ORLANDO, Fla.—Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Fla., June 15-16 defeated an attempt to unseal written and audio recordings of Great Commission Resurgence task force proceedings.
The task force recently announced it would seal the records for 15 years at the Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives in Nashville, Tenn.
Jay Adkins of First Baptist Church in Westwego, La., introduced a motion to make the records available “in the spirit of openness and transparency” for review by any interested Southern Baptist.
In debate on his motion, the only one scheduled by the SBC Committee on Order Business, Adkins said Southern Baptist would benefit from “seeing the process” of the task force. “What better way could we as a body come together?” he asked.
But task force members argued against the effort to open the records immediately, saying it would require them to break promises of confidentiality they made with Southern Baptists they consulted with in their deliberations.
“We promised them confidentiality during deliberations,” said Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a task force member. “This recommendation would require this task force to break its word.”
It would also “rob us of our own historical record” and have a chilling effect on future committees, he said: “The consequence of this motion is no future convention committees could record their proceedings because they would be compromised form the beginning.
“It is a very important thing that this convention seek to collect and maintain a historical memory” by being able to maintain such records, Mohler added. “We wanted to invest in this denomination’s history.”
Calling journalism “the first draft of history,” James A. Smith, editor of the Florida Baptist Witness and a member of Gracepointe Baptist Church in St. Augustine, Fla., supported the motion, saying history could be written “now and in future weeks.”
But Greg Wills, a church history professor at La Grange (Ky.) Baptist Church, suggesting 15 years “is an entirely reasonable, brief period” for sealing such records. Opening the records now “may serve a short term political agenda, but we will lose the history of our committees at the most critical time.”
An effort by Doug Hibbard of Calvary Baptist Church in Monticello, Ark., to amend the motion so selected portions of the proceedings could be released also failed.
Messengers referred 13 motions to the SBC Executive Committee for action. Other than the motion to open task force records, only one elicted discussion from the floor.
Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, proposed amending Article III, Section 1 of the SBC Constitution to include “racial discrimination” in the definition of churches “not in cooperation” with the SBC.
“I’m excited about the Great Commission resurgence efforts and I think it’s absolutely vital that a statement be made to people we want to reach that this convention is prepared to make a bold statement that in no way we’ll tolerate racial discrimination,” McKissic offered. “It will catapult us into our efforts to reach this world for Jesus.”
Committee on Order of Business Chairman Jonathan Whitehead of Missouri, expressed agreement for the intent of the motion, but suggested the need to refer it to the SBC Executive Committee.
“We do not disagree with the spirit behind your motion at all,” Whitehead said. “Whenever we go amending our legal documents we should probably follow the process of letting the proper entities deal with the appropriate legal processes.”
A motion from Bruce Shortt from North Oaks Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, requesting a strategy for expanding Christian schooling alternatives, was referred to the North American Mission Board.
LifeWay Christian resources received a motion from Channing Kilgore of South Whitewell, Tenn., asking the publishing agency to “reconsider the validity” of selling books from T.D. Jakes, Don Piper and William Young.
A motion from Bill Wood from Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston asking the SBC to adopt guidelines for stating positions on partisan political issues, was referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.