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BWA decreases budget by 20% to counteract $650,000 deficit

WASHINGTON (BP)–A revised budget to address a $650,000 deficit was adopted by the Baptist World Alliance Executive Committee during its March 3-5 meeting at the BWA headquarters in suburban Washington.

The 53-member BWA committee also addressed the controversy involving the application of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for BWA membership, affirming the process being following by the BWA membership committee but also apologizing to Southern Baptists for any hurts caused by the deliberations.

Explaining to committee members why the BWA is currently operating with a $650,000 deficit, BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz pointed to a volatile and declining stock market, decreased membership support and a shift in local church giving patterns from traditional institutions to independent organizations and individuals, all of which have taken a severe financial toll.

Lotz cited the inability of many of the 206 Baptist conventions and unions in the BWA to increase their giving over the past 10 years from areas of the world where financial realities make it very difficult to contribute.

The BWA “cannot continue to function in a deficit situation continually using its reserves,” Lotz said. “Drastic situations require drastic measures.”

Among the measures taken, the executive committee adopted a new budget of $1,688,416 for 2003, enacting a 20 percent decrease from the $2,114,111 budget approved by the BWA General Council during its July 2002 meeting in Seville, Spain.

Staff travel and BWA publications will be reduced. The cuts also mean that BWA staff, for the first time in recent history, will not receive any salary or cost of living increases.

The new budget figure includes the possible loss of $125,000 from the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual contribution, which is being recommended by the SBC Executive Committee to messengers at this June’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, in reaction to the CBF membership issue.

To reverse the financial downturn, Lotz said various initiatives are being recommended for consideration by the BWA General Council when it meets in Seoul, Korea, in July, including:

— an annual BWA offering.

— expanded BWA membership to include a new category of associate membership to involve more individuals, local churches and institutions.

— a “fair share” document that would present helpful guidelines for member bodies, which the BWA budget and finance committee has been asked to prepare.

“There is only so much that staff can do to cut expenditures,” Lotz said. “We have to increase income as well as cut costs.”

In a positive note, Lotz said, “The good news is that our new building is completely paid for and has made living with our deficit possible these past two years.”

Currently the entire first floor of the BWA building is leased as a source of revenue, and an additional 2,000 square feet of office space will be offered for lease to further increase tenant revenue, reported Ellen Teague, the BWA’s finance and administration director.

Teague reported that BWA investment increase has fallen 13.33 percent, while BWA treasurer Clem Gimbert said the BWA budget and finance committee has approved the move of BWA funds from equity funds to fixed funds until the market begins to recover, at which time the funds can be moved back.

Teague said the budget and finance committee had increased their meetings to address the problem and will now meet monthly to review the situation.

In membership matters, Ian Hawley, chairman of the BWA membership committee, reported that the CBF membership application will be acted on during the General Council meeting in Seoul.

Hawley told the BWA Executive Committee that the membership committee had listened to reports on Monday, March 3, of meetings BWA leaders have held with representatives of both the SBC and CBF, which the membership committee had requested as part of steps being taken regarding the CBF application. Hawley explained the rationale behind the membership committee’s decision to minimize floor discussion of the matter in Seville, a process he said was designed to guard against “anti-SBC rhetoric that would unduly influence the process.”

Hawley traced the beginning of the CBF request from the 2001 General Council meeting in Prince Edward Island, Canada, when the CBF did not meet the criteria for membership, to Seville, Spain, last year, when CBF leaders were told their organization would have to establish a clear identity, separate from the SBC, and both the CBF and SBC were to try to reconcile or be at peace with the decision.

“We wanted to show we were proceeding, “Hawley said, “but no acceptance would be given until the criteria was reached.”

Hawley emphasized that SBC leaders “have not tried in any way to circumvent the normal process. They dealt with utmost integrity, fairness and good manners with the committee.”

While the membership committee has reaffirmed its process, Hawley said they deeply regretted hurt inadvertently caused to SBC leaders Morris H. Chapman and James T. Draper Jr. and the SBC itself. “We did not anticipate the cost of our action would end up being an embarrassment and causing hurt,” he said. Chapman is president of the SBC Executive Committee and Draper is president of the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources publishing/discipleship arm.

“I have personally apologized to Morris Chapman in terms of his position,” Hawley said, “and the membership committee also brings this apology to Jimmy Draper, Morris Chapman and the SBC for any hurt, and we give this apology without qualification.”

Both the finances of the BWA and the SBC response to the CBF membership process contributed to various BWA Executive Committee members voicing a heightened appreciation of the fellowship of the Baptist family around the world.

“The rich fellowship we have with one another is more important than the things we discuss,” said Peter Pinder, BWA regional secretary in the Caribbean. “I am grateful I am the recipient of so much love from the fellowship we have.”

BWA President Billy Kim urged the Baptist family to “love each other and appreciate each other.”

Speaking directly to the SBC, the Korean pastor said, “[W]e need them and we love them,” and of the CBF he said, “[I]f they are qualified, they ought to come in.”

“We have not succeeded in bringing both groups together,” Kim said, “but I still have hope.”

Kim appealed to the leaders present to take special note of each other and each other’s needs. “We need to let the world know we love one another and we care for each other,” he said.
Adapted from reporting by Wendy Ryan.

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