7. Taking Care of Business

July 11, 2016

From 2000 to 2016, I have attended every single Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting—seventeen in a row! My impression is that the opportunity for genuine messenger involvement in such meetings is virtually nonexistent. Yes, the business of the convention appears to be open for discussion and participation, but this is really nothing more than a ruse. Virtually every initiative desired by leaders is scheduled and passed by the messengers. Virtually every initiative desired only by messengers is declined, referred, ruled out of order or defeated. This is rigged reality TV.

A Very Tight Schedule

The primary means of controlling outcomes is found within the convention schedule itself. Much of the time is devoted to music, preaching, reports, recognitions and other items in which the role of the messenger is simply to sit and listen. Given the plethora of conferences available for preaching and worship, one wonders why, if we are only going to set aside two days for a business meeting, we cannot manage more than about ninety minutes or so for motions and resolutions in which messengers have a slim chance to be recognized at a microphone in order to offer feedback to our leadership.

Sometimes, following a report, there is time for questions and answers, but here is how that always plays itself out. Once the first question is asked, the leader on the platform begins talking in response. By means of eloquence and skillful transitional sentences, the speaker may use all the remaining time in his reply. Occasionally, a second or third question may be asked. More than once, the question is so easy and clearly supportive of the speaker’s agenda that I have wondered if it was planted. When the speaker is finished answering, someone steps forward and says, “Time has expired. Thank you for your report.” And the beat goes on.

Masterpiece Theater

The Annual Meeting is a tightly orchestrated drama that pretends to have a certain spontaneity, but with the exception of candidate elections, almost everything else has been predetermined. The chair can rule motions out of order and various committees can refer or decline proposals. Rarely does the body manage to overturn such a ruling and bring such a matter before the convention, and even when they do, the trustee boards affected often continue their previous policy anyway. As a messenger, one is simply not empowered to have one’s ideas taken seriously or to be given a fair hearing.

Communication experts talk about meta-communication and the fact that most of one’s message is actually imparted visually. I have seen the following situation play itself out more times than I can count. In this theater of the convention, imagine a lowly peasant at microphone number seven, dressed in nice but casual clothes, lurking in poor lighting, whose shadowy image is magnified on the full screen for all to see. Like Oliver asking for more porridge, he dares to ask for the permission to speak.

Once granted, he must first introduce himself, in contrast to the glowing introductions received by those on the platform wearing their finest clothes and standing under the brightest lights, often coming to their microphones to the sound of the crowd’s grateful applause. At the floor microphone level, there is an annoying sound system delay creating a measure of mental confusion causing the speaker to pause and interrupt their cadence. This results in the stilted and slow speech pattern of a Southern Baptist at their first Catholic Communion service.

Regardless of the merits of one’s ideas, very few communicators can pull off a great speech from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention under such conditions. The home court advantage is definitely with those under the bright lights with the image magnification making them larger than life and the superior sound system thundering their voices as they recite their rehearsed and polished responses regardless of the specific question that might be asked.

Scripted Speeches

Those on the platform skillfully dodge questions by raising and answering similar questions they anticipated. Like politicians, their scripted words are so eloquent most people ignore the fact that they may not even answer the specific question. Soon, tweets of “boom” and “mic drop” are sent into cyberspace and the humble messenger simply wanting to raise a concern appears to have been a fool for daring to question the all powerful, all knowing leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.

One cannot help but wonder if the Moderator knows which messengers are at which microphones and chooses only to recognize those voices from whom he wishes to hear. My understanding is that, in some cases, those coming to microphones this year not only reported their names and their church, but also what they intended to say. Is this a pre-screening of debate? With fourteen microphones from which to choose and a fifteen minute window for most items of business, it would be a relatively easy matter to manipulate the system in order to achieve the desired outcome.

It is worth mentioning that these scripted speeches may not simply be coming from the platform. This year, it is possible that the most memorable speech from the floor by a messenger was actually ghostwritten by one of the leaders on the platform at the time the speech was given. This cannot be proven, for it would simply be denied by both men, but if it is true, imagine how rewarding it must have been for that leader to hear his own words flowing from the mouth of a fellow Southern Baptist, almost like a puppet master pulling the strings on a marionette. I have long suspected that these meetings were scripted, but I had no idea this might so literally be the case.

