DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Due to the great interest, discussion and questions related to the GCR Task Force report and recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, I am … [writing] … to speak to the report. There is a lot of misinformation circulating and no small amount of emotion wrapped up in current discussions. I would like to speak to clarify for you some of the most discussed issues in the report.
First, please read the report for yourself rather than accept someone’s interpretation of the report. We have all been dismayed by politicians in D.C. voting on legislation when they never even read the bill. You can download the report at the GCR website, www.Pray4GCR.com. Having read the report, go to the convention and vote your convictions.
I have heard the most interest and discussion regarding the Cooperative Program. The task force went through some transitions to arrive at the recommendation. First of all, the name of the Cooperative Program does not change. As you read the report you find very strong statements of support for the Cooperative Program as the way Southern Baptists support mission work at home and across the world. In fact, anyone who reads the language of the report will recognize that the Cooperative Program is the way we do missions and it remains the core of our cooperative mission efforts. For instance, the report states: “The greatest stewardship of Great Commission investment and deployment is giving through the Cooperative Program.”
Second, we have always had designated mission gifts. Good examples would be the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong Offerings, World Hunger Offering, State Missions Offering, Hospital Offering, Children’s Home Offering, etc. The interesting thing about designated mission gifts is that the current system allows churches to count as “other mission gifts,” in the “designated” category of the ACP, contributions that are made to non-Southern Baptist parachurch mission organizations. (Please read that again. That is amazing.) The new plan eliminates that practice and narrows designations that may be reported to only the mission causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, state conventions and associations. I believe this is a huge improvement. Then the total of the Cooperative Program and SBC mission causes would be called “Total Great Commission Giving.” The total is currently called “Total Mission [Expenditures].” This does not represent a big change in terminology for the total, but as someone said, “Great Commission Giving is probably the best term for our missions giving that could be conceived.” LifeWay Christian Resources is actually responsible for the Annual Church Profile and how the various line items are labeled, but I am sharing with you the recommendation of the task force and the spirit of the task force that I experienced in the meetings.
Some have argued that a church could just give everything to a seminary as a designation and it would be reported in the total column. They can do that now. This recommendation does not change that reality, nor does it encourage churches to designate their mission offering. Very much to the contrary, churches are encouraged to give their mission gifts through the Cooperative Program.
Persons have taken issue with the low percentage CP giving of some churches represented on the task force. I understand those concerns, but I also want you to know that the discussions in the room have impacted hearts and new, bold commitments have been made by members of the task force to significantly increase their CP giving. Dr. Hunt’s church [Johnny Hunt, is SBC president and pastor, First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.], for instance, has nearly doubled their giving through the Cooperative Program this year and has committed to continue to grow in this area. Dr. Floyd [Ronnie Floyd is GCRTF chairman and pastor, First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark.] reports that his church has increased their CP giving by 58% over the past two years. Others on the task force have spoken to me about their commitment to increase their Cooperative Program giving. This is good news. I believe something will be said about this at the SBC meeting when the report is given.
… Once again, rather than adopting the position of others read the report for yourself and form your own conclusion.
J. Robert White is executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention.