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An extraordinary response for extraordinary times

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists have stepped up in an extraordinary way to meet the immediate survival needs of the victims of Katrina. This past week, while meeting with SBC leaders and disaster relief workers, and talking and praying with hurricane victims, I saw firsthand the loving generosity and the tireless labor of Southern Baptists responding to the extraordinary needs of people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

I saw pastors, whose homes or churches or both were destroyed, working tirelessly to minister to others. I saw men and women, who had left the comfort of their homes in other states, serving the helpless and hurting in Mississippi and Louisiana. I saw leaders working together at every level to bring resources together to meet immediate needs and to start planning, not just for long term recovery, but for building toward eternity.

And I know that what I experienced in Mississippi and Louisiana also is taking place in Alabama.

Yet, we need to do more … much more … to meet the needs of our neighbors as Christ commanded, but also to meet the extraordinary needs, immediate and longer term, among our Southern Baptist family.

— Our seminary has experienced flooding and wind damage, and the NOBTS family is displaced from their homes and campus while working to put together a program of classes operating at multiple locations.

— A large number of churches have been destroyed completely, or severely damaged, in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama (estimated at 525, 300 and 100, respectively). Not only do we need to help local bodies of believers reconstitute, but we also need to support pastors and staff financially to keep them in the field while recovery and rebuilding take place.

— Finally, the disaster relief effort by our state units, coordinated by the North American Mission Board, figures to be the most extensive on record, needing not just disaster relief contributions (100 percent of which go to the aid of the needy) but also an augmentation of NAMB general operating funds specifically to support a prolonged disaster relief effort in the affected states.

As president of the Executive Committee and treasurer for the Southern Baptist Convention, I have been praying about what more we can do. I believe God has given me the answer. He is leading me to recommend that the Executive Committee, acting ad interim on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, approve that all Cooperative Program funds received for national SBC causes for the remainder of September be used in these three areas of great need among our Southern Baptist family.

Moreover, I am recommending that any Cooperative Program funds received during the first quarter of our new fiscal year exceeding our budget for national SBC causes also be applied this way. I am proposing that one-half of the total be earmarked for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, one-fourth for the three state conventions most affected by the hurricane (distributed proportionately to their needs) and one-fourth to the North American Mission Board.

In this time of devastation, distress and displacement, I appeal to every Southern Baptist church to give in the next four months the greatest contribution ever given through the Cooperative Program, knowing that every dime above the budget received for national SBC causes will go directly to assist our Southern Baptist family.

I urge the state conventions throughout the Southern Baptist Convention to consider doing likewise and commit all funds in excess of the state budget received through the Cooperative Program from now through December to aid Southern Baptists impacted by Katrina.

Since its inception in 1925, the Cooperative Program has defined cooperation for Southern Baptists. It has been the primary funding vehicle by which we have been able to grow churches and to share Christ globally as God has allowed us to expand our missions, ministries and theological education for worldwide impact.

The Cooperative Program has supported a permanent infrastructure for SBC missions and ministries through our national organizations as well as for our disaster relief in emergencies. The disaster relief organization allows us to respond immediately and comprehensively in times of need — also allowing us to use 100 percent of funds contributed to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund to aid the needy and not one penny go to administration.

Now in this time of extraordinary circumstances, the Cooperative Program will allow us to respond in an extraordinary way to help rebuild our seminary and assist the NOBTS family, reconstitute churches and keep ministers in the field, and provide extra support for disaster relief operations to ensure that we can fully minister to the enormous number of families and individuals who have been hurt and displaced by Katrina.

Extraordinary times require extraordinary action and God has provided Southern Baptists with the Cooperative Program to allow us to respond.

Please know I encourage individuals and churches to continue their support of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund so we might continue to minister powerfully to those in need without any consideration other than they need help.

But, we have some considerable needs within our Southern Baptist family and this initiative through our Cooperative Program will help us let our brothers and sisters in our fellowship of Baptist life know that we care for them. Everything you give during the remaining days of September through the Cooperative Program for national SBC causes will go to assist our New Orleans seminary family, SBC pastors and churches and aid us in sustaining our relief ministry to all those in need in the extensive disaster area. Also, any contributions exceeding the Cooperative Program budget for national SBC causes received during October through December will be used likewise.

The Cooperative Program is the financial lifeline of our Southern Baptist entities and now it has the potential to be a lifeline for Southern Baptist churches and pastors as well as buttress the disaster relief effort and give additional support to our seminary to aid students and staff and contribute to the restoration of facilities. Together, now through December, let’s do something historic in stretching the reach of the Cooperative Program, while continuing the tradition of cooperation, since 1925, of Southern Baptists, Sunday after Sunday, giving faithfully to support SBC missions, ministries and theological education.
Contributions through the Cooperative Program should be made to the local church.
Contributions to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund can be made online, www.SBC.net, by phone, 1.888.571.5895, or by mail to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.

    About the Author

  • Morris H. Chapman