NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Great Commission Task Force (GCTF) has recommended gutting the SBC Executive Committee (EC) by taking away $2 million of its budget! This amount is 30 percent of the receipts allocated by the Southern Baptist Convention to the EC through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget. The GCTF chose to use a term that appears in the SBC CP Allocation Budget, namely “Facilitating Ministries.” Lest anyone be confused, let me clarify that this is a reference to the SBC Operating Budget and the Executive Committee budget, a fact that the GCTF does not clarify in its Final Report. Whatever you call it, this budget is administered by the Executive Committee and this drastic cut of $2 million will force the EC to slash ministries that have been very successful.
The GCTF is recommending that the assignment of CP education and promotion, for all practical purposes, be removed from the Executive Committee and given exclusively to the state conventions. If this happens, for the first time since the Cooperative Program came into existence, the SBC will have no significant representative organization promoting the Cooperative Program funds that assist greatly in the support of every SBC entity with the exception of GuideStone and LifeWay. The Final Report carefully states that the SBC Executive Committee will work “with” the state conventions, but it does not mean in the context of a mutual partnership. This was made clear in the GCTF’s report to the Executive Committee in February 2010.
From the inauguration of the Cooperative Program, a Southern Baptist Convention entity has worked with state conventions in a mutual partnership to promote the Cooperative Program. But rather than provide facts, both the “Progress Report” and the later “Final Report” of the GCTF would cause one to believe that from the very beginning the state conventions were asked by the SBC to take the assignment of being the principal promoter of the Cooperative Program. SBC annuals will bear out the truth of what I am saying. You may read the accurate historical account of the Cooperative Program in its beginning days by going to http://www.baptist2baptist.net/gcr/articles/RSO-03-19-10.asp .
In recent days, two highly-successful mission initiatives undertaken by the SBC Executive Committee (EC) have been criticized by an SBC leader who strongly supports the Final Report of the Great Commission Task Force (GCTF). These mission initiatives are called “Empowering Kingdom Growth” (EKG) and “Global Evangelical Relations” (GER).
In the midst of my grave disappointment that such a critical spirit is so openly and unjustifiably expressed, I realized that it might take hold among some having no real understanding of the Executive Committee, its role and function, its divisions, its ministries, and the vital nature of its existence. This article is an attempt to address those larger issues, and along the way discuss the particulars, including these two initiatives, and other objections raised by the few who are lobbing such disparaging salvos. In short, I humbly and unashamedly lift up this defense of the Executive Committee, believing that in so doing, I argue for a healthier and more productive Convention.
First, let me say unapologetically, that after almost two decades of daily engaging personally in the work of the EC and having the privilege of observing close-up the Committee’s performance of enormous responsibilities, my respect and admiration for the Executive Committee and its members (trustees) have consistently grown. My appreciation for the wisdom and resolve with which its members diligently study the issues, discuss them thoroughly, and finally vote their convictions before ever making recommendations to the SBC is at a high point. So, by experience, I have come to understand the Executive Committee’s important place and trustworthiness.
I have nothing personal to gain by speaking publicly about these issues. I will no longer be president of the SBC Executive Committee after September 30, 2010. But through the years I have led the Executive Committee, I have informed Southern Baptists of the most egregious issues. I routinely have informed grassroots Southern Baptists of the facts of an issue. But if an individual Southern Baptist does not have the advantage of close appraisal as I do, how might a proper appreciation of the Executive Committee’s enormous importance be alternatively obtained? One way is by examining the Executive Committee’s unique nature and the placement of its assignments in our SBC Bylaws.
For instance, a Southern Baptist might notice that it is the only SBC organization whose ministry assignments are in the SBC Bylaws. In fact, the Executive Committee is the only ministry entity that has its own bylaw (Bylaw 18). Why? One reason is because it and it alone, is the fiduciary of the Convention. This means that the Executive Committee has the duty of holding items in trust for the Convention. This includes such things as the Cooperative Program receipts, financial records, and reports of all kinds.
