|SBC annual meeting in Atlanta
moves to Tues.-Wed. format
By Herb Hollinger
ATLANTA (BP)--An abbreviated two-day session of the annual
meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, approved by a messenger vote last year, is set
for June 15-16 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome with the theme "His Tears ... Our
For a number of years, the annual meeting has been two and a half
days, starting Tuesday morning and finishing Thursday at noon. However, as early as 20
years ago, the convention met for three full days and 50 years ago the annual meeting
started Wednesday morning and finished with an evangelistic service Sunday night. The new
schedule still allows for Wednesday afternoon free for messengers, with SBC seminaries'
alumni and other groups planning meetings during that period.
An SBC official predicted 14,000 messengers would register for
the 142nd session of the SBC in its 154-year history. Messengers will hear preaching,
singing and reports from SBC entities and vote on a number of items, including
recommendations not to change the name of the convention and not to move the convention
next year from Orlando, Fla.
Also on the agenda is a testimony by Reggie White, professional
football player, seen as a future National Football League Hall of Fame member, from
Knoxville, Tenn. White has raised some controversy with public remarks considered
upholding traditional family values and calling the homosexual lifestyle not biblical. The
black minister is pastor of a church in Knoxville which was destroyed in a fire officials
said was caused by arson.
An election for SBC president will also be held, although
tradition holds that a president serving in his first year is given a second one-year
term. Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake
Forest, N.C., was elected last year in Salt Lake City to a one-year term as president. No
opposition has surfaced to Patterson's re-election.
Messengers will be asked to approve a record $159,583,743
Cooperative Program Allocation Budget for SBC entities for 1999-2000. Nearly $5 million
over the current year's budget, the proposed budget will retain the same distribution
percentages to 12 SBC entities.
The two-day schedule for the annual meeting will mean messengers wanting to introduce
resolutions for consideration must do so before the start of the Tuesday afternoon
session. Messengers who want to have resolutions considered are urged to send them to the
Resolutions Committee before the annual meeting.
Messengers will vote on a recommendation not to change the name
of the convention. The SBC's Executive Committee discussed two proposals offered at last
year's annual meeting but decided in its February meeting there is "no compelling
rationale" for a change and "is not justified when all factors are taken into
Also, the Executive Committee, acting on several referred motions
from Salt Lake City last year to move the location of the 2000 session, will recommend not
moving the annual meeting in 2000 from Orlando, Fla. The recommendation says messengers to
the Orlando meeting will "meet the challenge presented by worldliness that the
Southern Baptist Convention has met in other convention cities." The recommendation
also says "the faithfulness of Southern Baptists to Crossover Orlando (evangelistic
efforts prior to the start of the SBC) and the refusal to patronize the Disney
organization will be a profound testimony for the cause of Christ to Orlando, Florida, and
The recommendation also says "... the faithfulness of
Southern Baptists in keeping contractual agreements will be a positive and effective
testimony for the cause of Christ to the hotel and convention industry."
Orlando is the home of Disney World, thus the referred
motions stem from the so-called boycott of The Disney Company endorsed by messengers to
the 1997 SBC annual meeting in Dallas, challenging various "anti-family" and
"anti-Christian" directions and specific practices at the entertainment
Another referral from the Salt Lake City meeting would add to the
Baptist Faith and Message statement of Baptist beliefs, Article I, which includes a
reference to Scripture's truth: "in every area of which it speaks." The
Executive Committee declined to act on the referral following a recommendation of "no
action be taken" from the Council of Seminary Presidents.
An addition to the Baptist Faith and Message statement last year regarding the article on
the family, specifically husbands' and wives' relationships, drew widespread media
interest and debate in religious circles following the Salt Lake City meeting.
The theme of the Atlanta meeting, "His Tears ... Our
Task!" is taken from Luke 19:41 in which Jesus " ... beheld the city, and wept
..." In addition to Patterson bringing the annual message of the SBC president, the
convention sermon will be preached by Ralph Smith, pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist
Church, Austin, Texas.
The two evenings of the annual meeting will feature
missions presentations by the North American Mission Board on Tuesday and the
International Mission Board on Wednesday.
The week prior to the SBC, an ambitious evangelistic project coordinated by NAMB, called
"Crossover," will penetrate metro Atlanta. Then, a number of satellite meetings,
such as the annual Pastors' Conference and Woman's Missionary Union meetings, will be held
Sunday and Monday before the SBC meeting starts.
The registration area will be on the lower level, gate C of the
Georgia Dome, said Lee Porter, just off International Avenue. Porter has been the SBC
registration secretary since 1978. Registration will open at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 13,
and at 8 a.m. on the following Monday through Wednesday. It will close shortly after 9
According to SBC Bylaw 8, the church's clerk or moderator must
sign the familiar messenger card, "the best credential," Porter said. The
messenger card may be obtained from state convention offices, or in some states, the local
association office. A messenger is similar to a delegate in his/her election by a local
church but traditionally has not been instructed by the church.
The registration process is designed to be completed in five
minutes, Porter said, except possibly during the early rush hour. If a messenger comes to
the meeting without a properly filled-out card, Porter said the person must go before the
convention's Credentials Committee which could take 30 minutes or more. The Credentials
Committee will open after 8:30 a.m. on Monday. Porter said if at the last minute it is not
possible to bring the messenger card, then the person should bring a letter from the
church and meet with the committee.
The registration desk will be able to help messengers reach
churches with information via telegrams or faxes. The registration area also serves as the
convention's lost and found office, Porter said.
Who can register as a messenger is stated in Article III of the
SBC Constitution. Messengers of the convention are members of missionary Baptist churches
cooperating with the convention as follows:
"1. One messenger from each church which (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the
Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation
with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual
behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention's work during the
fiscal year preceding.
"2. One additional messenger from each such church for every 250 members; or for each
$250 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual
"3. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the
Convention, but no church may appoint more than 10.
"4. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed."
Porter said the convention does not register "alternate messengers."
An additional service the registration desk provides is, after
noon on Monday, information about where messengers are staying during the convention.
Messengers wanting the information should know the person's name, church, city and state,
Porter said. Thus, messengers should be sure to fill out the last line on the messenger
card which identifies where they will be staying in Atlanta.
Cited as a big improvement last year, an enlarged nametag for
messengers will be printed via computers in bold, large type, Porter added.
Visitors from churches are also encouraged to come to the
meetings, Porter said. The Dome provides ample space for messengers and guests.
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