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Arson fund disbursement to states tops $700,000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Arson Fund” slowed in December but the total distributed passed the $700,000 mark, according to a SBC Executive Committee spokesperson.

For December, $7,371 was received at the Executive Committee offices in Nashville, Tenn., from churches, primarily through regular state convention channels. Following six months of the Arson Fund activity, a total of $715,451 has been received and distributed.

The Arson Fund assists 95 African American churches victimized by arsonists. Like the five earlier distributions on July 3, Aug. 2, Sept. 5, Oct. 4, and Dec. 3, the January distribution is based on a formula developed by the SBC Inter-Agency Council’s Racial Reconciliation Task Force.

The Arson Fund was begun from an offering taken at the SBC annual meeting in new Orleans last June. That offering came at the request of then-SBC President Jim Henry, an Orlando, Fla., pastor, and initially raised $282,000 in pledges and cash gifts. Most of the gifts since then have been from SBC-related churches wanting to assist in the rebuilding of the burned churches, according to Jack Wilkerson, SBC Executive Committee vice president of business and finance.

In the January distribution, an additional $42,900 was redistributed from funds returned by the North Carolina state convention, Wilkerson said, following instructions in a letter he received noting the state convention had fulfilled the current needs.

The January distribution percentages were: Alabama, 9.2; Arizona, 1.2; Arkansas, 8; California, 1.2; Florida, 3.4; Georgia, 2.3; Louisiana, 10.3; Mississippi, 10.3; Missouri, 2.3; Ohio, 1.2; Oklahoma, 1.2; South Carolina, 19.4; Tennessee, 9.2; Texas, 16.1; Virginia, 2.3; and the Northwest, 2.4 (Oregon, 1.2 and Washington, 1.2).

The African American churches, mostly in the Southeast, have burned in the last year and a half, primarily as a result of arsonists. SBC officials said the formula for distribution is based on an in-hand count of arson-related African American church fires in the state as a percentage of the total number of churches impacted nationally.

According to Richard Land, SBC Christian Life Commission president, the funds are sent to the state conventions which then have responsibility to determine the amount of assistance each church will need. “Baptists in Alabama know more about the needs in Alabama and Baptists in Georgia know more about the needs in Georgia,” Land said.

The Inter-Agency Council, composed of the chief executives of the 19 SBC entities, created the task force to seek the eradication of racism within the convention as outlined in the Racial Reconciliation Resolution adopted by messengers to the 1995 SBC annual meeting in Atlanta.

In addition to the monies, Southern Baptist construction crews are volunteering to rebuild the burned churches. At least four state Baptist conventions have sent crews to churches in need and the SBC Brotherhood Commission has been working to contact each of the fire-damaged congregations to assess the level of need.

Donations to the SBC Arson Fund may be sent directly to state Baptist convention offices or the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203.

    About the Author

  • Herb Hollinger