BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–A gain in the number of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship “partner” churches in the Lone Star State can be attributed to the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist Standard newspaper, the state’s CBF coordinator said at the fellowship’s national assembly in Birmingham, Ala., June 24.
The moderate-led state convention and its affiliated newspaper have created a climate “where Baptists are free to follow the dictates of their conscience,” said Texas CBF Coordinator Ricky McClatchy. “Any time this happens, you create an environment where the CBF can thrive and grow well.”
McClatchy also cited the role of Texas Baptists Committed in the increase in the number of “partner” churches. He said that 87 churches sent first-time contributions to the CBF in 2002-03, of which 56 were in Texas.
Those numbers, however, differ from statistics compiled by the national fellowship, which cites a larger gain in Texas.
Lance Wallace, associate director of news and information for the CBF, said that 235 new churches sent gifts to the CBF in 2002-03. Of those churches, 151 were said to be in Texas.
Nationally, individuals or groups gave to the CBF through 1,843 churches last year. Wallace said that 121 of the 1,843 churches are exclusively aligned with the CBF. That number does not include 54 new CBF church plants in North America.
Under CBF rules, any church that sends money to the organization is considered a “partner” church but not one necessarily “aligned” with the group. The number of new CBF “partner” churches in Texas for 2003-2004 is not yet complete, McClatchy said.
After the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 by the Southern Baptist Convention, CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal predicted that 5,000 churches would leave the SBC fold and possibly associate with the fellowship. The SBC, Vestal said, had exalted “Scripture over Jesus.”
Growth among the CBF fellowship hasn’t been that rapid, although Wallace said the number of CBF churches is of little consequence to the fellowship.
“Whether 5,000 would leave to come to us, we have no strategy of encouraging churches to leave partnerships with other religious organizations, whether they be Southern Baptist or from any other religious organization,” he said. “For us, it is not an either-or proposition. We are comfortable for groups to partner with multiple organizations.”
McClatchy cited the CBF’s assistance in eight new church starts in Texas and the appointment of 63 CBF chaplains in the state as evidence of the fellowship’s growth. He also said three CBF partner seminaries in Texas are preparing 480 students each year, and that the organization was developing greater partnerships with the BGCT and Hispanic Baptists.
“All of these are indicators of the vitality of the CBF movement in Texas,” he said.
The same year that Vestal predicted an upswing in CBF growth, David Currie, executive director of Texas Baptist Committed predicted an increase in gifts to the fellowship. The increase in gifts has yet to materialize.
McClatchy said that the Texas CBF would be working on a smaller budget in the 2004-2005 fiscal year. Last year’s budget of $157,025 was reduced to a projected budget of $129,720. When asked why there would be a shortfall, McClatchy said that the budget “did not go down; it never went last year to where it was projected.”
“It was a shot in the dark, our first effort to come up with a budget of this type. But this lower number is more accurate,” he said.
In an arrangement with the national CBF, McClatchy said that 10 percent of all undesignated gifts to the fellowship would be returned for use in Texas churches beginning July 1.