Another reason is because it is a standing committee empowered to function (when appropriate) on behalf of the SBC. Again, no other entity or committee is given this serious responsibility, or trusted in this way. Even though it has this power, the Executive Committee usually limits itself to making recommendations to the messengers from the churches cooperating with the Convention. The people (messengers) then, after hearing the Executive Committee’s advice, voice their opinions and vote their convictions in approving or denying the request(s) that were under consideration. Thus, a messenger is able to make the very best decisions possible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, the Executive Committee is specifically asked to advise the Convention regarding matters affecting not only its own operations, but also those of all the subsidiary entities. Again, such a role is not played by any other organization in Southern Baptist life. For these and other reasons, the Executive Committee has a level of responsibility that is “awesome” in the truest sense of the word. It is certainly a level of trust that requires great care be taken by the Executive Committee in all its deliberations. But if that is consistently done, as I would argue that it is, then it is also worthy of respect and honor for undertaking well the difficult role it has been assigned — a role that at times is not all that popular among those whose desires are not well-received or approved.
Thus far, in the articles I have written, I have stood against the recommendations in the GCTF Final Report because I believe they will begin a process of erosion of all things “cooperative” in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I have spoken little about the damage the GCTF proposals will inflict upon the SBC Executive Committee. This is primarily because the Executive Committee represents the entire SBC and by assignment is charged with putting its concern for the whole Convention above those concerns for its own organization, the Executive Committee. But in much the same way that damage to cooperation damages the SBC, damage to the Executive Committee damages the SBC.
Therefore, it is important to understand that if and when the Executive Committee is crippled in its ability to carry out its responsibilities, the negative effect will ultimately be felt throughout the entire SBC. To hear a few critics, you would think that the Executive Committee is about nothing other than trying to exercise overzealous and overreaching power over other entities. Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact, language in Bylaw 18 specifically excludes that possibility.
Additionally, the Executive Committee is transparent in its deliberations over the vital issues which come before it. In the 18 years I have been president, the Executive Committee has not once called an executive session to discuss issues in private among only the Executive Committee members and administrative staff. Our discussions and differences have been open for all to hear as we wrestle with weighty decisions that stand to affect the entire Convention.
Because the EC is responsible for providing wise counsel, it must always strive to make decisions that will protect the Convention with regard to methodological and doctrinal issues. We strive to do so while standing firmly on the authority of God’s Holy Word and in accord with our confession of faith as expressed in the “Baptist Faith and Message.”
Daily, the administrative staff of the EC wrestles with legal, financial, operational, and doctrinal issues that require extensive research of the facts, including a thorough historical background of how Southern Baptists previously “spoke” to similar issues. Keen and deliberate research is conducted and background materials are prepared. Upon this essential platform, the EC members then do their work of examining strategies, consequences, costs, legalities, and more. It is a process based upon factual knowledge and depending upon divine guidance.
This is the process that produced “Empowering Kingdom Growth” (EKG) led by Dr. Ken Hemphill and “Global Evangelical Relations” (GER) led by Dr. Bobby Welch. Both of these assignments were approved in concept and practice by the Southern Baptist Convention in annual meetings.
Let me say it again, lest it escape notice. The Southern Baptist Convention approved the ministries of Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) and Global Evangelical Relations (GER). And yet, in a way I find to be unprecedented, an entity leader now feels justified in encouraging a task force to eliminate funding for these duly assigned and effective ministries. If you are not aware of these ministries, allow me to describe them for you.
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE’S CONVENTION-APPROVED INITIATIVES
EMPOWERING KINGDOM GROWTH (EKG)
EKG was born from the concern of SBC entity presidents and state convention executive directors who met in an historic meeting in the summer of 2000. As I explained in my report to the Convention in 2002, the historic nature of the meeting had to do with its being the first time state convention executive directors and SBC entity presidents had ever convened such a joint meeting, the purpose of which was to pray for our Convention and discuss its mission and future. In that meeting, they elected a task force composed of four SBC entity presidents, Bill Crews (GGBTS), Jerry Rankin (IMB), Bob Reccord (NAMB), and me (EC); and four state executive directors, Wyndell Jones (IA), Carlisle Driggers (SC), Anthony Jordan (OK), and Bob White (GA) to study and recommend a way to encourage cooperation throughout our Convention.
