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The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 13–16 (see 9 Things You Should Know About the Southern Baptist Convention). Reporting of each annual convention often focuses heavily on resolutions adopted during the session. Here is what you should know about SBC resolutions (even if you aren’t a Baptist).

What is an SBC resolution?

An SBC resolution has traditionally been defined as an expression of opinion or concern of the messengers at an annual meeting. It differs from a motion, which calls for an action, and therefore cannot be used to direct an entity of the SBC.

Who can submit an SBC resolution?

Any member of an SBC church that is in good standing and allowed to send messengers to the next annual meeting can submit up to three resolutions per year. The submission must also include a letter from the church certifying that the submitter is a member in good standing.

They can be submitted each year for review as early as April 15 and no later than 15 days before the annual meeting.

What is the process for submitting and approving resolutions?

They are submitted for consideration by the SBC Committee on Resolutions, which also has the power to submit its own resolutions.

The Committee on Resolutions consists of 10 members and is appointed at least 75 days before the annual meeting. The committee considers all resolutions and recommends which should be adopted. Only resolutions recommended by the committee may be considered during the annual meeting, although any resolution properly submitted can be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the messengers.

The Convention Bulletin includes a list of the titles of all properly submitted proposed resolutions, includes the name and city of each person properly submitting a resolution, and the disposition of each proper submission.

How many resolutions are approved each year?

There have been roughly 600 total resolutions adopted across 170 annual meetings, an average of 3.5 resolutions a meeting.

At the last meeting (in 2019), the SBC adopted 13 resolutions. Typically, one of the resolutions each year expresses appreciation for the city that has hosted the annual meeting.

What is the common format for SBC resolutions?

Almost all resolutions that have been adopted follow a general pattern of legal phrasing that consists of two parts: the reasons for the resolution, preceded by “WHEREAS,” and the resolution itself, preceded by “be it RESOLVED”; in case of more than one RESOLVED, “be it further RESOLVED.”

Are resolutions binding on SBC churches?

No. As J. Robert White notes, “Neither resolutions nor any other statement outside the local church can be considered policy of any local church unless the congregation itself decides to affirm the statement, such as many have done with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

What is the purpose of an SBC resolution?

Technically, the resolution only reflects the majority opinion of the messengers attending the annual meeting. “A resolution is not a statement of Southern Baptist policy,” White says. “It speaks only for the messengers who were gathered in a particular place at a particular time.” (Messengers are representatives of SBC churches at the annual meeting.)

However, because of the public’s misperception that the resolutions reflect a broader view of the entire SBC, the resolutions are often highly contended. Whether a resolution is promoted in public or dismissed as irrelevant to the larger concerns of the SBC varies from issue to issue.

For example, just before the sex scandal during the presidency of Bill Clinton, the SBC passed a Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials (1998). In the past decade, that resolution has been frequently cited by those who claim the SBC has changed its position on its “conviction that character does count in public office,” while others point out that the resolution was never binding on churches or individuals—even when it was adopted.

No resolution has ever been rescinded, though on several issues the SBC has issued new resolutions that renounce opinions expressed at previous meetings. For instance, in 1995 a resolution apologized and asked forgiveness for the SBC’s earlier support of slavery and segregation. Similarly, a 2003 resolution on abortion expressed regret that “1970s-era Southern Baptist Convention resolutions and statements . . . furthered the ‘pro-choice’ abortion rights agenda outlined in Roe v. Wade.”

“It’s not surprising to see that as culture changes the ‘opinions’ of the Annual Meeting changes,” says Baptist pastor Luke Holmes. “As different trends arise in culture, the messengers have chosen to speak to those things.”