TINLEY PARK, Ill. (ABP) — Amid concerns that too much power is being concentrated in the hands of fewer leaders, messengers to the Illinois Baptist State Association's annual meeting approved a constitutional change to reduce its board of directors by more than half.
The board currently has 72 members chosen from throughout the state. Under the new model, that board will be whittled down to 33 over the next three years. Twenty-four board members will come from six regions, four from each region. Nine others will be at-large members. About 1,000 churches affiliate with the Illinois Baptist State Association.
During the association's 98th annual meeting Nov. 10-11 in the south Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, most messengers speaking against the change hailed from southern Illinois churches. Many speaking in favor were from northern Illinois.
“I believe the plan is flawed,” said Allen Speer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cobden. “We need diverse representation.”
Randy Grace, pastor of Hurricane Memorial Baptist Church of Herrin, said a larger number of board members provides stronger representation and promotes better ownership. After the session, Grace told a reporter that he also had concerns about the equitable division of the six regions, noting that the northern regions give less to the Cooperative Program, a voluntary financial partnership by which Southern Baptist churches support their state conventions and the national denomination.
Coupled with a decision last year to allow the board of directors to elect its own chairman and supporting officers, the board reduction gives too much authority to a small number of leaders, said Tim Sadler, pastor of First Baptist Church of Anna. Sadler said he was “uncomfortable” seeing that much authority being handed over while the association president's power is scaled back.
The president and three other officers are chosen by messengers attending the IBSA annual meeting each November. After last year's vote, their roles have been limited primarily to overseeing the annual meeting. They no longer preside over the twice-annual meetings of the board of directors but serve as ex-officio members with vote.
Larry Richmond, the former association president who oversaw the board-reduction plan during his two terms, told messengers “history has proven” large boards are not an effective model of governance. The Illinois Baptist State Association needs to move from a representative model to what he described as a leadership model.
“I came on this board in 1944,” said Jimmy Baldwin, pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church of Galatia, “and I was not aware we have too many [members] at all.”
While a smaller board may achieve some short-term advantages, Baldwin said, it will not work as a long-term model to have fewer people sharing leadership. “A democracy is not made up of fewer people,” he said. “… Ten years from now we will say it's a mistake.”
Tom Rains, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Quincy and a spokesman for the constitution-and-bylaws committee, said members of a smaller board will have a better chance to “be able to know each other and trust one another.” He said the smaller board will mean a savings of at least $12,000 annually in meetings expenses.
The constitutional change needed a two-thirds majority to pass, which it easily received on a show of raised ballots.
In other business, Don Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church of Chicago, and Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Maryville, were re-elected as president and vice president.
Illinois Baptists reduced their Cooperative Program goal for 2005 by nearly 2 percent, to $6.77 million from $6.90 million. Illinois churches' support for the Cooperative Program has continued to decline since 2001, when the previous executive director, Bob Wiley, was pressured by some IBSA board leaders to resign.
As of Nov. 5, Illinois Southern Baptist churches had contributed nearly $5.38 million to the Cooperative Program, which was more than $460,000 short of the association's year-to-date goal and more than $77,000 below what churches had given the same time last year.
The Illinois association's shortfall was contrasted by a report from a spokesman from the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, who said national Cooperative Program revenues are up 2 percent across the board.
The Illinois Baptist State Association keeps 57.75 percent of every Cooperative Program dollar contributed by affiliated churches and forwards the remaining 42.25 percent to the national SBC. The association excludes money targeted for the church annuity plan and Cooperative Program promotion from the ratio.
Messengers approved IBSA's 2005 budget of slightly more than $5.57 million, a reduction of nearly $74,000, or 1.3 percent, from this year's budget. Most of the projected revenue will come from nearly $4 million from Illinois churches and another $1.4 million from the North American Mission Board.
Messengers approved a resolution to recognize the contributions made by the nation's veterans. A handful of messengers unsuccessfully voted against a motion by Randy Grace, the Hurricane Memorial pastor, to amend the resolution to describe the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places as a “just” war.
No attempt was made to introduce a resolution calling for parents to pull their children out of public schools. Illinois was one of at least 10 state Baptist conventions where supporters of the anti-schools resolution hoped to bring the issue before messengers. Modeled after a similar resolution that failed to gain the endorsement of the national SBC's resolutions committee last summer, the resolution urged parents to remove their children from “godless” and “anti-Christian government schools.”