During their Feb. 21-22 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Executive Committee members also heard a progress report on discussions about assigning to the International Mission Board the ministry of "reaching unreached and underserved people" in the United States and voted to recommend adding a category of "Great Commission Giving" to the annual statistical report.
The $186 million Cooperative Program Allocation Budget to be proposed during the SBC annual meeting would increase the International Mission Board's percentage of budget receipts from 50 percent to 50.2 percent and decrease the Executive Committee's percentage by the same amount, to 3.2 percent. The Executive Committee also voted to recommend directing 51 percent of any missions receipts exceeding the budget to the overseas mission entity.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, which was adopted during the convention's 2010 annual meeting in Orlando, had asked the Executive Committee to consider a 1 percent increase to the IMB. Executive Committee President Frank Page told the assembly he wanted to move toward that goal as quickly as possible.
Page said that in his five months at the helm of the EC he had already had to make "gut-wrenching" decisions, including a 19 percent staff cut, to be fiscally responsible and bring spending in line with reduced income.
"I want to send out a message that what some call 'bureaucracy' ... we're reducing it," Page said, noting he was proposing a seven-year move toward reducing the Executive Committee's portion of the budget to 2.4 percent. "We're going to make sure we're doing everything we can to say to our world, 'We care about you.'"
The proposed $186 million Cooperative Program Allocation Budget reflected the economic realities by taking a more conservative approach to the SBC's fiscal strategy. For several years, new budgets have been based on actual receipts from the previous year, a process that works well in growing economies when missions receipts are rising. That process, however, is counterproductive in down economic times -- keeping budgets higher when receipts actually are declining.
The previous budgeting process would have proposed a 2011-12 budget of $191.7 million, but budget planners recommended the $186 million budget, believing that is a more realistic projection of actual receipts, based on recent and current patterns in the U.S. economy and receipts by churches and other charitable organizations. The lower figure allows Southern Baptist mission boards and seminaries to plan their spending for the coming fiscal year without as much concern for whether the income projections actually will hold true. Should CP receipts exceed the budgeted goal, the International Mission Board would receive 51 percent of any overage. The other SBC entities would receive the same percentage as in the allocation budget, with the exception of the Executive Committee which would receive 2.4 percent.
UNREACHED IN THE USA
Executive Committee members also heard a progress report on discussions about assigning the International Mission Board the ministry of "reaching unreached and underserved people" in the United States.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report recommended the ministry assignments of the convention's overseas and domestic mission boards be rewritten to allow the International Mission Board to bring its cross-cultural expertise to bear on the challenge of carrying the Gospel to unreached and underserved people groups wherever they are found. The current ministry statements allow the North American Mission Board and preclude the IMB from engaging in mission endeavors in the United States and Canada.
Discussions on changing those ministry assignments are not yet complete because of leadership transitions at both IMB and NAMB, as well as the Executive Committee, noted Al Gilbert, chairman of the EC's Cooperative Program subcommittee and a member of the now-disbanded GCR Task Force. Gilbert said the three groups hope to work through the process required by their charters, complete the necessary discussions and have a proposal for Executive Committee members to consider in their meeting immediately prior to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
The statement adopted by the assembly said the Executive Committee "acknowledges the expressed desires of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force for the SBC mission boards to consider any necessary revisions to better penetrate lostness, but postpones recommending any ministry assignment changes at this time for either mission board relative to those challenges so that the approved process for making ministry statement changes can be fully complied with, during which time all pertinent factors can be thoroughly examined."
'GREAT COMMISSION GIVING'
Executive Committee members also voted to recommend adding a category of "Great Commission Giving" to annual statistical reports, in response to another GCR Task Force recommendation.
The task force had suggested adding that category as a way of celebrating what Southern Baptist churches are doing in missions beyond the core strategy of giving through the convention's Cooperative Program. However, rather than replacing the existing "Total Missions Giving" category, the Executive Committee recommendation proposes adding the "Great Commission Giving" category, providing a clearer picture of the overall missions endeavors of SBC churches.
The Executive Committee statement recommends messengers to the annual meeting "respectfully request" that Southern Baptist churches "make or retain the Cooperative Program as the principal component of their missions-giving strategy" and "strive to meet a goal" of increasing their Cooperative Program gifts by 2.5 percentage points in 2013.
Addressing another recommendation by the GCR task force involving the matter of CP/stewardship promotion, the Executive Committee voted to "pursue an enhanced relationship among and between the state conventions, associations, the entities, and the Executive Committee for the purpose of developing an holistic and unified approach in promoting the entire Cooperative Program and stewardship education across the Southern Baptist Convention."
All recommendations adopted by the Executive Committee will be presented for approval by messengers to the annual meeting in Phoenix before taking effect.
Mark Kelly is assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press. BP editor Art Toalston contributed to this story.
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