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Mike Jackson

Morning everyone, I’m Mike Jackson, Director of the Office of Leader Care and Church Help. Glad you’ve joined us today for this Part 2 of Church Administrative Guidelines. Look forward to the topics that will be shared today, and we’re grateful that you’ve taken time out of your schedule to sharpen your skills and to learn some of the things that we’re gonna be talking about today. I do think that this is a timely, on point type presentation especially in light of some things that have gone on in our society with coronavirus COVID-19 as well as with the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, and Jim’s gonna be addressing some of those issues as well. We look forward to just dialoguing with you and sharing as well as Q&A. I wanna introduce to you our presenters. First of all Lee Wright, who’s not here with us today has a segment he will be a part of and sharing. Lee is in transition with our ministry here at the State Board, and has moved from full-time to part-time, but he continues to give us assistance. So Lee is available to answer any questions, and we’ll be glad to get you in touch with Lee if you’ve got questions regarding those items that he’ll be sharing. And then Jim Swedenburg who has faithfully served the State Board of Missions for a number of years, and Jim we’re glad you’re here. Your expertise, your insights are valuable to us, not only at the State Board, but to all Alabama Baptists, and thank you for your willingness to share those things today.

Ken Allen who is an associate in the office that I serve in, will be helping to moderate those things and Ken will also be trying to keep us on track with some information about what’s coming up in the days ahead. Ken, why don’t you share a few words of information with us and then have prayer for us.

Ken Allen

It is good to have you here this morning. Again, just to let you know about a couple upcoming webinars. July 14th, Ministering to Students in Challenging Times with Scooter Kellum, and then July 28th, Ministering to School and Children in Challenging Times, and we’ll have a couple of our ladies that work in the area of preschool and children to be with us on that day as well. Hopefully it’ll be some very practical things, both those that can help the ones in your church who are leading in those areas so that it’ll benefit them in the long run as we try to have some kind of idea of how that’s gonna work out as we move into the fall and school starting. So again, it’s good to be with you this morning. Glad you were able to share your morning with us, and we trust it’ll be a great time together with you. Again that first segment will be on policies that Jim and Lee, this will be policies assisting the local church related to the pandemic, and then following that Jim will share another topic on the recent Supreme Court ruling on definition of marriage related to Title VII. And so again, let’s pray together as we start. Father we’re grateful again for the day that you’ve give to us. It’s a day that you’ve made, and Lord we’re rejoicing and we’re glad in it. And Lord we wanna continue to be equipped for the good work of ministry that you have called us all to, and so we pray that this is a part of the main reason that we’re here. To be better equipped to serve the local church in a way that is proper and in keeping, and Lord that doesn’t, sometimes when we’re not doing things well it can legally things can happen, and so we wanna be doing thins well Father. And so use Jim and Lee, Father, and we just again thank you for our Lord and Savior, in His name we pray, amen. All right, we’re start Jim’s segment now.

Jim Swedenburg

Good morning. It’s good to see you again. I want to thank you for joining us through this webinar through Zoom on the subject of Administrative Guidelines. Today we’ll be dealing with several issues. But first I wanna thank Mike Jackson, Ken Allen, and once again our yeoman Doug Rogers for taking care of all the details as we work together today. Lee Wright will also be joining us and will be sharing through video a couple of things. Lee will also be along with me answering questions as we go. If you weren’t with us at the first meeting, let me remind you that this is pre-recorded. I have some bandwidth issues at home, so I went ahead and recorded them, and then sent them to Doug, and Doug edited those and put together a lot of what you’ll see today. But we are coming to you through the magic of video recording, which will allow Lee and I to answer live and in real time by you typing your questions in through the Q&A window. Let’s talk about our agenda for today. Administrative Guidelines are church policies. We’re gonna spend a good bit of time on church policies. Since we’ve covered the other subjects previously. We will talk about the United States Supreme Court, or SCOTUS, Supreme Court of the United States, and their ruling this past Monday redefining the word sex. And then we’ll have a session on electronic meetings, and there’ll be some other things sprinkled in. And I want to in a few minutes call on Lee Wright who’ll be sharing with us how to affirm the decisions we made during the time when we were unable to meet. So we’ll take a look at that as well. Let’s to get to work on our agenda for the day.

Today’s Mission State is to help churches establish and maintain the appropriate documents. And our goals and our objectives are the following. We will talk about how policy documents are developed. We’ll talk about the topics you should address. We’ll also spend a little bit of time on some examples of effective policies. Your policies should always state when they were voted in, when they are in effect. If it’s a short period of time, you’ll need to put the expiration date on there. And also the person who is responsible for taking care of administering that policy. It may be the pastor, it may be a committee, it may be the church at large. But all the details need to go into some kind of little summary at the top of your policies as you record them. And we’ll suggest ways to keep those available to those who need to take a look at them. So let’s move on in that, and we will also talk about voting to affirm decisions that were made during the COVID-19 stay at home order. And we’ll also talk about the procedure for providing for electronic meetings. I think all these will be beneficial. Many of us were unable to have business meetings. In fact most of us were unable for some period of time, and decisions were made, and we want to make sure we have a way to do that in the future, and also to keep those official as we have to make them in the future. We’ll also talk about response to the Supreme Court ruling redefining sex. There’s a few things we need to take care of there, and make sure we’re ready for that. We’ll answer your questions.

