DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Don’t mess with the Cooperative Program is the message the Georgia Baptist Convention’s executive committee is sending to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, according to a report by The Christian Index, the state convention’s newsjournal.
The GBC executive committee unanimously adopted a request March 16 that the task force strengthen its language assuring that the Cooperative Program remain the dominant funding channel for Southern Baptist causes, The Index reported.
The state convention, where the denomination was founded in 1845, additionally asked the GCRTF to “formally encourage and challenge local churches specifically to increase their support and sacrificial giving through the Cooperative Program.”
The 483-word document, with three subsections, was approved by the Georgia convention’s executive committee during their regular session March 16. The GBC thus becomes the first state convention to address the 32-page report by the task force.
The GCRTF report, which is undergoing intense scrutiny before being released in its final form on May 3, suggests six areas for making the Southern Baptist Convention more responsive and efficient. One of those, Component 5, deals with how Southern Baptists fund their missions efforts at home and abroad.
While task force members maintain that the CP will remain the primary funding mechanism, the Georgia executive committee statement reflects a concern that the GCRTF report will give denominational blessing to churches that want to bypass the historic funding channel in favor of a societal approach.
Executive committee members fear a watering down of the Cooperative Program if “Cooperative Program Giving” is regarded as only equal to designated giving, according to a report by The Christian Index, the convention’s newsjournal. The Georgia document states its concern that “wide application of the phrase ‘Great Commission Giving’ for monies given through the Cooperative Program as well as to designated causes may cause some Baptists to surmise wrongly that the Cooperative Program is merely a subset of giving instead of the primary means of missions giving for Southern Baptists.”
The GBC executive committee asked the task force to consider more appropriate terminology that “may bring clarity to the GCRTF’s desire to keep the Cooperative Program as the central means of support for Great Commission ministries, while still acknowledging the important role that designated gifts play in mission support.”
The GBC statement concludes by asking the task force to increase its verbal commitment to encourage churches to consider the Cooperative Program as the primary giving channel and not as an option.
According to The Index, GBC executive committee members fear that churches will shift their funding from the Cooperative Program and begin directly funding SBC causes that make the best argument for their support.
GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, a member of the GCR task force, reminded SBC entities in his comments that entities that accept CP funds and then make funding requests of churches are in direct violation of the SBC Business and Finance Plan.
Entities can’t have it both ways, White stated.
White, in recent articles in The Christian Index, Baptist Press and in an e-mail release to nearly 6,500 GCR prayer partners on March 15, White said it is “absolutely essential that the boards of trustees of our entities exercise strict control over their entities to see that direct solicitation among our churches does not happen. Such solicitation is a direct threat to the very existence of the Cooperative Program.”
White, a longtime proponent of the Cooperative Program, is considered a senior statesmen on the topic. GBC executive committee members indicated that they wanted White to communicate their expressed convictions about Component 5 to the GCR task force, The Index reported. White promised to represent their sentiments as effectively as possible at the group’s next meeting, April 26 in Nashville, Tenn.
The Index reported that the GBC executive committee is hoping that the task force will write the stronger affirmation of the Cooperative Program into their final document, which will be unveiled May 3. That will be the document presented to messengers during the June 15-16 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The Index reported that the fear of churches redirecting their historic giving away from the Cooperative Program toward designated giving was made even more clear in the first candidate to be nominated for SBC president at the upcoming annual meeting.
Georgia pastor Bryant Wright, formerly a supporter of the primary funding channel, has stated his intentions of shifting more funds to designated giving. In a story posted March 13 at www.christianindex.org, Wright explained how his congregation, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, has reduced its CP giving from 10 percent to 3.5 percent in recent years.
The Index reported that pastors and laymen on the GBC executive committee are concerned such examples send the wrong message to churches who will see a loophole in the task force document to make similar end-runs around the historic funding channel.
Reported by the staff of The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. The full statement by the Georgia Baptist Convention executive committee follows:
A Request from the Executive Committee
of the Georgia Baptist Convention to the
Great Commission Resurgence Task Force
Understanding that the call to missions and evangelism has united Southern Baptists for more than 165 years, the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention appreciates the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) as they remind Baptists to be missional, biblical, and cooperative in taking the Gospel to the nations. We are pleased that the interim report of the GCRTF, delivered February 22, 2010, calls for a renewed sense of urgency to missions and evangelism as Baptists seek to continue the Christ honoring work of the Great Commission.
The Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention celebrates the desire of the GCRTF to witness revival among God’s people and to continue taking the life changing Gospel to the ends of the earth. Since 1925, Southern Baptists have worked together in accomplishing the Great Commission through the Cooperative Program, and this method of collective engagement allows the Gospel to be taken both near and far in a manner that is inherently biblical and historically Baptist. The Executive Committee joins the GCRTF in acknowledging and celebrating all gifts to Southern Baptist mission causes, whether through the Cooperative Program or specific designations, knowing that gifts of any size can be honorable and be used for God’s Kingdom work.
With sincere appreciation for all gifts to Southern Baptist mission causes, the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention respectfully requests the following:
1. That the GCRTF reconsider how the designation of new terms and nomenclature is applied in Component 5. The wide application of the phrase “Great Commission Giving” for monies given through the Cooperative Program as well as to designated causes may cause some Baptists to surmise wrongly that the Cooperative Program is merely a subset of giving instead of the primary means of missions giving for Southern Baptists. A reconsideration of terminology may bring clarity to the GCRTF’s desire to keep the Cooperative Program as the central means of support for Great Commission ministries, while still acknowledging the important role that designated gifts play in mission support.
2. That the GCRTF formally state that designated or special gifts are best provided as a supplement to the Cooperative Program and not as a substitute for this historical and proven method of mission support.
3. That the GCRTF formally encourage and challenge local churches specifically to increase their support and sacrificial giving through the Cooperative Program, so that churches of all sizes can share in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations in a cooperative, biblical, and missional way.
In recognition of the work done by the GCRTF, the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention submits these requests in an effort to create unity and agreement among the diverse perspectives of Baptists throughout the state of Georgia and within the Southern Baptist Convention.