NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist leaders say proposed changes in the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ giving forms are further evidence of the state convention’s efforts to distance itself from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.
The new form would increase the percentage of church gifts remaining in Texas through the BGCT Cooperative Giving Budget from 67 percent to 79 percent. Texas churches could channel their 21 percent earmarked “worldwide endeavors” to not only the SBC but also to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or BGCT world missions, a newly proposed global missions network of the BGCT.
The new form would remove a cap on the amount of BGCT funding for SBC seminaries and end negative designations toward the SBC Executive Committee and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
In October 2000, BGCT messengers at the 115th annual meeting voted to slash funding for the six SBC seminaries by more than $4 million and to defund the ERLC and the SBC Executive Committee, keeping an additional $1 million for the BGCT budget.
Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, said he believes many Texas Baptists are unhappy with the attempts of the BGCT to restrict their giving to the SBC.
“The problem is that the BGCT has forsaken the Cooperative Program for a society method of giving,” Blaising said in a prepared statement. “They treat the SBC as an ‘option’ alongside competing educational and missions agencies. This is the opposite of the true, time-honored Cooperative Program. Instead of helping Southern Baptists consolidate their resources for a unified cooperative work of missions, education and evangelism, they divide the resources among competing agencies, only one of which is Southern Baptist.
“It is clear that many Texas Baptists are unhappy with the attempts of the BGCT to restrict their giving to the SBC,” he said. “The problem is greater than a particular budget plan that is already being bypassed by the majority of Texas Baptist churches.”
Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, contrasted the BGCT with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, a state convention that is in friendly cooperation with the SBC.
“The contrast between the 21 percent possibly going to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program in the proposed BGCT budget and the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention’s proposed 52 percent allocation to the SBC’s Cooperative Program is both instructive and clear,” Land said. “The BGCT once again decreases its possible CP percentage while the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention increases its percentage giving to the Cooperative Program to historic new highs.
“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is extremely grateful that a majority of Texas churches have been exercising their God-given autonomy by determining their own funding formula under the Holy Spirit’s leadership,” Land added. “Their giving, coupled with the generous support of Southern Baptists of Texas churches, has kept the ERLC from experiencing a funding shortfall in the face of the BGCT’s earlier complete defunding of the ERLC.”
Land said there is a solution to the problem in Texas. “If the BGCT really wants to move beyond the controversy, they ought to go back to promoting the Holy Spirit-inspired Cooperative Program of giving — the way Southern Baptists have done it so successfully for more than three-quarters of a century,” Land said.
“The BGCT reminds me of the farmer and his wife traveling to town in the family truck,” Land noted. “The farmer’s wife is sitting all the way on the other side of the truck cab, as far as possible from her husband. She says, ‘We don’t sit as close as we used to.’ The farmer, from behind the steering wheel, replies, ‘I haven’t moved.’
“The Southern Baptist Convention hasn’t moved,” Land said. “The BGCT has moved away from our historic Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program. As a Southern Baptist and a Texan, I encourage them to slide back on over where they belong.”