You can type questions into the Q&A at any time, and we’ll try to answer them. In fact I’ll be answering them while I’m talking. Something I couldn’t normally do, but thank to the technology. And Lee, and Mike and Ken will also be available if there are questions that relate to them. Want to make sure that you get a chance to ask your questions. You can start typing them in now if you have specific things you want to ask about, and we’ll get to them in the order they’re typed. Let’s talk a bit about policies. One of the things that we need to do is to look at why they are needed. Well they define the authority which they have contained within them as to who can make a decision. Decisions which have been made by policy decision by the church, stand with the authority of the entire congregation. They set boundaries, things that can happen, and things that should not happen are defined by those boundaries, the policy set. It’s like a pasture. You might have your cows in a pasture, but it keeps them in and it keeps the neighbor’s cows out. So it defines what belongs there. Responsibilities are assigned by policies. There will be a person, or a committee, or a task force or staff member, or the pastor, or someone, maybe the congregation member who is taking care of whatever’s in the policy. They are responsible for making sure it’s done correctly.

They are also to include guidelines. The first three, authority, boundaries, and responsibilities should be listed at the top of the page on which the document is written along with the date it took effect, who has approved it, the church council, the deacons, the church in conference. Maybe all of the above in sequence, but those would be listed. And if it has an expiration date, that date should be listed as well. But those would be recorded on the document. Policies tell who, why, when, and under what circumstances they should be applied. They’re an important document. They allow decisions based on the situation, and not on personalities involved. Let’s say you’ve got a secretary, a ministry assistant, or a staff member who is responsible for a certain task. And maybe that secretary, or that person at the desk in your office has someone come in and they need a decision. They need the guidelines in the policy to tell ’em what the decision should be so they don’t have to have the person wait, and they don’t have to go to anyone else. They can answer those questions. However, sometimes in situations where one’s left to their own discretion, they might take a favorable course of action for a person they like, and if there’s somebody, and believe it or not, a few church actually have members that are a little bit annoying at times. If they have one of those come by, they may not get the treatment they would like to have.

So it’s important to have those guidelines to help you be sure and have the person there that can make those decisions and know what they should be because the policy speaks for them. Then we need to know who sets policies? Well most are purely administrative. They’re written by the administrator or the pastor, and they never need to be voted on unless the church requires doing so. Others would be voted on by the committees involved. The personnel committee would need the personnel committee to approve it. The financial policies, the stewardship committee would need to approve that and so on. But you have the person who’s responsible. And then if you’re developing procedures, those are basically just directions on how to do tasks. They’re usually for internal use only. They tell how you do a task, and they provide a detailed list of actions. A policy would say file a copy of the church newsletter each week. A procedure manual would say, in the black file cabinet in the first drawer, save a copy of the church newsletter in the blue folder. You know they’re details so a person could pick up and go with those activities just by looking at the procedures. Also they would have a list of supplies and equipment, and they’re generally written by the person who does the work, because they know what needs to be done. They’re useful when an employee is absent. Or heaven forbid, some tragedy happened in an automobile accident and some of the staff be critically injured or even taken Home, then you would need to have some kind of activities. I have heard of this happening not too many years ago.

A church staff had gone to lunch together in the church van, and the church lost their whole staff in one accident. It was very sad. It wasn’t in Alabama, it was in another state and it was about 30 years ago, I guess now. You take copies of those policies and provide them to each person involved. Each supervisor, each administrator, the administrator. Now if you have questions about this, you can address them directly on the Q&A that’s attached to your Zoom, or you can go to these email addresses. I have mine and I have Lee’s up here. And you can contact us, and we’d be glad to help you with whatever you need. Just let us know. Now if you have not already thought about this. One of the things you’re going to need to do when you return to work, and return to meetings at your church, is to affirm the decisions you made during the time you could not have business meetings. That’s important for procedural reasons. You wanna make sure you take care of that. Lee Wright is gonna talk to us about that for a few moments, for a few minutes, and Lee without further ado, tell us what you suggest here.

Lee Wright

Hello, this is Lee Wright from the Baptist State Board of Missions. Today I want to talk to you about a motion that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned in a church context. And that is the motion to ratify. This is from Robert’s Rules of Order, the 11th Edition. To ratify is a motion that’s also called approve or confirm. It is a main motion that is used to make valid an action already taken that cannot become valid until approved by the assembly. The coronavirus brings up some occasions in which ratifying some action might be necessary. So during the pandemic, church leaders may have taken some kind of emergency action beyond their stated authority. These actions should be ratified when the church can have business meeting again. Some emergency action samples might include spending money outside the budget or exceeding the spending authority of the minister or committee. Action at an improperly called meeting or one without a quorum. Most of us haven’t been able to even have a meeting here lately. Action taking at a called meeting not mentioned in the call of that meeting. Number four, action taken by officers, committees or leaders in excess of their instructions or authority. During this time that we’ve not been able to have business meetings, church leaders should have excellent communication. There should be communication between the pastor and finance and personnel committees.

