NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee will consider a proposal June 9 to update the SBC constitution regarding qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting.

During its Feb. 17-18 meeting in Nashville, the Executive Committee decided to place the item on its June 9 agenda prior to the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore to allow Southern Baptists time to discuss the proposed change and provide feedback. The committee's deliberations, then, will determine whether the proposed revision will be presented to messengers at the June 10-11 SBC annual meeting.

The Executive Committee also took action on motions referred from the 2013 SBC annual meeting in Houston regarding gender-neutral Bible translations and churches' response to mental health issues. (See separate story today on the EC's mental health response.)

Church messenger qualifications

The proposal to amend Article III came as a motion from the floor at last year's SBC annual meeting -- the 16th motion on this article in the past 35 years -- to reevaluate the minimum qualifications for seating additional church messages at the SBC.

Article III currently states that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention can send one additional messenger for every 250 members or for each $250 per year "paid to the work of the Convention," an amount dating back to 1888.

Under the new proposal to be considered at the June EC meeting on the Monday before the SBC annual meeting, additional messengers would be recognized from a cooperating church by one of two options, whichever allows the greater number of messengers:

-- One additional messenger for each full percent of the church's undesignated receipts through any combination of gifts through the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

-- One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the same combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

The $6,000 figure was arrived at by adjusting for inflation and other factors since 1888. It is meant to be comparable to the $250 figure adopted 126 years ago.

Additional updates to Article III will be discussed, with a Q&A on the matter to appear in SBC Life and other outlets at the request of SBC President Fred Luter.

Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee, noted that the proposed revision mentions Cooperative Program as the preferred means for convention funding for the first time. He also underscored EC chairman Ernest Easley's affirmation that the revision of the SBC constitution "is not a hill on which to die."

"The question for me ... if the perception is that it will hurt small churches, this is DOA," Page told EC members. "I will not tolerate something that even seems like it's going to hurt small churches.... My heart is with small churches, and I don't want anything that even seems to be in some way pejorative toward their involvement."

Executive Committee members want to hear from Southern Baptists on the issue to help make the best decision for the convention. The goal is not to decrease the number of messengers to the annual meeting, Page said.

Gender-neutral Bible translations

The Executive Committee, in adopting a recommendation addressing a motion from last year's annual meeting, stated it does not have authority to publish a theological position paper concerning which Bible translations Southern Baptists should and shouldn't use. The EC added that messengers have addressed the issue through resolutions during three past SBC annual meetings –- 1997, 2002 and 2011 -- which encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of possible translation errors in various translations of the Bible.

The recommendation addressed a motion by Tim Overton, pastor of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Ind., that the Executive Committee publish a theological position paper on whether to recommend that Southern Baptists use gender-neutral Bibles.

Addressing committee members Feb. 18, Overton shared why a position paper endorsed by the EC would be helpful to Southern Baptists and would provide "clarity" on the issue.

In the committee's recommendation, it pointed to a 1997 resolution encouraging Southern Baptists "to be continually vigilant regarding this matter and prayerful for the Bible publishers and translators in the monumental task that they undertake." In 2002 and 2011 resolutions, messengers encouraged Southern Baptists to make their congregations aware of possible translation errors found in such translations as the Today's New International Version and the 2011 New International Version.

The Executive Committee also noted that convention messengers in a 2012 resolution "On Biblical Scholarship and the Doctrine of Inerrancy" reaffirmed their "belief in and adherence to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, as set forth in the Bible itself and in Article 1 of The Baptist Faith and Message."

The EC recommendation added that "the Convention has not assigned the Executive Committee the duty of recommending to churches or individual Southern Baptists whether or not they should use particular translations of the Bible, believing, as Convention resolutions consistently affirm, that it is the duty of pastors to teach and disciple their members on such matters…."

The recommendation stated the Executive Committee has posted in the past scholarly position papers by Southern Baptists on a variety of biblical subjects at baptist2baptist.net and will continue to post such papers, including papers on Bible translation theory.

In other action ...

The Executive Committee also:

-- approved the 2014-15 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $188,000,000 for recommendation to the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 10-11 annual meeting in Baltimore.

The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention's ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board, for an overall total of 73.20 percent allocated for mission ministries nationally and internationally.

The convention's six seminaries will receive 21.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula will be: Southwestern Seminary, 4.38 percent; Southern Seminary, 4.87 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.86 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 4.27 percent; Golden Gate Seminary, 2.07 percent; and Midwestern Seminary, 2.47 percent. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)

The budget proposal maintains a 1.65 percent allocation to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing the SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, would receive 2.99 percent of the budget.

-- affirmed the name Global Hunger Relief as the successor to the name World Hunger Fund for the SBC-approved fund "through which Southern Baptists and others may give to help meet hunger needs of any person or group of persons wherever they may reside, with administrative and distribution costs borne through our Cooperative Program partners."

The new name has been developed by representatives of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Executive Committee, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, LifeWay Christian Resources, Woman's Missionary Union and Baptist Global Response.

In affirming the Global Hunger Relief name, the Executive Committee also affirmed "the current distribution of 80 percent for overseas hunger relief and 20 percent for hunger relief in the United States and Canada."

-- approved recommendations of Birmingham, Ala., as the site of the June 11-12, 2019 SBC annual meeting and Orlando, Fla., for the June 9-10, 2020 annual meeting. The recommendations will be presented to messengers at this year's annual meeting, June 10-11 in Baltimore.

-- received as information that C. Barry McCarty will be retained as the chief parliamentarian for this year's annual meeting.

-- approved a request for a $70,000 reimbursement by the SBC Pastors' Conference for use of the Baltimore Convention Center's meeting hall and facilities, June 8-9, preceding the SBC annual meeting, as part of a three-year process toward reimbursement for all costs by 2015.

-- elected Key Holleman and Randy Pittman as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees for terms to expire in 2017. Holleman, of Nashville, is senior vice president of investments at Raymond James. Pittman, of Mount Juliet, Tenn., is the chief financial officer of Hemphill Brothers Motor Coach in Goodlettsville, Tenn.

-- authorized a 1.5 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Compiled by Baptist Press staff Erin Roach, Shawn Hendricks and Art Toalston. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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