Gender-neutral Bibles among hot topics at SBC EC meeting
Mar 21, 2014

NASHVILLE (BP)—The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee will consider a proposal June 9 to update the SBC constitution regarding qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting. 

During its Feb. 17-18 meeting in Nashville, the Executive Committee decided to place the item on its June 9 agenda prior to the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore to allow Southern Baptists time to discuss the proposed change and provide feedback. The committee's deliberations, then, will determine whether the proposed revision will be presented to messengers at the June 10-11 SBC annual meeting. 

The Executive Committee also took action on motions referred from the 2013 SBC annual meeting in Houston regarding gender-neutral Bible translations and churches' response to mental health issues.

Church messenger qualifications
The proposal to amend Article III came as a motion from the floor at last year's SBC annual meeting—the 16th motion on this article in the past 35 years—to reevaluate the minimum qualifications for seating additional church messengers at the SBC.
Article III currently states that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention can send one additional messenger for every 250 members or for each $250 per year "paid to the work of the Convention," an amount dating back to 1888. 

Under the new proposal to be considered at the June EC meeting on the Monday before the SBC annual meeting, each cooperating church that contributed to Convention causes during the preceding fiscal year would automatically qualify for two messengers. Additional messengers would be recognized from a cooperating church by one of two options, whichever allows the greater number of messengers:

►One additional messenger for each full percent of the church's undesignated receipts through any combination of gifts through the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

►One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the same combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

The $6,000 figure was arrived at by adjusting for inflation and other factors since 1888. It is meant to be comparable to the $250 figure adopted 126 years ago. 

Additional updates to Article III will be discussed, with a Q&A on the matter to appear in SBC Life and other outlets at the request of SBC President Fred Luter. 

Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee, noted that the proposed revision mentions Cooperative Program as the preferred means for convention funding for the first time. He also underscored EC chairman Ernest Easley's affirmation that the revision of the SBC constitution "is not a hill on which to die." 

"The question for me ... if the perception is that it will hurt small churches, this is DOA," Page told EC members. "I will not tolerate something that even seems like it's going to hurt small churches.... My heart is with small churches, and I don't want anything that even seems to be in some way pejorative toward their involvement." 

Executive Committee members want to hear from Southern Baptists on the issue to help make the best decision for the convention. The goal is not to decrease the number of messengers to the annual meeting, Page said. 

Gender-neutral Bible translations 

The Executive Committee, in adopting a recommendation addressing a motion from last year's annual meeting, stated it does not have authority to publish a theological position paper concerning which Bible translations Southern Baptists should and shouldn't use. The EC added that messengers have addressed the issue through resolutions during three past SBC annual meetings û- 1997, 2002 and 2011 -- which encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of possible translation errors in various translations of the Bible. 

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