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REPORT ON STUDY AND EVALUATION
OF THE
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE
SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

The Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 11-13, 1974, received the following recommendation from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention:

"We recommend that the Convention authorize the Convention officers elected in 1974 to appoint a committee of seven persons widely experienced in denominational life to study and eva1uate the Executive Committee in the 1ight of Bylaw 9, and that it report to the Convention in 1975...."

The recommendation was approved and the following persons were named to constitute the Committee of Seven: Harold C. Bennett, Olin T. Binkley, W. A. Criswell, C. R. Daley, Daniel R. Grant, H. H. Hobbs, and Alma Hunt.

This committee reported the progress of its study to Southern Baptist Convention messengers meeting in Miami Beach, Florida, June 10-12, 1975, and requested a one-year extension for completion of the study. The extension was granted and the study was continued. Following the two-year study the committee brings the following report.

APPRECIATION

The Committee of Seven wishes to thank all who contributed to this study task. The committee is profoundly grateful to the professional staff and to all members of the Executive Committee, past and present, with whom we have conferred.

The Committee is also greatly indebted to agency staff members who proved to be informed and articulate persons. They understood the purpose of the study and expressed their thoughts about the work of the Executive Committee with candor and kindness.

Finally, we are grateful to the Holy Spirit who, we trust, has been our helper as we have sought to serve Southern Baptists in their divinely assigned mission.

PLAN OF STUDY

The specific focus of this study was upon the structure and functions of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention as set forth in Bylaw 9. The plan of study included the following: (1) Review of the history of the formation and development of the Executive Committee from 1917 to the present; (2) examination of recent studies of the Executive Committee, including the brief self-study by the Committee of Fifteen and selected books and articles on the purpose and value of the Executive Committee by competent Baptist writers; (3) survey of the reports of the Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention from 1959 to the present; (4) study of Bylaw 9 and each document to which it refers; (5) examination of the Bylaws of the Executive Committee and related material in the Orientation Manual; (6) observation of the Executive Committee at work in regular meetings and a review of the minutes of the annual meetings of the Executive Committee for the past ten years; (7) interviews, first of all, with members of the professional staff of the Executive Committee; (8) interviews with chief executives of the boards, institutions, commissions, and standing committees of the Southern Baptist Convention; (9) interviews with selected Baptist leaders well acquainted with the policy and procedures of the Executive Committee, including several past and present members of the Executive Committee; (10) consultations with Southern Baptist state executive secretaries and editors; (11) consideration of statements by other Southern Baptists who submitted their views in writing or attended a hearing arranged for those who wished to meet with the Committee of Seven.

A HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

The Executive Committee has been a vital factor in the life and work of the Southern Baptist Convention and the denomination since 1917. At New Orleans on May 17, 1917, the Convention voted to create an executive committee of seven and assigned to it the following responsibility:

“The duties of the committee shall be to have oversight of the arrangements for the meetings of the Convention with power to change both the time and place of meeting in case an emergency arises making such change necessary; that this committee shall act for the Convention ad interim on such matters as may arise pertaining to the general business of the Convention and not otherwise provided for in its plans of work; that this committee shall also be empowered to act in an advisory way on all questions submitted to it on matters arising between the Boards of this Convention, but only on request of one or more of the Boards concerned; that this committee shall have no further duties except as other things may be specifically committed to it by the Convention itself at its annual meeting.”
In 1919 the phrase, “but only on request of one or more of the Boards concerned,” was deleted from the description of the Executive Committee’s responsibilities. Also, in 1919 the membership of the Committee was enlarged to include the officers of the Convention and one representative from each state and one representative from each agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In 1926 the Committee was assigned additional responsibility, and in 1927 it was constituted as a full-time agency of the Convention with a professional staff and with an enlarged scope of functions.

In 1927 the responsibilities and effectiveness of the Executive Committee were increased, its headquarters were established in Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin Crouch was elected its first executive secretary. He devoted his intelligence and energy to that position until his retirement in 1946. He was succeeded by Duke K. McCall who served with distinction as executive secretary-treasurer from 1946 to 1951. Porter Routh, the present executive secretary-treasurer, was elected in 1951 and under his leadership the Executive Committee has been reorganized and has multiplied its usefulness in the cohesiveness, continuity, and creative program of the Southern Baptist Convention and of the denomination as a whole.

