NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s president expressed disappointment and frustration at the May 22 action of the Baptist General Convention of Texas executive board that proposes cutting NAMB funding by $1.28 million.
The BGCT action also authorized monitoring the International Mission Board to assess its responsiveness to a list of concerns.
“I am saddened that the Baptist General Convention of Texas leadership continues to move away from our historic partnership to help Southern Baptist churches reach the vast numbers of lost people in Texas,” NAMB President Robert E. Reccord said in a May 25 response. “While I welcome the opportunity to once again address their concerns, I do not believe news reports are the proper or most productive avenue for dialog.”
Instead, Reccord said NAMB will respond to each of the committee’s concerns in an appropriate forum and time frame. A final vote on the proposed shift in BGCT funding will be taken at this fall’s BGCT annual meeting.
The report approved by the BGCT Executive Board called for renegotiation of the cooperative agreement relationship with NAMB and proposed retaining $1.28 million previously sent to the SBC and allocated to NAMB, convinced that they can administer mission programs more efficiently in Texas without NAMB’s direction. While the recommendations were described as motivated by a desire for greater efficiency, expressed concerns also dealt with the use of the Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by SBC messengers in 2000 by both NAMB and IMB in questioning missionary candidates. (See the May 22 Baptist Press article for further details.)
Reccord disputed the BGCT Missions-Sending Agencies Study Committee’s claim that NAMB had not answered all of their requests for information. The committee alleged, for example, “confusion” concerning the number of missionaries NAMB supports in Texas. “We answered this question as part of a 15-page letter sent to the committee in February,” Reccord said, observing that the committee’s report quoted extensively from that letter, while committee members claimed to be confused on this issue.
Complicating the matter is the tendency to compare NAMB and IMB support of missionaries. With the IMB receiving half of all undesignated Cooperative Program receipts, Reccord noted that the IMB is able to support Southern Baptist international missionaries without other funding agencies. “However, because NAMB shares the North American mission field with state Baptist conventions, we intentionally partner with state conventions to jointly support missionaries in the United States and Canada,” Reccord stated. Thus, the use of the term “fully funded missionary” cannot be applied in the same manner to both mission boards.
Reccord also clarified in his February response to the BGCT committee that the cooperative partnership as outlined in a written agreement with each convention “allows NAMB and state conventions to do mission planning together, avoid duplication of effort, and stretch mission dollars.” He further noted that NAMB receives less than 23 percent of CP funds, relying on the state conventions to share in the funding of North American missionaries. “This is true in Texas as well as 41 other state Baptist conventions and fellowships,” he noted.
Additionally, NAMB missionaries are classified based on ministry assignments, not on their funding source, Reccord explained. “We have three categories of missionary service which differentiate the type of funding each receives — but they are all missionaries called and gifted by God to cross barriers to proclaim the gospel.”
Classifications include “appointed missionaries” who receive virtually all of their support from NAMB and its mission partners make up about 30 percent of NAMB missionary personnel. “Approved missionaries” comprise another third of NAMB’s missionaries. These missionaries only receive a stipend from NAMB and its mission partners, often for a limited period of time, having other sources of income. The remaining third of NAMB’s missionaries require no funding at all from the agency and are known as “Mission Service Corps volunteer missionaries,” serving in a missionary role at least 20 hours a week for more than two years.
“We continue to pray and work toward continued partnership with the BGCT and others who share our passion for evangelism, church starting and mobilization of ‘on mission’ Christians,” Reccord said.
While the BGCT executive board recommended no action in regard to funding of the International Mission Board, they cited several concerns, particularly regarding the New Directions initiative which emphasizes church planting around the world. The BGCT board also expressed frustration at the use of the Baptist Faith and Message when questioning candidates for mission service. A committee will be appointed to monitor response to these and other concerns.
In a brief response to the BGCT action, IMB President Jerry Rankin stated, “The International Mission Board is grateful for the rather positive affirmation of our work around the world by the BGCT mission study committee. The concerns expressed are not accurate perceptions of our work and strategies, and we look forward to addressing these issues with additional clarification and explanations to those involved.”