Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee president, announced the agreement in his report during the EC's Feb. 22 session in Nashville, Tenn.
State convention executive directors agreed to the 50/50 move during their annual meeting Feb. 14-17 in Williamsburg, Va., said Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and president of the Fellowship of State Executive Directors for 2011-12.
Turner emphasized that state executive directors felt it important to make a statement to affirm their "strong support" of the Cooperative Program in light of the approval of the GCR report by SBC messengers last June.
"State conventions are already in this thing," Turner said. "Several years ago state executive directors agreed to get more money to the Executive Committee," which distributes Southern Baptists' funding of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and other SBC entities. "Since then, we have all been working together to make that a reality," Turner said.
The concept of shared ministry funds "has strong historic roots," Turner said, referencing the establishment of the Cooperative Program in 1925. Shared ministry funds differ from state convention to state convention, but include monies set aside for various state-supported ministries. Shared ministry fund allocations are not counted as a part of the 50/50 CP allocation forwarded to the SBC.
Page, addressing the EC meeting Feb. 22, said the state execs' affirmation of a 50-50 CP allocation represents "a quantum shift in methodology," while acknowledging that "it will take time for some conventions to achieve the goal."
The state execs share a commitment "to do more to reach the nations for Christ, and there's not a state executive director here or not here that doesn't want to do that."
"We understand that we do some things together as shared ministry items, but understand it's still very historic that these state conventions are joining in wanting to do more to reach the vast lostness of this world," Page said. "That's not going to have immediate impact, but over time, it's going to have significant impact for the work of reaching this continent and this world for Christ."
On Monday, Feb. 21, the Great Commission Council, which is composed of presidents of SBC entities, voted unanimously to affirm the executive directors' agreement, and after Page's address, the Executive Committee also voted to affirm the milestone.
Turner has led the Arkansas convention to increase the percentage of receipts forwarded to the SBC by two-tenths of a percentage every year for the past five years. Arkansas' budget formulation study committee begins meetings in March to determine funding allocations for the next five years.
Turner presented the fellowship's official statement to Page on Feb. 18, which reads in its entirety: "We affirm the challenge of the Great Commission Resurgence report that each state convention, within their own autonomy, strive to achieve the historic goal of 50/50 division of Cooperative Program receipts with the Southern Baptist Convention after consideration of allocations for shared ministries."
In an e-mail sent to Page on behalf of the fellowship, Turner said, "We appreciate you, and believe that you and we, working together, can strengthen the Cooperative Program and the SBC."
Turner said the move is "historic."
"What makes it significant is that it is the first time state execs and the Executive Committee have agreed on the principles of shared ministry items," he said.
The GCR report, approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando in June 2010, included in "Component Three" a request for increased CP and "other Great Commission" giving by churches and state conventions.
Additionally, the GCR report listed "Challenges" for various SBC entities, including those for state conventions, stating the need to "return to the historic ideal of a 50/50 Cooperative Program distribution between the state conventions and the SBC."
A 50/50 distribution of CP funds between states and the SBC has been realized at times by various state conventions, but not maintained. Some state conventions have announced plans to work toward a return to a 50/50 allocation.
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and former vice president in charge of CP promotion at the SBC Executive Board, said state conventions as a whole send a larger percentage of their receipts to the SBC today than they have in previous years.
The average in 2009 was 38 percent, compared to 37 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, said Hankins, who researched data from SBC annuals.
"The last 10 years it has inched upward about 1.5 percent in SBC's favor," Hankins said. "We are headed to a 39-40 percent range for SBC, and that's in a time when percentage from churches continues to decline rapidly."
State conventions are free to set their own timeline for realization of the 50/50 CP allocation, Turner noted.
Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News (www.arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
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