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Conservative Texas convention challenges BGCT treasurer on finance statements

IRVING, Texas (BP)–Southern Baptist churches considering affiliation with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have access to retirement and protection matching funds equal to other state conventions while also maintaining their tax-exempt status, according to a spokesman for the new state convention.

The SBTC spokesman was speaking out Jan. 30 in response to statements by the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ treasurer implying that churches risk losing benefits and their tax-exempt status if they vote to move to the SBTC, the new conservative state convention.

Responding to allegations in a Jan. 29 Texas Baptist Standard article written by a BGCT writer, SBTC’s minister of church relations, Casey Perry, said, “Our state convention provides matching funds and protection benefits including survivor, disability and death benefits comparable to other state conventions in an agreement with the Annuity Board. The statements attributed to the BGCT treasurer are misleading, at best.” Perry said he had fielded numerous calls from concerned pastors and one director of missions misled by the BGCT statements.

The Standard article quoted BGCT treasurer Roger Hall as saying that churches that stop contributing to the BGCT’s ministries cannot qualify for BGCT matching contributions to the Ministers’ Protection Plan. Hall notes that such contributions “help to provide life insurance and disability insurance during working years and help build benefits for retirement years,” implying that the BGCT is the only convention offering such benefits.

Perry pointed out that the SBTC’s first cooperative agreement was with the Annuity Board. Churches affiliated with the SBTC can include ministerial persons as well as secretaries and custodians who meet the conditions of the plan, he said, noting, “Our affiliated churches will not lose matching funds or protection benefits and may continue through our agreement with the Annuity Board.”

The Annuity Board’s executive officer for denominational relations, Curt Sharp, stated that all state Baptist conventions are signatories to the Church Annuity Plan. “Eligible Church Annuity Plan participants in SBTC churches, like eligible participants in churches affiliated with other state Baptist conventions, receive Protection Section benefits at no additional cost to the church.”

The BGCT treasurer also gave the impression that a church affiliating with SBTC risks losing its tax-exempt status by no longer qualifying for the convention’s group ruling. “If a church is not participating with the BGCT, it would not qualify for that group exemption and would have to make other arrangements,” Hall said in the Standard article.

Cooperating churches of the Southern Baptist Convention may obtain the 501(C)3 tax-exempt letter for their church by contacting the Executive Committee of the SBC. SBTC offices can assist churches with their request to the Executive Committee concerning tax-exempt matters and other information just as any other state convention would provide assistance.

Perry can be contacted at the SBTC offices via telephone at (972) 953-0878; e-mail, [email protected]; or mail, P.O. Box 168585, Irving, TX 75016.

The comments by Hall were prompted by a Jan. 15 mailing from SBC Executive Committee to 4,900 Texas Baptist churches. Churches were informed of options available in forwarding Cooperative Program gifts to support the work of more than 10,000 missionaries around the world, the preparation of more than 12,000 ministers at SBC seminaries, and other convention causes such as advocacy of ethics and religious liberty in governmental affairs.

Clear instructions were deemed helpful to the churches affected by dramatic funding changes in the BGCT budget. Messengers to the fall convention voted to reduce funding for Southern Baptist seminaries from $5.3 million to no more than $1 million. Only Southern Baptist seminary students who have been members of a BGCT church in Texas for two years will receive support in the approved budget. And if church-directed funds for the seminaries through the BGCT meet or exceed the $1 million total, then the support for Texas students in SBC seminaries will be considered to have been met, capping contributions at the reduced level.

In addition, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission lost all BGCT funding, taking a $345,000 hit, while the Executive Committee of the SBC saw its funding from BGCT drop from $706,000 to $10,000.

The new Southern Baptists of Texas Convention hopes to have a part in making up that shortfall by challenging 100 churches to give $10,000 above current Cooperative Program gifts to provide an additional $1 million. Half of excess receipts received by the SBTC in the coming year will go to the defunded SBC entities.

Sending Cooperative Program gifts through the new convention was among three funding options explained in the Executive Committee mailing. The remaining two options would channel CP gifts for the SBC through the BGCT.

SBTC is the first of state conventions affiliated with the SBC to forward 51 percent of its CP receipts to SBC missions and ministries.

“The important differences between our convention and the BGCT are doctrinal,” SBTC communications director Gary Ledbetter explained. “Churches that stand with us on the inerrancy of Scripture do not risk the livelihood of their pastors or the future of their ministry. Quite the contrary. Churches that without apology build their ministries on the perfect Word of God have a gospel that is sure and clear. Our commitment to the SBC also gives us a unique and effective way to share this gospel through a missions force of over 10,000 men and women trained by six of the premier seminaries in the world. That’s no risky scheme.”

    About the Author

  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter