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Q&A: EC’s Chapman discusses proposed cut

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Suggested cuts to the budget of the SBC Executive Committee were the subject of an interview with EC President and CEO Morris H. Chapman by Bob Terry, president and publisher of The Alabama Baptist newspaper.

The Feb. 22 preliminary report of the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force suggested cuts in the Executive Committee budget as a way to channel more money to the convention’s International Mission Board.

The following are some of the questions and answers from that interview, which was published in the April 22 issue of The Alabama Baptist.

Q: What is your reaction to the recommendation to transfer the responsibility of Cooperative Program promotion to state conventions without EC input?

A: The task force invited me to meet with its members on condition of confidentiality a few weeks before they delivered their report, so I already had a sense of what the report contained. I made an appeal to them at that time to consider a number of changes … including the continuation of the equal partnership in Cooperative Program promotion that has existed always between the SBC Executive Committee and the state conventions. I had hoped they would give these remarks and others consideration. I was disappointed that they chose not to do so.

Q: How much is now spent on the staff and the work related to the CP promotion assignment? How much of these funds would be available to be marked for the International Mission Board if this recommendation is adopted?

A: This year’s Executive Committee budget for Cooperative Program promotion is $1,135,516, the amount for stewardship education is $260,169, for a total of $1,395,685 in the current year. This amount assigned for the national CP promotion and biblical stewardship is less than 1 percent (0.683 percent) of the total SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

By most assessments, for a nonprofit organization to spend less than 1 percent in promotional costs to raise $200 million would be considered quite efficient. This provides funding for eight full-time employees in CP and stewardship, travel, conference costs for It’s A New Day and production of print and video materials.

The removal of CP promotion from the Executive Committee assignments as a result of a GCRTF recommendation to reduce our budget by $2 million means that only the state conventions will be left to fund production materials, the first time since 1927 that the convention will fail to spend its own money to promote its own ministries. Inexplicably and arbitrarily, the GCRTF made it very clear to Augie Boto, EC executive vice president, and me that its goal is to excise funding for CP/stewardship promotion from the Executive Committee. What it has not made clear is why.

Q: The GCRTF recommends that about $2 million come out of the EC budget in order to increase the IMB to 51 percent of the total CP budget. How much other money will have to be taken from the EC budget to comply with this recommendation if it is adopted?

A: As I stated, if this report is adopted and these funds are transferred to IMB, we will lose almost $1.4 million in CP promotion and stewardship education. We will have to pare more than $600,000 from other budget categories to meet this amount.

Q: From what EC assignments will the money have to come? What will be the impact of these cuts? Please elaborate.

A: If the EC budget is reduced by $600,000 in addition to the $1.4 million now allocated for the promotion of the Cooperative Program/stewardship, we will have to take a hard look at the two mission initiatives of the Executive Committee that were approved by the SBC: Empowering Kingdom Growth and Global Evangelical Relations.

In addition to the potential gutting of these mission initiatives, we will have to re-evaluate every other area of work the SBC Executive Committee is charged to do in order to make additional cuts. The recommendation for such a drastic cut would make one wonder if the task force is trying to disrupt and diminish the effectiveness of the Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee is the right arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, serving as a “standing” committee to do the research, deliberations and recommendations for which Southern Baptists founded the organization. Obviously a convention with thousands in attendance for a two-day period cannot do the adequate research necessary for informed and well-reasoned decisions. In a sense, the Executive Committee is the “checks and balances” of the convention. If the Executive Committee someday were to be rendered ineffective for carrying out its assignments, the convention will lean toward an unfocused assortment of independent churches rather than a network of cooperative, autonomous churches.

Q: The 1 percent redirected from the EC to the IMB is about 30 percent of the EC budget. In your judgment, why did the GCRTF recommend such a deep cut in the EC budget rather than asking all entities to share in reduced funds in order to create more funds for the IMB?

A: I leave it to others to speculate what motivations may have led the members of the task force to target the Executive Committee. It may be that being an administrative body, we are considered a soft target. I think the GCRTF learned the hard way that the SBC has no control over the state conventions, the originally intended targets in the 10 axioms and the GCR Declaration last spring. The seminaries have large numbers of alumni who would rise up in defense of their alma maters. NAMB (North American Mission Board) did receive quite a bit of attention, but under this current proposal, NAMB will actually gain access to an additional $50 million or more from the states as the cooperative agreements are phased out.

I guess they saw the Executive Committee as a soft target since our only constituents are grass roots Southern Baptists. Nevertheless I praise the Lord that the constituents of the SBC Executive Committee are rank-and-file Southern Baptists. They are the backbone of this convention.

If stouthearted Southern Baptists who strongly believe in the Cooperative Program and the cooperative nature of work among all the churches and who are preaching in the pulpits and sitting in the pews of our churches across the United States do not attend the 2010 convention in Orlando, the “vision” of the GCRTF will be approved. Should this happen, although the task force will no longer exist, members of the task force and the SBC president, if inclined, will have the green light to insist that the SBC Executive Committee and other entities are mandated to approve the GCRTF recommendations.

While this is not true, it does demonstrate the kind of pressure that likely is to be exerted by task force members and others. It is imperative that each and every Southern Baptist takes time to evaluate the potential consequences, whether intended or unintended, of the task force’s recommendation to rename Total Gifts with the new name Great Commission Giving.

Q: What have GCRTF members communicated to you about the proposed cuts in the EC budget since unveiling their progress report in February?

A: Of course, I have had several phone conversations with Ronnie Floyd (GCRTF chairman). I also received an e-mail from three members of the task force stating it was not their intention to remove Cooperative Program promotion from the Executive Committee. This leaves me a little perplexed about how this all fits together given what their public report stated. I have not received any communication about the proposed cuts.

Q: What would you like to say to readers of The Alabama Baptist about the GCRTF report recommendation related to the EC? To the GCRTF report as a whole?

A: Three things. First, I would be grieved if any of us did not agree with Ronnie’s passionate call to repentance. His sermon from Joel was right on. Ever since the GCR Declaration was released in April 2009, I have made the plea for the Great Commission Resurgence to be about this very thing. I still hold out hope that the final report will singularly call our hearts to renewal, repentance, recovery of our evangelistic priorities and a return to passionate prayer.

Second, clearly, I am disappointed that at such a critical juncture in our history, the task force has diluted its energy by trying to micromanage the work of the convention entities through budgetary and internal structural changes. It is properly the work of the trustees of NAMB to direct the work of the North American Mission Board.

Further, moving $2 million from the SBC Executive Committee is tantamount to eating the seed corn just before the spring planting. Without CP promotion and stewardship education, I do not see the whole convention being able to sustain an abundant harvest in future years.

Third, if Alabama and the other states receive this unfunded mandate to promote CP funds for their own ministries and the SBC ministries, they’ll have to pay for it from some source. If they also lose money for state ministries through the elimination of NAMB’s cooperative agreements, they, in my opinion, will be tempted to offset those costs by reducing the amount they forward to the SBC. How else could they continue present ministries? It would be a tragedy for the Southern Baptist Convention, its Executive Committee and entities. For every $1 million a state reduces its forwarded CP funds, IMB will lose $500,000. If the states offset the full $50 million called for in the GCRTF report, IMB would lose $25 million, the seminaries more than $12 million and NAMB another $12 million annually. If this were to happen, I fear the SBC will revert very rapidly back to the failed societal model of giving of the early 20th century.
The Alabama Baptist is located on the Internet at www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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