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SBC Executive Committee urges Texans to keep Cooperative Program commitment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Keep the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee said in an appeal to Baptists in Texas to reject a proposed “unilateral breach” in the state’s support of SBC missions and ministries.

The Cooperative Program — begun in 1925 as the financial channel through which churches undergird state, national and international Baptist causes — is threatened in Texas by a push from Baptist leaders there to redirect more than $5 million in the churches’ CP gifts from the SBC to the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

A 12-paragraph resolution put the SBC Executive Committee on record Sept. 19 as “strenuously objecting to this new budget process” to be considered by the BGCT executive board Sept. 26 for recommendation to the BGCT’s Oct. 30-31 annual meeting in Corpus Christi.

Key points of the Executive Committee resolution include:

— “The proposal by the BGCT represents a unilateral breach of its 75-year partnership agreement as the Southern Baptist Convention’s trusted collection agent” for church gifts for national and international missions and ministry.

— “Such a proposal effectively destroys the Cooperative Program process between the BGCT and the Southern Baptist Convention and sets a dangerous precedent in our larger Southern Baptist work.”

— A pledge by the SBC Executive Committee “to the Southern Baptist churches in Texas to provide a channel for their continued Cooperative Program support for the Southern Baptist Convention should it be demonstrated that the BGCT no longer intends to perform these functions on behalf of the SBC according to the historic agreement” of 1928, as recorded in proceedings from the SBC annual meeting that year delineating the working relationship between the SBC and state Baptist conventions.

— An eagerness “to discuss these matters with the BGCT ‘with a view to complete and hearty cooperation in all matters of common interest,'” as phrased in the 1928 agreement.

— Encouragement to Southern Baptist churches in Texas “to continue to give generously their undesignated offerings to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program through the state conventions.”

The 1928 agreement underscores a commitment to the autonomy of both the SBC and state conventions, that neither party has the authority “to allocate funds or to divert funds from any object included in” the other’s budget, the resolution notes.

Thus, if BGCT leaders prevail in enacting the proposed funding cuts, the BGCT will “assign to itself the role of allocation to Southern Baptist Convention entities,” the resolution points out.

The cuts, if approved, would slice $4.3 million from Texas Baptists’ support of the SBC’s six seminaries, $706,000 from the Executive Committee and $345,000 from the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The defunding plan initially started with a theological education study committee created at last fall’s BGCT annual meeting. A second study committee — focusing on the missions boards of the SBC and the breakaway Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of dissident Baptists — also was created, but no news has yet emerged from its proceedings.

Also during the Executive Committee’s Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., the group’s president, Morris H. Chapman, devoted his report to the developments in Texas, noting, “The BGCT is systematically attempting to influence Southern Baptist churches in Texas to forsake their loyalty to the SBC.”

Using the traditional Cooperative Program channel of support in Texas, the SBC receives 33 cents from every dollar given by the churches while the BGCT keeps 67 percent of CP funds collected. Chapman noted that “63 percent of the gifts from the churches continues to flow through the traditional CP track.”

If the traditional channel is severed, Chapman said Southern Baptist churches in Texas will be left with two options:

— “Churches in Texas may wish to give through the SBTC, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. This convention is supportive of the Southern Baptist Convention and sends 50 percent [of undesignated receipts] to SBC missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.”

— “Churches in Texas may send undesignated gifts directly to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Chapman said. “These undesignated gifts are considered Cooperative Program funds. They are distributed to the various entities of the SBC in accordance with CP percentages adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Chapman also stated: “If the BGCT refuses to let the churches in Texas give to the traditional Cooperative Program, and/or if it fails to promote the Cooperative Program as a means of supporting world missions in cooperation with SBC, then the Southern Baptist Convention will be compelled to assist the churches directly.”

Chapman voiced thanks “on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention [to] all Southern Baptist churches in Texas that are committed to remaining faithful in their giving to world missions through the SBC Cooperative Program.” He added, “I would not want to miss this opportunity to commend all the state conventions that are remaining true to our historic partnership.”

Chapman also announced that “continuing updates and resource information about current issues in the Southern Baptist Convention” will be the focus of a new Internet site, www.Baptist2Baptist.net, to be launched Oct. 1.

Voicing confidence in God’s provision in all matters, Chapman reassured, “There is no reason to despair over dollars. God is on his throne and he will pour out his blessings upon his people if they remain faithful.”

Executive Committee members began discussion of the resolution addressing the Texas situation during their opening session Sept. 18.

Concern that such a resolution could “encourage the churches to bypass” the new Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was voiced by SBTC President Stan Coffey, pastor of San Jacinto Baptist Church in Amarillo, who cited the resolution’s pledge that the SBC will provide Texas churches with a CP channel if the BGCT ends its cooperation.

Chapman, responding to Coffey’s concern, noted that the SBC is greatly appreciative of the SBTC’s loyalty and 50-percent allocation of CP receipts for SBC missions and ministries. Chapman defended the resolution’s wording, noting that some Texas pastors are not yet prepared to join another state convention, even if they are in disagreement with the BGCT, and other pastors do not believe their churches can be rallied to leave the BGCT.

Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church which issued its own challenge to the BGCT earlier this year, urged during a discussion on fine-tuning the resolution’s wording that it be strongly stated.

Graham said “a campaign of misinformation [is] going on in Texas,” while SBC supporters in the state lack a “strong voice of getting to the churches” information about the vibrancy and effectiveness of Southern Baptist outreach across the country and around the world. Once they are aware, Graham said, “Texas Baptists will rally to support the SBC.”