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REPORT ON STUDY AND EVALUATION
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.
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
A HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
1. The Committee of Seven recommends that Bylaw 9, (5), (i)
be amended as follows:
“(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
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:
“(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,
(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:
“(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.”
(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.
“(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.”
(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.
“(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
(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
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.
||W. A. Criswell
|C. R. Daley,
||H. H. Hobbs