There should be excellent communication so that if there are any questions about these actions there has already been discussion among key leaders of the church, and they’re ready to state the reasons that they took the action that they did. So some specific coronavirus examples might include spending outside the authority of the leader, officer or committee. Or obtaining the Small Business Administration PPP loan when the bylaws call for any loan to be approved by the church body. Or closing the daycare, reopening the church, layoffs. Different kinda of decisions like that that may have a policy related to that action or maybe even have a bylaw related to that kind of action. So the motion to ratify, is a main motion. So it requires a motion and a second. It is debatable, and in fact it opens the entire question to debate as well. It can be amended and a substitute motion could be offered. It requires a majority vote unless the subject matter of the motion to ratify requires a two-thirds vote. Some of the reasons to ratify. Ultimately the worst-case scenario is that the action might lead to a lawsuit caused by the church not following its own bylaws or policies.

Now that’s worst-case scenario, and that probably isn’t going to happen. And I hope it doesn’t happen, but here’s another reason to ratify. And that is if we don’t ratify an action that we have taken in an emergency, the action might be totally acceptable right now during this emergency time. It might receive great approval if you ask their opinion. But later during any kind of a church dispute over some other matter, the failure to follow the bylaws and policies could be brought up at that time and could cause a great controversy. So the thing that I’m suggesting, is if we go ahead and ratify, we can make our life a lot simpler, and cause a great deal of peace over the decisions that we have made. Like I stated earlier, please do have good communication between your church leaders, so that this will go well, and so that your church leaders are already informed, already in the know, and they’re prepared to help defend this action. I hope this has been helpful to you, and I think that at this time it’ll be relatively easy. If we wait and don’t do it, it could cause a hardship later on. I hope this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, or if I can help in any way, give me a call at 334-549-1383, thanks.

Jim Swedenburg

One of the things that we need to do is to prepare for the possibility that there might be an even in the future where our churches cannot meet for business meetings. When we do that, we prepare by allowing electronic meetings. Robert’s Rules of Order already provide for electronic meetings, but we have to authorize them in our bylaws. So we’re suggesting that that be something that you add. Let’s talk about that. Lee Wright prepared this chat on some issues related to electronic meetings. These are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, 11th Edition, and it says that members must be present to vote. What comes under that heading of being present? Let’s take a look at that. No absentee or proxy voting is allowed unless it’s specifically stated in the bylaws. I don’t know of many churches, maybe one or two, that allow absentee voting for home bound or shut-ins. But other than that, I’m not aware of any.

Robert’s defines a meeting in the book on page 81 to 82 as a single official gathering in one room or area of members at which a quorum is present. We talked a little bit about a quorum last time. Generally in addition to what I said in our other meeting two days ago, I would suggest that most churches simply consider a quorum to be those present to represent a quorum. So that you don’t have to deal with declining numbers in future meetings and you’re prepared for any eventuality. If you promote the meeting, talk about the meeting, and people choose not to come, that’s their choice. But you need to go with that I think. Minimum conditions for an electronic meeting would be an opportunity for simultaneous oral communication where you can hear each other at least among all participating members equivalent to those of all meetings help in one room or one area. That’s a very important part of the requirement for electronic meetings. It eliminates a lot of possibilities. We’ll talk about that. It has to be authorized by the bylaws, and we have suggested bylaws with that in them. And you can do a conference call with an audio conference which is the minimum standard you could have where everyone could hear each other. Or a video conference, Zoom for example, like you’re on now, so that people can see and hear each participant. That’s preferred.

Zoom, for example, does allow members to call in by phone if they don’t have a computer or smart phone. So that is a helpful option. Written such as email or chat is not recommended and does not constitute a deliberative assembly. Those are key words, deliberative assembly. That’s where people can hear each other as decisions are being made, discussions are being shared. Decide the minimum type of electronic format. You may allow audio and video meetings. If you specify video, then a conference call by phone would not be allowed. Here at the State Board of Missions we allow in our bylaws, a phone call, conference call. Is it allowable for committee meetings? I would suggest that you, these are Lee’s words. He suggests that you be flexible about committee discretion, allowing it perhaps, and letting them convene if they choose to. Allowance for executive board or leadership, and is it allowable for church business meeting? To me that would be the primary application of this, church business meeting. If it is allowed for a church business meeting, who can call the electronic meeting? Under what circumstances? Generally these are gonna be the same as any other notification in who can call the meeting. However, you may want to have a clause for emergency such as a pandemic, a disaster, something else. You might want to allow it under any circumstance, but generally probably most of us are not going to go that far. What kind of notice is required? Just follow your other rules. When is there a regular meeting at church, excuse me, when there is a regular meeting at church, will members be allowed to participate electronically? Generally that’s probably not a good idea, but it is possible.

Then there’s some other considerations. How do you determine a quorum when you’ve got electronic meeting and you don’t know who’s in the room that’s not on an individual phone? You have to consider all that and a way to have people tell who’s present and to speak for themselves. How do you obtain the floor? In Zoom, you have a chat feature, so you could type in any thing that where you want to be recognized, but you have to have a method to do that. How do you raise a point of order? The same method might work. There’s also a hand-raising feature in Zoom. Not the hand raising that our more charismatic churches engage in, or a lot of us when singing as well. But the hand-raising feature can be used in Zoom. Means to submit a motion in writing, how would you do that? Well that is possible in a Zoom meeting, but it gets a little more complicated, because that’s one of the things you have to do when you make a motion, you have to give it to the clerk or the chair at some point in that meeting. Method to take a vote and verify that vote, how will you do that? Means to assure that meeting participants are members.

