By Robert Dilday
Baptists in the nation’s capital adopted a major restructuring of their organization Feb. 24, aiming for a more “nimble and efficient” method for carrying out their mission.
Delegates from 44 of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention’s more than 150 congregations voted to replace its constitution with a set of bylaws and standing rules which establish a Council of Church Representatives, consisting of two voting delegates from each of the convention’s active member churches. The council will meet annually to elect officers and adopt a budget.
In addition, a new 25-member board of directors replaces a 163-member executive board to conduct the convention’s business between annual sessions of the Council of Church Representatives.
Although the convention’s name was not changed, a tagline describes it as “An International Missional Network.” Historically the DCBC has included churches in Washington and suburban Maryland and Virginia. The new identity supports the convention’s mission to “inspire courageous missional engagement by a network of congregations, organizations, entities, groups and individuals committed to our values and the fulfillment of the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.”
Under the new structure, member churches and organizations fall into active, probationary and inactive categories as well as an affiliate status, to include “churches, other than Baptist, and other bodies that affirm the values of the convention, without differentiation to any particular denominational group.” Affiliates have no voting power and their leaders may not serve on the convention’s governing bodies or standing committees.
“This represents a huge amount of change,” said Jill McCrory, pastor of Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., who presented the proposal. “It’s a change of structure, of numbers, of representation, of how we do things and make decisions. I understand that. But I ask you to trust the convention leadership and staff and those of us who put into it what we believe is best for the convention.”
McCrory said the new board of directors will include responsive and experienced members, each one “tasked with liaisoning with your church, setting up communication between churches and board members.”
Larry Hentz, a media advertising executive who was elected the DCBC’s president last year, said the new structure will encourage greater engagement from the convention’s constituency. “During 2013 we held three [executive] board meetings and a combined number of 41 of 163 people attended,” said Hentz, a member of Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.
The restructuring proposal was introduced last October at the DCBC’s annual meeting, but delegates asked for more time to consider the details. Since then it has been discussed at a series of “town hall” meetings and the original proposal was modified. Yesterday’s meeting was considered a “reconvening” of the convention.
Though on most convention matters each delegate casts a vote, on constitutional changes each represented church has a single vote, agreed on during a caucus of church delegates. The final vote on the proposal was 38-5, with one vote disqualified for omitting the church’s name.
The DCBC traces its roots to 1801, when Baptists held their first worship service in the District. It is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. It also maintains “strategic partnerships” with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Mid-Atlantic CBF, the Alliance of Baptists, the National Baptist Convention USA and the National Baptist Convention of America, as well as the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.