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Calif. Baptists vote 3% cut in CP gifts for SBC causes

SAN DIEGO (BP)–Messengers to the California Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting approved a reduced 2004 budget and reinstated a resolutions committee during their 63rd annual meeting in San Diego.

The convention Nov. 18-19 sessions drew 610 messengers and nearly 270 guests, the least number of messengers since 1956.

Messengers adopted a 2004 budget of $10,663,671 with a Cooperative Program objective of $7,358,025, $500,000 lower than 2003. The major difference in the 2004 budget is the reallocation of 3 percent from SBC ministries to CSBC ministries.

If the CP objective is reached, the SBC will receive $1,986,667; California Baptist University will receive $1,209,512; and CSBC executive board ministries will receive $4,061,846. The California Baptist Foundation’s allocation is $100,000.

Messengers approved the budget after a flurry of amendments, lengthy discussion and several extensions of time — all of which left the budget essentially as presented, with the exception that the first $220,000 over the Cooperative Program objective be sent directly to the SBC. That figure is the amount reallocated in the 3 percent from SBC to CSBC ministries.

In 2003, the convention faced a $500,000 shortfall in the Cooperative Program objective. As a result, two employees were laid off, three contract workers terminated and other cost-cutting measures were taken.

Steve Davidson, chairman of the CSBC executive board and pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church, told messengers, “There are no really good ways to trim $500,000 from a budget. But I think being fiscally responsible is the only responsible and right way to approach this.”

As painful as the cuts were, Davidson said, the convention still is approximately $250,000 short of Cooperative Program projections.

“Which brought us to our second painful decision,” he noted: the 3 percent decrease to world mission causes for 2004, reducing the percentage from 30 to 27.

“Our goal, frankly, is to pay the bills in the near-term and, as soon as possible, to restore us to the 30 percent we have been giving to world missions,” Davidson explained, noting California is “a mission field of its own; I think perhaps one of the greatest mission fields.”

He indicated the executive board did not approve the proposed budget hurriedly. “We literally were trying to figure out how [to] keep inching this thing so that expenses match income without laying off further people.”

A motion by Bob Rush, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nipomo, would have restored the SBC allocation to 30 percent. “It is an issue of purpose to me. We are a group of likeminded people who come together to reach the world for Jesus Christ. As I see us cutting our efforts in world missions, it saddens me.

“Now, I understand that the 3 percent has been reallocated and understand that California too is a mission field, but I do not believe that we should remove our efforts from world missions,” he concluded.

Charlie Leffingwell, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in San Lorenzo, spoke against the motion by commending the executive board “for the job they have done in looking at the proposed budget. For the first time in a long time they have approached it very realistically in very hard times. They’ve done really a great job and deserve a great amount of credit for what they are asking us to do.”

Montia Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, agreed that the need for world missions continues, “but the reality [is] that we have not guarded CP giving at the local church level.”

He quoted a study reporting that 20 years ago, CSBC churches gave 7 percent of their undesignated receipts. Today it is less than 4 percent.

“So at the local church level we have already demonstrated a lower commitment to world missions,” Setzler said.

“We have a mission field arriving in this state every day,” Setzler added. “If we go back to the 30 percent it will make us less effective.”

Those speaking in favor of restoring the 3 percent included Ron Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Thousand Oaks, and Dan Nelson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Camarillo.

Wilson said he believes there is a “philosophical difference” about how to achieve the goal. “If we would give more to the Cooperative Program from our state, we would get more,” he said.

Nelson said he sees the reallocation as a “dangerous trend. It seems like we are being asked to do what you don’t want us to do in the local church.”

He added the action “is pitting the state convention against the national convention and our whole program of doing missions. I would beg this convention to understand there is a bigger picture than just California.”

Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, made a motion to amend Rush’s amendment, adding that the first $220,000 over the Cooperative Program objective be sent directly to the SBC.

Zinn, also a member of the SBC Executive Committee, said, “We have a Cooperative Program crisis” at the state and national level, adding, “This is not the [state] convention’s problem. This is our problem. I’m against cutting more ministries in our state than we are doing.”

When the vote was taken, Zinn’s amendment passed. Convention President Wayne Stockstill, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hesperia, ruled Zinn’s amendment “in essence was a substitute motion” and asked the body to affirm him. A vote to overrule the chair failed.

In other business, Ron Wilson made a motion to reinstate a resolutions committee after messengers had debated several motions relating to current issues.

