COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) — The South Carolina Baptist Convention has pledged to send a $1 million year-end gift to the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention at a time when the missions entity has announced a reduction in its worldwide force due to budget shortfalls.
The IMB announced earlier this year that it would need to reduce its total number of missionaries and staff by 600-800 due to expenditures that exceeded revenues by $210 million over the past six years.
And even though the SCBC did not meet its budget in 2013 and 2014, the convention’s Executive Board reached into the state’s fund balance — after agreeing to send $450,000 from the budget — to provide the $1 million gift to IMB.
Speaking to the Executive Board during its year-end meeting on Dec. 10 at the state convention building in Columbia, Marshall Blalock, chairman of the board’s Budget, Finance & Audit Committee, said, “We won’t meet our convention budget this year, but projections show that we will be closer than we have been to our budget goal — close enough to send $450,000 from the budget rather than from the fund balance.”
“As our committee looked at that gift,” Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, added, “we unanimously decided to take an additional $550,000 from the fund balance and make a $1 million year-end gift to the International Mission Board.”
David Platt, president of the IMB, responded to the news: “My heart was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy when I heard that South Carolina Baptists voted to approve a $1 million gift to the International Mission Board. This extremely generous gift will go a long way in helping the IMB get to a healthy financial place in the present so that we can move forward into a future marked by more missionaries sent, more disciples made, and more churches planted among unreached peoples than ever before. I praise God for the generosity of South Carolina Baptists and trust God will use these resources for Gospel advance to the ends of the earth.”
Richard Harris, interim executive director-treasurer of the state convention, who has led the SCBC staff this year in keeping missions mobilization as a priority of its work, said, “The giving of an additional $1 million to the International Mission Board by our Executive Board speaks volumes about our commitment to fulfill the Great Commission.
“The smaller portion of the gift comes from the great management of the budget by state convention staff and generosity of SCBC churches to create a budget overage,” he said. “The majority of the gift comes from reserve funds. This [year-end gift] is in addition to the $400,000 given to IMB in January of this year, with $275,000 coming from reserves.
“All these additional dollars express the priority of the Executive Board and South Carolina Baptists to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth while trying to assist in sending more missionaries and slowing the hundreds of IMB missionaries being brought back home. I am proud to be identified with a state convention placing such a high priority on intentional missionary deployment.”
D. Ray Davis, IMB’s associate vice president for church and partner connections, said, “At a time when David Platt is urging Southern Baptists not to pull back [on giving], we thank South Carolina Baptists for giving above and beyond. The Great Commission demands our best, and we praise God for our partners in the Gospel.”
In 2014, the Southern Baptist Convention’s international missions force included 214 missionaries with ties to South Carolina. Through the South Carolina Global Connections partnership with WMU, the state convention has relationships with 175 of those missionaries.
Tim Rice, director of missions mobilization for the SCBC, said, “So much of our missions strategy revolves around field personnel. We have been actively connecting our churches with South Carolina missionaries worldwide in the last two years. These missionaries are depending on our partnership, prayers and financial support to make disciples of all nations. I am glad we can give to the IMB at a time when it is so desperately needed.”
South Carolina Baptists’ roots regarding international missions support run deep for Baptists in the oldest state convention within the SBC.
It was in 1815 that Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend of Edisto Island sold baked goods to support the mission work of Edisto Island Baptist Church. She was the founder of the Edisto Female Mite Society, the first organization of its kind in the South to raise funds for foreign missions. The first Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions in January 1889 raised $3,315 — one-third of which came from members of South Carolina Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union.
Fast-forwarding to 2011, South Carolina Baptists approved new state budgeting measures by adopting a Great Commission Resurgence initiative that gave special attention to supporting global missions through IMB. In addition to funding IMB through normal Cooperative Giving channels, GCR also provided for a direct year-end gift to IMB from any state budget overages.