EC responds to request to reduce seminary CP

Baptist Press
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Posted: Feb 22, 2012 6:52 PM
EC responds to request to reduce seminary CP
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A request by the South Carolina Baptist Convention that Cooperative Program allocations to the six Southern Baptist seminaries be reduced to provide more funding for international missions was received and considered during the SBC Executive Committee's Feb. 20-21 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The Executive Committee, in response, stated "that it will exercise due diligence in weighing the request of the SCBC to alter the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget against the budgetary needs of the SBC entities in its budget recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention over the next several years...."

The South Carolina Baptist Convention made the request last November in adopting its Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report.

"The SCBC requests that the Executive Committee of the SBC consider adjusting the budgets of the seminaries & other SBC entities as a means of increasing funding to the IMB ," SCBC messengers said in embracing the state task force's recommendations.

The Executive Committee, in its response, noted its responsibility "to maintain the level of funding necessary for each entity to provide the ministries assigned it by the SBC through its ministry assignments."

The SBC Business and Financial Plan requires the EC to "provide an equitable distribution among the entities of the Convention."

A statement by Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, was read to the Executive Committee's Cooperative Program Subcommittee Feb. 20 in regard to the South Carolina GCR recommendation.

"... IMB would humbly appeal that this request not be pursued," Elliff wrote, explaining, "IMB has no desire to diminish the work of our entities and the strength they bring to Southern Baptist work around the world. Ours is indeed a cooperative work, a team effort best reflected through the Cooperative Program."

The IMB currently receives 50.20 percent of the $188-million 2012-13 SBC Cooperative Allocation Budget (with the GCR moving the IMB toward 51 percent in the years ahead); North American Mission Board, 22.79 percent; seminaries and the Historical Library and Archives, 22.16 percent; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 1.65 percent; and facilitating ministries such as the Executive Committee and SBC annual meeting, 3.20 percent.

In the Feb. 20 subcommittee meeting, the South Carolina convention's president, Brad Atkins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Powdersville, and executive director, James Austin, addressed the state GCR recommendation.

Also provided to the subcommittee was a statement from the chairman of the South Carolina GCR Task Force, Ralph Carter, pastor of Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Taylors.

South Carolina Baptists, through a combination of state convention CP adjustments and the addition of a new line item in the state convention budget which funds IMB directly approved in their GCR initiative, will be contributing within three years "25 cents out of every dollar we receive to the IMB," Carter wrote. "... The money needed to make this gift possible is made possible through sacrifices we are making within our state convention. Every agency and institution, including our WMU, agreed to at least a 10% reduction in the gifts it will be receiving in the next 5 years."

One seminary administrator, Robin Hadaway, acting president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed the subcommittee, speaking in behalf of the current funding for the seminaries.

"I've only been in this position a week and a half," Hadaway said in a statement to Baptist Press recapping what he said to the subcommittee, "but I've served as the MBTS missions professor for almost nine years and an an IMB missioniary for 18 years, the last six as one of the regional leaders."

Even without additional CP funding, "Midwestern has increased her missions participation overseas," Hadaway said. "Just as each state should work out their own CP funding formula to serve the Baptists in their state, so we should support the CP allocations painstakingly worked out by this SBC committee. In this way, all of our entities can receive what they need to reach the world for Christ."

Elliff, in the two-page statement provided to the subcommittee, wrote that people may ask "whether, in light of the great lostness of the world, we should not seek a greater and greater percentage of Cooperative Program funds. Our answer would be that the greatest benefit will come instead by insuring the health and spiritual vitality of our SBC churches that, in turn, will go, pray and give sacrificially. It is from these churches that we receive our missionaries. And it is from these churches that our other entities receive their support for training and equipping what may well be our finest generation of Gospel light-bearers ever. ...

"Should IMB receive a greater and greater percent of CP funds," Elliff continued, "this would directly impact the effectiveness of our other entities. As productive training and spiritual vitality would subsequently wane, so would the kind of sacrificial giving absolutely essential for fulfilling the Great Commission.

"On the convention level, seminaries would have fewer students, NAMB would plant fewer churches, ERLC would have less impact as 'salt and light' in our perverse society," Elliff wrote. "Churches might quickly lose their grasp of the power and effectiveness that comes from trusted and faithful cooperation with others. State conventions might turn their gaze inward with a focus on doing all that seemed necessary financially in an attempt merely to maintain ministry functions within their states.

"The net impact of the scenario painted above could very well be that all our SBC entities would find themselves attempting to garner more and more out of a convention that was itself becoming less and less," Elliff wrote. "This is why we must join our voices in a desperate cry for spiritual awakening in our hearts, homes, churches, convention and nation.

"IMB believes that we are part of an team called Southern Baptist Convention. What is good for each of us must be good for all of us."

The South Carolina GCR initiative was among the most vigorous responses to the recommendations and challenges of the SBC's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force adopted were during the 2010 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Among the challenges voiced by the SBC task force was a call for states to "Determine to return to the historic ideal of a 50/50 Cooperative Program distribution between the state convention and the SBC."

South Carolina's increase in IMB funding over the next three years will be allocated from CP gifts received from the state's churches and through a new IMB line item from convention funds. The state GCR then sets a five-year goal of a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program gifts by South Carolina churches between the state convention and the SBC.

In order to achieve the shift, a 10 percent reduction in Cooperative Program funding was instituted for three Baptist-affiliated colleges in South Carolina (Anderson, Charleston Southern and North Greenville), Woman's Missionary Union, the Connie Maxwell Children's Home and South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging. The reduced budget would be in place for five years.

Additionally, South Carolina ministries in such areas as missions mobilization/evangelism, church planting and church revitalization will be reduced by 1 percent annually over the next five years. Funding for the Baptist Courier state newspaper, meanwhile, will be reduced by 10 percent annually for the next three years.

This comes at a time when, as Carter noted in his statement to the Executive Committee, "We have seen our CP gifts decline from 34 million dollars to 28 million dollars" since 2009.

"In spite of these losses," Carter wrote, "SC Baptists were so moved by the Task Force's appeal to reassess our priorities in view of the increasing spiritual darkness in our world, that they took bold action this past November in our annual meeting in order to get a larger portion of our gifts to the IMB than ever before."

Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.

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