That task force (the “Task Force on Cooperation”) concluded that the best way to cooperate, and the best thing to cooperate toward, was spiritual growth, and it later created a second task force (the “Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force”) composed of then SBC President James Merritt and Carlisle Driggers (Co-Chairs) and the presidents of the Great Commission Council (Charles Kelley), the association of Southern Baptist State Convention Executive Directors (Fermin Whittaker), and the Executive Committee (me). The latter task force recommended the launch of EKG as an official SBC initiative and mission statement in the annual meeting of the 2002 SBC in St. Louis, and it was overwhelmingly adopted.
The EKG Task Force then sought a leader and extended an invitation to Dr. Hemphill to serve as such soon after he retired as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. When he accepted, he said he believed God was leading him to accept the invitation because the Lord was drawing him to a position that would seize upon his greatest strengths — study, writing, and teaching/preaching. And those are certainly strengths Ken demonstrates. Ken loves the church and finds great fulfillment in teaching and preaching to Southern Baptists throughout the Convention. He constantly travels to churches, associations, state conventions, and seminaries leading Empowering Kingdom Growth conferences. From the beginning, thrilling testimonies have been given by individuals whose churches have sponsored an EKG conference.
Ken Hemphill’s invitation to lead EKG came from the EKG Task Force with financial support given equally by LifeWay Christian Resources and the SBC Executive Committee. After two years, LifeWay determined it would no longer fund one-half of Dr. Hemphill’s salary and expenses and it fell to the Executive Committee either to cover the additional half of the expenditures or watch EKG fade away.
Obviously, the Executive Committee decided to continue to fund the initiative, but the GCTF recommendation to strip $2 million from our budget threatens to eliminate this beneficial and unifying ministry. The SBC approved its founding. Now, I ask the messengers of the Convention to affirm it by voting against the recommendation in the Final Report to take away 30 percent of the EC’s Cooperative Program receipts.
I prayed that the Lord will help us keep the vision and initiative alive, for I felt then, and still do, that the vision was vital to the ongoing health of our Convention and its churches. It not only survived, but now thrives as more and more churches and organizations hear Dr. Hemphill, study the EKG books that he has written, and expand their ministries. He has had huge success in encouraging the churches to maintain good spiritual health with a strong heartbeat for the things of God.
Though we did not have the additional monies in our budget, we reduced other budgeted expenditures to squeeze enough for what the Executive Committee believes to be a vital catalyst for spiritual renewal among Southern Baptists. We could not let it die then and should not let it die now.
GLOBAL EVANGELICAL RELATIONS
Following the Convention’s withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), the SBC asked the Executive Committee to develop a means by which the Southern Baptist Convention would continue to be represented among leaders of like-minded conservative evangelicals around the world. As a result, Global Evangelical Relations (GER) was born and Dr. Bobby Welch was invited to be an ambassador for Christ and the Convention as he completed his second year as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He immediately began traveling to other countries to meet with national Baptist leaders for the purpose of developing new relationships between them and the SBC.
Dr. Welch is assuring conservative evangelical leaders who are old friends with the SBC that we wish to continue a long-cherished fellowship as well as strengthen our ties in the bond of Christian love. This was being accomplished to a small degree through membership in the BWA, but when the SBC withdrew from the BWA, there was a void in this kind of fraternity and relationship with like-minded Baptist leaders around the world. Our in-touch diplomacy with friends who are conservative leaders is growing stronger by the month as Dr. Welch spends countless hours traveling, visiting, and organizing Encouragement Conferences in these countries. I had the privilege of joining him in El Salvador for an Encouragement Conference. I saw first-hand how quickly nationals from other lands embrace Bobby and how they are greatly encouraged by his presence and preaching as well as his care to tell them how much Southern Baptists love and appreciate them.
At one time, funds approved by the SBC were forwarded from the SBC Operating Budget (Executive Committee) to be recorded as income to the BWA’s budget. Today, instead of supporting the BWA, we are sending a special envoy, Dr. Welch, from the Southern Baptist Convention, to assure leaders worldwide of our love and prayer support and to ask them to remember us in their prayers. GER is not a mission-sending ministry. In fact, Bobby works closely with IMB missionaries in the area while he is there and invites them to participate in the Encouragement Conferences.
The Executive Committee has followed the Convention’s collective will in establishing this ministry. But just as with EKG, the GCTF recommendation to cut the EC budget by $2 million would set a course for the death of Global Evangelical Relations. Those of you elected by your churches to attend the 2010 SBC in Orlando as messengers can save the GER ministry by voting against the GCTF recommendation in the Final Report requesting that $2 million be taken from the EC budget.