Even if the rumor going around is untrue, a possibility I freely admit, we can at least imagine the possibility of ghostwritten speeches from the floor. Without saying it happened (since it cannot be proven) we can definitively say that it could happen. It is perfectly within the rules for one person to write someone else’s speech. There is no system in place to prevent a leader from handing his words to someone else, just as there is no system in place to prevent the planting of specific questions following a report. What if parts of the SBC Annual Meeting are quite literally being scripted? What if this extends not only to the words spoken from the platform, but also to the words spoken from the floor as well? If so, the existence of meaningful messenger participation can legitimately be questioned.

Conclusion

If you are a platform speaker at the SBC Annual Meeting, you can influence the work and future of the convention. However, if you are merely a messenger at the SBC Annual Meeting, matters are structured so that you have relatively little influence in driving the agenda or in making decisions. Measures need to be taken to restore the meaningful participation of messengers. We can hear sermons and reports in a variety of other meetings and conferences held all throughout the year. We only meet for business for two days. If we truly believe in congregational polity, maybe we should do a little more listening to the messengers. Maybe we should empower them to impact the direction of the convention to a much greater degree.

Transparency Agenda Survey Results

In a recent poll of SBC Today readers, we asked Southern Baptists to indicate if they “approved” or “disapproved” of the idea that we “Make the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting meaningful.” With 247 respondents, 82.19% approved of such an action, while 17.81% disapproved.

Chart_Q7_160703

This article addresses Item Seven of the Ten Item Transparency Agenda. You may READ the Transparency Agenda or COMPLETE the survey yourself. To read the articles reporting results from the other survey items, see the links below: 

ITEM ONE 

ITEM TWO

ITEM THREE

ITEM FOUR

ITEM FIVE

ITEM SIX

ITEM EIGHT

ITEM NINE

ITEM TEN

 

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Alan House

The Oliver illustration is right on! Fewer talking heads, more real people!

    Rick Patrick

    I’m with you, Alan. I like to hear the “real people” at the convention, like Pastor Wofford from Arkansas and Judge Pressler from Texas. Unfortunately, they are either berated by speakers from the platform or cut off without being allowed to speak due to the tightly structured time schedule. Their microphones are usually turned off and they are not given the opportunity of responding to the “final word” always provided by the platform speaker.

    This is not a conversational form of communication. It is completely one-sided, with those on the floor lobbing slow pitch softball questions and comments for the platform speakers to knock out of the ballpark with their pre-scripted and powerful rhetoric, followed by the thunderous applause of their loyal supporters. Southern Baptists need a forum, other than blogging, whereby our genuine concerns can be addressed patiently and respectfully by leadership through the kind of two-way communication that promotes greater understanding.

      Bill Mac

      Perhaps it is finally time to consider electronic participation. I’ve always gotten the impression that the SBC is a bit of a vacation for a lot of attendees.

        Bill Mac

        and for that reason they are reluctant to be in favor of electronic participation.

Phillip C. Senn

The SBC, in its structure, was a gathering of messengers to the Convention, from the Churches associated with the Convention. We have skewed that, so that we now have a Convention, with messengers to the churches. How did this happen? The platform personalities became celebrities, whose “vision” for our churches was adopted by the Convention messengers. The vision for the Convention should come from the Lord, through the Messengers, to the Convention. Those elected are not supposed to be celebrities, but SERVANTS. I dare to say that most Pastors in the SBC do not see themselves as celebrities in their local church. They don’t bring the “vision” for the church. They seek to “stir up the gift” within the body, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring forth the vision through the body. He then, being used of the Lord, serves the body, leading the body toward that vision. We have turned the proverbial Baptist “pyramid” to look like the Catholic model. Let’s get back to the Baptist model, where the Master washes the feet, and not the other way around.

    Rick Patrick

    Excellent analysis, Phillip. I do not at all get the sense that those on the platform come to the convention in order to discover the interests, mood and temperature of the people from our churches. I don’t feel they are “listening to what we believe” as much as they are “telling us what they think we should believe.” We have indeed turned that pyramid upside down.

norm

I know of one language we do not need a microphone to $peak.

