Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We need a transparency and openness resurgency

The motion to make public the minutes and recordings of the GCRTF meetings was defeated. I cetainly would have voted for it.

The complaint was that the Task Force couldn't get people to speak freely at their meetings if they weren't guaranteed confidentiality.


Does that mean that people in positions of responsibility and influence in the SBC, whose opinions about how to better fulfill the Great Commission, are too cowed by the idea of transparency that they are unwilling for ordinary folks like us to hear what they have to say about how to have a Great Commission resurgence?

Puhleeze...and for crying out loud. The Task Force didn't even allow a Baptist Press reporter to sit in on the meetings on background.

We approved the thing. We paid for the thing. We prayed for the thing...and we deserve better than we got for our support, prayers, and money.

I think I understand the issue here. Two-thirds of the Task Force are people whose worship experience takes place in megachurches, places where a secrecy is common. The carryover from that is widespread in the convention and was the firm rule on the GCRTF.

This is not a good practice.

How about Robert Reccord of the recent (but not the most recent) North American Mission Board debacle. His resignation was estimated to cost the SBC two full year's salary, plus some perks like executive placement services. We don't know for certain because, well, it's a secret.

How about Reccord's failed successor? What did his forced exit cost in mission dollars? We don't know.

What SBC leaders have employment contracts? What are the provisions? These are secrets. A tight clique of trustees alone know the answers. Ordinary Baptists who pay these bills need not ask.

Why shouldn't these things be open? Do we pay our leaders too little and they are embarrassed about it? Do they fear that folks in the pew will think they make too much and will give less as a result?

Why is it that we can know in great detail the compensation of officers of public corporations, the details of the pay for our favorite football coaches but not those who refer to themselves as denominational "servants"? The default position of the SBC should be "trust the Lord and tell the people." Why shouldn't people who write the checks Sunday after Sunday be able to know these things.

No good reason that I can think of.

It is a disgrace.


Norm said...

William: "Why shouldn't people who write the checks Sunday after Sunday be able to know these things."

Norm: I am reminded of college and university presidents of NCAA D1 schools that have recently complained that athletics are beyond their influence and ability to manage, thus the current trajectory of external influence on athletic programming will remain largely unchecked. OK, so they wish to whine; there is some utility in such.

Organizing is time-consuming and standing alone is to make one's self quite vulnerable. I understand, but you have more power than you think, and you have access to a communication tool that could make your work much easier. Escrow CP funds or redirect them to other religious and/or social bodies. Send money directly to Birmingham, thereby bypassing Nashville. Etc.. It's not that cooperative giving is a premium value among SBC conservatives; nor does it appear that where it appears it is appreciated and respected.

Les Puryear said...


I know you're going to be shocked, but I completely agree with you on this issue. :)


William Thornton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Thornton said...

Thanks, Les.

For your and others information, I received an email from a member of the GCRTF defending the decisions for closed meetings and confidentiality. While I appreciated the very kind and congenial response to my blog, I am not persuaded by the reasons offered (about the same as were offered publicly at the convention). I have also received other communications from the GCRTF which disagreed with the closed meeting policy.

Southern Baptists have been ill served by our leaders, and I would go beyond the GCRTF to the various trustee boards, who believe they are helping the SBC with these policies.

Anonymous said...

Amen, William. If personailties or personal criticism are going to be discussed, there is some excuse for secrets; and there are vehicles available for that to happen (i.e., executive sessions), although it is hard for me to imagine circumstances under which the GCRTF's authorization would require or perhaps even permit that.

What's even worse, is that in 15 years, those who still care (which probably will not include me, as I will be 72 then, if the Lord allows me to still be in this life) may find that the "secrets" that are being kept were insignificant to begin with. But secrets themselves have and create power. The fact that the GCRTF claimed secrets to maintain gave them more power to accomplish what they wanted.

John Fariss