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CBF to vote on $19,000 budget hike

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–A recommendation for a budget increase of $19,000 and a comparison of the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative resurgence to the Holocaust were among the items heard June 19 during the opening session of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Memphis, Tenn.

The group’s Coordinating Council moved the adoption of a $16.5 million operating budget for 2008-09, up from the 2007-08 operating budget of $16,481,000.

The assembly’s registered participants, who totaled 1,017 as of Wednesday night, were scheduled to vote on the budget June 20.

Also during the opening session, Smyth & Helwys Publishing presented Cecil Sherman, CBF’s first executive coordinator, with a copy of his newly published autobiography, “By My Own Reckoning.” When he accepted the award, Sherman compared the conservative shift in the SBC to the Holocaust, in which Nazis executed millions of Jews.

“Every once in a while I know someone of the younger generation who says, ‘Don’t talk about that [the beginning of the CBF] anymore,'” Sherman said. “Why don’t you tell a Jew, ‘Don’t talk about the Holocaust anymore.’ We need to remember the events that called us into being and be guided by them as you rise to determine your future.”

During Coordinating Council meetings June 18, CBF leaders heard additional information about the group’s financial situation.

Through the first part of fiscal year 2007-08, budget expenditures for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are being held at 90 percent to accommodate revenue shortfalls, the organization’s financial administrator said.

Through a similar period, revenues totaled 96 percent of the projected budget, resulting in a slight surplus, Larry Hurst, director of finance and accounting, told a meeting of the Coordinating Council’s finance committee. However, the slowest months of the year for giving occur in the summer months between now and the end of the fiscal year in September, he said.

“We’re praying that the revenues continue to come in at the rate that they have been for the other months of this year,” Hurst said.

In addition to the $16.5 million operating budget, the Coordinating Council recommended a total expenditures budget for 2008-09 of just over $19 million. That total includes $2,551,522 in expenditures from gifts not designated for the budget.

For 2007-08, including revenues from undesignated gifts and temporarily restricted funds, CBF’s total revenues through April 30 were $12,325,000, Hurst said. A little more than $1.6 million of those revenues were temporary restricted funds, most of which went to relief projects funded by CBF, he said.

Total expenditures for the same period were a little over $11 million, Hurst said. Nearly $2.5 million of those expenditures came out of temporary restricted gifts such as those for relief projects and a Lilly Grant, he said.

“Basically compared to our budget, our revenues are $211,000 below where we had projected as of April 30,” Hurst said. “And our expenditures are a little over a million dollars less. So as I said before, if we could continue to have relatively strong revenues for the rest of the year and could continue to contain costs, we should be coming out at a balanced budget as of Sept. 30.”

Hurst reported that “significant” estate gifts to CBF totaled approximately $1.1 million over more than a 10-year span and did not comprise a significant portion of revenues in any year. The CBF Foundation may have a sense of significant estate gifts coming in the future, he said.

Daniel Vestal, CBF executive coordinator, reported to the council that both large and small donors are giving sacrificially to support CBF missions and ministries. He read a series of letters from donors, including one from a prisoner in Missouri who sends $2 per month and another from an unnamed woman who sent $100,000.

“This is what CBF is about,” Vestal said. “… If we will stay focused on being faithful to our mission and really not worry about who gets the credit, God’s hand will stay on us.”

The General Assembly was scheduled to continue through Friday evening.
David Roach is a correspondent for Baptist Press based in Louisville, Ky.