http://www.abpnews.com/www/1104.article.print SBC messengers strip much of anti-nepotism motion By Robert Marus and Steve DeVane Published: November 30, 1999 GREENSBORO, N.C. (ABP) -- After an appeal from an International Mission Board trustee June 14, Southern Baptist Convention messengers removed provisions of a recommendation designed to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest among SBC agency trustees. The move dealt something of a blow to IMB critics, as well as grassroots denominational activists calling for loosening the control that a small group of leaders have held over the SBC's trustee-appointment process for decades. The convention, at its annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., overwhelmingly supported the amendment. It was added to a recommendation from the denomination's Executive Committee after an appeal from Bill Sanderson, an IMB trustee and pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C. The recommendation tightened eligibility requirements for service on SBC boards, and originally included a section that read, "No person shall be elected to serve on the board of any one of the above entities if the person or his or her spouse has ever been an employee of the entity, a subsidiary of the entity, or of an entity which has been merged into the entity." Sanderson asked that the section barring former employees and their spouses be deleted, giving two examples of how the change might not work as intended. He said it would keep a seminary student who works at a LifeWay Book Store from serving later as a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, the SBC's publishing arm. Also, someone who serves as Journeyman, a two-year IMB volunteer missionary position often filled by students, would be prohibited from later serving as an IMB trustee, Sanderson said. "I think that needs to be looked at, and I think it needs to be struck because those examples are but two," he said. "I could give you others." The Executive Committee had approved the recommendations during a June 12 meeting immediately prior to the convention, as well as provisions prohibiting spouses from serving simultaneously on SBC boards and ensuring that trustees had been active members of cooperating SBC churches for at least three years prior to appointment. The provisions apparently were designed to address accusations of nepotism and insularity leveled at the appointments process. The accusations have been publicized by several younger Baptist leaders -- many of them blogging pastors -- who have gained prominence in the run-up to the Greensboro meeting. For instance, Texas pastor Benjamin Cole's blog (baptistblogger.blogspot.com) recently detailed a series of appointments to SBC office that are all directly tied to the extended family of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson. Patterson is generally considered one of the architects of fundamentalists' takeover of the SBC power structure during the 1980s, and remains something of a kingmaker in the denomination. At least three current IMB trustees are former employees of the agency -- including two who were dismissed from their positions. One of the ex-employee trustees, John Floyd, was narrowly elected IMB chairman in May. "Bill Sanderson raised the most extreme objection in order to protect the most egregious offense…a former and allegedly disgruntled employee and top-level administrator at the IMB returning to the board and now serving as its chairman," Cole said June 15. He noted that Floyd "has unashamedly stated his critique of the direction that [IMB President] Jerry Rankin has brought to the IMB." Several bloggers have reported that Sanderson is a Rankin critic as well, and high-level SBC officials have for years said privately that Patterson is critical of the IMB president. Cole has reported that Southwestern Seminary officials offered him a job doing opposition research on Rankin. Nonetheless, Cole agreed that the Executive Committee needs to re-address the issue, taking into consideration the objection that Sanderson raised publicly to the recommendation. "I think that Bill Sanderson raised a valid point -- that perhaps the statement that any employee was ineligible for service as a trustee was just too broad an amendment, too broad an exclusion," he said. He noted he believes strongly that disgruntled former employees shouldn't be able to serve immediately on the boards of agencies that employed them -- Patterson shouldn't have to deal with former Southwestern Seminary President Ken Hemphill on his board, for instance -- but that limiting the language could prevent the kinds of complications Sanderson posited. "Nobody wants to keep seminary boys working as groundskeepers 20 or 30 years later from serving as trustees on the board of the seminary where they spent five years getting their master's [degree]," he said. "Executive Committee members were not trying to address that particular concern -- they were trying to address other concerns, but they just addressed it with too broad a qualification."