Well that would not be a lot different from what we currently do, however, since it’s possible for someone to be on a telephone call and not be visually seen, I guess they have to do voice impressions in order to do that. Are there numerical limits on the software as to how many can participate? Are those limits high enough for your church? For instance, on Messenger group calls there is a limit. On the iPhone there is a limit, and Skype has limits, and you need to check into those, and make sure they’ll accommodate what you hope to do. Zoom, the free version, has some very strict limits on numbers and links as well, but you can register and get longer meetings and more participants, or you can be a paid registration.

Ken Allen

Again, thank you Jim for that. There is a question or two, I know that during this time that Jim was able to answer about how to get churches to understand the need for bylaws and policies, and certainly we wanna hear from Jim again on that. One time as a Director of Missions, and Mike does this regularly as well working with search committees. When you’re going through transitions like that, it is when you need something that’s spelled out. How do you elect a search committee? How do you elect deacons? And so those are the times when it is primarily important to have some kind of policy in place so that there’s not confusion. And that is the biggest thing, I think the word confusion, that policies are able to keep a level of peace. Mike, is there further statement that you would make concerning the necessity of bylaws, et cetera?

Mike Jackson

Thank you Ken. I get asked the question all the time, what’s the proper way to put together a pastor search committee? And I first and foremost say, what do your guidelines say? They’re contained within your bylaws or your policies or procedures. And then I’m willing to help them understand that there are different methods. One of the questions I have that I ask the committees, or the Chairmen of Deacons, or Deacon leadership, is who is responsible for filling the pulpit upon the pastor’s absence? And if that’s spelled out, that’s helpful in that bylaw or policy and procedure manual to be able to know that who has that responsibility. Because once the pulpit’s abdicated, the pastor resigns, retires, moves on, whatever reason, somebody’s gotta have that responsibility. And many times it’s understood, but is it not stated. And I think having it stated clearly so that the whole church knows is very helpful.

Ken Allen

Yeah, I can remember another time, Mike, when the church that I was a member of, they had been promoting a reason for a meeting, and the motion that was gonna be presented in that meeting, and then when the meetings happened, they changed the motion. So immediately, of course, that’s something that is a no no, and because the church had in place Robert’s Rules of Order, et cetera, then that was something that we could very easily say no, the proper thing to do is to go with the motion that’s been presented all along. Jim, anything else to follow up on this person’s question of the need for bylaws and policies? Things that you hear more than others that are common that come up that is certainly the reason why we need them.

Jim Swedenburg

One of the things I would say about having bylaws and policies and documents in the question that I was asked, I think that was self-evident that the person was saying, “I want ’em, “why doesn’t the church?” And that’s where we can help you by coming and chatting with your people or talking with your deacons or your entire congregation as the case may be. On the specific item that you just mentioned, Ken, if you have a celled meeting set up with a specific question publicized, which you usually have to do. If you’re gonna have a called meeting, unless your bylaws specify otherwise, it has to be for, that’s covered by Robert’s Rules, a pre-announced motion. But you can present that motion and then immediately offer a motion to amend. That is in order. But you’ve got to at least put the original question on the table or it’s not a valid meeting. Very good point, and that does happen. I think one thing I learned from working with Mike, and I was in Dale Huff’s office, he and I were both in that office where you and Mike are now for 10 years, and one of the things Dale taught me was that parliamentary procedures are a tool that you get out to attack the other side when you’re losing. And I think sometimes that’s the case, but there are good parliamentary rules, and Lee is our resident expert. He is licensed and certified, I think. I’m not sure about the technical term, but it’s the second highest level of parliamentarian in the United States. So we’re very fortunate to have him and Dale Huff available to help with that. But having your policies available, giving the policies to the people is critical also. When you go into this process of writing policies, I think one of the main things you need to do is start by pulling out all the minutes of the church and working back. Each time you sit down to edit or suggest policies, look at the minutes for this month and the previous month and so on, and each time you find a policy that the church has voted on, write that down along with the date it was passed, and then you’ve started your policy manual. When you vote to do something, there’s no need to have another business meeting to discuss the same thing again, and then again, and again. Yet some churches enjoy doing that, I suppose.

Ken Allen

Well I was just thinking that of course the thing you want to avoid is the after something happens in the church to immediately react and go too far with policies. You often find that in an interim time or after a significant even happens that causes upheaval. Sometimes it’s a good time to take a deep breath, and to make sure you’re not hog-tying for lack of a better term, folks in the future with policies.

Jim Swedenburg

Amen to that. One of the things we do, and I haven’t mentioned this in the seminar to this point, it you can send me your policies, your corporation document, your bylaws. We’ll read through them for you and make notes about things that you might want to consider. Also things that we’ll circle in red and say, “Not a good idea.” But anyway, we’ll be happy to do that. Each church is autonomous and decides for themself what they will do, but there are some common things that are just good sense, and we can help you with those. But when I pick up one of those documents and read it, within 10 minutes I can tell you why it was written. Why was this put in, and why was this amendment made. It’s sometimes easier to react than it is to act proactively. But we have to be proactive in writing some of these. That’s why we have such a library of sample policies for you. Don’t reinvent the wheel, until you see what the last inventor came up with.

