GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–North Carolina Baptists’ top administrator declared his support for moving the state convention to a 50-50 allocation of Cooperative Program funds with the Southern Baptist Convention “over a protracted period” in his address during the BSCNC annual meeting in Greensboro.
At the same time, Milton Hollified, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said it could not be done without increased giving from local churches.
“It is imperative that we all understand that a move to increase the SBC portion must be accompanied by an increase in CP support by our churches,” Hollifield said.
This will mark the sixth of the past eight years that CP gifts have been lower than the previous year. Messengers adopted a 2011 budget the size of the 1999 budget. Yet in 2011, for the sixth consecutive year, the SBC allocation of CP gifts has been increased by one-half percentage point.
“If our churches do not increase their support of the Cooperative Program,” Hollifield said, “we can’t reach the goal without deep cuts in church planting and partnership ministries that I’m convinced God is calling us to do … ministries that the churches of this state voted to establish and support.”
Hollifield said he is willing continually to examine the budget but also said the budgeting process is not in his hands alone. He said he “will not recommend that we sacrifice ministries that I am convinced God is calling us to do through this state convention.”
He pointed out that if churches had maintained their CP giving percentage of 1995, $15 million more would have been available for missions throughout the state and world annually.
While Hollifield affirmed each church’s autonomy to determine how to invest its mission dollars, including avenues other than the Cooperative Program, he said, “If a congregation wants to have a strong voice in how a convention uses the dollars, they need to be strong givers.”
His call to dramatically alter the division of Cooperative Program gifts between the BSCNC and SBC is evidence that he is “deeply committed to strengthening the partnership between the Baptist State Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Hollifield’s declaration comes after a year of vocal advocacy of such a division by supporters of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, which was adopted at the SBC annual meeting in June. During a panel at last year’s BSCNC annual meeting, Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and GCR task force member, called a 50-50 division “a good start.”
Lower gifts in churches and from churches “is just a symptom of a larger problem of church health,” Hollifield said. “When this problem is solved, then stewardship will naturally be addressed with our people.”
In his annual address Nov. 8, Hollifield said 2010 has been a year of both “difficulty and challenge” and “great celebration.”
He said challenges included the economy which has negatively affected all but a few churches and a growing diversity that includes “many newcomers [who] bring religious practices that many North Carolina Baptists are not prepared to address.”
He encouraged the convention audience not to be distracted by difficulties “or we’ll miss the great and mighty things God is accomplishing through His church.”
For Hollifield, such evidence includes planting 98 churches in 2009; financially sponsoring five ethnic church plants in New York City with a gift of $50,000; and a 20 percent growth in baptisms.
As people push the state convention toward a closer identity with the Southern Baptist Convention, Hollifield drew distinctions between the work of each organization. Each has “different and distinct assignments … but we partner with the SBC to accomplish some things that require joint efforts,” he said.
Lamenting too many Christians’ moral failures, Hollifield committed to “pray, share and to personally seek to disciple and mentor” more people in 2011. If others would make such a commitment but are unsure how to do it, he urged them to call the Baptist State Convention and staff would come help.
He said he is “disturbed at the infighting that continues to paralyze the ministries of so many churches.” Such conflict leaves people “wounded and discouraged.”
“I do not know about you,” Hollifield said, “but I am committing before you this evening to work to bring peace and healing and unity, without uniformity, to this convention in the hopes that this convention might indeed be a model for the churches.”
Norman Jameson is editor of the Biblical Recorder (www.biblicalrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. An additional report will be posted on other proceedings during the BSCNC annual meeting.