NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee unanimously declined Sept. 21 to recommend that Baptist Press be made a separate entity, and instead affirmed a 1982 study on the matter that reached the same conclusion.

The Executive Committee considered the matter after SBC messenger Marty King, editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, made a motion at the annual meeting in June that the Executive Committee consider establishing Baptist Press as a separate entity, with its own board of directors and with similar funding as it receives now. Baptist Press currently is part of the Executive Committee.

Executive Committee members discussed the motion in a workgroup and a subcommittee meeting in making the recommendation. The full body voted to report to SBC messengers next year in Phoenix that “the conclusions derived from a study of the structure of Baptist Press in 1982” that were affirmed in 1987 “are still considered valid, and therefore the Executive Committee desires that Baptist Press continue to operate as an integral part of the ministry assignment of the Executive Committee.”

That 1982 study by the Executive Committee found that:
1) “The news service now has great freedom of operation under the Executive Committee.
2) “Agency status would be no further guarantee of greater freedom.
3) “As a small agency Baptist Press would be in greater jeopardy of being captured by special interest groups and/or isolated from denominational resources.
4) “Agency status would require much more Cooperative Program money to maintain the present level of news operation.
5) “The present authority for the news service under the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee has not only worked well during the past 35 years, but it also reflects the experience of other denominations in placing their news service with their central coordinating bodies.
6) “There is little support for the proposal made by a messenger at the (1981) Los Angeles meeting that Baptist Press be made a separate agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

King made his motion in June days after a joint editorial, co-authored by two other Baptist state papers, appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper. Co-written with Florida Baptist Witness executive editor James A. Smith Sr. and Southern Baptist TEXAN editor Gary Ledbetter, the editorial argued that Baptist Press was biased in its coverage of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and that “BP’s publisher” needed to become the Southern Baptist Convention instead of the Executive Committee.

King wrote a letter dated Sept. 16 to EC members in which he stated, “While fairness and balance are subjective ideas dependent on individuals who set high standards for these virtues, I believe BP’s structure can be designed to make fairness and accountability more likely. And, since making the motion, I have come to the conclusion that a model which might serve to make Baptist Press more accountable to the SBC and less subject to influence by one individual (the EC President) is the SBC Foundation structure.”

The Southern Baptist Foundation is a subsidiary corporation of the Executive Committee, and has seven trustees which include the EC president and CEO as chairman, as well as six others selected by the EC.

Executive Committee member Martin Davis said his research showed that setting up Baptist Press like the Southern Baptist Foundation would cost an additional $3 million per year because Baptist Press would no longer have the financial benefit of being housed within the Executive Committee.

Meanwhile, Bob Simpson, editor of Baptist Life—a publication of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware —wrote an Aug. 17 letter to Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman saying he wanted to “go on record as totally disagreeing with any suggestion of bias on the part of” Baptist Press executive editor Will Hall and his staff “in their coverage of the GCRTF.” Simpson said he was not offering an opinion about whether BP should be a separate entity but that if it was considered “it should not be done in reaction to any bias charge about BP’s coverage of GCRTF.”

In his letter Simpson listed 11 Baptist state paper editors who joined him in sending the letter: Kelly Boggs (La.), Todd Deaton (Ky.), Gerald Harris (Ga.), Don Hinkle (Mo.), Don Kirkland (S.C.), John Loudat (N.M.), Richard Nations (Iowa), Bob Terry (Ala.), Lonnie Wilkey (Tenn.), David Williams (Minn.-Wis.), and Greg Wrigley (W.Va.). Hinkle and Boggs also wrote separate letters to Executive Committee members supporting Baptist Press. Hinkle, who said he also was not offering an opinion about whether BP should be a separate entity, said he was able to provide “fair and balanced coverage” of the GCR “in large part because of Baptist Press.”

Among other items, the Executive Committee also:
• declined to recommend a proposed amendment to Article VI of the convention’s constitution which would have required that each committee and board’s membership meet a quota based on the size of SBC churches.
• declined to amend the SBC constitution to expand the definition of friendly cooperation to include “racial discrimination” as a disqualifier for churches wishing to cooperate with the convention.
The Executive Committee believes the Baptist Faith & Message “speaks clearly to the issue addressed by the suggested amendment, and no amendment is necessary to challenge the friendly cooperation of any church on any grounds, since that already is possible by means of the motion process.”
• declined to adopt the U.S. Christian flag known as Beauty and Band as the banner flag of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Executive Committee said “a Christian flag already exists that is widely recognized and used by Christians in the United States and around the world.”
• received as information a Cooperative Program Budget report for the 2009-10 fiscal year showing $145,520,420 has been received through the third quarter, representing a decrease of $5,063,463 or 3.36 percent when compared to the same period last year.
• approved a 2010-11 SBC Operating Budget in the amount of $8,643,951. The budget includes a $70,000 reduction in the amount budgeted for Global Evangelical Relations and a $208,750 reduction in funds for Empowering Kingdom Growth.
The rationale is that the Executive Committee wanted Frank Page, president-elect of the Executive Committee, to have freedom in deciding whether to continue GER and EKG. Reserve funds are available to supplement the budgets of those two ministries, the Executive Committee said, if Page decides to continue them.
• recommended that the convention planning process of the Executive Committee “continue the concentrated effort to obtain the option for messengers to purchase multi-day parking passes through the convention center or parking facility” related to SBC annual meetings.
• declined to recommend a change to the format of the SBC Book of Reports that would list trustee and committee members’ churches and what percentage the churches give through the Cooperative Program.

The Executive Committee said the Book of Reports goes to the printer in mid-May, and because recommendations from the Committee on Nominations are completed during the first week of June, it is “impossible to include the requested information.” The Executive Committee did, though, encourage the SBC Committee on Nominations “to consider the level of Cooperative Program support for each nominee.”