Saturday, June 15, 2013

Question: Are quorums considered at the annual meeting?

The SBC Constitution and Bylaws (here):

In order to carry out the provisions of the Constitution, the following Bylaws are adopted for the government of the Convention:

35. Quorum: The quorum for conducting business during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention shall be a minimum of 25 percent of those duly registered and seated messengers.

Earlier this week, the SBC in session took action (the election of a 2nd Vice President) and only 13% of registered messengers balloted, about half of what is needed for a quorum.

It makes no difference now but I am curious if the moderator or Chief Parliamentarian considered the matter of a quorum not being present. Unless another 600 or so people were present at the time ballots were cast but who did not vote, then the action was contrary to our bylaws.

Several explanations present themselves:

1. The moderator and parliamentarians ignored the possibility of the lack of a quorum. This is understandable from the moderator but not from the   Chief Parliamentarian who knows better and should be more aware of such matters. 

2. Those present and on the platform were aware but chose to simply ignore the matter and press on with the convention schedule. Perhaps there are precedents for this.

3. Those present were aware of the quorum issue, surveyed the crowd and made a determination that, in fact, a quorum was present. The matter was not challenged from the floor and the election proceeded.

I was not present and perhaps it was a reasonable determination that 1,275 were in the hall but if only 674 voted, although I would suspect that there clearly was not a quorum present. Baptists like to vote if nothing else and half of a crowd sitting on their ballots doesn't sound reasonable. If such was the case, there was clearly a lack of a quorum, then to delay the action and call for messengers to come to the hall would seem to have been appropriate.

I merely raise the issue out of curiosity and do so from a considerable distance. 

In light of the fact that convention attendance is very low these days compared to historical levels, would it not be prudent in the future to assure a proper quorum was present before any business is transacted or election held? 

Something to think about. 


Jeff Wright said...

So obviously I was on the stage during the vote. I got there very early (because I didn't know how to access the stage) and took my seat before the actual program began. I saw Charles Billingsley bring his guys coffee and talked to the few on the stage that were there at that time. One, and I'm sorry I don't remember his name, asked what I was there for and said something to the effect of "It's good you are here early but we may have to wait to get a quorum." I take it that since the vote went on the parliamentarians determined there were enough but I have no idea how they do that. I can attest that the issue was named in conversation with me before the program began though.

William Thornton said...

Thanks for the comment, Jeff.

Do you think that 1250 messengers were present at the time?

Jeff Wright said...

William, to be honest, once I started talking to different people on the stage (including the gentleman who nominated Dr. Cass, who seemed like a very fine fella) I didn't pay much attention. I would like to say my nervousness had nothing to do with my not trying to see how big the crowd was but that wouldn't be very honest.

Chris Roberts said...

I was very surprised by how few were present and wondered if business for that morning would be postponed due to quorum issues.

Looking at the phrasing of the bylaw, is it possible that the loophole is in the part that says "and seated" - in other words, not just the total # registered, but the total # registered and present? My church's bylaws are similar - a quorum is the majority of those present for the business. If 100 members are present and only 15 of them vote, a quorum has not voted. But if only 15 members are present and they all vote, a quorum has voted.