Satellite SBC meetings and remote voting: the best terrible idea around

Happens every spring: someone has a eureka moment and asks, “Why can’t the SBC Annual Meeting be held in both a central location and numerous satellite locations?” The arguments are always the same. Some tout benefits seen as inherently positive and some arguments express a dissatisfaction with current decisions of the SBC that would be solved by greatly broadened participation. Here’s a sampling of comments..

There is no way my church can afford to send messengers all over the country, but we could get to a central location in our state. 

It would be awesome to be able to go to an Association meeting point and be able to vote, etc.

It’s a great idea. It decentralizes control of the SBC and brings it back to the local church level.

I can vote for the POTUS close to my home, why can’t I vote for POTSBC?

Local associations could be certified to register and tally votes.

 There is no reason not to move into the 21st century.

It would be easy to facilitate remote locations for churches to participate in the business of the convention.

It would mean the SBC would have a much higher level of grass-roots involvement.

If our convention leadership wanted to involve the churches they could make it happen.

It will never happen. The megapastors want to maintain control.

Many more church would participate and that’s always good.

This comes up every year and we have the same discussions. Here are a few observations gleaned from a few decades of pondering the idea of expanding the annual meeting to multiple sites.

  1. The Executive Committee has examined the concept. Can satellite enthusiasts at least drop the slander that there is a cabal of SBC leaders who are stifling the idea? The EC has had experts look at this.
  2. The SBC Annual Meeting is not just a big confab where folks can vote but is an important corporate meeting where legal decisions are made. If these decisions are not made in accord with law, lawsuits could be filed to overturn decisions. Decentralizing the corporate meetings would multiply the susceptiblity for this.
  3. We don’t allow proxy voting. You gotta be in the hall voting your own, lonesome vote along with all the other thousands of “owners” of the SBC. A corporation’s ownership is by shareholders of record as of a certain date who may give their vote to others to vote at the centralized meeting.
  4. SBC voting is unpredictable. Candidates aren’t always known in advance. The issues that even require a ballot are not known in advance. There would be no way to have any vote without a ballot, since the chair would not be able to determine if a voice or standing vote was positive or negative on any issue.
  5. Security is an issue. As it is, messengers are registered either online or in person by verifying a few things. With remote locations this would be possible but not under strict control.  Voting presently is discrete, concrete, and easily and quickly verified – paper ballots in buckets received from folks in a single room. Ensuring the same in a thousand locations, or a few dozen remote locations, would probably be impossible. No corporation does this, for good reasons.
  6. Decentralization would necessarily have two classes of SBC messengers. Those at the main central location would be able to make motions, offer amendments, propose resolutions and discuss these while the back-of-the-bus satellite attendees would not. Even proponents acknowledge that remote participation, making motions, offering amendments, getting the floor to speak to issues, would be impossible.
  7. Counting votes would be more difficult, perhaps impossible to fit in our time allotment. My state has electronic voting yet some voting districts still take hours, sometimes overnight, to report a vote total. As it is we use optical scanning (I think) and votes are tallied within minutes. Do we think that every association or other remote location will be as quick or have no issues. If Podunk, Iowa has a problem we all have to wait until they straighten their mess out?
  8. Confusion is common at our one meeting now. It would only be multiplied with many locations. 
  9. Any decentralization would likely lead to more, not less politicization. 
  10. Change would be harder the more locations and participation there is. The idea that if we got the grassroots involved things would be different seems intuitive. In fact, it would probably be harder. A few thousand votes can make decisions now. It would take multiples of that with remote locations voting.
  11. Anyone who wishes can participate now. The meetings are live streamed and anyone can follow the flow of things and stay informed.
  12. The same reasoning ought to apply to state conventions. Do any of them offer remote participation? None that I know of although it would be far easier for them than the SBC. Why don’t they?
  13. Unintended consequences. Folks have been ruminating about this for a long time but some consequences have likely not been discovered.

Amazing…the SBC somehow managed the Conservative Resurgence using the system we have, and still have.

I suppose (and this falls into the category of rank conjecture) that it would be possible for the SBC to have a proxy system whereby presidential candidates could be remotely balloted. This would require registration of messengers by a certain date, a set slate of candidates by a certain pre-convention date, and paper or electronic votes by a deadline prior to the convention where officers would vote the proxies. I can’t imagine why any SBC populists would think this a better system.

It’s a bad idea. The benefits of decentralization are grossly overstated and the drawbacks are always ignored or understated. But, I am open to being convinced that some change can be managed.

Critics should show up, make motions, and win votes.


There are more reasons than I’ve given here, perhaps some better than mine. Many of the questions are legal questions and while Baptist pastors traditionally claim expertise in all areas, I acknowledge my lay legal views likely miss many of the issues. Not to be unsaid: the major benefit of remote locations would be a host of incredibly bored people who think, “Why am I sitting here all day?”

from SBC Voices


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