Just 14 weeks after rejecting the idea, Louisiana Baptist Message trustees voted 6-1 in a called meeting on August 30 to dissolve the board of the state newspaper and move the publication back under the control of the convention Executive Board.
Just 14 weeks after rejecting the idea, Louisiana
Baptist Message trustees voted 6-1 in a called meeting on August 30 to
dissolve the board of the state newspaper and move the publication back
under the control of the convention Executive Board.
The move still must be approved by two-thirds of
Louisiana Baptist Convention messengers at the annual fall meeting in
November. But if that necessary vote is forthcoming, the Baptist
Message will dissolve as a corporation and move within the state
convention on Jan. 1, 2006.
At that time, it is likely current Oklahoma Baptist
Messenger Editor John Yeats will assume editorship of the newspaper.
Current Editor Lynn P. Clayton has set his retirement for Dec. 31, 2005.
Yeats is scheduled to be proposed as director of
communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention at the September
meeting of the state Executive Board.
If all holds to approved form, the Baptist Message
will become a part of that communications division, designed to
coordinate a multi-media approach for telling the Louisiana Baptist
“The vast majority of states are moving to a state
paper published by the state convention, …” Yeats said in a
presentation to Baptist Message trustees last week.
“It is a cohesive publication piece.”
To that end, Baptist Message trustees approved a
pair of resolutions to be forwarded to the state convention. Both must
receive two-thirds votes by messengers.
The first resolution details the heart of the plan in four-part fashion:
• The Baptist Message board of trustees recommends
to the Louisiana Baptist Convention that the Baptist Message dissolve
its corporate status and become a strategic ministry unit of the
convention, effective Jan. 1, 2006.
• The Baptist Message board of trustees requests
that LBC Executive Director David Hankins recommend to the LBC
Executive Board on Sept. 27, 2005 that John Yeats become the LBC
director of communications and, upon an affirmative vote by the
Louisiana Baptist Convention in November 2005, to transfer the
operations of the Baptist Message to the executive board, Yeats becomes
the editor-in-chief of the Baptist Message.
• The Baptist Message trustees formally requests
that the LBC Executive Board bylaws be amended to state that the editor
of the Baptist Message may not be employed or terminated without
approval of the LBC Executive Board.
• The Baptist Message board of trustees, in
conjunction with the LBC executive director, requests that the bylaws
of the LBC Executive Board be amended to change the Cooperative Program
subcommittee to the communications subcommittee and that the director
of communications/editor-in-chief of the Baptist Message be the staff
liaison to the communications subcommittee and member of the
administrative council of the executive board staff.
The second resolution is legal in nature, as
required for dissolution purposes. It sets the time for consideration
by convention messengers on Nov. 15 at 3:20 p.m. at First Baptist
Church of West Monroe.
It names current Baptist Message trustee Chair Larry
Thompson of Westlake and editor search committee Chair Nathan Luce of
Prairieville as co-liquidators.
It also asks the LBC Executive Board to name the
current members of the Baptist Message board to serve as a transitional
advisory committee for the process until the 2007 state convention.
Baptist Message trustees approved the measure
following a presentation by Yeats, some open debate and a closed-door
discussion of the proposal.
Trustees initially declined to enter into executive session, choosing to begin their meeting in the open.
In his presentation, Yeats then emphasized the value
of a coordinated approach to communications for the convention.
He insisted the landscape of communications is
changing from print to digital, which means some patterns of the past
will have to change.
However, it still remains that people want news,
information and features about what God is doing, he said. That can be
accomplished with a coordinated approach, he maintained.
Indeed, Yeats emphasized that no one wants a “public relations rag” but a genuine news piece.
At the same time, they are calling for wise use of
resources, resulting in efficiency and effectiveness, Yeats said. A
coordinated approach can provide the needed resources for promotional
initiatives and equipment needed to meet challenges of the future, he
“For the sake of its future, the Baptist Message
must see its larger role in the kingdom fulfilled as part of a cohesive
communications team of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, …” Yeats
“(In that way) The Baptist Message becomes the
cornerstone news, information and features component of a comprehensive
LBC communications team. …
“The Baptist Message joins a team of specialists
with gifts and skills in print, digital and video and media strategies
to communicate what God is doing in and through Louisiana Baptist
Indeed, plans call for the communications division
to include a director/editor-in-chief, news and features writers, a
graphic design component, a Webmaster, a public relations/marketing
component, a multi-media component, Cooperative Program/stewardship
promotions and an archives component.