Global Evangelical Relations is a strategic and relational avenue for building strong and lasting relationships with our like-minded friends who profoundly treasure the friendship we have in Christ. The day is fast approaching when Christians will be increasingly persecuted all over the world. Then, more than ever, we will be glad that we connected with our stouthearted Christian friends. The United States is moving all-the-more rapidly toward a day when Christians will be severely persecuted at which time we will know we can call upon our Christian brothers and sisters in other countries.
The Southern Baptist Convention approved the concept of a ministry to be developed and the EC established the GER ministry. So, Global Evangelical Relations, like Empowering Kingdom Growth, began as a Convention-approved concept and serves well to fill the void created after the Convention’s withdrawal from the Baptists World Alliance. Both EKG and GER are led by great and godly men, Ken Hemphill and Bobby Welch, men who are SBC leaders in their own right. Amazingly, each was willing to take on the task alone and they have been extraordinarily successful in building these ministries from ground level.
Later on in this article, I will describe the work of the EC’s various divisions, but before doing so, I should briefly explain why I believe the work of the Executive Committee, and in fact the very health of the Convention, is threatened by the recommendations of the task force.
THE TROUBLING ASPECTS OF THE TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
It is my sense of importance and urgency which causes me to address the portions of the task force’s Final Report I find to be unadvisable. Certainly, the task force has included much to be commended, but I find those things most praiseworthy to be in their recognition of the lostness of our world, the need to address it better, the need for us to be tithers, and in their “Challenges” toward the end of the final report.
I can only wish that the elements in the introductory materials and the closing challenges were the actual recommendations. The urgency for reaching a lost world and the closing “Challenges” provide the true vision needed by Southern Baptists. Why then concentrate upon lesser goals of restructuring and reconfiguring organizational operations? The recommendations about structural and operational matters have created distraction, division, confusion, and frustration. The GCTF leaders seem to think that to differ with the task force is in and of itself creating division. Of course, this is not true. After all, we trust that every Southern Baptist, regardless of opinion, is pure in heart and true to his/her convictions.
As the Convention environment now stands, Southern Baptists who vote “for” or “against” the recommendations will leave the Convention, not with a genuine spirit of unity, but with an empty feeling that the task force came so close to focusing on the real target. Rather, I expect that a number of messengers will leave the Convention feeling unduly pressured by GCTF leaders in their all-out effort to enlist recognizable names to endorse their recommendations. With all due respect to those (past, present, and future) leaders who have endorsed the recommendations, they do not sit where I sit and they apparently are unable to see the dangers of these recommendations from the vantage point of my position. My responsibility is to alert, even warn Southern Baptists of the impending dangers I see if the last five recommendations are embraced by the SBC. The passage of the last five recommendations inherently will demote, devalue, and potentially destroy the cooperative spirit, the Cooperative Program, and for certain, the Cooperative Agreements between the NAMB and the state conventions.
The concentration of the entire report is focused upon the GCTF leaders’ affinity for the International Mission Board and their interest in making “Great Commission Giving” the new metric for recognizing churches whose pastors lead them to give more to designated giving and less through the Cooperative Program. I applaud the loyalty to the Cooperative Program expressed by Component Six in the Final Report, but Component Three in practice will culminate in being competitive with the Cooperative Program. The emphasis of “Great Commission Giving” is to “encourage” designated giving in order that more recognition can be given to the pastors and churches who choose to give more designated gifts than Cooperative Program gifts.
One of the announced presidential candidates who strongly supports the GCTF Final Report has eloquently stated how he prefers for churches to give in the future; more, much more will be designated to certain Southern Baptist ministries than given to the “whole” program through the Cooperative Program. I salute him for frankly speaking about his conviction. While I disagree with his assessment, I am grateful for his honesty. Southern Baptists must be ready to go where these recommendations will take us. In practice, it will not be a journey of cooperation and collaboration. Increasingly, control and competition will be the new watchwords. If the Final Report is adopted I pray that my fears will never be realized. But from what I know, I have little hope. The introductory sections and the closing Challenges without the distraction of the recommendations about organization and operations would have inspired Southern Baptists to pull together and go forward in unity, collaboration and cooperation.
