Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Force of a Resolution


A resolution has traditionally been defined as an expression of opinion or concern, as compared to a motion, which calls for action. A resolution is not used to direct an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention to specific action other than to communicate the opinion or concern expressed. Resolutions are passed during the annual Convention meeting.

The Southern Baptist Convention also passed a resolution in the early 1980s recognizing that offices requiring ordination are restricted to men. However the BF&M and resolutions are not binding upon local churches. Each church is responsible to prayerfully search the Scriptures and establish its own policy.

From BP:

When the back-and-forth on alcohol finally ended, the messengers passed with more than a four-fifths majority a resolution not only opposing the manufacture and consumption of alcohol but urging the exclusion of Southern Baptists who drink from election to the convention’s boards, committees and entities. Like other resolutions, it is not binding on SBC churches and entities.

From Twelve Witnesses (Art Rogers) Primer on Resolutions:

No resolution is binding on anyone, particularly agencies of the convention.

Any attempt to force an agency to do anything, either through resolution or motion, will be ruled out of order.

The power of the resolution is to make a statement, based on Scripture, heritage and whatever else is appropriate and call for the convention to live up to such and such standards - such as the ability to withstand principled dissent at any time.


Resolutions are not binding. Nobody has to do anything that a resolution calls for, but they are supposedly a “snapshot” of the convention. Media picks up on the resolutions [remember Disney?] and so do the pastors and therefore the churches.

Moreover, if the convention passes a particular resolution and an entity of the convention has policy or procedure that is in conflict with that resolution, which supposedly expresses the “will and mind of the convention,” then during the question and answer time of that entity’s report to the convention, the entity may be asked to account for the discrepancy. Egg on the face does have an impact.
If this is true, then how is the Committee on Resolutions excuse that the resolution on integrity in membership infringes on local church autonomy true? How can people argue that, unless the truth is that the resolutions of times past have been considered binding?

Is this year's resolution on global warming binding?

Is last year's resolution five on alcohol binding?

Is this year's resolution on repentance and prayer binding?

Was the the resolution on Disney binding?

Unless the answer to each of these is "yes," then the excuse given by the Committee on Resolutions and those arguing along the same lines is utterly without merit.

There are many parties in the SBC. Dr. Ascol has stated that there is widespread agreement among those parties that this is "the" big problem in the SBC at present. I submit that this is one issue where the often divided Baptist bloggers can speak this year with a great degree of unity, demonstrating the very spirit that we all know has been lacking in the past year, and for which men like Wade Burleson have called. Can we not at least agree on this? Art Rogers and Marty Duren have committed to follow Steve McCoy's example this year and get away from SBC politics and do more, if they blog at all, with respect to their local churches. The battle for reforming the SBC in this area will be won not by politics but by grass roots efforts. That said, I think there are things the bloggers can do in their writing, if only to keep this issue alive and before the eyes of the SBC's members. Remember, we aren't reading each other's blogs alone, there are folks reading them all the time whom we do not know. I am convinced the average person in the pew is unaware of these issues, and the blogs can help them understand them. I submit that, because of the widespread agreement, this is an issue to which we can each contribute on a regular basis, so that next year, when this resolution comes before the Convention (and it will do so), the messengers will be better educated. The goal is not to force the SBC to pass a binding resolution. Rather, the resolution is a statement of the mind of the Convention. It calls the attention to the problem publicly. The goal is to get the churches to act if only to raise their awareness. A resolution gets people talking.

Let me tell you, from personal experience in my own state convention, what happens when this very problem goes unaddressed. Here, we have a number of churches that are promoting homosexual relationships as a valid lifestyle choice. These are also churches that have for some time been dually aligned with the Alliance of Baptists and/or the CBF. Their contributions to the CP have been minimal at best. Last year, this state convention voted to expel churches that did this after a review process if a complaint was lodged and the church was judged guilty.

As a result, many here are crying about local church autonomy, as if the association of churches / convention has no right to set boundaries for whom it will associate with, as if autonomy is absolute. Simply put, if the local associations had been doing their duty the state conventions would not have to do something. It is true that we believe in local church autonomy. It is not true that autonomy is absolute. When things get out of hand, somebody has to step up to the plate and do the unpopular and exceptional thing. However, that was a motion, not a resolution, so how does a resolution rise to this level?

I would add that absolute local church autonomy is patently, unbiblical. Where in the NT do we find that sort of absolute independence? We don't. What we find in the NT and in the Ante-Nicene church is a loose connectedness. There is some merit to the Presbyterian argument for connectedness in that period, for the churches did communicate to each other and lament declension. 1 Clement is a prime example of one church voicing its concerns to another.

It also flies in the face of Baptist tradition. I believe George Paschal himself noted that the Sandy Creek Association was known for its rather dictatorial supervision of its churches. Stearns and the mother church were so iron handed that the Regular Baptist churches, when they united, purposefully did so with the SCA only if they would stop that sort of behavior. At the same time, Baptist history in the US is littered with associational minutes calling churches to repent for declension. At some point, if the greater group does not draw declension to the attention of the churches in the group, it will get out of hand. I find it rather ironic that those who want to be identified as "Sandy Creekers" relative to Calvinism (or rather the lack thereof) become quite selective when the role of the association arises.

Currently, this denomination can't get half it's people into church on Sunday, not due to sickness or being otherwise accounted for, but for reasons unknown! This should not be. Some are apostate. Some are dually enrolled (or worse) in multiple churches because the churches have not been faithful in keeping records and sending letters. Some are dead, and that's no exaggeration.

Tom Buck said, "Our Baptist history shows that they believed “the first sign of sinning was to stop attending.” Therefore, our own Baptist forefathers used to discipline people over this very issue you are presenting." Amen!


  1. Is the SBC's current misunderstanding of local church autonomy related to its overwhelming misunderstanding of individual autonomy in salvation?

    Or, is it yet again simply about the numbers? (If we try to "control" people, then they'll leave the denomination and our numbers will decline...)Has unity for the sake of numbers trumped division over truth and error?

    Really nice post, Gene, btw. Thank you.

  2. To answer your question, Gordan, "No," I don't think it is. I think it has more to do with a culture in which "historic Baptist principles" have been invoked ad infinitum for close to 25 years. The Moderates rallied around: religious liberty, soul competency, and the priesthood of (the) believer/s. Conservatives rallied around doctrinal matters, particularly inerrancy, and the priesthood of believers (plural). What neither side seems to have remembered is that none of these principles matters unless they are grounded in one central principle: a regenerate church membership (RCM).

    RCM depends on a proper understanding of the gospel, ergo doctrine. Notice that RCM also naturally leads to religious liberty and the others. RCM means that there can be no state church, for example, since all who are in the church are there voluntarily, not be compulsion. It ends leads to believer's baptism (the very thing Dr. Yarnell wanted to add to the resolution), since paedobaptism is a natural fit with mixed membership, not RCM.