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Agreement ends impasse between NAMB, Texas convention

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A yearlong impasse ended between historic Southern Baptist partners in what was described as a “win-win situation” Oct. 8 when the North American Mission Board trustees approved a revised cooperative agreement with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Trustees also agreed to meet with International Mission Board trustees in a historic joint meeting in suburban Atlanta next spring, adopted a 2004 budget bearing previously announced cutbacks over the 2003 spending plan, and adopted a resolution supporting the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment.

The revised cooperative agreement with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which sets forth parameters for cooperative missions efforts, was approved Sept. 30 by BGCT trustees.

One of the issues was language relating to a NAMB requirement that jointly appointed missionaries comply with the 2000 edition of the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) statement. Also a concern was a two-year-old policy by the BGCT of withholding Cooperative Program funds that would have come back through NAMB to the BGCT. NAMB opposed the policy on grounds it violated historic principles of Cooperative Program funding.

The new agreement addresses the BF&M concerns of both parties with a comprehensive sentence in the body of the document: “When North American Mission Board funds are used, both entities acknowledge that personnel must comply with the North American Mission Board’s requirements concerning the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, though this does not indicate affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

BGCT leaders, meanwhile, reversed the funds retention policy. Charles Wade, BGCT executive director, said that continuing the funds-retention policy would be “not only an embarrassment; it’s wrong,” according to a report in the Sept. 8 issue of The Baptist Standard, the BGCT’s newsjournal.

“This agreement is the best thing for the Kingdom of God,” said NAMB chairman Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan. “It’s an incredible document and a win-win situation.”

Robert E. “Bob” Reccord, NAMB president, said he was pleased that the new agreement had resulted after “more than a year of difficult, frank, but principled negotiations.”

“There were two cornerstone issues for NAMB: our commitment to the current BF&M for our mission personnel and the BGCT’s retention of more than a million dollars a year in North American mission funds. Both issues are clearly resolved in the new agreement,” he said.

“I appreciate (BGCT Executive Director) Dr. Charles Wade and his leadership who came to support these two issues and opened the way for our continued partnership. I believe this agreement will be a key to reaching Texas and the rest of North America for Christ.”

The document was one of 10 new cooperative agreements approved by NAMB trustees as part of an ongoing effort to update the documents, which had not been revised since NAMB was formed in 1997. Other state conventions with new agreements include California, Illinois, Kansas/Nebraska, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, Northwest, Utah/Idaho and Wyoming.

The historic joint meeting with NAMB and IMB will be held May 19 at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. It will mark the launch of “The Acts 1:8 Challenge,” a new initiative to help associations, state conventions and the mission boards partner more effectively with churches.

IMB President Jerry Rankin joined Reccord by telephone in announcing plans for the meeting to NAMB trustees.

“I’m really excited about this vision and the level of cooperation between our … denominational entities — not to focus on promoting our own programs, but to facilitate how Southern Baptists fulfill that Kingdom vision of reaching our world for Jesus Christ.”

The Acts 1:8 Challenge would encourage churches to think of their associations, state conventions and national and international mission boards as their partners in reaching “Jerusalem,” “Judea,” “Samaria” and “the ends of the earth” as described in the key Great Commission passage. The concept will be reinforced at each level by simplified, coordinated communications designed to assist the local church in becoming a worldwide mission center.

The 2004 budget adopted by trustees calls for a $118.29 million, a reduction of nearly 6 percent from last year’s spending plan of $125.56 million. The cutbacks — announced in late August — came as part of an effort to cut expenses at NAMB, which has joined other SBC entities in feeling the effects of the national economic downturn. Particular issues were declining investment income on operating reserves, as well as increased health insurance costs for missionaries and staff.

The budget prompted the elimination of 31 positions, seven of which were filled by employees who were not offered other positions or retirement.

Also during the meeting, NAMB trustees adopted a resolution in support of Marriage Protection Week Oct. 12-18 and a proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would fight efforts to legalize homosexual “marriage” by defining marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.”

Reccord defended the measure as possibly the only way of stopping a potential problem of one state approving homosexual “marriages” and all other states being forced by the courts to recognize such unions. A recent court decision striking down a Texas sodomy law also could be a forerunner of future attacks on biblical marriage, he said.

“After every other means has been exhausted, the only other thing we see that can stop a dam that will burst is if Congress [and state legislatures] will pass a marriage amendment to describe marriage as one man with one woman for a lifetime,” Reccord said.

The resolution also is being adopted by a number of evangelical bodies and churches, he said, and is being advocated by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

During his address to trustees, Reccord also noted that NAMB is developing a new “ethnic leadership initiative” to prepare African American and ethnic men and women for leadership positions within the SBC.

“Increasingly, as our nation is changing, so will speakers on conferences change, so will board makeup change, so will active participation in leadership change, and so will directors of missions change. We must reflect the very culture we’re trying to reach by people whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ — and we aren’t just a bunch of white folks.”

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  • James Dotson