But as it stands, the Executive Committee will be profoundly affected negatively by at least three of the five recommendations proposed by the GCTF. I have grave concern over the recommendations that will affect the Cooperative Program and severely reduce the Executive Committee budget. Allegorically, if their report were a medical recommendation for overall health and physical fitness, and contained advice about the benefits of eating well and exercise, but also contained a recommendation to re-establish the medical procedure of blood-letting as a cure, I would feel much the same way I do now. The recommendations of the task force that affect me this way are those regarding the new reporting category of “Great Commission Giving”, the “adjustment” of principal responsibility for CP and Stewardship promotion, and the reallocation of 1 percent of the SBC’s CP receipts recommended to be taken away from the Executive Committee. You can read more on CP vs. Great Commission Giving at http://www.baptist2baptist.net/gcr/articles/MHC-05-07-10.asp .
THE CP PROMOTION RECOMMENDATION
Comparing the Progress Report of the GCTF to its Final Report gives insight into the probable outcome of the task force’s recommendations with regard to CP promotion. Cooperative Program education and promotion has been assigned to the EC over such a great length of time for one principal reason — no other entity has the “Total Convention” perspective of the Executive Committee. Altering the balance of emphasis in CP promotion the Executive Committee offers as it works with the states in any way is to tinker with the method of ministry funding essential to our success.
In the earlier draft, the language employed made it clear that the intent was to minimize Executive Committee involvement. The final draft tempers that language considerably, almost to the point where the recommendation regarding promotion could be seen as merely asking the states to “step up” their side of promotion. Is this how the current recommendation is to be understood?
I would argue that it is not. Clearly, the original intent of minimizing the Executive Committee’s involvement remains. Notice the following statement in the Final Report: “We believe that the state conventions must take the lead in both ministries. In essence, this is how the Cooperative Program began. As Albert McClellan, author of the official history of the Executive Committee noted, ‘It was understood from the beginning that state conventions should be responsible for promoting the Cooperative Program in the field and gathering the funds from the churches.'”
Albert McClellan was the longest serving associate to the president of the Executive Committee who ever served in the position. No doubt, he would be greatly disappointed to see how the GCTF leaders have misinterpreted his quote. At the time of McClellan’s statement, the Southern Baptist Convention was digging its way out of extreme debt, and God gave our visionary leaders a plan for recovering financially so as not to damage our witness to the world. Nothing could have been further from the minds of our forebears than giving the state conventions a controlling right to promote the Cooperative Program.
The GCTF Final Report continues by saying: “The reason for this is straightforward and easy to see. The state conventions have the mechanisms in place to collect and promote the Cooperative Program. This has been their historic role and continuing passion.”
As an apparent afterthought, the GCTF Final Report states the following: “Clearly, there must also be a role for the Southern Baptist Convention. The Cooperative Program is a partnership, and both the SBC and the state conventions have important work to do. This means an important and continuing leadership role for the SBC Executive Committee as well.”
On one hand, GCTF leaders recommend that the role of primary promoter and educator for the Cooperative Program and Stewardship for the SBC be moved from the Executive Committee to the state conventions. On the other hand, it speaks about an “important and continuing role (CP & Stewardship) for the SBC Executive Committee as well.” By two contrasting statements in the same component, they create confusion for grassroots Southern Baptists. How should this be interpreted? For me, the answer lies in the task force’s recommendation that “Great Commission Giving” should become the term used to describe the Sum Total of all giving in the SBC. (See below.)
But with careful reading you can judge for yourself. The SBC has never been without a representative organization whose primary role has been to promote the Cooperative Program for SBC entities, to show the importance of the CP from a national perspective. No one recommending or supporting this recommendation knows the need better than I. I am praying the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando will not gut the work of the Executive Committee in Cooperative Program promotion and Stewardship education.
THE “GREAT COMMISSION GIVING” RECOMMENDATION
By decreasing the Executive Committee’s coordinating influence and national convention perspective and by subordinating CP as a mere component of “Great Commission Giving,” the task force, regardless of its actual intentions, is setting the stage for a disaster in ministry support. Our pre-CP history should be enough for us to have learned the lesson well, but it is going largely unappreciated, and to our own harm. This knowledge of history, and of the benefits of using CP over against all other models, is something the CP division of the Executive Committee brings to the table.
