Proposed changes to CBF governing documents include revisions to a 25-year-old open meetings bylaw.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly will vote on a proposal to support the long-term presence of field personnel through its annual offering for global missions.
The CBF Governing Board will ask members attending the June 20-24 gathering in Greensboro, N.C., to sign off on a new funding model that will be the centerpiece to a new vision for global missions developed by a 15-member Missions Council formed in a restructuring of CBF governance adopted in 2012.
Under the proposal, the purpose of the Offering for Global Missions would change to provide salaries, housing, benefits and administrative support for all field personnel. When field personnel visit a church, their priority will be encouraging support for the mission offering as a way to sustain CBF’s long-term commitment to service.
A second motion adopted by the Governing Board in a meeting Jan. 28-29 at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., requires all field personnel to raise their own ministry budget from partner funding sources such as congregations, friends and family members, including funds set aside for emergency use.
Mike Oliver, chair of the ad hoc committee and former chair of the Missions Council, said the funding plan combines the security of institutional support with the personal relationships of partner funding. Currently both approaches are used by CBF field personnel.
The Missions Council is authorized to provide vision, strategy, education and sustainability to CBF’s mission enterprise, but changes to the budget and personnel policy required collaboration with the 16-member Governing Board, which replaced a larger and more centralized Coordinating Council to function as the organization’s board of directors.
Paul Baxley, the Governing Board representative on an ad hoc committee for global missions restructuring, said granting the final decision to the General Assembly provides an opportunity for the Fellowship at large to “embrace a new vision” of cultivating the “Beloved Community,” bearing witness in word and deed and transformational development in both the U.S. and around the globe.
“The temptation is to speak of this restructuring as something that affects field personnel and global missions staff,” said Baxley, senior minister at First Baptist Church in Athens, Ga. “But if we’re really serious about finding the most faithful way to sustain God’s mission in the world, that’s going to be a renewal of commitment and pursuit of a more excellent way in every single one of our congregations.”
A third motion implementing the global missions restructuring builds closer collaboration with the “global church” by participating in international networks, helping churches receive missionaries to help them reach different cultures in their own communities, increasing cultural and ethnic diversity in missionary appointments and encouraging field personnel to build relationships with indigenous missionaries.
Other business referred to the General Assembly includes numerous amendments to the CBF constitution and bylaws reflecting changes to CBF operations since a 2012 governance restructuring divided work formerly done by a large, representative Coordinating Council to a smaller and more hands-on Governing Board and separate councils to focus on global missions ands and ministry resources.
One proposed change gives those policy-making groups more discretion in discussing business in executive session.
An open meetings bylaw included in the original CBF constitution and bylaws guarantees that with the exception of discussions pertaining to personnel or legal matters, all meetings of the Fellowship, Governing Board, Missions Council, Ministries Council, and any sub-group of the Governing Board, “shall be open to any member of the Fellowship.”
The new bylaw clarifies that some items of business will remain open to any member of the Fellowship: “Motions on any matters of business, policies or procedure; discussion on motions and matters of business, policies or procedures; and all votes on motions and matters in the conduct of the Fellowship’s business, policies or procedure.”
A new subsection on closed sessions adds: “The Governing Board, Missions Council, Ministries Council and their respective and ancillary committees may receive and discuss preliminary information in closed session. Further, motions, discussion on motions and votes on motions pertaining to personnel matters and legal matters may take place in closed session.”
Steve Little, chair of the board’s personnel and legal committee, said the intent is to maintain the “fundamental open nature” of all CBF meetings while recognizing that not all preliminary discussions are appropriate for public disclosure.
“The idea behind this is to acknowledge what is commonly done, and I think perhaps even routinely done, in other types of boards of nonprofit organizations,” said Little, an attorney in Marion, N.C., currently serving as the city’s mayor. “Every board that I’ve ever been involved in, and there have been quite a few, have a similar type of a plan where new matter is preliminarily discussed, sometimes with the effect that there’s a determination made from preliminary conversation that this is not an item that really it’s not the right time or is not the right topic for us to be dealing with and we choose not to do it, and nothing further is done. It’s been talked about in the preliminary manner enough to know that this is something we are not going to deal with at this time.”
Once such matters pass a “threshold determination” that it deals in some manner with the business, policies or procedure of the Fellowship, Little said, the discussion will move to open session.
Closed-door discussions and votes on matters involving legal matters like contracts and personnel matters, he said, are already part of CBF policy and are also required by law.
“The only thing about this that changes is the idea of preliminary receipt of information, preliminary discussion of topics, to be determined on a threshold basis, is this something we as a Fellowship or a board of the Fellowship think is appropriate to pursue, or to pursue at this time?” Little said.