REVISED Friday, Nov. 19, 2010
GARDENDALE, Ala. (BP)–In an effort to protect funding for work in pioneer areas, as well as ministries traditionally organized for rural America, the Alabama Baptist Conference of Directors of Associational Missions has issued an open letter calling for a slowdown in funding changes related to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report.
That report recommended phasing out the “cooperative agreements” that govern state convention and local association relationships with the North American Mission Board and has many state conventions and local associations reassessing their vision, strategy and financial plans. The Alabama DOM group wants to make sure they understand the results of “pulling the plug” on some ministries.
The open letter was overwhelmingly approved during the group’s annual meeting Nov. 15 at First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Ala.
“We want to address the areas that are going to be left out of the Great Commission Resurgence paradigm,” said Steve Loggins, president of the conference and director of missions for North Jefferson Baptist Association.
Selma Baptist Association DOM Tom Stacey brought the idea to the group’s attention. “He is very concerned about work in the pioneer areas of the country,” Loggins said. “He has been connected to new work areas since serving as a summer missionary in Wyoming almost 30 years ago.”
Stacey said work in pioneer areas is real, “not just observatory” for him. “My dear friends and background are invested in this,” Stacey said, noting that the Selma Baptist Association has had an unofficial partnership in a new work area for 13 years.
After the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report passed at the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla., in June, “I decided I wanted to do something,” Stacey said.
Stacey “knows the devastation GCR will have and has shared with us things we needed to hear,” Loggins noted. “But we kept our letter focused on the way GCR is going to affect missions in North America because of the changes GCR is going to make to NAMB.
“We hope it will make people stop and think about some areas they didn’t think about,” Loggins said. “There is a way to do what GCR [advocates] want to do without abandoning the Cooperative Program. We all want to see the Gospel go to the ends of the earth, but we can’t abandon what we have here. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, but a both/and.
“Some people want to abandon everything for just the uttermost, but I don’t see that we have to choose,” Loggins said. “We’ve got to do it all.”
While the letter is an expression of support for the Cooperative Program, Loggins said associational directors of missions also are committed to keeping existing ministries in place.
“We are not going to let those ministries being abandoned by NAMB fall through the cracks,” Loggins said, noting that the director of the International Ministries Center in Mobile is one of the positions for which long-term funding is unsure.
NAMB vice president for communications Mike Ebert said the position is guaranteed through the end of 2011.
“We are in a very active, ongoing process with state executive directors about how states and NAMB can most effectively partner to reach North America for Christ,” Ebert said. “It’s a collaborative process and it’s going well. This is the top priority issue for our president, Kevin Ezell, right now, but just two months into his presidency, it’s too early to have answers for everyone.”
Still, the DOMs want Southern Baptists to hear what they have to say, but Loggins said they didn’t want to be confrontational in their efforts, so they decided an open letter was the best way to share their message.
“We hope all Southern Baptists will have an opportunity to see our heart,” Loggins said. “We would like folks looking at giving through the GCR viewpoint to consider what we are presenting here, something beyond that paradigm.”
Stacey added: “What I pray happens is that we as Southern Baptists can come together at the table and … can work out a unified plan that we can all still be on board with.
“We’re praying [NAMB President] Kevin Ezell will start understanding more and that these entities and agencies will do some studies before they pull the plug on whatever they are going to pull the plug on,” Stacey said. “We are backed into a corner and we are trying to be as gentlemanly as we can.”
Both Stacey and Loggins agreed that Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, has worked to communicate this message with a cooperative spirit, but they realized he can’t do it by himself.
“Rick Lance has been an eloquent spokesman for Alabama Baptists and has said so much about this to us and beyond about the fears of what will happen when GCR comes to pass,” Loggins said. “And since GCR has been passed, he has done his best to partner with this paradigm. But it is time for someone to step up, come alongside him and say it as well.”
Jennifer Davis Rash is managing editor of The Alabama Baptist (www.thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of churches affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention.
The full text of the open letter follows:
Open letter to Southern Baptists from the Alabama Baptist Conference of Directors of Associational Missions
As directors of missions of Alabama, we stand at the forefront of missional engagement of our churches on fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord. We recognize all efforts to fulfill this mandate at all levels of Baptist life.
But due to the recent changes in direction of Southern Baptist Convention leadership — specifically the adoption of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report in Orlando, Fla., June 2010, we wish to voice our concerns and offer some suggestion as to how to respond to what many perceive are serious changes that impact mission support.
The North American Mission Board (formerly Home Mission Board) historically has partnered with state conventions in cooperative mission work. This partnership has expressed itself as a two-way street of mission support and cooperation, resulting in many different tasks. The local Southern Baptist church is the source of funding for all the cooperative mission enterprises of the conventions from church planting to disaster relief at the various levels of Baptist life: associations, state conventions, mission boards and other fostered entities of the convention.
In recent days there is a movement within the Southern Baptist Convention that not only alarms many committed to Southern Baptist mission work, but also causes division among all entities of the Southern Baptist Convention. In our understanding, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and documents proceeding from the task force essentially have:
1. superseded the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ main funding for working together;
2. programmed the coming withdrawal of cooperative agreements with home missionaries in established state conventions and new work areas;
3. set the stage to dismantle the Southern Baptist family’s systematic, cooperative and comprehensive approach to missions (which we the directors of missions of Baptist associations in Alabama support) — the cherished plan known as the Cooperative Program; and
4. greatly damaged already fragile “new work” associations and state conventions of North America.
Since Alabama Baptists are leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention in Cooperative Program giving, we, the Alabama Baptist Conference of Directors of Associational Missions, first-line promoters in Cooperative Program giving, desire to express grave concern over the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s recommendations and pledge to:
1. encourage all Southern Baptist churches/associations to support the Cooperative Program within the parameters of traditional, faithful administration by the Southern Baptist family and
2. encourage all churches, associations and established state conventions to institute and continue to develop direct SBC missions partnerships within the infrastructure of existing pioneer associations and state conventions by providing financial, prayer and manpower support for Vacation Bible School, revivals, evangelistic outreach, church construction and other ministries deemed necessary to aid in reaching rural and small-town America and other areas outside the focus of the GCR paradigm.