I have already taught one class this summer, and I am preparing for two more classes this coming fall. During my preparation for classes which includes updating my notes, I rewrite my syllabi, read new books on the subject, and review some books that I have previously read. Usually reviewing these books amounts to going back through the highlights and marked sections. One such book that I recently went through for a review is worthy of reading by every Southern Baptist. The title of the book is One Sacred Effort. The book was published in 2005 and is written by Chad Brand and David Hankins with a forward by Morris Chapman.
While there are many interesting portions of this book, one of the most interesting in my opinion is the discussion of the formation of the Executive Committee. Although many do not realize it, the convention almost went with a strong executive board. However, the Southern Baptist Convention decided against it. Here is an excerpt from the book on page 147.
In 1916, one year after the Efficiency commission’s recommendations, a constitutional amendment was proposed that would create “one strong Executive Board which shall direct all the work and enterprises fostered by this Convention.” A “Consolidation Committee” was named which reported to the 1917 Southern Baptist Convention. The report did not recommend the original idea to consolidate all boards (although a substitute motion to that effect was offered, hotly debated, and, then, defeated). What it did recommend was a compromise between those who believed “consolidation” was best for the Convention and those who wanted to maintain “separate and distinct boards.”
After being initially started with pastoral and lay leaders in 1917, the Executive Committee was incorporated with paid staff in 1927. It’s hard to imagine that from 1845 until 1927 the Southern Baptist Convention operated with no Executive Committee. One page over, 148, the book discusses the name “Executive Committee.”
The Executive Committee’s name has some significance. When it was organized, the concerns about centralized power caused the Convention to call it a committee and not a board. Many Baptist state conventions have an executive board that has broad centralized authority. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is much more limited in its authority. Therefore, though they are legally the “trustees” of the Executive Committee, a Tennessee not-for-profit corporation, Executive Committee trustees are called “members” because the Executive Committee is a committee and not a board. The Executive Committee is always careful to recognize the limitations of its authority in the SBC structure.
There you have it. The name, purpose, and limitations of the Executive Committee have all been discussed in our history. I continue to be fascinated by the discussions contained in the pages of history and the wisdom of our Baptist forefathers in setting up a Committee and not a Board preventing centralized power and relying on the wisdom and desires of our local churches for guiding our convention.