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Budgets, audit headline EC financial discussion

Dwight Easler, vice chairman for the Committee on Finances and Stewardship Development, answers a question from Executive Committee member Monte Shinkle.

NASHVILLE (BP) — SBC Executive Committee members approved recommendations and information regarding the previous and current operational finance budgets as well as a recent audit of its overall finances.

At their previous meeting in September 2022, SBC Executive Committee members approved a 2022-2023 operating budget of $8,335,000. Today (Feb. 21) they were reminded how that month closed out the 2021-22 fiscal year with $200,452,608 given through the Cooperative Program, a 4.26 percent increase from the year before.

However, EC members also learned that a $6,704,285 loss in net assets was realized for that same fiscal year.

EC member Dwight Easler, filling in for Convention Finances and Stewardship chairman Archie Mason, also reported that first quarter receipts given from Oct. 1-Dec. 31 for the 2022-23 budget had totaled $45,715,000, a decrease of 8.69 percent. First quarter net assets were also down by $1,372,527.

Members of the EC also approved for action and consideration at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting a proposed 2023-2024 allocation budget of $195,250,000. A proposed 2023-2024 EC operating budget of $8,335,000 for action and consideration at the Annual Meeting was likewise approved.

Mike Bianchi, interim chief financial officer for the EC, responded to concerns over the loss in net assets. He confirmed those losses can be attributed to the cost a third-party investigation administered by Guidepost Solution as well as the subsequent implementation of sexual abuse reforms in the SBC, including legal fees and an ongoing Department of Justice investigation.

On Monday night, ARITF chairman Marshall Blalock announced that Guidepost Solutions would be retained to launch and maintain a Ministry Check website database for those credibly accused of sexual abuse. He further told Baptist Press in a later interview that estimated costs to build the site and get it going could range from $1.5-2 million.

Several EC members asked questions regarding the sustainability of an organization losing approximately half of its net assets in a year.

“[Auditors] did use the word ‘unsustainable,’” Bianchi said. “The challenge is that much is unknown. They’re working with numbers … they have at this point.”

SBC Executive Committee leadership is looking at options to address those concerns, he said, including liquidating assets, changing financial arrangements, attaining other financing and looking to the SBC for future funding.

“Everything is on the table in terms of how we’re going to maintain and move forward,” said Willie McLaurin, interim EC president. “We’re monitoring that, literally, on a daily basis and working diligently. We feel confident God has given us a plan to make sure we maintain as much vitality as we can.

“… [W]e want to make the best decision we can to benefit all Southern Baptists.”

Revenue through which the EC carries out its responsibilities is generated through several streams, but primarily from Cooperative Program giving. While money is earned through investments, those same investments are being used toward the sexual abuse response.

“Like Dr. McLaurin said, everything has to be on the table,” said Easler on the financial report. “We have to sustain the budget while talking about other things to produce liquidity” without touching things like CP and other gifts.

EC Chairman Jared Wellman opened the final plenary session, which included the Convention and Finances Stewardship report, with a few words on the biblical story of Ruth, who experienced famine before the harvest.

“If we cling together and follow the Lord, we will see the transition from a time of famine to a time of harvest,” Wellman said.