Ken Allen

Anything else Mike, that you’d want to share?

Mike Jackson

I’ve got a question, well there’s a question that came in, and we need to respond to that. And then I’ve got a topic, just kinda throw out and dialogue a moment. The question’s in the Q&A right now. Is there a webinar for those that are bookkeepers? And yes, we do have those type items. As a matter of fact, Lee Wright just did something recently, and if you’ll go to Vimeo, V-I-M-E-O/alsbom A-L-S-B-o-M, and just search through, you will find some resources there of webinars that have been. And of course, Lee is all the time planning and promoting events. Just keep your eyes open for emails regarding that, Facebook postings about items that we’ve got coming up in regards to financial issues. And one of the things that Lee specializes in is helping in that area. So yeah, we wanna try to answer and address questions there as well. And if you’ve got some questions, I’m sure we can try to address those today. What I wanted to talk about just for a moment is how are churches dealing with calling a pastor or staff during a time that they’ve been shut down? I know that there are churches that are at work. As a matter of fact, one of our associations here in Alabama recently called a new Associational Missionary, a new Director of Missions, and those create some challenges. And maybe we need to just dialogue about that for a few moments before we go to our next segment, or before our next question comes in. I know from my perspective, whenever I train pastor search committees, and our general thing is that you have a weekend in which he comes in view of a call. Folks meet him on that weekend in an informal type fellowship, and then on Sunday he preaches, and at the end of the morning service, the church affirms the motion that’s made by the pastor search committee to extend a call to that pastor. But in light of the fact that we’re not gathering, how can we most effectively do this, to make it as effective, and as official as possible. Jim?

Jim Swedeburg

Tough question, Mike. Thanks for sending me that one.

Mike Jackson

You’re welcome, buddy.

Jim Swedenburg

But I’m glad. One of the things I’ve seen, I can’t remember who it was, but a church that had this in sort of a town hall Zoom meeting where people could join in, get to know the pastor, and they had as I understand it, a couple of personal videos that showed him in action with his family and some other activities, but it’s tough, it’s a strain. I was scheduled to go to one of our churches here in the Montgomery area. And you may know the church, so I’m not gonna mention their name. But they had called a pastor just before the pandemic hit, and then he couldn’t hit because of the pandemic for a few weeks, and he finally did come just as the stay at home order was changed to safer at home, and they still managed to get through it, and probably would be glad to talk to you if you wanted to contact them about that. But I’m not sure how you make up for that personal contact. It’s so essential to a new pastor getting started. But you have to find ways to get individuals to communicate. And maybe Facebook is a tool there, I don’t know.

Ken Allen

You know, as having pastored, one of the things that I would share with people sometimes is hey, you know let’s try this at least temporarily. So part of what we’re going through right now it the idea that we’re gonna have to try some things and understand that hopefully this is just a temporary time and even if it’s a drive-through type thing where they’re at the church in a couple of chairs and people are driving through, or if we’re all masked in a meeting with some social distancing, thinga that we really don’t want to do, but we understand that we might have to do them just temporarily, and just understand that they are temporary, and just plow through with the uneasiness of having to do things that we wouldn’t normally feel comfortable doing.

Jim Swedenburg

That’s true, there’s a lot of trust invested in the search committee, and they usually have good instincts. I’m sure Mike could give us instances where that wasn’t true, but usually there’s gonna be a higher level of trust needed in that situation. And these have been difficult days for the whole subject of trust. Our country is struggling with itself in many ways to come to terms with some of the issues we have, and we don’t wanna add those layers to our church as well. And pastors, there’s a lot of burden on them. I don’t think I’d want to go to a new church having met no one, it’s just kind of tough. Now I just got a chat that someone shared here. “We voted to call our pastor the week before the shutdown and he hasn’t had a full church service yet, laughing out loud.” Yeah, I can see that.

Mike Jackson

Well the Coosa River Association called a new Director of Missions, and they did it though a drive up, and he and his wife were able to speak to the folks in much like a drive-in movie type setting where folks parked and they were able to share their personal testimony, share their vision and call for that association, and so that way the executive committee then voted to affirm, to call him as the Director of Missions, Associational Missionary. So I see that there are opportunities. It’s not always the easiest. Of course in this model, the preacher, or the associational missionary didn’t have to preach a message, it was a meet and greet with a vote of affirmation to call. So it made it a little different, but you just have to be sometimes creative, and I’m echoing the sentiment of my colleagues here. It is very challenging for a minister to begin a new ministry in the midst of being unable to meet his people, being unable to engage with them personally, and build relationships. Because the vital thing about a pastor or staff member is building those relationship with their members so that they get off to a good start and can have a successful ministry as they do such. So I would just challenge you, whatever you do make sure you do the best to set yourself up for success.

Ken Allen

And that’s probably some of the tone of this other question that’s been asked about how churches deal with the process required by their governing documents in calling a pastor when they cannot comply with their documents. Any brief thought, Jim, on that question?

