We want to help you understand how the churches in the SBC relate to one another and to the Convention in order to clarify the Credentials Committee’s role in processing your concern.
The Southern Baptist Convention is an organized group of cooperating churches that support a specific set of ministries. The Southern Baptist Convention convenes annually to hear reports from its ministry leaders, elected trustees and to approve a distribution plan for funds contributed by cooperating churches. Each cooperating church is eligible to send representatives, called messengers, to the annual meeting based on certain criteria outlined in Article III of the SBC Constitution.
The Convention elects three standing committees to assist the Convention for a number of practical matters which arise between the Convention’s annual meetings – and Executive Committee to act for the Convention ad interim in all matters not otherwise assigned; a Committee on Order of Business to plan the program for the annual meeting; and a Credentials Committee to receive concerns regarding whether a specific church continues to have a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message) or whether it should be deemed not in “friendly cooperation “ with the Convention as outlined in SBC Constitution, Article III, which reads as follows: .
Article III. Composition: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention. The following subparagraphs describe the Convention’s current standards and method of determining the maximum number of messengers the Convention will recognize from each cooperating church to attend the Convention’s annual meeting.
1. The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:
(1.) Has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, the regular filling of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)
(2.) Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)
(3.) Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.
(4.) Does not act in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse.
(5.) Does not act to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.
Churches which qualify to send messenger to the Convention’s annual meeting voluntarily and cooperatively agree with a faith and practice that “closely identifies” with the Convention’s confessional statement. They also determine for themselves the amount of contributions they forward to help underwrite the ministries of the Convention.
The Convention has no authority over any local church, however, it retains its sovereign right to determine whether it deems a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention. If a church is deemed not to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith and practice, the Convention has the autonomous authority to declare it will no longer recognize the church as a cooperating church with the Convention and to sever its relationship with the church.
Likewise, each church is fully autonomous, operating under the governance of its own membership and free to pursue its own interests with or with out a relationship to the Convention. This autonomy extends to every matter of church life: its doctrine, its practice, how it receives and dismissed members, its hiring of staff and enlistment of volunteers, setting its budget, receiving of contributions, its internal operations, and other matters. Exercising its autonomy, any church may determine at any time to end its relationship with the Convention at the church’s own discretion.