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NAMB to end DCBC agreement in one year; but pledges commitment to D.C.

ATLANTA (BP)–Following nearly a year of discussions, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention has notified the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC) that it will end the cooperative agreement between the two entities next summer.

Robert E. Reccord, NAMB president, telephoned Jeffrey Haggray, DCBC executive director, Wednesday, June 26th to inform him personally about the Board’s action. A letter outlining the action and signed by both Reccord and NAMB trustee chairman, Terry Fox, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan., was also emailed, faxed and mailed to Haggray Wednesday.

NAMB provides nearly half a million dollars a year to the D.C. Convention for evangelism, church starting and ministry projects, but expressed “deep concerns” last summer and fall that the DCBC had “grown increasingly distant from the Southern Baptist Convention, its positions and priorities.”

NAMB’s proposal for greater accountability to the national agency and to Southern Baptists was strongly and publicly criticized by Haggray who characterized it as an ‘ultimatum’ that violated the autonomy of the convention. Harry Lewis, NAMB’s primary contact with state Baptist conventions, said it was made very clear that NAMB wanted to discuss the proposal and was open to alternatives or counterproposals. However, the proposal was rejected by the DCBC executive board in March without any counterproposals.

The notification letter says “because of the inability for us to reach a solution that is satisfactory to both agencies after numerous consultations, we recognize the need to end the current cooperative agreement with the DCBC as it now stands due to irresolvable issues in the areas of theology, stewardship and partnership.” According to the letter, the agreement “will be null and void on the 30th day of June 2003.”

Regarding jointly funded missionaries, Reccord and Fox told Haggray “where there is a desire to continue as a NAMB missionary, NAMB will assist the missionaries in exploring future assignments with the NAMB family.” However, they wrote, “Where there is no desire for assistance, NAMB support through the DCBC cooperative budget will cease at the end of the 12-month notification period.” NAMB supports eight missionaries with the DCBC.

In the letter, Reccord and Fox acknowledged NAMB’s “commitment to carry out the Great Commission in D.C. … and to continue to share the love of Christ with the people of D.C.,” while also affirming the agency’s openness to possibly working together in the future on “limited evangelism events and ministry projects that are compatible to both agencies.”

Reccord acknowledged the decision to end the current relationship with the D.C. Convention was very difficult, reached after much prayer and consultation with numerous people including NAMB’s board of trustees which agreed with the concerns, the proposal, and with the decision to end the current relationship.

Reccord told Baptist Press he believes the foundation of the agency’s disagreements with the D.C. convention stem from its attempts to meet the very different needs of the three denominations with which it is aligned. “No other Southern Baptist state convention or fellowship has the challenges of working with three different denominations which made our partnership in D.C. so difficult,” Reccord explained.

The letter concludes with assurance that NAMB has been faithful to observe the autonomy of the DCBC, wishes the convention well in its future ministries, and pledges prayer support through the transition.

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