Jim Swedenburg

Well on a parliamentary basis, that’s a pretty dangerous place to go. If you can’t do what your bylaws call for, there’s no provision under Robert’s Rules to set aside bylaws. I mean sometimes I’ve had a situation when I’ve dealt with a church that voted to suspend the rules in a business meeting. That only works on standing rules for that particular meeting. You can’t suspend a bylaw or you can’t suspend the Articles of Incorporation to do something that’s not legal. So you might not be able to execute the call. You might have to come up with another plan like an interim situation. So I’m not sure there’s a good answer for Mike on that.

Ken Allen

Someone mentioned drive-up too. Again, I guess you’ll have to go to the size of the congregation and what you can actually accomplish.

Jim Swedenburg

One of the ones I get a lot of questions about are wedding policies. And there’s also the issue now that you are not allowed to charge non-members to have a facility, and then let your members have it free of charge because that’s a private benefit. But we can probably get into what you can and can’t do with weddings. We could also talk about lending facilities and borrowing items. All those things are on the table for the next time we stop for our Q&A.

Ken Allen

We’re now gonna be looking at Jim sharing another topic, recent concern, the Supreme COurt’s ruling on the definition of marriage related to Title VII. So this will be about a 13 minute video, and we’ll begin that now as well.

Jim Swedenburg

Let’s take up the subject of sexual orientation and gender identity. This was made necessary for us to take a look at after the Supreme Court decision Monday was a week ago which changed the definition of sex. Generally sexual orientation and gender identity are abbreviated SOGI, but not necessarily a good thing publicly. The Supreme Court ruling redefining sex which is exactly what they did involving the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. And then we’ll have some extended discussion time about policies, beginning with policy changes we need to make to accommodate this ruling. The ruling redefining sex was described in a video conference by Gregory S. Baylor who’s a Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. This conference took place last week after the Court decision, and I was able to be a participant in it. The Court heard three different cases on discrimination based on Title VII and sexual orientation and gender identity. What they chose to do, was combine the three cases and address them all in this one ruling.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids sex discrimination, but it never mentions sexual orientation or gender identity. The plaintiffs sought to be included under sexual discrimination. Two of them having one of the issues, and one of them claiming the other. So they looked at sexual orientation and gender identity. There was precedent under the EEOC rules that said SOGI were included in EEOC rulings. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and decided that the Civil Rights Act Title VII now includes gender identity and sexual orientation under the heading of sex. Some churches do fall under Title VII directly, some do not, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But questions also extend to Title IX and Title XI, and those are not something that we can get into details about because they will be dependent on court decisions to determine how they relate. The ruling redefining sex relates to employment law under Title VII. Title VII only applies to employers who have 15 or more employees.

So the majority of Alabama Baptist churches will not be affected directly. However, there are implications. Title VII on racial discrimination does not apply to churches who have 15 or less employees, but nevertheless, it does have impact on decisions we make and is very important. So we have to be aware of this. Alabama has a law which mirrors the federal law on sex discrimination, but does not limit it to employees of employers with 15 or more. So the question comes at this point, will that law also be interpreted differently now? There are four key grounds on which the ABF recommends that we consider opposing this if it comes to call on our churches. First of all there’s a narrow religious exemption written into the Civil Rights Act. It only covers documented beliefs and literally states “a particular religious conviction.” Church policies need to describe conduct as well as beliefs related to this. So this means we’ve got some rewriting to do as we look at out documents in light of this new ruling. We need to make sure we list issues that need to be dealt with here. There is no protection for anyone other than ministerial employees.

If you’re dealing with employees in your church that do not have ordination, or they’re not ministerial employees, then you’ve got to be very careful about your hiring practices. This protection’s only for faith based ministries. It’s not available to public businesses like Hobby Lobby. They have exceptions that have been made in law for other compliance, but not on this one. Churches must document the reason for gender discrimination. If you decide to hire a person of traditional, well Biblical sexual identity, and then turn down one who has other issues in terms of gender, this is difficult to talk about. Then you will have to write down the reason for that. One of the things that churches will need to do in our policies and job descriptions and policy manuals, is very carefully go back and assign ministry related responsibilities to all ministry employees. A person may be a ministry employee, but not an ordained minister. That is possible because of a Supreme Court ruling on Catholic schools. One excellent plan that I would include here is to teach new employees the Baptist faith and message. You want to include that in your duties and their behavior to comply with that, and go into that as part of an education program for new employees.

I have in the past said many times in legal issues conferences, it’s better to be Biblical and general than to be specific, but this law may change some of that. We need to talk about behavior as well. As we look to other aspects of this, there is a narrow religious exemption written into the Civil Rights Act which provides that a ministerial exemption that was affirmed by the Supreme Court decision, but that is currently under review with two cases before the Supreme Court right now. But it basically says that if you discriminate for a religious reason, that is allowable under the Civil Rights Act. Even that is under scrutiny now. You could also fight this under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and you would discuss that with your attorney. Or your fourth choice is to simply give up on fighting it and comply. That of course is not opposing the law, but giving into it. So it’s not really a way to oppose it. There are some serious unanswered questions that have to be defined by the courts. And we will see those decisions in the coming years. First of all, will non-ministries be allowed to have gender discrimination for restrooms and bathrooms? Ministries we assume will be able to, and it will not impact us, but what about schools and businesses?

