NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board said he was “saddened and disappointed” that the Baptist General Convention of Texas made statements about the ending of NAMB’s relationship with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention without attempting to get any specific information from NAMB about the process or issues involved.
A BGCT study committee called on NAMB to reconsider its action regarding the DCBC and that “NAMB take strategic action that will enable it to work with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention in ways that will advance the cause of Christ.”
Following nearly a year of discussions, the North American Mission Board has notified the District of Columbia Baptist Convention that it will end the cooperative agreement between the two entities next summer.
NAMB provides nearly a half-million dollars a year to the DCBC for evangelism, church starting and ministry projects, but expressed concerns last summer and fall that the DCBC had “grown increasingly distant from the Southern Baptist Convention, its positions and priorities.”
The BGCT Missions Review & Initiatives Committee expressed “grave concern” about the D.C. situation.
“NAMB not only sought to control the editorial positions of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention state paper, but also made continued financial support contingent upon placing a mission board employee on the District of Columbia Baptist Convention staff who would have supervised all jointly funded personnel and guided programs receiving NAMB funding,” the BGCT report stated.
“This would have required the District of Columbia Baptist Convention to surrender its autonomy and would have restricted its ability to select and supervise its own personnel and carry out its local missions vision. This abandonment of cooperative missions effort represents a limitation of Southern Baptist evangelism and church starting in the heart of our national government.”
NAMB president Robert E. Reccord said, “In the fall of 2001 NAMB gave a proposal for consideration to the D.C. Baptist Convention with the hope of finding a win-win solution to enhance the cooperative efforts of mission and ministry in the district. That proposal was aimed at opening discussion to jointly find an agreed-upon solution, and in no way called for the District of Columbia convention to surrender their autonomy — contrary to the report of the BGCT committee.
“The national missionary offered by NAMB to the DCBC as part of the proposal would have been seconded to the convention and under the supervision of the executive director,” Reccord added.” The relationship is similar to how national missionaries serve in Canada and others who have served elsewhere in North America.
“Having been launched by a trustee’s motion in the fall of 2000 requesting immediate defunding of the D.C. Baptist Convention, NAMB refused to act capriciously or precipitously,” Reccord said. “Instead, a review — including numerous meetings and conversations with the D.C. Baptist Convention — began in the fall of 2000 and did not come to culmination until June of 2002.
“After numerous meetings and discussions, sadly the D.C. Baptist Convention unilaterally and completely voted down all aspects of the win-win proposal, while offering no alternative direction,” Reccord said. “In addition, numerous sizable concerns were dealt with in the area of theology, partnership and stewardship. While the stewardship in no way reflected concern about misuse of funds, it did reflect significant concern that only 20 churches in the D.C. Baptist Convention are currently uniquely affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention — in spite of cooperative agreements being in existence since 1973.”
Reccord said the proposal given for consideration to the D.C. convention in no way restricted its ability to select and supervise its own personnel or to carry out its missions in the district — although that has been reported repeatedly — but was crafted to enhance SBC work in the area.
The other two affiliated conventions, the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, were encouraged to consider the same possibility for their mission personnel.
Despite the actions of BGCT leaders, Reccord said NAMB “greatly appreciates the heart for ministry and missions reflected by Texas Southern Baptists through the years.”
“We are tremendously appreciative that the very idea of cooperative agreements to strengthen missions and ministry in North America grew from the seedbed of an agreement between the former HMB and the BGCT,” he said.
“While we are saddened by some of the directions that we see continuing to evolve in report after report coming out of the BGCT, we remain thankful for so many Southern Baptist churches in Texas remaining committed to the missions effort in North America and around the world,” Reccord said.
“Our heartfelt desire would be that there would be a turn and a realignment of cooperation between Southern Baptist Convention agencies and the BGCT,” he said. “We would also like to express appreciation for the many Southern Baptist churches that are increasingly standing in the gap for the widening divergence that we seem to be experiencing with the BGCT — as reflected in the increased giving to North American and worldwide SBC causes by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.”
BGCT Associate Executive Director Bill Tinsley told Baptist Press he was not personally involved in the D.C. situation, but said the BGCT’s involvement was meant to “help a sister convention.”