The SBC has depended upon the EC to promote the Cooperative Program nationally for more years than it has been promoted nationally by other SBC entities. But, the GCTF is proposing to remove any real and substantive promotion of the Cooperative Program and Stewardship by the very organization that has more experience than any in fulfilling this assignment. A few have even gone so far as to insinuate that the dip in Cooperative Program giving is the fault of the Executive Committee. The total CP dollars have increased all but a few years in the last 18 years. The percentage of CP giving began slipping a decade ago or more. The SBC Executive Committee and the state conventions can do all they know to do, but only the pastors of our churches can reverse the recent trend by telling their people the good news of what God is doing through His people called Southern Baptist who are dedicated to working and giving cooperatively for His glory.
Selecting other giving options such as those now suggested by the task force would merely encourage pastors who wish to bypass the state convention to send designated gifts directly to the SBC marked (designated) for the preferred entities they wish to support. When this occurs, the state conventions will be forced to retain a greater percentage of the Cooperative Program dollars in the state and forward less to the SBC. And when that happens, all SBC entities will be jarred into reality. The entities that derive less income through designation will be doubly damaged. Their CP gifts will be reduced and they will also receive less than entities favored by the pastors. This will allow only those seminaries that receive the bulk of designated gifts to thrive. Others will just survive — if they are fortunate.
Additionally, to recognize designated giving on the same par with undesignated budget giving in the SBC would cause the acceptability of such to trickle down to the local church under the same principle. Ultimately, it would dawn upon individual church members that through designated giving they can control what ministries in their church flourish and which ones fade into oblivion.
Missions funding will devolve to the point where it is based upon proximity, friendships, common political objectives, and/or an affinity for a particular entity or ministry. It will create fierce competition among the SBC entities. It will lead to the entities requesting the Convention to allow them to go into the churches to solicit money to remain solvent, much less successful. It will return the Convention to pre-1925 when this was happening to the consternation of the churches.
My concern for the future of the SBC has never been greater, but if the majority of the messengers vote to adopt the Final Report of the GCTF and the Executive Committee believes it is under mandate to agree with every jot and tittle of the Report, the Southern Baptist Convention once again will begin traveling down the path it did before 1925. Not knowing or appreciating our history, we will be doomed to repeat it.
THE 1 PERCENT SHIFT IN ALLOCATION FROM THE EC TO THE IMB
I certainly wish for the IMB to receive better funding. I wish to do something far more productive and far more “substantial” than merely make such a “symbolic” gesture. But (and again, to use a medical analogy) I do not see any benefit in supplying a transfusion for a person from one of his arms to the other. Especially not when BOTH arms are needed in service!
And the reallocation hardly seems to be well thought out or persuasively justified. Why target the Executive Committee alone? And why resort only to reallocation to better fund the IMB? When goals of other sorts are mentioned in the task force’s report, why did it avoid setting a new CP giving goal?
However, what makes the reallocation suggestion even worse is that the ministries undertaken by the Executive Committee are vital to the health of the overall Convention, including the IMB. Below, where I describe the work of the EC’s divisions, I itemize these ministries. But a point to make here is that the amount involved (roughly two million dollars at current giving levels) is far in excess of that used to promote Stewardship and the Cooperative Program, so other Executive Committee initiatives and ministries described herein will also be severely depleted or cancelled outright if the reallocation is ultimately approved.
Allow me to reiterate. A thirty percent budget reduction will be devastating to the work of the Executive Committee. With a $2 million reduction, the EC will not only be unable to fund an Office of Cooperative Program and Stewardship, but must severely restrict a host of other services and subsidies as well, and for no good or well-explained reason. Why has the GCTF targeted only the EC? The GCTF has never discussed with me the budget of the Executive Committee. The chairman requested financial information, but I was never asked to give an overview of how the EC budget is allocated and why.
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE’S ORGANIZATION AND WORK
Before describing the work of each EC division, allow me to list some examples of things the Executive Committee undertakes and subsidizes for the benefit and health of the entire Convention. These illustrate areas which could be impacted negatively by the recommended reallocation and reduction in the EC’s budget.