In 1958 the Executive Committee was reorganized as a result of the report of the Committee To Study Total Southern Baptist Convention Program (Branch Committee). Six recommendations from that study committee placing additional tasks upon the Executive Committee were adopted by the Convention on May 22, 1958. They were: (1) Development of an appropriate report format to assist the agencies of the Convention in the presentation of their reports; (2) review and presentation as information to the Convention the budgets of all Convention agencies; (3) consideration of an expanded public relations program; (4) transfer of the promotion of stewardship to the Stewardship Commission; (5) organization of the Executive Committee into subcommittees; (6) search for funds to finance the construction or purchase of physical facilities to be used by the Executive Committee.

The magnitude and complexity of the work of the Executive Committee have been increased since 1950 by the continued growth of the denomination, the expansion of the geographical area, the increase in number of agencies, the greater involvement in denominational planning, the program statements approved by the Convention and assigned to the agencies, and other factors.

AFFIRMATIVE APPRAISAL

1. A strong Executive Committee is indispensable in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention. The present scope and strength of our Southern Baptist organizational life is unthinkable apart from the Executive Committee and its functions.

2. The organizational structure of the Executive Committee is essentially sound. It shows genius on the part of our forefathers who have given us a system which promotes maximum efficiency while providing the checks and balances necessary to protect Baptist liberties and autonomy.

3. The Executive Committee is blessed with highly capable and committed professional staff members. They sincerely execute their assignments and attempt to be fair and impartial toward all agencies* of the Convention. They make a sincere effort to provide committee members with needed background material in advance of meetings.

4. There is evidence that the Executive Committee is endeavoring to perform faithfully the functions assigned to it by the Convention as set forth in Bylaw 9.

5. All meetings of the Executive Committee, its subcommittees, and work groups are open to concerned constituents although executive sessions can be called under unusual circumstances. A wide range of denominational leadership, including agency heads, state executive secretaries, and state editors is invited to participate in Executive Committee sessions.

6. The Organization Manual of the Southern. Baptist Convention dated January 1, 1975, and The Southern Baptist Convention Program Budget and Financial Data for 1974-1975 indicate that the Executive Committee and its staff have done a commendable job in compiling and keeping updated the documents called for in Bylaw 9.

7. A reading of the minutes of Executive Committee meetings for the past 10 years reveals that the Executive Committee keeps comprehensive and accurate records of its work.

FINDINGS AND SUGGESTIONS

In the study and evaluation of the Executive Committee in light of Bylaw 9, the findings obligate this Study Committee to call attention to problems and needs not directly related to Bylaw 9 but vital in the function of the Executive Committee under Bylaw 9.

1. SELECTION OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Finding: While the method of nominating and electing Executive Committee members may be sound in theory, the manner in which it works is not altogether satisfactory. Executive Committee members are nominated to the Convention by the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Boards, Commissions, and Standing Committees. Nominees from the various states and their qualifications frequently are known only by the two members on the Committee on Boards from those states. Without information with which to react responsibly, members of the Committee on Boards usually endorse one another's nominations. This makes room for personal favoritism and cronyism in the selection of nominees.

Suggestion: Adequate biographical information, experience, and other pertinent data on all Executive Committee nominees should be provided for and carefully considered by all members of the Committee on Boards before making their nominations to the Convention. Caution should be taken to prevent even the appearance of unwholesome denominational politics.

*--The term “agencies” used in this report includes boards, institutions, commissions, and standing committees; “trustees” as used in this report refers to board members, institution trustees, and commission members.

2. QUALIFICATIONS FOR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Findings: The crucial importance of the responsibilities and the heavy demands in time and energy expected of Executive Committee members are not fully rea1ized by all who are elected to serve. Absenteeism from meetings limits effectiveness and pressure for early adjournment diminishes deliberation on important issues.

Suggestion: Prospective nominees should be fully informed of the responsibilities and demands upon Executive Committee members. As far as possible they should be recommended for election only after expressing willingness to attend an extensive orientation program for new members and agreeing to devote the time and effort needed for performance of the Executive Committee responsibilities.

3. ORIENTATION AND BRIEFING OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Finding: The present orientation program for new members of the Executive Committee has proven to be very helpful but appears to be inadequate.

Suggestion: The scope and depth of the orientation program should be more adequate. Consideration should be given to inviting each year a limited number of Southern Baptist Convention agencies to provide agency perspective on the work of the Executive Committee and its relationships to the agencies. In addition to orientation for new members, ways should be sought to keep Executive Committee members updated on pertinent information as long as they serve on the Executive Committee.

