I am working on a proposal that I hope to present to the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee within the next year that will allow people to participate in the Southern Baptist Convention without having to travel to the city or the arena where the Southern Baptist Convention will actually be held.
Debbie Kaufman, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church here in Enid, Oklahoma and the blogger extraordinaire of Thoughts of a Christian Woman, was voted by our church to be a messenger to the 2007 San Antonio SBC. However, due to the fact she and her husband felt that it was cost prohibitive for her to attend the convention, Debbie had to regretfully say she could not attend. Debbie determined to watch the live internet broadcast of the Southern Baptist Convention from gavel to gavel from her home to see if she could easily follow the business before the body, understand the recommendations and the debate taking place on the platform and floor, and literally feel as if she could be a part of the convention without physically being there.
Debbie blogged after every 2007 SBC session, giving a synopsis of what had just happened, and offering an excellent analysis of the significance of each election and vote. She had a total of Ten Posts on the Southern Baptist Convention, with this post serving as an example of her ability to clearly perceive events taking place hundreds of miles away.
316 Networks is the company that broadcasts the Southern Baptist Convention live via the internet. Our church has been very impressed with this Christian broadcasting company and will be launching our own live, archived, and Vidgo ('video on the go' using cellular technology) ministry with 316 Networks this fall. I recall admiring the quality of the San Antonio live broadcast when I had to leave the hall a little early to receive a phone call and watched the proceedings from my hotel room.
I have been told that over 22,000 people logged in to watch the SBC via either the 316 Network or SBC.net. That is nearly three times the number of people who registered for the convention and nearly ten times the number of people who actually voted during the First Vice-Presidential election. That 22,000 number will only be growing in the future, and as 316 Networks also expands, the potential is unlimited for those who wish to either observe or particpate at the SBC.
We already register messengers electronically. We are but two steps away from establishing a secure server where a messenger who watches the convention via the internet could enter his Messenger I.D. number and actually vote on the recommendations brought to the floor of the convention. I realize that the maximum number of messengers per church is ten people, but if you just assumed the average number of messengers per church in the SBC were just five, then it is possible that nearly a quarter of a million messengers could actually be elected and vote at the annual Southern Baptist Convention, representing over 45,000 Southern Baptist Churches.
I truly believe that when that many people are participating in the SBC there will be a true reflection of the desires of the majority of the people in the SBC when the votes are taken. Some of the ideas I am attempting to implement in an official proposal I intend to forward to the Executive Committee are as follows:
(1). A deadline for internet registration of the Sunday night prior to the convention. This would reduce the number of people franticially trying to register just prior to an important vote.
(2). An internet messenger orientation package emailed to all messengers who sign up via the internet to give them the schedule of the convention and helpful tips regarding using the internet voting technology.
(3). Two ideas (which I am not yet prepared to share) for providing incentives for people to actually spend the money and time to travel to the Southern Baptist Convention.
(4). Establishing an offical presence on the platform where internet monitors could receive electronic email questions during debate from those who are watching via internet broadcast. However, internet participants would not be able to participate in the parliamentary procedures of the people in the arena. There could be no motions, debate, or calling for question or 'point of orders' by those observing the live broadcast from home. However, every registered messenger watching would have the ability to vote on every recommendation before the body. Electronic tabulation would be immediate and added to the visual count in the hall.
(5). Before the first convention where electronic participation actually occurs, the SBC would make a beta, or test run, of the process at the Louisville, Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention in 2008.
The technology is available. The interest of Southern Baptists is high. The world is flat - the time is now. I am open to any suggestions on this matter as the proposal is still being formulated. I hope to be able to make the official proposal at the Southern Baptist Executive Committee meeting early next spring.
In His Grace,