A lot could be said about the effects of social media on the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. But my purpose here is to focus on one particular dynamic that I find interesting. I’m interested to know your thoughts concerning how social media has affected our meetings in this way.
Our convention meetings over the last two years have both included contested votes. In 2016 it was the presidential election. We started with three candidates. No candidate received a majority of the vote. One candidate was thus eliminated and the top two vote getters went head to head. With that vote, the unthinkable happened. With only two candidates running, still neither candidate managed to receive a majority of the vote. Thus the stage was set for a Wednesday morning showdown. If one candidate had not withdrawn from the race, we would have had three votes for the office of President at the 2016 SBC.
This year the issue was the alt-right resolution. As you’ve read here, the Resolutions Committee declined to bring forward a resolution condemning the alt-right. A motion was made to reconsider. The convention voted, and the motion failed to receive the necessary 2/3 majority to force the committee to report out the resolution. Then shortly thereafter the convention broke for dinner. After dinner, another messenger made a motion to ask the Committee on Order of Business to provide more time in the schedule for the Resolutions Committee to report out a resolution on this same subject. That motion also needed a 2/3 majority. It went to a ballot vote, and the motion failed. Then later that night, the Committee on Order of Business asked the convention to reconsider allowing the Resolutions Committee time to report out a resolution on this subject. That vote passed overwhelmingly. Then the next morning the Resolutions Committee brought forward their resolution, the convention voted, and the resolution was passed almost unanimously.
The details concerning the alt-right resolution have been rehashed here and in other places many times. Last year all the discussion was about the presidential election. We’ve talked about these things until there’s not much left to say. So why do I bring these two situations back up, and what is the connection between them?
I want you to think with me about the impact of social media on these two votes. The Annual Meeting is a busy time. I was present for all of the presidential votes last year, but I missed the first two votes concerning the alt-right resolution because I was tending to another responsibility. I was only present for the third vote because I got word that I needed to get back to the convention hall for another vote. How did I get that word? Social media. In both cases, tweets and messages were being sent out over social media urging messengers to get back to the convention hall. Many did, but some likely never saw the tweets.
Is it possible that social media is impacting the vote totals at our annual meetings, especially when a vote on a particular issue goes to an unexpected second or third vote? Surely some older Southern Baptists use social media as well, but who is most likely to be on social media? The younger crowd. So does the younger crowd have an advantage in situations where an unexpected vote arises and there are widespread calls to get back to the convention hall?
Of course the flip side is that the older crowd is probably more likely to be present in the convention hall for all of the business sessions to begin with. So maybe it’s really all a wash in the end. I don’t know the answer to my question here, and there’s probably no way to measure it. But I do find it interesting.
One more related question to consider: Should the SBC do more to inform messengers of what is going on during the annual meeting? A text message could be sent out to all messengers as soon as a projected time for a specific vote has been determined. This still likely wouldn’t reach every messenger, but it would probably reach most. Or does the responsibility belong with the messenger? Keep your butt in the convention hall during every minute of the meeting or expect that you will miss an important vote from time to time.
I’m interested to know your thoughts.