4. A STAFF-ORIENTED EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Finding: The Executive Committee as it now functions is strongly staff oriented. This is not because staff personnel are domineering or power hungry but because most Executive Committee members devote full time to other responsibilities and find limited time for their Executive Committee duties. Consequently, they depend upon staff members for background work, research, and other extensive preparation required for Executive Committee meetings.

Staff personnel are selected because of their unique qualifications and they are expected to give expertise and creativity to the work of the committee. The result is a staff-oriented Executive Committee.

Suggestion: Ways should be found to achieve more involvement of Executive Committee members in the decision making process of the Committee. The following suggestions, though not a comprehensive list, might be helpful in achieving this:
(1) More careful study by Executive Committee members of background materials on major issues prior to Executive Committee meetings; (2) delineation and clarification of major issues by subcommittee chairmen and staff personnel at the time of their referral to subcommittees; (3) adequate opportunity and time in plenary sessions for discussion and questions on major issues before final action on subcommittee recommendations; (4) use of a small group of experienced Executive Committee members to meet with the professional staff as needed between regular sessions of the Committee.

5. COMMUNICATION AND COOPERATION BETWEEN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND AGENCIES

Finding: Better communication and more effective cooperation between the Executive Committee and the agencies constitute a continuing need in Southern Baptist Convention organizational life. Agencies feel their situations are not always understood by members of the Executive Committee. They believe Executive Committee members should be familiar with the particular program and problems of each agency. Executive Committee members, on the other hand, sometimes feel they do not have adequate information to respond intelligently to proposals related to the agencies.

The present plan of using work groups of Executive Committee subcommittees to relate to the agencies is a step in the right direction but is not enough.

The efforts of the Executive Committee and its staff to be completely impartial and fair toward all agencies tend to give the impression of coolness toward the agencies.

Suggestion: Ways should be devised for Executive Committee staff and members and agency staffs and trustees to be more intimately acquainted with the work of each other. Possibilities for consideration are an annual retreat for Executive Committee members and agencies heads, invitations from Convention agencies for Executive Committee representatives to sit in their board meetings, special reports in addition to financial data prepared by agencies for Executive Committee members, and attendance of agency board chairmen and trustees in Executive Committee meetings.

Effective communication and unity of purpose among Southern Baptist organizational leaders cannot be guaranteed by any kind of organizational structure. These result from commitment of competent and consecrated leaders to the purpose and objectives of the denomination. Such communication and cooperation are of inestimable value.

6. THE BUDGETARY FUNCTION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Finding: The one most far-reaching responsibility of the Executive Committee is the recommendation of allocations for all Convention agencies receiving Cooperative Program funds to carry out their assignments from the Convention. Presently only the Program subcommittee members hear all the budget presentations and requests from the agencies. Consequently members of other subcommittees tend to feel they are expected to vote on budget allocation recommendations without sufficient background and knowledge.

Observation of past experience shows that as many as a half-dozen different ways have been used for budget presentations. This would indicate no plan has been considered entirely satisfactory.

There has appeared to be an imbalance on the work loads of the subcommittees with the Program subcommittee having too much and the Finance and Administrative subcommittees having too little. However, Executive Committee staff members report that recent innovations have resulted in less hurried budget hearings and deliberations by the Program subcommittee.

The present names given subcommittees and the functions they perform are confusing. For example, the Program subcommittee, instead of the Finance subcommittee, is responsible for the preparation of the proposed Cooperative Program budget for presentation to the full Executive Committee.

Suggestion: Budget requests from all Convention agencies should be heard as well as studied by all Executive Committee members. This is only fair to the agencies and to the Executive Committee members who are expected to vote on the final recommendations. This could be accomplished by letting the budget presentations be heard by the full Executive Committee in its regular September meeting or in another full Committee meeting prior to the February meeting in which the budget recommendations are finalized.

The names now used for the subcommittees should be examined and revised. The present Program subcommittee could be called the Program-Budget subcommittee and the present Finance subcommittee could be called the Business-Finance subcommittee.

7. AUTHORITY AND POWER IN THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Finding: The Southern Baptist Convention began and remains a voluntary association of messengers from churches. However, as such a group increases in size and complexity, its center of power tends to shift from “grass roots” constituents to officially elected board members and to the staff personnel.

