SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting will consider updates to their 200-year-old governing documents when they gather in Snellville in mid-November.
“A part of this goes back to the fact that some of our core documents really were 200 years old,” said Tim Oliver, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Administration Committee. “It makes sense to bring our organizational documents into the current millennium. We have been very slow in coming to this table to update these things and bringing them into the current reality. We’re doing a work that the next generation of Georgia Baptist leaders won’t have to grapple with.”
These proposed new documents establish the Georgia Baptist Convention as a legal entity and protect Georgia Baptist churches in a litigious society. This ultimately settles the vulnerability of ascending and descending liability.
In the new documents, the Georgia Baptist Convention would address a myriad of cultural issues, including gender identity, and would clarify the GBC’s adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the standard for the Executive Committee.
It also corrects omissions related to the existence and functionality of convention committees.
One of the most significant outcomes of these new documents would be to declare the complete authority of the convention to seat all Executive Committee members as the now newly incorporated sole member of the Executive Committee.
“Our governing documents are woefully out of date and in some cases non-existent,” said Georgia Baptist President Josh Saefkow. “We have to bring them up to date.”
Executive Committee Chairman David Mills said these documents broaden the base of representation farther and deeper across our convention.
“These new documents will ensure more Georgia Baptists have a voice and a vote,” Mills said.
New bylaws would increase the number of people serving on the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee from 114 to 122. They will also require every cooperating church to submit a yearly report, known as the Annual Church Profile or ACP, and to contribute at least $500 a year by the end of 2024 through the Cooperative Program to be eligible to send messengers to annual meetings.
“This is what partnership and what being a cooperating church looks like,” Saefkow said. “We’re raising the standard for what it means to be a cooperating church.”
Churches choosing not to contribute $500 or more or fill out the ACP would continue in affiliated status with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
The Georgia Baptist Executive Committee approved the updates to the governing documents in a September meeting in Fayetteville. Messengers will be asked to approve them at the annual meeting set for Nov. 13-14 at the Church on Main in Snellville.
The updates were recommended by a 10-member task force appointed by Saefkow and chaired by North Metro Baptist Church of Lawrenceville Pastor Frank Cox.
“The convention is always evolving and, at times, must make changes that allow it to flourish,” Cox said. “In the course of looking at the bylaws, we have sought to do that, to bring clarity that would allow the convention to be efficient and effective.”
Serving on the task force with Cox were Steve Parr, missions strategist for the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Network representing the northeast region; Jerry Speer, pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Columbus representing the southwest region; Darrell Paulk, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dublin representing the east region; Chris Allen, pastor at First Baptist Church in Cairo representing the southwest region; Steve Browning, pastor at First Baptist Church in Alpharetta representing the northwest region; Chad Rising, pastor of Blacks Creek Baptist Church in Commerce representing the northeast region; David Lambert, pastor at First Baptist Church at Thomson representing the east region; and Doug Bingham, pastor at Unity Baptist at LaGrange representing the west region.
The impetus for the task force, as explained in a statement from the Executive Committee, was that the Georgia Baptist Convention’s governing documents had been put together over two centuries and needed revisions “to harmonize and define terms, to clarify concepts, and to specify powers and duties.”
Parliamentarian Barry McCarty said at the time that doing a review and recommending updates would be “a wise thing.”
“From a GBC perspective, it’s important to note that, under the proposed changes, the Executive Committee base would grow, not shrink,” Saefkow said.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Baptist Administration Committee did a review of Executive Committee documents and recommended revisions that were voted on and approved by the Executive Committee.
“These changes reveal the necessity of partnership and generosity of all Georgia Baptist churches when it comes to global evangelism,” Saefkow said. “We want to encourage everyone to participate in every aspect of Georgia Baptist life.”
The governing documents are available for review at gabaptist.org/gbc-docs.