Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Something missing from the GCRTF

I would vote for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report and recommendations were I to be in attendance next week, but there is one thing they missed. Or, maybe they didn't miss it but rather failed to do what they expect of others in SBC life.

COMPONENT TWO of the report is entitled, Making Our Values Transparent, and states:
We must also work toward the creation of a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention. If we are to grow together and work together in faithfulness to the command of Christ, we must establish a culture of trust, transparency, and truth among all Southern Baptists.

I'm sorry, but transparency wasn’t one of the characteristics of the work of the Task Force. The group decided early on to completely shut out all Southern Baptists, including all Baptist Press and other SBC journalists and to meet behind closed doors. Not even a BP rep on background was allowed.

Bad move. Really bad move and one that makes Component Two a bit of hypocrisy.

Now we read that the Task Force wanted their discussions recorded for Baptist posterity and Southern Baptists get to cool their heels for a decade and a half.

GCR recordings to be closed 15 years

Of this, Chairman Ronnie Floyd said,

“The GCRTF voted to follow the precedent set by the SBC Peace Committee and have the sessions recorded. As with the Peace Committee, the recordings will be deposited at the SBC Historical Library and Archives, where they will be maintained until opened to researchers,” Floyd said in an e-mail to Baptist Press Executive Editor Will Hall. “The GCRTF will determine those number of years just as the Peace Committee did.”

There you have it. The task force elected to serve Southern Baptists tell the 16 million (uh, not 'strong') SBCers to just wait a decade and a half to listen to what was said. On Baptist transparency and openness, Floyd and the others propose and (more accurately) dispose transparency in one tight package. Tough luck Southern Baptists.

The Biblical Recorder noted (in a story I am unable to link right now), said:

All those references to the Peace Committee prompted me to call Dan Martin, who was news editor for Baptist Press during that period. He attended and recorded every meeting of the Peace Committee. And he wrote a news story for distribution to Southern Baptists after every meeting. And he participated as the scribe for the final report.

Sealing deliberations for 10 years meant by the time the records were available for reflection, consideration and research no one cared, Martin said.

He said there are only two reasons to seal records from more immediate availability: 1. “You’re ashamed of what you said,” or 2. “You don’t want to have to live by what you said.”

I rather hate to note a small, dark cloud over the GCRTF's work, but might there be one other reason for secrecy: Some of the Task Force members will be in line for SBC jobs in the near future and would rather not have their statements available for review?

I’d like to see an openness and transparency resurgence in Southern Baptist life. We haven't seen it here.

Too bad for us. It was a golden opportunity.


Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. The GCRTF accepts a $250,000 allocation from the SBC Executive Committee to get together and discuss how to change the course of the SBC in the years ahead, and then votes to hide for a decade and a half what they said? That sounds like a church refusing to submit an annual church profile because they figure what they do is nobody else's business. It kind of restores my lack of confidence in SBC leaders.


William Thornton said...

We agree on this JLC but I hate to see you make an analogy with a local church. It doesn't work well. Transparency should be expected, even demanded, from those who use our dollars. A local church doesn't owe the same to the denomination, although most of us happily disclose what the ACP asks.

Tim said...

Their lack of transparency is truly saddening.


proudpappa said...

Or perhaps the GCRTF did the right thing. Every good organization has meetings from time-to-time in which, to encourage robust thinking,it is agreed that "there are no bad ideas." I can imagine how "radical" comments offered in the aforementioned context would be portrayed by anti-GCR opponents at the present - far differently than with 15 yrs of experience behind us. The both crazy and candid comments that were most assuredly offered were surely offered more freely in an environment in which people knew they would not be immediately maligned for "bad" ideas. And, it is quite true that it is the "bad" or "radical" ideas often lead to the really fine ideas. I know I would find it easier to speak freely and think radically about the issues in hopes of eventually arriving at a good plan if I didn't have to justify or defend everything I threw out in the context of a brainstorming session. The GCRTF recommendations are very good ones. We don't need to knw right away the details of how they for there. We have read the information they concluded was most important. We have read the astonishing facts about gospel access. The facts are our friends. Right now, the ideas offered in route to the plan would, it appears, only serve to point us away from the facts that matter most. We only need to read some of the copy already written to demonstrate that...