The Executive Committee sponsors and pays for the work of the SBC’s committees, such as the Committee on Order of Business, the Committee on Nominations, the Committee on Committees, etc. In fact, the very work of the task force is underwritten by the Executive Committee budget. The annual expense is approximately $330,000. (This year $250,000 was budgeted for the work of the task force.)
Ancillary to each year’s annual meeting are gatherings which the Executive Committee budget subsidizes, including the Pastors’ Conference, seminary meetings, etc. The annual expense for the necessary rooms, etc., is approximately $250,000.
The Executive Committee manages the SBC Building, which houses the SBC’s Historical Library and Archives, the Southern Baptist Foundation, the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the meeting rooms for committee meetings and other gatherings, the radio studio for “For Faith and Family” and other live broadcasts, the server room for the Convention Web site, and staff related to these endeavors. The amount of expense the Executive Committee experiences not related to its own work in management of the building and operations within it is approximately $120,000. (An example of one such subsidy is the EC’s contribution to the current project of digitization of the historical record.)
The Executive Committee has been subsidizing the important work of the Southern Baptist Foundation, at the expense of $300,000 annually.
The Executive Committee maintains the I.R.S. group tax exemption on behalf of all cooperating churches, and defends lawsuits and claims against the Convention, as well as facilitating legal arrangements to administrate, receive, and distribute trusts and estates. It also reviews and consults with SBC entities regarding appropriate legal document creation and amendments, and advises and orients state convention trustees and staff upon request. The annual cost of such endeavors fluctuates, but is always in the multiple thousands of dollars.
The Executive Committee houses and maintains SBC.net and all of its family of Web sites, including the most frequently used aspect “In All Things Pray,” as well as Church Search and Job Search. The SBC is the only denomination to receive, completely free (paid for by the Executive Committee, CP-supplied budget) such comprehensive service in these areas. All cooperating churches have a web presence (a minimal Web site), driving directions from the web-page visitor’s home, and the ability to post open positions for qualified job applicants. Again the annual expense of support for such services varies, but is always in six digits.
A final example of work the Executive Committee underwrites which benefits the local church is a current program it is participating in with Unlimited Partnerships. This program, costing about $100,000 per year, identifies exceptional seminary students and supplements their practical training with intensive seminars on the Cooperative Program and Convention policy, process, ministry, history, and purpose. Seminars are led by Convention-related leaders and aimed at local church ministry, which seminars occur just before the students fill roles of ministry at the local church level.
Again, these examples are representative and not exhaustive, and serve to illustrate that the recommended budgetary impact on the Executive Committee would affect much more than the two of primary importance at which it aims — Cooperative Program promotion and Stewardship education.
Although the Executive Committee is primarily a facilitating ministry to the Southern Baptist Convention and its entities, the SBC has given ministry assignments to the EC. Among the most important are those of a financial nature, for without adequate funding, all ministry is severely curtailed.
DIVISION OF COOPERATIVE PROGRAM AND STEWARDSHIP
The Office of Cooperative Program and Stewardship assists the churches of the Convention by developing promotional and educational resources for the Cooperative Program and biblical stewardship. Of the Executive Committee’s 37 staff members, the CP and Stewardship division employs eight people, whose assignment is to educate and encourage using appropriate written, visual, and audio materials. They design iconography and thematic presentations, organize initiatives at the local church, associational, and state convention levels, and cooperate with the state conventions in dissemination. Thirty-seven of the Convention’s forty-two state conventions order and use this division’s customizable CP promotional material, and the office conducts over thirty-five stewardship workshops annually. They resource and train CP directors and local church leaders, and coordinate with the Convention’s various entities in telling the good news of all CP accomplishes in the field.
This division also produces the SBC Annual and Book of Reports, the SBC Calendar of Activities, the SBC Directory, and three issues of the SBC Bulletin during the Convention’s annual meeting.
CONVENTION POLICY DIVISION
The Office of Convention Policy is assigned the responsibility of relating to all legal matters for the Executive Committee and to assist other entities if and when called upon for assistance. This division, composed of four people, oversees all policy documents of the SBC and its Executive Committee, including the SBC Constitution, Bylaws, Business and Financial Plan, and the SBC Organization Manual. This office interacts with other entities, as needed, in matters of charters, corporate law, SBC policies and more.