Essentially, the Baptist Message would become a strategic ministry unit
of the state convention, just as LifeWay stores and Broadman &
Holman publishers are strategic units of LifeWay Christian Resources of
the Southern Baptist Convention, Yeats said.
The approach offers valuable advantages to churches,
Yeats said. It provides a more constant coordination among state
missions staff, a more effective means of telling the story of
Louisiana Baptists and a more efficient delivery mode by reducing
duplication of product, process and personnel, he said.
In doing so, it moves the convention toward the
ultimate goal – “sharing the great news about our great God at work
through Louisiana Baptists in the state and the world,” Yeats said.
Following the presentation, trustees spent some time discussing the idea.
Randy McGee of Monroe questioned what happened to
the May action in which trustees voted 8-4 against moving the newspaper
back within the convention.
Thompson explained that the search committee resumed
its work following that vote by talking with Yeats. In the course of
those conversations, Yeats expressed support for a coordinated approach.
Thus, search committee leaders approached Hankins,
who expressed interest in talking with Yeats about the possibilities.
As Thompson put it, he was willing to revisit the idea of moving the
newspaper in order to get Yeats as editor.
Luce added that Yeats’ approach to moving the
newspaper was different enough from the earlier one to merit
reconsideration. For instance, in the previous proposal, the editor
would have been under the direct authority of the state convention
As now proposed, the editor only can be hired and
fired by the full Executive Board. “It would not remain in the hands of
one individual,” Luce explained.
In addition, Luce noted that the change simply would
revert to how the Baptist Message operated until sometime in the 1960s
when it was moved out from within the convention to a separate board.
Search committee member Floyd Davis of Shreveport
agreed with the need for better communication and better use of
resources. However, he acknowledged he has not been in unanimous
support of moving the newspaper.
“I think we’re moving too quickly,” he said. “This is a major change.”
Davis suggested Yeats work out a situation in which
he served both as director of communications and editor for a year or
so, providing a time of adjustment.
Naida Sexton of Shreveport noted that she is in full
support of Yeats as editor but sought assurances that the newspaper
would remain fair and balanced. “We have a job to do, and that’s my
heart – I want to see us get it done in a way that makes our people
proud,” she said.
Jim Ingram of Bastrop suggested there needs to be an
“education process” before moving the paper, allowing time for
questions to be answered. “I feel that we’re rushing things too much,”
Luce said the search committee was willing to discuss a different
timeline. “The search committee is not pushing to do it one particular
way,” he said. “We just have a man we’d love to get on board.”
As trustees began asking Hankins if there was a way
to adjust the timeline, the executive director noted that the
discussion was beginning to touch on sensitive personnel matters of his
board and staff.
He requested a move to executive session – and trustees agreed.
Following a discussion of about 45 minutes, trustees
opened the doors and spent little time in approving the action.
However, prior to the vote, they did ask if Clayton
had any comments on the issue as the current Baptist Message editor.
“One, my opinion has not changed from the prior
(May) meeting,” he said. “Two, the search committee and the board have
not sought my input prior to this point, so I will respect that and
decline to speak.”
Trustees voted without further discussion of the matter.
“We have some work to do in front of us,” Thompson
said following the vote. “And I don’t presume to know how this is going
to play out.”
If the convention votes the move down, Thompson said
the search committee then will resume its work to find an editor.
Meanwhile, Hankins said he will carry out the request to present Yeats to the Executive Board in September.
Following adjournment, he explained that the
resolutions of the board will go straight to the convention and not
have to be approved by the Executive Board.
While declining to presume on the convention and how
it will act, Hankins said he expects messengers to be enthusiastic
about the proposed changed.
“They know they’ll have a state paper,” he said.
“And they knew they were getting a new editor anyway. That was a given
(with Clayton’s announced retirement).”
Yeats is a former pastor who served as director of
communications for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana for two
years, then became editor of the Oklahoma newspaper in 1997. He has
continued to serve as interim pastor during that time.
He is an Oklahoma native and a graduate of Dallas
Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and
American Christian College and Seminary in Bethany, Ok. He and his
wife, Sharon, have three adult children.
He also has served as Southern Baptist Convention recording secretary for a number of years.