Ken

To sum up the SBC governance problem a slight paraphrase of another famous document is appropriate, to wit, “The SBC is an organization of the leaders, by the leaders, and for the leaders.”

I consider the SBC to be similar to most governmental entities wherein the order of priority has become: (1) self preservation, (2) party priorities, (3) racial preferences, (4) gender desires, and last, (5) the general population.

Anyone who thinks it will ever change is living in a dream world. The nature of man is unchangeable. Self-proclaimed, all-knowing leaders will never concede that the ignorant masses have any ideas meriting consideration.

Bill Mac

This cannot be proven, for it would simply be denied by both men

If it were true, and denied by both men, they would both be liars. Do either of these men have a history or reputation of being liars?

    Rick Patrick

    You are right, Bill Mac. They would simply have no comment, which is not really the same thing as denying that it took place. I think the public leader handbook reads: “I am not going to dignify that kind of suggestion with a response.” My secondary point is that I do not believe it is provable that one man wrote another man’s speech that he recited from the floor verbatim. My primary point is that there is nothing that would prevent such a scenario from taking place. Thus, it may not be provable, but it is certainly possible.

      Bill Mac

      Or, they might just tell the truth. They are allegedly Christians after all.

    Lydia

    When a movement has a history of stealth and deception and there are non disclosure agreements, lock boxes, etc, it is hard to “prove” anything except there is a pattern of them not being transparent or reliable witnesses. And that includes those who have turned a blind eye and participated in some degree. There is now a ruling elite who know best. Not very Baptist at all.

Max

Well, I suppose the drama doesn’t really matter since the SBC only exists for one week per year. After the last Kumbaya, the dwindling number of messengers attending the annual show will return to their churches with souvenirs in hand; they will file a report with their respective churches. The churches will go back to business as usual, with little regard given to resolutions passed or new celebrities on the throne (most in the pew will not even know the names of the freshly elected). Southern Baptists seemed so together in times past, so on mission as one body. This 21st century way of doing church has such a different feel to it; I wonder what God thinks about it all?

Max

What percentage of SBC churches send messengers to the annual meeting these days? 10-15%?

Jon Estes

Speculation continues,,,

“Virtually every initiative desired by leaders is scheduled and passed by the messengers. Virtually every initiative desired only by messengers is declined, referred, ruled out of order or defeated. This is rigged reality TV.”

Our convention leaders and the system they want us to believe is good for all is really a plot by those leaders to keep the messengers at bay and themselves the true rulers of the SBC.

“Sometimes, following a report, there is time for questions and answers, but here is how that always plays itself out. Once the first question is asked, the leader on the platform begins talking in response. By means of eloquence and skillful transitional sentences, the speaker may use all the remaining time in his reply. Occasionally, a second or third question may be asked. More than once, the question is so easy and clearly supportive of the speaker’s agenda that I have wondered if it was planted. When the speaker is finished answering, someone steps forward and says, “Time has expired. Thank you for your report.””

Those SBC rulers intentionally speak eloquently but just to keep from answering the real questions that the messengers want to ask.

“The Annual Meeting is a tightly orchestrated drama that pretends to have a certain spontaneity, but with the exception of candidate elections, almost everything else has been predetermined. The chair can rule motions out of order and various committees can refer or decline proposals. Rarely does the body manage to overturn such a ruling and bring such a matter before the convention, and even when they do, the trustee boards affected often continue their previous policy anyway. As a messenger, one is simply not empowered to have one’s ideas taken seriously or to be given a fair hearing.”
The rulers live to keep the rule and let the messengers live ignorantly in the chairs and shadows (as referenced below).
“Communication experts talk about meta-communication and the fact that most of one’s message is actually imparted visually. I have seen the following situation play itself out more times than I can count. In this theater of the convention, imagine a lowly peasant at microphone number seven, dressed in nice but casual clothes, lurking in poor lighting, whose shadowy image is magnified on the full screen for all to see. Like Oliver asking for more porridge, he dares to ask for the permission to speak.”

The rulers even live to keep the oppressive thumb on the Oliver’s within the messenger pound.

