Messengers Voting

Messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting vote on a business item by raising their brightly colored ballot books. Only registered messengers receive the ballot books, allowing them to participate in decision making. Each registered messenger has one vote, making the Annual Meeting is one of the largest continually-meeting directly democratic bodies in the world. At the 2021 meeting, the official messenger count was 15,726. SN4620

At least 48 New Mexicans traveled to, attended and participated in the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting and its associated activities in Nashville, Tennessee, June 12-16. The official Annual Meeting of the convention fills only two days of the multi-day gathering. Other events precede the Annual Meeting and fill gaps between meeting’s sessions.

During the series of meetings, New Mexican Connie Dixon was elected as president of National WMU. She also assisted Sandy Wisdom-Martin during the WMU report to the convention. Scott Bubp, a member of First Baptist Church, Las Cruces, was commissioned as an International Mission Board career missionary. Mayhill Pastor Matt Henslee was elected as president of the 2022 SBC Pastors Conference. Henslee’s wife, Rebecca, appeared on the convention stage as a member of the Committee on Committees. And, Aaron Colyer, pastor of First Baptist Church, Roswell, appeared on stage as part of the Committee on Nominations’ platform committee.

In general, at the Annual Meeting, messengers took a more active role than in previous years. Instead of approving most or all committee recommendations presented to them, messengers approved some and rejected others. Additionally, messengers proposed 32 motions of their own, the most of since 2010.

The SBC’s Executive Committee brought 10 recommendations to messengers. Two recommendations failed, one was withdrawn, and the highly promoted Vision 2025 recommendation was amended to add a sixth goal that addressed sexual abuse.

Messengers also challenged the decision making of the Resolutions Committee, resurrecting one resolution from the committees “discard pile.” Proposed amendments and debate abounded. Due to time constraints and the amount of messenger interaction during business sessions, the Resolutions Committee withdrew one resolution and the Committee on Order of Business canceled the GO2 panel discussion that was part of the final afternoon’s agenda to accommodate messenger participation.

Attendance for the meeting at Nashville’s Music City Center exceeded expectations of the event’s planners, the SBC Executive Committee. Because of higher-than-expected messenger pre-registrations and less than two-months before the meeting, the event changes venues from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to Nashville’s Music City Center. The final, official count of 15,726 messengers who registered at the event does not include family members and other convention guests who are not elected by their churches as messengers. Counting registered guests and exhibitors, the total attendance came to 21,441 people. The meeting was the convention’s second largest gathering ever. The largest was the 1995 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Initially, many convention leaders expected only one-third as many participants this year.

During at least one session, the convention hall, which seated thousands of people, filled beyond capacity to a standing-room-only condition with people outside in hallways unable to enter. Since non-messengers are allowed in the main meeting hall, and the convention’s exhibit hall is open during meeting sessions, not all messengers directly participate in every session and its activities. For example, when messengers voted on the first ballot for the next SBC president, 15,678 messengers had registered for the meeting, but only 14,300 ballots were cast. Messengers not voting totaled 1,378. During the following runoff ballot vote, the total number of messengers had risen to 15,691, but only 13,131 messengers cast ballots. Individuals must be in the main meeting hall to cast a ballot, meaning that the room held over 14,000 people during at least one session.

The thirty-two messengers who used convention microphones to propose motions for convention action, proposed rescinding past resolutions adopted by the convention, changing the process for submitting and presenting resolutions, investigations of sexual abuse dismissiveness among the Executive Committee trustees and staff, remote participation and voting for missionaries, additions to the SBC calendar of emphasis Sundays, disfellowshipping  Saddleback church, establishing special task forces, changing the name of the SBC and other matters. According to rules, most motions were referred to SBC committees or entities or deemed out of order.

One messenger’s motion, creating a task force to oversee the investigation into sexual abuse handling allegations at the EC, was brought to the floor for messengers by overriding the motion’s referral back to the EC. His motion passed. New SBC President Ed Litton has already appointed the task force.

Messengers to the Annual Meeting represented 5,570 Southern Baptist churches. In the previous Annual Meeting (2019), 3,428 churches sent messengers.

Two out of every five messengers (38%) were attending their first SBC Annual Meeting. And, most of them came from churches that had not previously sent messengers.

Messengers represented every state, continuing a trend from 2019. Before that, 20 years had passed since every state was represented.

Thirty percent of messengers were over the age of 60. Twenty-four percent were under the age of 40. The remaining 45% fell between those ages.

The convention adopted six Vision 2025 goals.

- Send 500 more missionaries overseas.

- Add 5,000 more congregations across North America.

- Call out the called.

- Reverse the decline in children and teenage baptisms under 18 years of age.

- Increase CP giving to exceed $500 million toward these goals.

- Prayerfully endeavor to eliminate all incidents of sexual abuse and racial discrimination among our churches.

At the end of the Annual Meeting, the Executive Committee reported that over 6,000 people had joined the Vision 2025 prayer team. Individuals can join the team by texting the word “VISION” to 90885.

Corrected: Two corrections were made to match the print version of the story. A sentence about Scott Bubp was added in paragraph two. A missing bullet point about the Cooperative Program was added to the end of the article. KGP 7/31/21

SN4620

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