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CBF revises budget downward for second year in a row

ATLANTA (BP)–For the second straight year, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship revised its budget at mid-year, as the first six months of fiscal 1996-97 revenue fell more than 10 percent below budget projections.

The CBF 1996-97 budget called for $14,102,000, but after six months of the fiscal year, July through December, actual contributions have slowed to the point CBF officials are projecting $12,580,000 for the full year, a 10.8 percent shortfall.

CBF’s Coordinating Council, the organization’s governing board between annual meetings, voted to revise the year’s budget downward 1.69 percent to $13,982,244, anticipating drawing from reserves to meet that figure. Meeting in Atlanta Jan. 29-Feb. 1, the council’s approval of the revision means the CBF expects to spend $1.4 million dollars more than projected revenue. Reduced expenditures and drawing from reserves will make up the difference, officials said.

For the five-year-old organization accustomed to double-digit revenue growth, the figures confirmed last year’s slowed growth, which saw a $1.1 million budget shortfall. In spite of last year’s slowdown — $12.1 million in actual receipts compared to a $13.3 million budget — CBF officials hoped it was not a long-term trend. After six months of the 1996-97 budget year, the consequences of plateaued revenue growth were apparent at the meeting, although leaders asked council members to think positive.

“We don’t want to lose the big picture,” Lavonn D. Brown, CBF moderator, told the council. “We want to go back to our churches with positive words. Some painful things and some good things have happened here.” Brown is pastor of First Baptist Church, Norman, Okla., and as moderator, he is the equivalent to an elected president of the CBF.

Daniel Vestal, the newly elected CBF coordinator, or chief executive officer of the organization, said the council had to deal with some realities regarding the budget that were “unpleasant.”

“We’re facing some hard decisions, some tough challenges,” Vestal said in his opening remarks. Vestal is former pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church, Houston.

Although reductions in expenditures are expected in some areas of the CBF budget, apparently its global missions enterprise will see increased expenditures. The council voted to budget “up to $1.5 million from prior years’ Global Missions reserves to cover an unexpected increase in expenses and the anticipated shortfall in unrestricted revenues for 1996-97.” The increase is for recurring expenses for the 139 CBF missionaries.

The CBF global missions fund reserve, according to a CBF finance officer, is $9 million, with other CBF reserves of slightly less than $1 million.

In addition, the council approved a short-term line of credit, limited to $500,000, for cash flow needs.

The biggest reductions in the CBF budget will come out of the Baptist Principles Ministry Group, with across-the-board cutbacks to theological institutions supported by the CBF as well as grants to other CBF-supported institutions. Theological institutions, such as Central Baptist Theological Seminary and divinity schools at Mercer and Baylor universities and the University of Richmond, will receive $132,500 less of an original $1.3-plus million budget. CBF “friends,” such as Associated Baptist Press and Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, will receive $57,300 less of a $527,000 budget.

On the other hand, the CBF Global Missions Group will spend nearly $900,000 more than the original budget and $1.6 million more than projected revenue. Originally, global missions was to spend $8 million of the CBF budget of $14 million but new figures show global missions will spend $8.9 million while revenue projections for that group are
$7.3 million.

In other action, the council approved a bylaw change to be presented to the CBF General Assembly in Louisville, Ky., June 26-28, addressing representation by states and regional clusters to the Coordinating Council. Under the proposal, three states, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, would be reduced to one representative from their present two. Based on church contributions to the CBF, the three states would fail to receive even one representative but another bylaw gives them a minimum of one.

Also, the council approved a 1998 calendar of meetings for the CBF which reduces the number of Coordinating Council meetings during the year from four to three. The council presently meets in January, April, June and October but in 1998 the April meeting will be deleted. Better staff support and the need to reduce expenses were identified as the reasons for the change.

Council members approved presenting moderator-elect and recording secretary nominees to the General Assembly. John Tyler, telecommunications executive from Webster Groves, Mo., and a member of Kirkwood Baptist Church, St. Louis, is the moderator-elect nominee while Carolyn Dipboye, a pastor’s wife from Oak Ridge, Tenn., is the recorder nominee. Following CBF policy, Martha Teague Smith, a Gastonia, N.C., pastor’s wife, is the current moderator-elect and will succeed Brown following the Louisville General Assembly meeting.

The council’s 80-plus members also toured the new CBF facilities on the Mercer University campus in Atlanta and met in, and heard reports from, the council’s numerous committees and work groups.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is an organization, formed in 1991, critical of SBC leadership. The moderate group claims about 1,500 churches and an unnamed number of individuals support CBF although the majority of those churches do not include CBF in their budgets but pass on designated gifts.

In 1996 the CBF General Assembly overwhelmingly opposed “convention” status for the CBF although SBC leaders contend the group functions as a convention seeking financial support from Southern Baptist churches.

In comparison, the CBF has 139 missionaries, in the United States and abroad, while the SBC has more than 4,000 overseas and 4,800 stateside. The CBF budget of $14.1 million, which includes its Global Missions Offering, compares to the SBC Cooperative Program budget of $145 million plus $125 million in Lottie Moon Christmas and Annie Armstrong Easter offerings.

    About the Author

  • Herb Hollinger