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Dilday: ‘Pick-and-choose’ approach may replace SBC percentage of budget

DALLAS (BP)–Possible changes in Texas Baptist funding of Southern Baptist Convention missions and a historical interpretation of the Cooperative Program were outlined by Russell H. Dilday Jr. in an interview with Baptist Press Jan. 28.
A SBC leader, in response, challenged Dilday’s interpretation of the Cooperative Program and questioned whether he is advocating “setting aside the agreements on which the CP rests.”
Dilday, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said, “… probably instead of a percentage of the Cooperative Program money being forwarded to Nashville for SBC mission causes, it would be more of a pick-and-choose those items that [Texas Baptist churches] would like to support.”
Under the current Texas Baptist Cooperative Program, most churches choose the option allocating 67 percent of the funds they send to Dallas for BGCT causes and 33 percent for SBC causes for use according to each convention’s budget. A reduction in the SBC percentage, from the previous 37 percent, was passed in 1995 by a two-to-one vote at the BGCT annual meeting in San Antonio.
Another facet of possible change, Dilday said, involves the BGCT budget plan recommended to local churches.
“…Texas has always had, as most states have, a kind of recommended division [of funds],” Dilday said. “I don’t know whether you call it ‘generic’ or ‘default’ or what, but the one that is voted on in the convention and is the one we would suggest that churches follow — is the one that I think there will be proposals in El Paso to change.” The BGCT annual meeting will be held in the south-Texas city Nov. 8-9.
The BGCT-recommended plan, Dilday said, would be a plan “whereby we cooperate with the SBC at these levels” as specified by the convention.
Dilday said his comments are based on what he’s heard from churches, groups and individuals as BGCT president. A BGCT committee currently is working on funding plans for denomination-like steps approved at the 1997 BGCT annual meeting in Austin involving such Texas Baptist initiatives as Sunday school literature, theological education and the sending of BGCT missionaries.
Concerning the SBC, Dilday said, “the people I’m hearing would rather it be expressed in terms of, ‘Here are the things we feel good about and would like to continue to fund.’ And those were the foreign mission and home mission enterprises and several of the seminaries, including Southwestern [Baptist Theological Seminary].” Dilday led the Fort Worth-based seminary nearly 16 years until being fired by trustees in 1994.
Dilday also said the budget changes likely would allow churches “to give either 1 or 100 percent of their gifts to the SBC causes, undesignated, or they could go the other way and do 100 percent to Texas causes, or split them 50-50 or 60-40 or any way they wanted to do it.”
Currently, the BGCT allows churches the option of designating funds away from five specific entities and still be credited with participating in the Cooperative Program. While the most widely used of BGCT’s four funding plans is the one allocating two-thirds to BGCT causes and one-third to SBC causes, yet another plan provides funding for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship among its options.
Dilday predicted “cooperation between churches in Texas and the SBC is still going to continue. I believe there will always, at least in my lifetime, be that relationship and cooperation. The extent and nature of it may shift over the years, and already has to a certain extent. But it’ll still be there and always be a cooperative effort … .”
While the Cooperative Program was initiated by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925, Dilday maintained it also has been “a state Baptist program … [in which] the churches and the states decide how they want their Cooperative Program money distributed.”
“And so that’s exactly what’s happening here. This is the Cooperative Program, Texas Cooperative Program, and it’s always been called that, and will [be called that], and we still promote it in that regard.”
Dilday’s account of the history of the Cooperative Program was challenged by Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee. The committee is responsible for the distribution of CP gifts received from the state conventions for distribution according to an allocation budget approved by the SBC for its agencies.
Chapman said Dilday’s remarks obscure the history of the CP.
“The CP has been a joint effort from the very beginning and the Executive Committee was responsible for leading in its development, which was based on mutual agreements between SBC leaders and state convention leaders. The impetus came out of the SBC’s $75 million campaign, a national campaign in scope.”
He said the SBC “much prefers the historical arrangement which has been an unmixed blessing to the work of Baptists for nearly 75 years.”
Also, Chapman said “if a state convention can be persuaded to jeopardize this historic arrangement, then the SBC would be morally obliged to do greater promotion directly on the local church level. But that seems to be an unnecessary and inefficient approach which would surely waste resources and certainly is not what we favor.
“While Dilday insists he’s only repeating what he hears, to keep on saying it certainly makes him sound like an advocate of setting aside the agreements on which the CP rests. I believe this could not help but injure the cause of missions. ‘Picking and choosing’ those things you wish to support is actually the independent Baptist societal model that Southern Baptists tried and found wanting. Seeing its deficiencies, Southern Baptists came together and developed the unified giving Cooperative Program plan to replace that wasteful model.”
In comments to an Abilene newspaper, Dilday said Jan. 19 three SBC seminaries could lose $3 million in funding through the change in BGCT budgeting. He added the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in an interview with the Baptist Standard published Jan. 25. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., were the seminaries Dilday listed.

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