In a motion at the Southern Baptists Convention June 14, a Baptist state newspaper editor asked trustees of all Southern Baptist Convention entities to open their meetings to the press.
Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector newspaper in Tennessee, requested all SBC trustees “to consider examining their media policies, and if they do not have clearly defined guidelines to consider establishing a policy that trustee meetings, including committee meetings, be open to news media.”
By rules which state any motion on the floor of the annual meeting concerning the internal work of an SBC entity be referred to its board of trustees, messengers voted to refer the motion to all entities with a request they report back to the convention next year.
Early this year Wilkey and other Baptist state paper editors voiced concern about unanswered questions concerning layoffs at the International Mission Board. Wilkey wrote Jan. 28 that he is “troubled by the lack of communication coming from the IMB.”
Current IMB policy allows for open meetings of certain committees for background information only and a closing plenary session that is open to the public unless trustees decide to go into executive session.
A June 3 editorial in the Baptist Message in Louisiana asked “Why are IMB leaders not answering questions?” about the termination of 1,132 missionaries and staff that leadership attributed to budget shortfalls.
“The Message is not a crusading investigative news outlet,” wrote editorial Will Hall, a former vice president at the SBC Executive Committee who directed Baptist Press. “We simply try to ask questions Southern Baptists are asking among themselves.”
On Wednesday SBC messengers adopted a resolution encouraging “journalists and news organizations — both secular and religious — to exercise responsibly their freedom” and all SBC entities “to honor freedom of the press by continuing to make reasonable accommodations to the news media seeking to cover Southern Baptist entities and newsmakers.”