Monday, October 02, 2006

Report from GEC 0609

Below is the official report from the recent GEC meeting. I will offer comments and observations later.

Summary of GEC Meeting September 25-27, 2006

The General Executive Council (GEC) met September 25-27 as part of an ongoing process to promote adaptive change within the denomination.

GEC members focused on three primary tasks during their meeting:
The identification of criteria by which to formulate and judge a final proposal
The recommendation of an interim funding plan for central office functions administered through the Office of the General Secretary
Establishing a framework and parameters for the new structure

By consensus, the GEC members agreed upon the following proposal criteria:
Protect and secure the local church as the fundamental unit of mission by preserving historic Baptist freedoms and enacting a balance of autonomy and interdependence.
Demonstrate respect for ethnic/gender/cultural/theological/generational diversity and inclusiveness in all processes and purposes.
Increase the potential for fundraising through United Mission and other sources.
Implement substantial cost reductions for General Board operations.
Enable ABCUSA to establish, celebrate, implement and monitor outcomes of mission and ministry.
Resolve the division over homosexuality or at least move the denomination forward on this issue.
Provide for commitment to clear accountability, holding each other responsible for maintaining covenants.
Provide central office functions for the denomination.

By consensus, the GEC also made several recommendations to other entities within the denomination including the General Board, National Boards, and Regions regarding an interim funding plan for OGS central office functions, that included an endorsement of the General Board Executive Committee’s recommendation to sell the current Mission Center Office property. In accordance with ABCUSA processes, the GEC has the power to make recommendations to other bodies within the denomination but does not have the power to implement changes requiring ABCUSA bylaw changes.

This meeting was part of an ongoing process of the GEC launched in November of 2005 to address several concerns and opportunities including a strong desire to advance the mission that God has given to American Baptists, to build upon the work of the “Seek It” vision, to respond to the needs of 21st century congregations, to attend to financial concerns, and to address current conflicts within the denomination. Previous meetings have included the identification of key areas of concentration, the review of survey responses from American Baptists, and the formation of proposals.

At their previous GEC meeting in June, several GEC members submitted proposals suggesting possible new structural changes. Over the summer, authors of the proposals revised them using feedback received at the June meeting. During the proposal review process at this September meeting, it was evident that every proposal submitted had significant merit and addressed at least a portion of the identified criteria. Two proposals were approved as foundational and were augmented with ideas from the other proposals. The ongoing refinement may include elements of many or all of the submitted proposals as well as further refinements in thinking.

The GEC named a transition writing team to continue to develop these elements, charging them with the following responsibilities:
Continue to refine and build upon the key elements that contained the greatest level of support.
Gather feedback on these elements from the General Board and others.
Cast an eye and ear toward prophetic voices that can help the denomination to adopt a structure more appropriate for the 21st century.
Shed unnecessary components in order to create the new future.
Transition writing team members are: Michaele Birdsall, Sarah Hallstrand, Desmond Hoffmeister, James McJunkin, Jr., Roy Medley, Larry Swain, Reid Trulson, Aidsand Wright-Riggins III, and Jeff Woods.

The projected timeline includes receiving feedback from the General Board in the November 2006 meeting, holding an extra meeting of the GEC early in 2007, and working toward the adoption of a new structure by the 2009 Biennial delegates.

The American Baptist General Executive Council is comprised of the Executive Ministers of the Regions; the Executive Directors and two Associate Executive Directors from each of the National Boards (Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, the Board of National Ministries, and the Board of International Ministries); the Executive Directors of the Ministers Council, American Baptist Women’s Ministries, the American Baptist Historical Society, and the American Baptist Assembly; and the General Secretary and Staff of the Office of the General Secretary.