COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) — Messengers to the 191st annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved the report of the state convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Nov. 15.
After an hour in which the report was formally presented and then briefly debated and nearly a year after the task force was created, messengers lifted yellow envelopes containing their ballots and voted to approve the report in its entirety.
An amendment that would have nullified recommendation 8 of the report, which alters the process for nominating trustees to serve at the SCBC’s seven institutions, failed to gain acceptance.
The 11 recommendations in the report were approved as a group. Before the vote, task force chairman Ralph Carter said there was “probably a motion coming to divide” the report. He urged messengers not to pick the report apart.
“We’re bringing a single [report] with 11 components,” Carter said.
As the report was being considered, there were 1,568 registered messengers for the annual meeting, an increase of 315 from last year. A large hall on the lower level of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center was filled nearly to capacity.
At the heart of the GCR report were recommendations to increase South Carolina Baptists’ contribution to the International Mission Board by nearly 22 percent over the next three years and to move the SCBC toward a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program receipts with the Southern Baptist Convention over the next five years.
To pay for the initiatives, the report calls for CP budget cuts to the SCBC’s seven institutions (Anderson University, The Baptist Courier, Charleston Southern University, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, North Greenville University, South Carolina Baptist Foundation and South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging) and urges pastors to encourage their churches to increase CP giving by at least 1 percent.
Prior to the vote, Carter asked messengers to consider four “realizations.”
“The Cooperative Program pie has shrunk,” he said. “You can lament that, point fingers or blame the economy. It is a reality we have to deal with.” He noted that CP giving in South Carolina has decreased from $34 million in 2009 to an anticipated $28.6 million in 2012.
“The world is getting exponentially darker, spiritually,” Carter said, adding that 3,600 people groups have never heard the Gospel. “We must keep less and give more. Will it require sacrifice? Yes, but it is doable.”
Pointing to recommendation 10 of the report, which calls on churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by at least 1 percent, Carter told messengers that since the GCR report was released in August, 31 churches have pledged to increase their CP giving, representing $320,000 in additional support.
In order for church planting and revitalization to be successful, “we must find the money,” Carter said. “We need to breathe new life into plateaued and dying churches, and we need to plant more churches.”
Finally, Carter said, South Carolina Baptists are “passionate about their ministry partners [institutions],” noting that South Carolina is the only state in the nation with three Baptist universities. Carter said the schools are in “the same business you and I are in: bringing the world to Christ.”
In the three months since the release of the GCR report, Baptists across South Carolina had debated recommendations 8 and 9, which would grant the convention’s institutions more influence in the trustee nomination process, including the option to seat up to one-fifth of their board members from out of state.
Carter asked messengers to “express our confidence in the [university] presidents’ wisdom in making choices” for trustee recommendations, including granting them the right to seat as trustees “loyal, evangelical, conservative Southern Baptists” who don’t necessarily reside in South Carolina.
“The bottom line is, this is about trust,” he said.
Carter then invited North Greenville University president and task force member Jimmy Epting to speak in support of the report.
“We’ve got to show the whole world we mean business,” Epting said. “The key is to have an urgency about getting the Word out to the lost. We want to get our funds out there to reach the unreachable. International missions is the engine that pulls the Cooperative Program train.
“We’re proud to give back, but we’re also asking that you accept all 11 recommendations. Keep it whole. We need this. It does allow us to get more funding, to give more scholarships. But it also allows us to reach the lost.
“Show all those watching that, one thing for sure, that’s a good Baptist family,” Epting said. “They come together and are willing to give it a shot. It’s about one more getting saved. You give 1 more percent, and God will be glorified.”
When Epting concluded his remarks, Carter moved that the report be approved.
Wayne Dickard, pastor of Siloam Baptist Church in Easley, offered an amendment to “retain the current [trustee] nominating system and all rules that govern it.”
“It is a mistake to change a system that has served us so well,” Dickard said. After brief debate, the amendment failed.
No other amendments were offered, but one messenger spoke in opposition to the GCR report “as it is being presented,” and a second messenger said he initially was against the report until he heard Epting’s defense of it, adding, “If [the universities] can give 10 percent, why can’t we give 1 percent [in increased Cooperative Program giving]?”
The question was called for, and messengers, by a wide margin, voted their approval of the GCR Task Force report.
The task force was authorized by messengers to the 2010 SCBC annual meeting and charged with scrutinizing the final report of the Southern Baptist Convention’s similarly-named GCR task force (adopted in Orlando in June 2010) for the purpose of developing a plan for South Carolina Baptists to “respond” to its recommendations. Fred Stone, past SCBC president, appointed the task force members.
South Carolina’s GCR Task Force report recommended that:
1) South Carolina Baptists increase the state convention’s contribution to the International Mission Board by 21.95 percent over the next three years.
2) Church revitalization, missions mobilization/evangelism and church planting be made the primary focus of the SCBC.
3) The SCBC establish a five-year goal of moving the division of Cooperative Program receipts to a 50/50 split between the SCBC and the SBC.
4) Funding to Anderson University, Charleston Southern University, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging, North Greenville University and South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union be reduced by 10 percent from 2011 levels, to be frozen for five years.
5) The executive ministries (Baptist building) portion of the budget be reduced by 5 percent, to be withdrawn 1 percent annually for the next five years.
6) Funding to the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina be reduced by 20 percent in the coming year and that the remaining balance be reduced by 25 percent per year for the next four years.
7) Funding to The Baptist Courier be reduced by 10 percent annually for the next three years, after which time continued funding will be re-evaluated by those serving as officers of the Executive Board of the SCBC and the CEO of the Courier and the board chairman based upon criteria previously agreed upon by the GCR Task Force and representatives of the Courier.
8) The nominating process be altered so as to allow the CEOs of the institutions to have greater input into the nomination of trustees by way of a process that would result in mutual agreement between the institutions and the convention.
9) SCBC institutions be allowed to have as many as one-fifth of their trustees from out of state.
10) A plan be put forth to approach pastors about increasing their churches’ giving through the Cooperative Program.
11) The SCBC requests that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention consider adjusting the budgets of the seminaries and other entities as a means to increasing funding to the International Mission Board.
Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.