“There has been a lot of spirited debate during this convention,” he noted. “Much of the discussion that has gone on here could have gone on in the committee and then brought to the convention.”

Stockstill initially referred the motion to the executive board but parliamentarians said the change would involve a bylaws revision and could be considered. Messengers approved reinstating the committee.

Charlie Leffingwell presented several motions requesting the CSBC executive director and president to send letters expressing various concerns to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, President George W. Bush, the Episcopal Church and the 10 largest newspapers in the state.

Though Leffingwell drafted letters to be sent, only the letter to Schwarzenegger was adopted as written, after extended discussion over the extent to which the convention should stipulate the wording of letters to be sent by CSBC officials.

The letter to Schwarzenegger voices prayer support and further states in part, “We (CSBC) represent the Word of God (Holy Bible) in our state” and “we are not in favor of any legislation that gives rights to anyone solely on the basis of a person’s stated homosexual orientation.”

Messengers approved the letter to President Bush voicing prayer support, after an amendment that it be drafted by the convention’s president and executive director, and likewise voted to voice concern to the Episcopal Church, in a 149-143 ballot vote.

However, a letter to the state’s 10 largest newspapers failed on a 134-126 ballot vote.

Among those opposing the letter was Mike Zieman, a messenger from First Bilingual Baptist Church in Pico Rivera, who said, “The Lord teaches that the world will hate us because it hated Him first. If I’m to be hated, I’d like to be hated for what I stand for, not for what I stand against. I don’t see this motion fulfilling our purpose of the Great Commission … and I think this type of thing rather turns people off and blinds them further to the Gospel.”

Messengers approved a motion by James E. Simpkins Jr. from Lathrop Baptist Church in Lathrop that the CSBC draft a public statement calling to the remembrance of the new governor Proposition 22, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

“I believe that we as Christians in California had a major impact on the recall election. I believe we have a large enough voice as a convention that we ought to make an impact … that we’re against AB 205. We need to take a stand.”

Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, made a motion that a letter of “prayerful support” be drafted by Stockstill and Whittaker and sent to Judge Roy Moore in Alabama, “thanking him for his willingness to stand for God’s Word, especially the Ten Commandments.”

“In the time when we were standing for the inerrancy of the Word of God, Judge Roy Moore was standing for that in Alabama,” Drake said.

The motion passed.

A motion made by Walter Price, pastor of Fellowship in the Pass in Beaumont, was referred to the committee on convention operations, to look at canceling “all future arrangements with public meeting facilities and hold all future conventions in churches until we run out of room.”

The motion also stated, “Should the sum total of the costs exceed the sum total of savings by canceling, this motion should be considered null and void.”

Roberta Fox, chairman of the committee, reported that the convention has a contract in San Jose for 2005. She said the committee’s intent is to pursue the possibility of meeting in churches “if we can find facilities large enough to meet the needs.”

Though a vote on an executive board motion to amend the CSBC constitution and bylaws was scheduled for this year’s meeting, the motion was withdrawn because of “a couple of unintended consequences,” according to board chairman Steve Davidson. He noted the board would “bring it back next year.”

An amendment to Article IX, Section 2 of the CSBC constitution that sought to keep the name of the convention “inviolate” failed. Robert Sorensen, pastor of Paradise Ridge Southern Baptist Church in Paradise, introduced the amendment at the 2002 annual meeting in Fresno.

Stockstill announced the appointment of a committee to study relations between the executive board, California Baptist University and the California Baptist Foundation. He said CSBC entities are “growing so rapidly” and he “feels the need” for such a committee.

“I don’t even know for sure all that this means as I appoint this committee. I have some ideas … but I’m not ready to discuss them publicly.”

Named to the committee were Walter Price; Rob Zinn; Bob Grissom of First Baptist Church in Hesperia; Dudley Bristow and Charlie Crabtree, both of First Baptist Church of Irvine/Tustin in Tustin; E.W. McCall Sr., pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente; and Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield.

Stockstill was re-elected by acclamation to a second one-year term.

Bristow, who was serving as second vice president, was elected first vice president over Jim Gregory, pastor of First Baptist Church in Escalon.

Don Conley, pastor of Encanto Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, and John Montgomery, associate pastor and minister of music at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, both were elected by acclamation to serve as second vice president and music director, respectively.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 9-10 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland.

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