Upon notification that a given entity wishes to request an opinion or an action by the Executive Committee, this office outlines the proper procedures in accord with the Constitution, SBC Bylaws and the Organization Manual that may be required by SBC Bylaws. This office also supervises “all things Southern Baptist” on the Convention’s family of Web sites found under www.sbc.net. The Executive Committee’s principal liaisons with the SBC’s general counsel, the SBC parliamentarian, the SBC’s Committee on Committees, and the SBC’s Committee on Order of Business come from this division. The present title for the division’s leader is “Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the Executive Committee” which indicates that he has additional oversight responsibilities pertaining to daily operations.
OFFICE OF NEWS SERVICES
The Office of News Services employs six people, and publishes Baptist Press Monday through Friday on www.BaptistPress.net as well a BP Sports and BP en Español, the Spanish edition of Baptist Press. The title of the supervisor for this division is Vice President for News Services and Executive Editor of Baptist Press.
A wire service, Baptist Press has 10,500 email subscribers and 9,200 Web sites that host its newsfeed headlines. Combining the traffic to its Web site with the readership of print and electronic media partners, Baptist Press has a reach of between 3.5 million and 5 million readers each month.
Baptist Press coordinates with bureaus at each SBC entity and abroad to inform Southern Baptists about issues interesting, encouraging, and vital to their knowledge and understanding of God’s work in and through the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Press also holds an annual journalism conference for college students who are aspiring journalists.
OFFICE OF CONVENTION RELATIONS
The Office of Convention Relations employs a total of four people and takes the initiative to explain the ministries, beliefs, policies, actions, and resolutions of the Southern Baptist Convention to organizations both within and beyond the Southern Baptist Convention. The division also fields calls from Southern Baptist pastors, church members, denominational employees, and journalists from newspapers and magazines around the world asking questions of all types. The division’s leader is often the most interrupted vice president on the staff due to the number of people making contact to request information.
This division distributes SBC Life, a Southern Baptist news journal, without charge to all pastors and denominational leaders. It is published six times annually and is also available to churches and individuals by subscription. (Prior to the recession, SBC Life was published ten times a year.)
This division also supervises the content on the SBC Web site, www.Baptist2Baptist.net,which is populated by articles and opinions about current issues in the Convention and in the United States. The division’s leader, whose title is Vice President of Convention Relations and Executive Editor of SBC Life, is the Executive Committee’s liaison with the SBC Resolutions Committee.
OFFICE OF BUSINESS AND FINANCE
The Office of Business and Finance is staffed by nine persons, and is responsible for all financial matters of the Executive Committee, including the preparation of the Executive Committee annual budget, the tabulation of the total monthly Cooperative Program and designated gifts sent to the Executive Committee for distribution to national entities, monthly reports of these funds received to the SBC entity presidents and state convention executive directors, information about the cash flow of the Executive Committee to the president and vice presidents, oversight of all financial policies that govern credit cards, reimbursement of expenses, and payment for services rendered and products purchased, as well as managing the logistics of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, including vetting of possible future sites and negotiating contracts with convention centers and hotels. The title for the supervisor of this division is Vice President for Business and Finance.
I began by expressing concern for the continued health of the Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee. I end the same way.
My greatest hope for our Convention is in the Lord. I am praying that whether or not the recommendations of this Final Report are adopted, that we will all be drawn closer to the Lord and that as a result, we will be closer to each other. We do need to coalesce rather than divide. We must marshal our resources to our over-arching purpose — winning the lost. And we must generate additional resources and utilize our various entities to their fullest potential, rather than reapportion dwindling resources and cannibalize essential ministries.
I implore you to pray. Pray for the task force, our entities, our churches, and their leaders. Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to shine light on the path we should take. Pray that after it all, we can embrace each other and the ministry we should perform, wholeheartedly and with energy and enthusiasm.
I have been doing so, and am led to concentrate, to the exclusion of all else, upon spiritual solutions. I see no other type of solution as satisfactory and have come to see organizational ones as capturing our attentions away from God’s best.
I feel as if I stand alone, and frankly am confused about why so many do not speak out boldly, or question or have reservations about what seems to be a manufactured platform of endorsement for concepts so alien and potentially hazardous to our cooperative methodology, and so estranged from our real problem, which is a malignant cold-heartedness.
I know my understanding is incomplete,
” … but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).
Morris H. Chapman is president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.