By virtue of its assignments the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee is powerful. It needs and does have authority commensurate with its responsibilities.

Suggestion: Caution should be taken to prevent even an unconscious trend toward undue centralization of authority in Southern Baptist organizational life. The usurpation of undue authority by the Executive Committee over the agencies of the Convention would be disastrous. At the same time, the agencies should recognize the need for the Convention to exercise reasonable review of their affairs. The authority of the Executive Committee should be kept in healthy tension with the authority of Convention-elected trustees of the agencies.

8. THE AD INTERIM STATUS OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Finding: Bylaw 9, (5), (a) states that the Executive Committee is “to act for the Convention ad interim on all matters not otherwise provided for. . . .”

There must be some committee of the Convention to act ad interim in urgent matters that arise on which action cannot be deferred until the Convention meets. However, “acting for the Convention ad interim” is not the same as “being the Convention ad interim.” There is a difference and it is regrettable to note the growing practice in recent years to refer to the Executive Committee as the Convention ad interim.

Suggestion: Let there be a clear understanding that the Executive Committee is “the fiduciary, the fiscal, and the executive agency of the Convention in all its affairs not specifically committed to some other board or agency,” and is specifically authorized and instructed to “act for the Convention ad interim in all matters not otherwise provided for,” and that the Convention agencies act for the Convention between sessions in specific matters assigned to them in program statements and in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Convention.

9. THE ADVISORY FUNCTION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Finding: Bylaw 9, (5), (e) authorizes the Executive Committee “to act in an advisory capacity on all questions of cooperation among the different agencies of the Convention. . . .” The Executive Committee is endeavoring to function within the limits of its advisory role though it appears to some that the Committee at times has overstepped the limits of this difficult assignment.

Suggestion: The advisory role of the Executive Committee should never become a supervisory or managerial role. In cases where agencies do not agree on questions of cooperation and do not follow the advice of the Executive Committee, the Committee should make recommendations on these matters to the Convention.

10. THE ROLE OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND THE TRUSTEES OF CONVENTION AGENCIES

Finding: In Bylaw 9, section (5), (i) is by far the most controversial item. It deals with the relations between the Executive Committee and the agencies of the Convention.

This Bylaw seems to be somewhat ambivalent and is difficult to interpret. The first sentence clearly indicates that the agencies are not to be controlled or directed by the Executive Committee. However, the second sentence empowers the Executive Committee to investigate the affairs of any agency of the Convention without consultation with the staff or the controlling board of the agency.

There is a fine line where the authority derived from the principle of trusteeship and the Convention-assigned responsibilities of the Executive Committee meet. Some tension at this point is almost inevitable and is not altogether undesirable. Such a polity furnishes checks and balances necessary to preserve the freedom and the autonomy in Southern Baptist life.

Also in connection with By1aw 9, (5), (i) is found considerable concern among the agencies over possible recommendations of the Executive Committee which might alter the programs of or even abolish an agency. Some early proposals of the Study Committee of Fifteen have been pointed out as examples.

Suggestion: This section of Bylaw 9 should be amended. The amended Bylaw should include both a strong reaffirmation of the authority and responsibility of trustees under the authority of the Convention and a clarifying statement regarding the investigative powers assigned the Executive Committee by the Convention. Such an amendment is recommended at the end of this report.

There should be periodic evaluation of agencies and their programs. However, far reaching proposals of the Executive Committee relating to agencies should be made only after very careful consideration. In instances where proposals would result in the transfer of an agency or agency responsibilities to the Executive Committee, or result in abolishing an agency, the study might more objectively be done by a committee other than the Executive Committee.

Whether it is done by the Executive Committee or another committee of the Convention, a set of rules of fair and proper procedure for recommending the restructuring or elimination of an agency should be adopted and this process should be well known by all concerned.

Some safeguard against hasty action in respect to agencies is provided in Bylaw 15 which states that no agency shall be discontinued without a majority vote at two (2) successive annual sessions of the Convention.

11. THE AUTHORITY OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Finding: Bylaw 9, (5), (j) gives broad powers and authority to the Executive Committee commensurate with its responsibilities in performing its assignments in respect to the agencies.

Suggestion: The phrase, “advise with them,” is well chosen to describe the proper relationship of the Executive Committee to the agencies.

