In the words of my good friend (and part of this year’s Hebrew crew) Kelly, “It’s time to get rowdy!” I try not to pour out the vitriol when I blog…but some issues require the sharpened tongue and the rapid-fire rebuke.
Let me begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for those who allow themselves to be nominated to denominational offices and trusteeships. Their sacrifice of time (and I am certain, money) to do this service for the Southern Baptist Convention is admirable and should be encouraged.
However, occasionally, well-meaning and passionate statements necessitate the response of those with less degree of tunnel vision about the issues. Such a scenario has arisen in recent days concerning the funding of the SBC entities and their inability to properly do their work.
I am fairly certain that this conversation has arisen as a watershed from the recently released Great Commission Resurgence statement. I have read the statement and I agree in principle with all of its articles. Particularly, Article IX (A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure) has motivated us (The SBC, particularly her blog-friendly participants) to discuss what is effective and what is dead-weight in the 21st century world and church.
Therein lies the rub: The trustee leaders of two oldest entities in the SBC have gone and made some rather ill-advised and half-thought-out proposals to remedy the lack of funds at the national level. The North American Mission Board chairman, Tim Patterson, has proposed merging the two mission boards to eliminate the “antiquated”, “duplicate”, and “overly bureaucratic and bloated” aspects of the organizations. The International Mission Board chairman, Paul Chitwood, has proposed changing the Cooperative Program formula “to ensure that the majority of money given to get the Gospel to the nations no longer gets held back in our own nation.”
Now both of these ideas on the surface are admirable. Rev. Patterson is simply asking for us to do what will eventually be needed: to take a very hard and very counter-traditional look at what each Southern Baptist ministry does and produces for the money we give to it. Rev. Chitwood is simply asking for the most money to go to the greatest need: to the lost.
However, both ideas are wrongly oriented. Both men miss the point (although Rev. Chitwood alludes to it): the problem is not the redundancy of the system (as is) nor the CP formula…at least not at the national level. THE PROBLEM IS THE STATE CONVENTIONS!
There is redundancy and deadwood in the system…at the state level. There is poor allocation of monies received…at the state level. There is a breakdown in how the Cooperative Program is supposed to function…at the state level.
Let us review the history of the CP: In 1925, the Cooperative Program was adopted with the guiding principles of:
1) equal division of church offerings between church needs and the Cooperative Program (SBC Annual, 1976, p.54)
2) equal division of funds between state and national conventions (see principle #4)
3) equal division of national money between domestic and international missions (SBC Annual, 1983, pp. 42-47)
4) funds given seen as a “sacred trust” which the states “were not to touch… for their own use” (principle #11)
I think that it is fairly clear that point #3 is being upheld…since every year, 50% of national CP money goes to the IMB. It is also clear that the other points are not being upheld!
After all the fighting over whether 10% CP giving was too high a threshold to require for participating churches, it turns out we aren’t even close to the original vision of the 1925 statement! When 36.2% (not 50%) of monies collected by the state conventions is allocated to go to the national convention, it is clear that we have a problem at the second level of trust! If we then consider the 13 state conventions that make up the core of the SBC (78.5% of combined Baptist budgets, 81.6 % of national CP budget, over 80% of SBC messengers, 83.1% of SBC members), the statistics are slightly better with 37.6% of the combined budgets going to the national convention.
In light of this, it does not surprise me that many state convention leaders were upset with the GCR statement. Admittedly, the plan has a glaring absence of “clear details, proposed plans or potential consequences.” But, with all due respect to Rev. Barrentine, it is a statement, not a plan of attack! Or is it…perhaps the state leaders fear the blue-haired ladies and the young whipper-snappers of the convention actually considering whether all those state ministries are necessary. Border states have little to fear…it is the core states, with breakaway retirement home systems, wayward colleges and universities, and convention centers that seize valuable assets who need to consider what fat they might be willing to cut to promote world evangelization.
In summary, let me add my own solution to the possibilities being bandied about: why not fulfill the 1925 vision as much as possible. Let’s start with the state conventions SERIOUSLY considering what ministries are indeed 20th century holdovers and how they can dispose, rework, or combine them for greater efficiency. Let’s start demanding that 50% of CP money go to the national convention NOW – not in 10-20 years when our 1% increment gets us there! An excellent idea (that needs to be more bold and go farther) is David Hankin’s Cooperative Program Advance Plan – coming from a state convention director nonetheless! Let’s start by increasing our churchs’ giving to Cooperative Program, as well as national and state missions offerings…and cut our own fat before we demand the pound of flesh from the conventions!
Let’s get started…it’s times to get rowdy, people!
*editorial note: Now I’m going to make some brownies…hopefully I’ll feel better after that! I relish any comments concerning this idea or the others highlighted, especially from anyone I have potentially offended…