JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–The Mainstream Missouri Baptists organization has been promoting three alternative giving plans in recent months. But critics say the plans undermine the Cooperative Program.
There also is a problem with MMB’s “modified traditional plan.” The International Mission Board, slated to receive 30 percent of participating churches’ gifts, has decided to refuse funds forwarded by Mainstream Missouri Baptists. MMB has decided to keep sending the funds anyway.
IMB President Jerry Rankin notified MMB’s president, Doyle Sager, of the decision in a March 20 letter. Rankin told the Missouri Word & Way newsjournal it would be inappropriate to receive funds when other Southern Baptist entities — including the Missouri Baptist Convention — were excluded from funding.
“We’re committed to each other,” Rankin said. “As much as we need that support, we’re not interested in benefiting to the detriment of others.”
He said he saw the decision as consistent with IMB policy to refuse gifts from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “CBF, however you see it, is an alternative to our cooperation,” he said.
“If a church feels led of the Lord to support the IMB, I would presume they would be obedient to the Lord’s leadership and find an appropriate channel to do that.”
Rankin said no state group other than Mainstream Missouri Baptists has offered to channel funds to the IMB.
MMB has continued to include IMB in its giving plans — most recently advertised in its May 2001 newsletter — and has seen to it that the designated funds have been received by the Southern Baptist agency, Sager said.
The “modified traditional” plan, the first of three MMB giving plans announced earlier this year in the group’s newsletter, calls for 30 percent of the money to be forwarded to the IMB.
Sager called Rankin’s letter “sort of a thanks, but no thanks.” He added, “They preferred to receive Cooperative Program funds and not to bypass the approved channels of CP.”
However, because the funds had been designated for IMB by churches, “We’re seeing that it gets to the IMB,” Sager said. “There are many ways to see that that happens. We’re using appropriate channels.”
The MMB president declined to specify how the funds were being forwarded.
“Every penny that people are designating to IMB is getting there — to all those categories” in the giving plans, Sager said. “Good accounting principles are being followed. We would pass any good CPA’s audit.
“These are giving plans that Missouri Baptists asked us to create,” Sager said. “People wanted this choice. In other words, these combinations of plans didn’t show up willy-nilly.”
Because of that, he added, the organization plans to continue to honor the designations. “The philosophy behind it was that we didn’t think Jerry Rankin and his board set the giving policy for Missouri Baptists.
“It is inconceivable to us that the IMB would refuse Baptist money that is trying to go to Baptist missionaries — that we would want to cut off funds to missionaries when faithful Baptists want to get funds to them.”
Sager also took issue with the IMB’s refusal of the funds because they were designated to the agency and did not come through CP. “They accept designations for particular missionaries and specific programs,” he said. The second MMB giving plan — the “heritage” plan — calls for 30 percent to be forwarded to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Global Missions Offering.
Other than the IMB/CBF difference, the “modified traditional” and “heritage” plans are identical, with these percentages:
— 20 percent to MMB’s ministry budget.
— 20 percent to Missouri Baptist colleges.
— 10 percent to Missouri Baptist partnership missions.
— 4 percent to The Baptist Home.
— 4 percent to Missouri Baptist Children’s Home.
— 4 percent to Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union.
— 4 percent to Word&Way.
— 2 percent to the Missouri Baptist Foundation.
— 2 percent to Windermere assembly.
A third plan, titled the “freedom” plan, invites churches to designate 80 percent of funds to ministries they choose, with 20 percent remaining with Mainstream Missouri Baptists to fund its operation.
MMB apparently chose the agencies to forward money to without consulting the agencies themselves. Word&Way was not contacted by MMB before it showed up on the two giving plans. Word&Way has to date received a single check for $56.10 from MMB.
Sager said the response from churches to the giving plans has been slow in developing. He predicted an increase over time.
Roger Moran, leader of Project 1000, which opposed Mainstream Missouri Baptists in officer elections at the last three Missouri Baptist Convention annual meetings, said, “They’re working to literally undermine the Cooperative Program at the state convention level.”
Moran also pointed out that although MMB repeatedly has pledged its support of MBC executive director Jim Hill, there’s “nothing” in their budget program for MBC executive board strategic initiatives. Under the Cooperative Program, 32.55 percent of funding goes to the MBC board initiatives.