By the way, it just is not true that no one will care about the deliberations in 15 years. Indeed, those who still care then will want to write history and reflect on the deliberations from a larger view of the convention. This will b a dissertation I would read. For that matter, I'd like to write it - then. For now, I want to get on with the recommendations...they are good ones.

Jon L. Estes said...


I might spear head a ACP (Annual Convention Profile) form for all churches to use, to have the convention fill out before they receive on cent (or more) from the local church.

If there is going to be a secondary channel to which dollars can be counted as CP (or whatever name they choose to call it) so those churches who give little can now be counted (Yea for Ronnie), this would help us know how to give more effectively.

What do you think?

Jon L. Estes said...


How does defunding those state conventions like PA/South Jersey who has around 325 churches help them survive? I know how NC, where I pastor, can survive. We just streamline what we have. When a state convention is getting 92.00 from NAMB for every 8.00 dollars given to CP in the state, how do you streamline when you lose 92% of your budget? That, my friend is closing the doors and nailing them shut.

I really don't think most pastors who have never served in the pioneer area have a clue how good they have it, even when times are tough.

You are blessed to be able (if you so choose) to take a few days off and travel a few hours west of your present location to one of the two convention retreat centers. Take a personal retreat, take advantage of the theme week or some other great event Ridgecrest holds at minimal travel cost and time.

I read throughout the GCTF report the diminishing of the work in the pioneer area and the arms around the southern part of our geographic mindset.

I wish the meeting information was available now. I want to see the real heart of the people on the committee towards our missionaries in the pioneer area.

From one pastor who will continue to partner with the people in pioneer areas and ask that the money we use out of our budget be counted as GC giving, if this thing passes.

William Thornton said...

I rather think, JLE, that the GCRTF believes that NAMB will be more effective with their funds if they don't have to continue the Cooperative Agreements legacy stuff with all the states. Can't Alabama, GA, et al handle stuff within their borders without taking Annie Armstrong money? Why can't Southern Baptists count on their AA offerings going to plant churches in places outside the Deep South?

Believing that NAMB will do better with control of their budget is a bit of a stretch, given their dysfunctional behavior of the past years, but let;s be optimistic.

I see no scenario where church planting will diminish if the TF recommendations are carried out.

Jon L. Estes said...


I don't know if those on the GCTF really understand the pioneer mission work - long term. Planting a church here in the Charlotte area is much different than planting a church in a pioneer area.

I'm not against a restructuring IF it puts more money and people on the front lines.

When NAMB, through state conventions, presently gives very little financial resources to start up pastors to accomplish their great task but big salaries (in comparison) to those who sit behind a desk telling the church planters how to do their job and if you don't get it done if 5 years, we are going to pull the plug... what do they really understand.

I'm all for the southern states handling their own stuff but if they are being asked to cut their budget to do so while giving more of it to the SBC national work... I do not see it balancing on the budget sheet. All of these entities survive of the local church dollar or the investments from the local church dollar.

Answer this one question. How does the GCTF report help the local church do the GC better? forget the funds, but how does this report help my church, your church do the GC better?

William Thornton said...

I didn't really look to the TF to help my church do what we need to do. I looked to them to find a way to make better use of the dollars we send to them. If we can take a baby step in that direction my church is better for it.

Jon Estes said...

Here's the motion made:

That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 23-24, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky, authorize the President of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint A Great Commission Task Force charged to bring a report and any recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.

A case could be made for money only committee but $250,000 given to a group of people to tell me how to use money better doesn't make much sense.

William Thornton said...

I think the GCRTF's charge, a rather open-ended thing, was carried out appropriately.

A lot of things don't make sense in Baptist my church giving money to Annie Armstrong offering where it goes to the GBC in Atlanta, to the EX COMM in Nashville, back to Atlanta to NAMB, and then back to the GBC from where it is send 60 miles down the road from me to a drug rehab ministry...or worse, all around the southeast and ending up funding VBS training in Arkansas (one of the ministries touted by Cooperative Agreement supporters).

That is what doesn't make good sense.

I am willing to give NAMB a shot at improving this.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the GCRTF had some honest, open and frank discussions about how they were in decline due to demographics, it wasn't likely to improve all that much, so this was a way to roll the dice and try to avoid continued decline or at least to decline in an orderly manner.