Will separation by sex still be allowed in locker rooms, athletic programs, and other areas? Will insurance have to cover things like sex reassignment surgery, hormones, the treatments given to people preparing for gender change, and treatments given to children who have gender dysphoria? Normally that is fairly uncommon today, but we need to realize that there are children out there who are being coached by their parents toward one gender or another which have serious gender dysphoria, which is seeing yourself as something other than what God chose you to be under gender assignment. Serious unanswered questions have to be defined by the courts. There are various assistance programs for underprivileged who do not have gender rules written into them, but will they be applied? Daycares and weekday ministries will be very interested in that. Christian social ministries as well. Title XI does have gender related non- ‘Scuse me, that is Title IX. Does have gender related non-discrimination languages but colleges and other national education association have worked out a compromise there which allows male and female athletic teams and crossover is not generally allowed there. Will gender neutral laws be enforceable against churches? We don’t know yet, but the courts do have a tendency to follow precedents which sometimes you would not think have anything to do with the same line of thought, but because there is now a law that makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, will other laws come and cause us issues here?

About half of the states have non-discrimination laws. Alabama is one of those that has a non-discrimination law. Employment decision and the federal exemption does not apply to that Alabama law however. All hiring dissensions will have to comply with the new Supreme Court decision, or will they? What will the courts decide? That is in question at present. One key point is that these exemptions to churches will not apply to secular operated businesses. Non-religious groups will have to comply. How far will that circle widen to include other church related entities and church related associations? We don’t know yet. One huge hurdle that’s yet to be overcome, and this is according to ABF, is defeating the Equality Act which is before Congress now. This would go a very long way in changing the way gender is dealt with in the public forum and make equality the rule of law as well as the Supreme Court. We must constantly remember that Christian belief systems are very much out of favor with the public. In fact, many people believe that Christian churches are a hate group. We must show love in all of these actions as we deal with these issues or we will be labeled haters. That’s very sad, it’s very different from what we grew up with, but that is the world today.

Ken Allen

All right Jim, you started just before the video talking about policies that are in some ways related to this from previous rulings. Any further comment that you would make, either about the video that’s just concluded or the comment that you made just prior to the video that may help our local churches?

Jim Swedenburg

We already have some resources in this general area. When the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage, those are found on our website at alsbom.org. I don’t have that link in the presentation anywhere, it’s alsbom.org. I may have to go to video only here because of a bandwidth issue I’m having. We do have that on A-L-S-B-O-M dot O-R-G slash S-A-F-E, alsbom.org/safe. Then you’ll see some tabs on that page. We have our child protection materials there on the landing page, but there’s also a page for gender issues, I believe it is. It may be marriage, but anyway, on that page are the suggested wording for bylaws and so forth. One of the key things here is the bylaw that was suggested and listed on that page, and also available in other spots on our website, to amend your bylaws to talk about Biblical marriage in a positive and affirmative way.

That part of that recommendation is actually essentially the same as the one in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. A church can by endorsing or including a reference to the Baptist Faith and Message or the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 in their bylaws or their incorporation documents as one of their core values or something of that nature. In that statement on Biblical marriage, it covers gender, and God’s assignment of a gender to us and that we’re unique and distinctive. And if we can make that a Biblical core value in our document, either taking that article out, it’s one of the latter ones. I can’t remember the number off the top of my head, and putting that into our documentation, that goes a long way towards helping us to have a Biblical leg to stand on, in the two of the four exceptions to this Supreme Court mandated gender equity and hiring thing, but you have to have those in your document somewhere to be able to go with that. If you have that, you stand better.

In job descriptions, you need to mention ministerial duties and living the lifestyle that’s taught in the Baptist Faith and Message. Those need to be specifically mentioned. In your personnel manual you can include that, that we are an organization that values the Bible as the Baptist Faith and Message teaches. You’ll have to find a theological way to word that within your views, but we don’t believe it’s anything other than a statement of faith, and it’s what we Baptist believe as Baptist. But you could put that in there, and that helps to protect as well. There are a lot of areas that we do discriminate based on gender that we may not think about. Like loaning our facility. One of the suggestions in the document you’ll find on our web page is when a church loans their facility, that it only be loaned to people with like-minded beliefs. Those are words that are important because you can deal with some organizations as one if their core values gender equity kinds of things and say that that’s not our belief.

We have a Biblical belief. But you have to have it in your documents. So that’s key. Gender equity laws have generally not applied to churches, although many communities have them. Some cities in Alabama have gender equity laws. The law in Alabama which says employers cannot discriminate in hiring people who because of their gender was written with men and women in mind. It was equity pay, and equity in hiring for women. But in reality, that could change as courts begin to interpret these rules under the new Civil Rights Act which now includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected sexual classes. Where will all that lead? I don’t know, but we have to be careful in writing our policies to mention these things. In the first conference we had Tuesday, one of the things I mentioned was the U.S. regulations on the sale of cabbage which is over 27,000 words.

