By Marv Knox, Texas Baptist Standard
Nashville, TN — The Southern Baptist Convention will consider attempting to bring its women's auxiliary under its authority, thanks to a motion from the floor of the SBC annual meeting.
The convention received 24 motions during the opening day of its 2005 gathering on June 21 in Nashville. Of those motions, 13 were referred to convention agencies for study and possible action, and 11 were ruled out of order.
The request to invite Woman's Missionary Union to become an entity of the SBC was suggested by Missourian Leslie Stock, a messenger from Santa Fe Trail Baptist Church in Boonville.
Woman's Missionary Union is an auxiliary to the SBC. WMU was founded independently of the convention in 1888. Its primary objectives are to educate Southern Baptists about missions, collect two offerings that provide major funding for the convention's international and domestic mission boards and provide hands-on opportunities for missions.
As an auxiliary, WMU raises its own funding and elects its own board and officers. The 12 SBC-owned entities receive their funding from the convention, and their boards all are elected by the convention.
Stock's motion proposed the SBC "extend an invitation" for WMU to "become an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention to join the other SBC entities…in the work of missions and enjoy the benefits of being an entity of the SBC."
Some observers suggested the motion could be used to bring WMU into stricter alignment with the convention. At the Nashville meeting, messengers completed the process of naming the SBC as the "sole member" of all 12 convention entities' corporate organizations, making the SBC's selection of their trustees — and subsequent control of the organizations themselves — virtually irrevocable.
While Southern Baptists consistently have affirmed WMU's zeal for missions, some leaders and others have claimed the women's group has not adequately embraced the "conservative resurgence" that turned the SBC sharply to the right during the past quarter century.
The motion was referred to the SBC Executive Committee for study.
Motions referred to agencies
Six motions referred to various SBC agencies asked the convention to:
* Expand ministry to single parents and their children, made by Gerald Dominy of Springfield First Baptist Church in Rogersville, Ala.
The convention referred Dominy's motion to 11 SBC agencies, exempting the Executive Committee, which does not have ministry program assignments.
* Create a liaison to "coordinate and enhance" the convention's ministry to homosexuals. Bob Stith, pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas, made the motion. Referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board.
Â * Request LifeWay Christian Resources to "make available once again through any and all willing local, hometown Christian book stores" its undated materials, including Vacation Bible School curricula. Referred to LifeWay.
* Make Guidestone Financial Resources — formerly called the Annuity Board — "the primary (healthcare) provider" for employees of all SBC entities. Referred to Guidestone.
* Request the International Mission Board to report on its plans for "continuing support of theologically conservative Bible schools, theological colleges, theological seminaries and other institutions" and to explain and reaffirm its intent to "continue to require theological training in a Baptist seminary for all full-time mission personnel." Referred to the IMB.
* Study whether "a local church organized by the government as a 501(c)(3) state church is biblically correct." Such a designation makes churches and other nonprofit corporations tax-exempt, according to the Internal Revenue Code. Referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Six additional motions referred to the Executive Committee asked for:
* Each state Baptist convention to provide "a good-faith estimate" of when it plans to divide its Cooperative Program budget receipts evenly between itself and the SBC.
* Recognition of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship "as a formal evangelistic mission entity to Jewish people worldwide."
* A moratorium on holding the SBC annual meeting on the week after Father's Day.
* Permission to submit proposed resolutions up to the beginning of the afternoon session on the first day of the convention's annual meeting. Current bylaws stipulate resolutions must be submitted at least 15 days in advance of the annual meeting.
* Placement of one woman on every SBC committee.
* Strengthening the bylaws' language to emphasize that messengers may immediately consider motions rather than refer them to SBC entities. (06-29-05)
(Complete coverage of the SBC 2005 annual meeting is available in Word&Way's June 30 print edition.)