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Minn.-Wis. Baptists face financial challenge

ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP)–Messengers to the annual meeting of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention looked back at their challenging beginnings and forward to a challenging future as they celebrated their 25th year as a two-state convention.

“Open Your Eyes … Ripe for Harvest!” was the theme of the meeting at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn. Special guests included Bill Tinsley, a former executive director of the convention, and George Ray, pastor of Emmanuel from 1994-2003.

Baptist work began in Minnesota and Wisconsin more than 50 years ago as Southerners moved north and planted Southern Baptist churches. In 1956, seven of those churches formed an association affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The association became a fellowship in 1967 and a two-state convention in 1983.

In his address, Leo Endel, the current executive director, took note of a message that pioneer Frank Burress delivered at the fellowship’s annual meeting one month before his death in 1974. Burress said the Minnesota-Wisconsin convention needed “Jacob’s well”-type churches that would follow the example Jesus set when He purposely went to Samaria and encountered the woman at the well. Jesus was ready to follow the Spirit, free of prejudice, focused, not distracted, and ready to work, Burress said.

“In his message, Burress explained the magnitude of the well and the great amount of work it took to put Jacob’s well where it was,” Endel said. “He likened the feat to the establishment of strategic churches, well located and made strong by hard work.”

During his message, Burress had identified some Jacob’s well-type churches, which he said were “large and strong, the product of hard work, and located right where they ought to be.”

The Minnesota-Wisconsin convention still needs such churches today, Endel said.

“The harvest is hard work,” he said. “Fortunately, we build on the hard work of others. We reap what others have sown. The work of the harvest is urgent. We need more Jacob’s well-type churches where the world may come and find living water.”

A total of 96 messengers from 47 churches registered for the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 meeting, which also included 50 non-messengers and 29 guests. The convention has 136 churches and missions with 14,871 resident members.

Messengers approved a slightly smaller budget than last year’s, down from $2,157,732 to $2,157,023. The 2009 budget keeps the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts passed on to the Southern Baptist Convention at 13 percent. The budget includes a 3 percent cost of living increase for staff and a 20 percent reduction in program funding.

As it is each year, the greatest source of anticipated income in the budget is $1,156,393 from the North American Mission Board. This budgeted money is provided by an “80/20” formula, with MWBC providing 20 percent of the funding for certain positions or projects, and NAMB providing the other 80 percent. MWBC’s 20 percent comes from Cooperative Program gifts from their churches, the annual Care and Share State Missions Offering and funding from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The BGCT funding reached a high of $200,000 a year but has been declining since 2006 when Texas announced it would phase out funding by 2010.

“The challenge we are facing now is that without the funding from Texas we don’t have our 20 percent to access NAMB’s 80 percent,” Endel said.

Even though the NAMB line item is increasing for 2009, it is likely that Minnesota-Wisconsin will receive less money from NAMB than in 2008 unless gifts from churches can replace the $50,000 being cut by BGCT in the coming year.

Income from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which is phasing out their financial support provided to the northern convention during a 50-year partnership, drops from $123,719 in 2008 to $73,840 in the 2009 budget and is scheduled to drop to a final gift of about $25,000 in 2010. Since the BGCT funding has been used as part of MWBC’s 20 percent to access NAMB support, each $50,000 drop in BGCT funding potentially means $200,000 lost from NAMB, unless MWBC churches can make up the difference in their Cooperative Program giving.

The Cooperative Program requirement from Minnesota and Wisconsin churches increases from $505,043 in the 2008 budget to $542,659 in 2009.

“The increase in the Cooperative Program receipts line item is necessary to balance the budget due to the loss of another $50,000 from Texas next year,” Endel said, “but that will be a tremendous challenge since gifts from churches are not meeting our CP goal this year.”

Gifts from churches through October totaled $352,391, running about 93 percent of the budget requirement.

At their October meeting, the convention’s executive board voted to ask NAMB to “readjust the cooperative strategy percentage, stabilize that percentage, then help us incrementally move toward self-sufficiency.” Unless there is some adjustment in NAMB funding, MWBC will have to consider a staff reduction in 2009, Endel said.

“What we are asking is that they reevaluate the 80/20 formula and adjust it to something that will allow us to continue to fund the positions and programs we already have,” Endel said. “Right now, if we don’t have the 20 percent for a position or a program, we can’t get their 80 percent. That means it can’t happen.”

Positions funded by the 80/20 formula include all of the directors of missions and all of the state office staff except the executive director, church health director and two administrative assistants. Ministries funded by the 80/20 formula include evangelism, church planting, disaster relief, Woman’s Missionary Union/missions ministry and convention office operations.

To help meet the 20 percent portion for directors of missions, each association is being asked to contribute $2,000 in 2009. Under the 80/20 formula, that $2,000 provides $10,000 of the director of missions’ compensation package.

Messengers re-elected by acclamation their officers for second terms: Les Stevens, pastor of Viola (Minn.) Bible Church, president; Arne Gulbrandsen, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Racine, Wis., first vice president; and Paul Berthiaume, pastor of Jacob’s Well in Chippewa Falls, Wis., second vice president.

They approved one resolution, thanking Emmanuel Baptist Church and pastor Kevin Binkley “for their gracious hospitality in hosting the 2008 annual meeting.” They approved the first reading of a bylaws change dissolving the partnership missions committee which has been inactive for several years. To take effect, the change must be approved again at the next annual meeting.

Messengers and guests gave an offering of $1,400 for disaster relief in Texas.

Jon Campbell, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Mankato, Minn., preached the convention sermon, using Luke 10:1-16 as his text. He urged Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to take risks for the sake of the Gospel.

Stevens, the convention president, preached from 1 Kings 19:1-3 and said pastors, like Elijah the prophet, sometimes face disappointment, discouragement and depression. “Pastors need friends,” he said.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 30-31 at Northwest Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, Wis.
David Williams is editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

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