Well, the Ten Commandments are only six words, and they’re plenty clear, but the government makes things more complicated. I don’t think any of us would question that. Just look at your tax return, the new simplified one even. We have to put words in there sometimes to deal with these issues. And we’ll be glad to help you with that. One of my main concerns that I’ve mentioned along the way near the end of the presentation was the fact that there’s a law before Congress which is passed the Senate, but the House hasn’t passed it, if I’m correct, that’s the status right now, which is an equity law. Which basically says any law any organization, any state, any government makes which has to deal with gender and gender equity is legal. If that passes, we’re in a heap of trouble. So you might wanna look that up and check on that a bit. So all these issues intertwine. I’m sorry I got in the weeds there a little bit. So did I answer your question in that?

Ken Allen

Yeah, I think that’s good. And things that really we’ve known all along that we need to do now are heightened when your calling staff, when you’re employing people at the daycare, you’re really wanting to be careful, certainly with your staff in your references. And goodness I remember when I was called Associational Missionary, they must’ve made 20 different calls or more. And so we’re gonna have to do our due diligence as people are called to make sure that church does it best to make sure it’s on good footing with its own staff to begin with. And I think the other thing that you’re really saying is just the wording and the terminology that’s placed into our official documents is a critical aspect to this as well. Any other word Mike that you’d wanna share about that either?

Mike Jackson

No, I know in the pastor search process we try to help churches understand, the pastor search committee primarily, that they’ve got to do their due diligence in hiring and calling a staff member. And we give them some worksheets, number one to help them with appropriate questions to ask. Number two, we try to do our best to make sure they understand the background check process. They have to get permission to do that, and they have to make sure that they understand, or the individual that they’re considering understands that he has to authorize that to take place. So we try to make sure that pastor search committees do their effective work, and make sure that they don’t leave any unturned stones. And I do all I can to try to keep them as I say, off the landmines and out of the quicksand.

Ken Allen

Amen. Well, Jim, do you have any further thoughts before we look at closing our time out? Anything else, brother?

Jim Swedenburg

Yes, there are a couple of key areas, I think, that have to do with policies and with gender. One of those is the way we receive new members. There’s some strong suggestions and possibilities on that webpage I mentioned at alsbom.org/safe. One of the practices that many churches have had for years is to vote on new members as soon as they’re presented. Well in a lot of cases, in fact both of you having been pastors, and me briefly having been a pastor, there are times when people walk the aisle to make a decision, that the pastor doesn’t know that person. Now in most of our churches that’s fairly rare, believe it or not, Dale Huff used to say, even at First Montgomery, he knew just about everybody who walked the aisle because he had had an encounter with them or talked to them about their beliefs. Be very careful about not voting in new members during the worship service. It may be a Robert’s Rule of Order issue as well as a bylaw issue. That should be done at a business meeting after the pastor’s had a chance to talk with the person. That’s the very least thing we can do is find out what that person believes and talk to them before adding them to our church membership and giving them an equal voice in everything. So that’s important. Similar one in terms of wedding policies. A church really needs to have a policy that all people who have their wedding in the church have to meet with a pastor or ministerial staff member for some form of marriage counseling during which that counseling should include some things about faith, the church I don’t think would want to be a participant in affirming a marriage that has gender issues in it. Because that’s not Biblical. There’s only one Biblical form of marriage, and that’s between a man and a woman who marry one another for life. And while that might fail later, it usually should at least begin on a firm religious basis. And you’ll find that out in marital counseling. It’s part of the process. Those are just a couple of examples.

Ken Allen

All right, any further word before we close our time out.

Mike Jackson

I would just remind folks to submit questions to us, even after this presentation. You can call us, you can email us. We wanna be a resource of help to you, and please let us know that. We do have materials and resources that will give you some guidance in doing what you need to do to prepare your church effectively. Remember there are also resources on onegreatsunday.org. Lots of archived material that you’ll find there as well to be pertinent to our entire time today.

Jim Swedenburg

[Jim] On that onegreatsunday are the top 10 legal issues. I highly recommend that because that’s very relevant and talks about religious freedom. Also our materials on that webpage alsbom.org/safe on the page you land on, is just filled with child protection policies and things of that nature. And a link to police material. But we really do want to help. We don’t want to just, well we have to stay home some, but we really don’t want to avoid getting on the road. We wanna come and help when we can to help you work through these things and to talk to your people. It’s amazing how helpful it can be to have someone come in from out of town that they don’t really know and talk about reasons to do things that you’ve been telling ’em for years. Sometimes that can be helpful. And if I can be used in that way, please use me. I wanna thank Lee so much for this. Lee was not able to join us I person like we planned. He had a little personal task he had to take care of. But we wanna pray for Lee in the transitions he’s going through in his semi-retirement. And I don’t really know what to add to that except to say thank you everyone.

Ken ALlen

Thank you so much. Again, Mike would you lead us in a closing word of prayer, please sir.

Mike Jackson

Be glad to. Father we thank you for our time together. Thank you for the information, the insights that have been shared. Father help us to understand that we have partners in ministry and the State Board of Missions, and each one of us that work here as your state missionaries Lord, wanna be of help and a resource to our people across Alabama. Thank you again for Jim and for his insights. Thank you for Lee’s sharing with us, and for all the folks behind the scenes that have helped. Lord we praise you and we thank you that you are still God. And even in the midst of changing times and challenging times, Lord you’re still sovereign, and we thank you that you’re in control of it all. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Ken Allen

Amen, thank you Mike. And you all have a great day. If there’s anything that we can do it help or assist, please let us know. God bless.

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