“Once granted, he must first introduce himself, in contrast to the glowing introductions received by those on the platform wearing their finest clothes and standing under the brightest lights, often coming to their microphones to the sound of the crowd’s grateful applause. At the floor microphone level, there is an annoying sound system delay creating a measure of mental confusion causing the speaker to pause and interrupt their cadence. This results in the stilted and slow speech pattern of a Southern Baptist at their first Catholic Communion service.
The rulers to be use antiquated equipment to make the lowly messenger seem lowly (as they really are seen by the Lord’s on the platform).
“Regardless of the merits of one’s ideas, very few communicators can pull off a great speech from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention under such conditions. The home court advantage is definitely with those under the bright lights with the image magnification making them larger than life and the superior sound system thundering their voices as they recite their rehearsed and polished responses regardless of the specific question that might be asked.”

The Lord’s of the stage use the highest of technical equipment to highlight themselves (because they are high and exalted)

“Those on the platform skillfully dodge questions by raising and answering similar questions they anticipated. Like politicians, their scripted words are so eloquent most people ignore the fact that they may not even answer the specific question. Soon, tweets of “boom” and “mic drop” are sent into cyberspace and the humble messenger simply wanting to raise a concern appears to have been a fool for daring to question the all powerful, all knowing leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Lord’s of eloquence really never answer the lowly questions of the lowly messengers.

“One cannot help but wonder if the Moderator knows which messengers are at which microphones and chooses only to recognize those voices from whom he wishes to hear. My understanding is that, in some cases, those coming to microphones this year not only reported their names and their church, but also what they intended to say. Is this a pre-screening of debate? With fourteen microphones from which to choose and a fifteen minute window for most items of business, it would be a relatively easy matter to manipulate the system in order to achieve the desired outcome.”

The Lord’s of the agenda go as far as making sure only the questions they want asked – but will not answer – are asked.

“It is worth mentioning that these scripted speeches may not simply be coming from the platform. This year, it is possible that the most memorable speech from the floor by a messenger was actually ghostwritten by one of the leaders on the platform at the time the speech was given. This cannot be proven, for it would simply be denied by both men, but if it is true, imagine how rewarding it must have been for that leader to hear his own words flowing from the mouth of a fellow Southern Baptist, almost like a puppet master pulling the strings on a marionette. I have long suspected that these meetings were scripted, but I had no idea this might so literally be the case.”

Ahhh.. The Lord’s of the Ghosts are now writing the questions that will be asked that they will not answer even though they had them written and asked.

“Even if the rumor going around is untrue, a possibility I freely admit, we can at least imagine the possibility of ghostwritten speeches from the floor.
Without saying it happened (since it cannot be proven) we can definitively say that it could happen. It is perfectly within the rules for one person to write someone else’s speech. There is no system in place to prevent a leader from handing his words to someone else, just as there is no system in place to prevent the planting of specific questions following a report. What if parts of the SBC Annual Meeting are quite literally being scripted? What if this extends not only to the words spoken from the platform, but also to the words spoken from the floor as well? If so, the existence of meaningful messenger participation can legitimately be questioned.”

Since it cannot be proven — If so…

“If you are a platform speaker at the SBC Annual Meeting, you can influence the work and future of the convention. However, if you are merely a messenger at the SBC Annual Meeting, matters are structured so that you have relatively little influence in driving the agenda or in making decisions. Measures need to be taken to restore the meaningful participation of messengers. We can hear sermons and reports in a variety of other meetings and conferences held all throughout the year. We only meet for business for two days. If we truly believe in congregational polity, maybe we should do a little more listening to the messengers. Maybe we should empower them to impact the direction of the convention to a much greater degree.”

Please note, it is completely possible I am completely wrong. And those Brothers in Christ who are in leadership are doing good work that is different than the way I want it done but even if I am wrong, I want to draw possible speculations about their possible wrong doings, even though I cannot be for sure they did wrong.

Please also note that some people have an agenda to start a movement. The previous sentence is not speculation.

Greg Roberts

did you see the call for unity in Louisiana. My translation :NOTHING TO SEE MOVE ALONG AND LEAVE YOUR CP GIFTS.

Randall Cofield

This is a real bombshell in the long war against Calvinism.

http://joinnoba.com/which-way-forward-toward-unity-or-division/

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