12. AN APPROPRIATE REPORT FORM

Finding: Bylaw 9, (5), (l) calls for development of an appropriate report format to help the agencies present to the Executive Committee adequate information on program plans, accomplishments, and costs.

Such a report format has been developed and is being utilized. This report format not only serves the agencies, but also the Executive Committee in its need for data. The Bylaw wording should reflect this.

Suggestion: Not in order to change its intent, but in the interest of clarification of the meaning of this Bylaw section, a rewording of 9, (5), (1) is recommended with this report.

13. CONSISTENCY IN FORM FOR ALL SECTIONS OF BYLAW 9

Finding: Subsections of Bylaw 9, (5) lack uniformity of style.

Suggestion: A recommendation with this report reflects appropriate style changes.

Recommendations

1. The Committee of Seven recommends that Bylaw 9, (5), (i) be amended as follows:

PRESENT FORM:
“(i) The Executive Committee shall not have authority to control or direct the several boards, agencies, and institutions of the Convention. But it is instructed and commissioned to study the affairs of those boards, agencies, and institutions of the Convention, to make recommendations to them concerning needed adjustments, and also to make whatever recommendations concerning them to the Convention it deems advisable.”

RECOMMENDED FORM: (Changes in wording in italics.)
(i) To maintain open channels of communication between the Executive Committee and the trustees of the agencies of the Convention, to study and make recommendations to agencies concerning adjustments required by program assignments or by established Convention policies and practices, and, whenever deemed advisable, to make recommendations to the Convention.

The Executive Committee shall not have authority to control or direct the several boards, agencies, and institutions of the Convention. This is the responsibility of trustees elected by the Convention and accountable directly to the Convention.

2. The Committee of Seven recommends that Bylaw 9, (5), (l) be amended as follows:

PRESENT FORM:
“(l) The Executive Committee shall develop an appropriate report format which will help agencies of the Convention present their reports on a more appropriate and comparable basis in order to provide more information about program plans, accomplishments, and costs.”

RECOMMENDED FORM:
(l) To utilize an appropriate report format which will enable the Executive Committee to obtain from the agencies adequate and comparable information about program plans, accomplishments, and financial data.

3. The Committee of Seven recommends that for the sake of consistency of style, Bylaw 9, (5), (j), (k) and (n) be amended as follows:

PRESENT FORM:
“(j) In carrying out these instructions the Executive Committee is authorized to make its own bylaws in keeping with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Convention; to hold meetings whenever deemed necessary; to make reports of all meetings to the Convention; to notify all the boards, agencies, and institutions of the actions of the Convention and to advise with them as to the best way of promoting all the interests of the Convention.”

RECOMMENDED FORM:
(j) To make its own bylaws in keeping with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Convention in carrying out these instructions to the Executive Committee; to hold meetings whenever deemed necessary; to make reports of all meetings to the Convention; to notify all the boards, agencies, and institutions of the actions of the Convention and to advise with them as to the best way of promoting all the interests of the Convention.

PRESENT FORM:
“(k) In accordance with the action of the Convention in Atlanta in 1944, the expenses of the Executive Committee shall be derived from the Operating Budget of the Convention specifically established for this purpose and formally approved by the Convention.”

RECOMMENDED FORM:
(k) To derive, in accordance with the action of the Convention in Atlanta in 1944, the expenses of the Executive Committee from the Operating Budget of the Convention specifically established for this purpose and formally approved by the Convention.

PRESENT FORM:
“(n) Copies of the minutes of the Executive Committee shall be sent to the heads of all Southern Baptist Convention agencies, and copies of the minutes of all agencies shall be sent to the office of the Executive Committee.”

RECOMMENDED FORM:
(n) To send copies of the minutes of the Executive Committee to the heads of all Southern Baptist Convention agencies, and copies of the minutes of all agencies shall be sent to the office of the Executive Committee.

4. The Committee of Seven recommends that the findings and suggestions in this report be referred to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee for consideration and that it bring to the 1977 Southern Baptist Convention meeting a report on its response to the suggestions in this report.

5. The Committee of Seven recommends that this report to the Convention on the Executive Committee study and the Convention name change study presented on June 10, 1975, be printed in the Convention Annual.

Committee: W. A. Criswell
C. R. Daley, Chairman Daniel R. Grant
Harold C. Bennett H. H. Hobbs
Olin T. Binkley Alma Hunt

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