News Articles

N.C. Baptists lead soaring gifts for hunger, IMB trustees told

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–World hunger receipts rose more than 23 percent over 1996 and for the first time another state besides Texas leads the Southern Baptist Convention in world hunger giving, International Mission Board trustees were told during a Nov. 18-20 meeting on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The trustees adopted a record $210.8 million budget for 1998 that will support the efforts of more than 4,200 missionaries working among 336 ethnic people groups in 127 countries. The budget anticipates continued strong advances in giving from Southern Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program and the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.
North Carolina Baptists captured the lead in hunger giving with a 23 percent increase in statewide receipts, said Bill Cashion, the board’s world hunger consultant. The Tar Heels’ giving for 1997 stands at $538,479.38, with receipts for November and December still to be counted.
Texas Baptist giving to the SBC World Hunger Fund, which sank dramatically in 1996 due to a new method of allocating Texas receipts, rebounded in 1997 because of increased direct contributions, Cashion said. But it wasn’t enough to catch up with North Carolina’s explosive growth. Other states experiencing dramatic growth in hunger giving this year include Tennessee, with a 53 percent increase; South Carolina, 30 percent; and Virginia, 13 percent.
“While gifts channeled through the Texas convention have declined, direct gifts from Texas churches, including a $200,000 gift from one donor, have more than made up the difference,” Cashion said.
He estimated total IMB hunger receipts for 1997 will top $7.35 million, up from $5.9 million in 1996. The increase comes in the wake of board concerns two years ago about annual declines in hunger giving. Trustees at that time appointed a special task force to better promote and encourage hunger giving.
“As our missionaries dedicate themselves to ministering to the physical suffering around them and to evangelizing the poor and the hungry for the glory of the Savior, God has opened the windows of heaven and poured his blessings out upon us,” Cashion said.
Trustees also heard without action a report from board President Jerry Rankin and Senior Vice President for Overseas Operations Avery Willis on recent developments in the agency’s relationship with the China Christian Council.
The CCC recently issued an open letter on the Internet and contacted several church-run news agencies, including that of the World Council of Churches, to argue its case that the Southern Baptist agency should only work in the country through China Christian Council channels.
Rankin and Willis reaffirmed the board’s commitment to a multi-track approach in China and said the agency wants to continue working with the CCC as one of those tracks.
The China Christian Council is the government-recognized arm of 10 million Christians in China. It is affiliated with the World Council of Churches. Estimates for the number of Christians in China range between 65 million and 85 million, Willis said. China has a population of 1.2 billion.
Willis quoted veteran IMB leader Lewis Myers as saying he informed China Christian Council leadership 10 years ago of the board’s multi-track approach and that China Christian Council President Han Wenzao — who wrote the Internet letter — responded then that he understood Southern Baptists would be operating in China on multiple tracks.
“We don’t feel this is a setback for our work in China,” Rankin said. “It is a public relations challenge because it appears we have been shut out of China, but that is not the case at all.”
Trustees also approved a record 1998 budget of $210,843,000, including $197,687,525 for operating expenses, $9,155,475 for capital expenses, $1 million for special contingency reserves and a $3 million challenge goal for global capital expenditures.
The 1997 budget was $205,502,000.
The 1998 budget includes salary increases for missionaries and staff. Missionary salaries will increase $55 a month for couples, $33 a month for singles, $29.70 for International Service Corps couples and $18.33 for ISC singles. Staff increases for staff based in the Richmond, Va., offices are on a sliding scale depending on job category and performance.
Much of the trustee meeting was spent mopping up details left over from the board’s recent “revitalization” of its overseas operations. Actions included:
— affirming Marilois Kirksey as the Richmond-based associate regional leader for Eastern South America and Don Phelps as the Richmond-based associate regional leader for the Western Pacific.
— transferring remaining funds from the 10 former area offices to the 14 new geographical regions.
During the trustee meeting, missions strategist Bob Sjogren of Frontiers, an interdenominational missions agency focused on the Muslim world, made three one-hour presentations to trustees on missiology. He pointed out God’s plan from the days of Abraham was to bring all the peoples of the world into fellowship with him, a point missed by Israel but fulfilled in Jesus’ Great Commission and his empowering of evangelical Christians today.
Trustees also:
— approved a recommendation to request a change in the “Covenant for a New Century” statement on forming the Southern Baptist Convention’s new Great Commission Council. The recommendation suggests adding the “deployment of mission resources” to the council’s purpose statement and changing the number of council members from 10 to 14 by adding two trustees each from the International Mission Board and the North America Mission Board. The recommendation will be referred to the SBC Executive Committee for action.
— approved moving the board’s director of management information position to a vice presidential level. A committee of trustees and agency staff was appointed to search for a candidate for the position.
Board members also witnessed an agreement signed by the IMB and the Consortium for Global Education, an alliance of nearly 50 Baptist-related colleges and universities, that pledged close cooperation in developing international exchange programs in higher education.

    About the Author

  • Louis Moore