by Tyson Wynn
Messengers to the 2011 Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) annual meeting will be asked to consider and vote on revised constitution and bylaws for the convention.
The proposed documents are being printed in this edition of the Messenger, in accordance with provisions of our current constitution and bylaws, so that every Oklahoma Baptist will have an opportunity to see, in advance of the annual meeting, exactly what revisions are being proposed. The current BGCO constitution and bylaws and a full overview of revisions can be viewed online at www.bgco.org/ProposedRevisions.
While the proposed constitution and bylaws are complete revisions, there are relatively few major changes. Most of the modifications result from an effort to organize the constitution and bylaws more clearly and logically while removing redundancies and discrepancies, and adding only what was needed for the sake of clarity and necessity.
Previous constitution and bylaws revisions have been printed with deletions stricken out and additions underlined. While helpful in printing limited amendments, it is impossible to use this notation when an entire revision is proposed. Thus, the full text of the proposed document is being printed for your consideration.
Here are some highlights of the most significant changes being proposed.
First, the offices of assistant recording secretary and historical secretary have been removed. An assistant recording secretary is very rarely needed due to absence of the recording secretary. The assistant recording secretary is not a member of the Executive Committee, but is still required to travel to meetings when he/she performs no role other than to be on standby. The parliamentary authority (Robert’s Rules of Order) provides for a means of electing a temporary recording secretary if the recording secretary is absent.
While committed to the necessity of recording the BGCO’s history, the committee views the office of historical secretary as redundant when one of the convention’s standing committees is a historical commission. The part-time employee serving as historical secretary can still be retained by the historical commission.
The draft documents also define a two-term limit for president, first vice president and second vice president, which simply codifies what has long been practiced.
Our draft clarifies what constitutes a vacancy in office. Under existing bylaws, the presidency (other offices aren’t mentioned) is considered vacant when its occupant dies or is removed from the state. There are obviously other means of vacancy. The committee further recommends that membership in an Oklahoma Baptist church should be the test of “residency.”
The section requiring annual meeting proceedings and reports be made available to the churches (what you may know as the “annual”) has been modified to allow the Executive Office to make this information available electronically and/or online, which we believe strikes the proper balance of providing and preserving historical records, being good stewards and guaranteeing transparency to Oklahoma Baptists (and, indeed, the world).
Likely the most significant change in the constitution and bylaws is in regards to the composition of the board of directors. In the proposed revision, the board of directors’ composition has been changed from 64 persons, plus officers, to 60 persons, plus officers. Board terms have been changed from four years, with no reelection, to three years, with possible one-term reelection. Time between non-consecutive terms has been changed from one year to two years. The committee believes that these changes will result in a more effective board that is fully able to take advantage of directors’ skills. Terms will be staggered so that approximately one-third of the board will retire annually. We believe the changes will ensure experienced stability of the board while allowing for incorporation of new insights and expertise over time.
Another significant change in our draft is that the notice time for constitutional amendments has been shortened from the vague, indefinite “two months” to precisely 30 days. In a digital age, proposed amendments can be distributed rapidly, thus we believe 30 days is adequate time for Oklahoma Baptists to consider constitutional amendments. Further, and maybe more importantly, the 30-day notice period allows time for publication between the last board meeting of the year and the annual meeting, which the two-month period does not, potentially resulting in a year’s delay in sometimes-needed changes.
One last change readers will note is that our draft documents have done away with convention election of the editor of the Baptist Messenger. Several years ago, the Baptist Messenger editor position was merged with an executive staff position. Other executive staff members are not elected by the board of directors, so we recommend the practice be discontinued.
There are certainly other changes in our draft, and they can be seen by comparing the two documents and reviewing my full explanation, all available at www.bgco.org/ProposedRevisions. Many of the changes will also be included in my report at the annual meeting in November. The task of reading through these documents can seem arduous, but total revision of governing documents is a fairly rare occurrence, so it warrants the attention and effort. I encourage every Oklahoma Baptist to devote a few minutes to the task.
Also, our committee received input requesting modifications to the “Object” and “Constituency” articles listed in the constitution (current Articles III and II, respectively), especially in regards to what it means to be “cooperating with and contributing to the work of the convention.” Though we recommend no change to those articles (draft Articles II and III) at this time, we believe the question merits further discussion. Therefore, we recommended to the board of directors that a committee be appointed by the president, in consultation with the executive director-treasurer, to study constitution Articles II and III. The board approved that recommendation and BGCO President Doug Melton’s committee appointments are forthcoming.
And finally, under parliamentary rules, constitution and bylaws amendments take effect as soon as they are approved. For that reason, the revision will be presented with the proviso that, if adopted, board members be elected according to current guidelines until the 2012 annual meeting, when the modified board constituency and terms would take effect. This avoids negating the work of the nominating committee leading up to the 2011 annual meeting, as well as allowing adequate time for the proper staff members and committees to implement the three-year staggered terms established by the draft documents.
Our goal was to craft a logical, understandable, and workable revised constitution and bylaws for the BGCO. We hope you agree that we have succeeded.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as chairman of the constitution and bylaws review committee, and I want to thank Kelly Chronister, Bob Green, Anthony Jordan, Ron Fannin, Bonnie High, Jan Story, Lori Warren, Emerson Falls, Doug Melton and all Oklahoma Baptists who offered input into the process. Working with them all was a joy.
If you have any questions regarding the proposed documents, you may contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 4, Welch, OK 74369.
Tyson Wynn is vice president of Wynn-Wynn Media in Welch, publisher & executive editor of WelchOK.com, a member of Welch Church and was chairman of the BGCO constitution and bylaws review committee. He will serve as parliamentarian at the 2011 BGCO annual meeting.