is the SBC a denomination?
  • Should I lead my independent Baptist church to join the SBC?
  • What was the Conservative Resurgence, and why was it necessary? Is the Resurgence over?
  • Are there liberals in the SBC?
  • And much more…

Feel free to suggest questions in the comments. 


Larry said...

Interesting, Ben. Particularly your last comments on Mohler. You mention Moore as the spokesman of sorts, but I wonder if Mohler isn't already the de facto head of the SBC. I had no idea who the president is, or who the Executive Committee president is, and I imagine I am not alone in that. But it seems like Mohler gets the most recognition.

Question though ... if your scenario played out with the SBC presidency and the Executive committee, would Mohler have to resign the presidency at Southern? Or can he hold two positions?

Ben said...

Larry, I think you're right about Mohler as de facto, but Moore speaks more officially because it's part of his official role. Plus I expect his profile to rise substantially. I could be wrong on this, but my sense is that Moore's been doing more media than Mohler over the past 6 months or so.

Mohler could serve as SBC president while simultaneously serving as SBTS president, but he'd have to leave SBTS to serve as president of the ExComm. There's some historical precedent. That trajectory is the ultimate Southern Baptist career.

Larry said...

Is President of the ExComm a permanent position or a term position (like pres of SBC?

Ben said...

As I understand it, he serves at the pleasure of the ExComm BoT. More or less like any corporation. Not elected by the messengers at the annual meetings.

Unknown said...

Hey Ben, you think you could continue to answer some of these questions over the next few weeks or provide some links/resources that will help answer some of these for me. I'm a current seminary student at Bob Jones, and I want to write a paper for my church history class on the SBC and the recent conservative resurgence.

Ben said...

Thanks for the kick in the pants, Caleb. The next part is the most complicated, so I've been procrastinating and blaming other responsibilities. I'll do my best to get to it this week.

Unknown said...

I completely understand. I've been able to find a lot of good stuff out there on the conservative resurgence. The only big question I have now about the SBC in its current state is what the defense is for the financial support by the state conventions of the some of the SBC affiliated undergrad institutions that aren't too conservative? If I'm correct, doesn't some of that ultimately come from the cooperative fund as well? Maybe you can answer that with a comment on here. Right now I'm just a young Independent Baptist searching for answers and open to the SBC. I appreciate the stuff you've put on here.

Ben said...

Yeah good question. Some state "Baptist" colleges receive funding from state conventions—though more and more are de-funded every year, and some have been recovered, at least to some degree.

Does that mean they're funded via the cooperative program (CP)? Yes. Does that mean that the money my church gives in Texas supports an apostate college in Georgia? No. The reason is that the CP is essentially money churches give to their state conventions. So when our church gives $ to the SBTC, the SBTC keeps a portion for various uses in-state, and sends the remainder to the SBC Executive Committee to be distributed to the IMB, NAMB, seminaries, etc. according to its formula. So the money that goes to the state colleges comes from the states that they're located in, not from the SBC national organization.

That's a short version of the next post I need to write.

Ben said...

By the way, if that all makes perfect sense, then I must not have explained it very well.

Unknown said...

Thanks! I think I'm following you. I know it's a complicated process. Right now the only places I have to go for a defense of the SBC are books and the internet so I appreciate this blog.