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SBC leader responds to BGCT charges about letter to churches in Texas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Churches “are not possessions” of the Baptist General Convention of Texas or the Southern Baptist Convention, the president of the SBC Executive Committee stated in response to a resolution adopted by the Texas convention’s executive board and to remarks made by the state convention’s executive director.

Morris H. Chapman, SBC Executive Committee president, in a March 1 letter to Charles R. Wade, BGCT executive director, challenged Wade’s and the BGCT executive board’s characterization of a letter he, Chapman, had sent to Texas churches in January addressing BGCT budget decisions affecting the Cooperative Program and the churches’ support of Southern Baptist missions and ministries.

His letter to the churches, Chapman reminded, “was not written in a vacuum — it was a direct response to actions of the BGCT we strongly believe to be adverse to the interests of the SBC.”

“The churches in Texas apparently do not want the separation from the SBC that some BGCT leaders do,” Chapman wrote in his March 1 response to Wade and the BGCT executive board. “They demonstrated by their giving choices last year that they intended to be supportive of world missions and ministries through the SBC. Judging by the options they chose, most apparently objected to the BGCT budget formula, which they, and we, judge to have anti-SBC features.”

“In the face of their demonstrated loyalty,” Chapman continued, “your only response was to make it even more difficult for them to be supportive of SBC causes, requiring either that they give by default to the BGCT preferred budget, which retains almost 74% of the receipts from the churches for the BGCT, and excludes a number of SBC ministry entities, or write in their own division percentages.”

Chapman, in another paragraph, reiterated, “My purpose in writing the letter about which your resolution was drafted was to point out that the remittance form designed by the BGCT, which only mentions the SBC as a special missions offering option, was, in effect, influencing churches to greatly diminish support of the SBC. You should not be surprised that the churches who were forced to check the ‘other’ box, but wished to give to the Cooperative Program as in the past, were encouraged to write in a division amount that fully supported the work of the SBC.”

Chapman acknowledged, “No one can tell individual Southern Baptist churches how to give their money.” He reminded Wade, however, that “we can encourage the churches in a particular direction, precisely as you do in the remittance form with the parenthetical statement: [‘]We encourage a contribution of at least 67% to the BGCT.[‘]”

According to the BGCT’s Baptist Standard weekly paper, the BGCT executive board adopted a resolution at its Feb. 26 meeting in Dallas urging SBC leaders to “cease and desist from seeking to undermine the mission endeavors of state conventions in general and the Baptist General Convention of Texas in particular.”

The board voiced “dismay and offense” at Chapman’s January letter to the churches to “persuade Baptist churches in Texas to redirect Cooperative Program giving away from the BGCT budget.”

The resolution noted that the BGCT forwarded $36.5 million to SBC causes last year, which Wade said equals 46 percent of the BGCT’s total receipts — “in spite of the distractions, in spite of a rebel convention siphoning off support from our cause.” Wade, in his comments to the executive board, admonished Chapman for not mentioning such BGCT giving levels in his January letter to the state’s churches.

“Such an attack on the integrity of our Texas Baptist Adopted Budget was improper, mean-spirited and ungrateful,” Wade told the board, according to the Standard. “To add to the wrong, a four-color promotional piece was included in the letter touting the competing convention in Texas. And all this was paid for out of Cooperative Program funds which our own Texas Baptist churches had helped to give.”

In his March 1 letter, Chapman suggested that the giving levels by Texas churches through the BGCT for SBC causes occurred in spite of various BGCT leaders’ anti-SBC initiatives.

Chapman wrote, “… we have long been aware that anti-SBC persons in Texas, including many of your elected leaders, have openly discouraged support for the SBC. … I appeal to you once again for a return to the traditional and mutually supportive relationship between the SBC and the BGCT that has prevailed until recent times.”

Concerning his and the Executive Committee’s advocacy in behalf of the Cooperative Program, Chapman wrote, “I have consistently urged that we should continue to cooperate according to historic principles. The Executive Committee’s position is that all churches should be encouraged to give undesignated Cooperative Program offerings through the state convention. We have resisted creating any other track for giving because we believe it harms the idea of the Cooperative Program and breaks faith with our state convention partners. Of course, we believe it is also a breach of faith for state conventions to identify as Cooperative Program gifts those contributions that are not to be distributed exclusively to the SBC and state convention budgets. I have steadfastly advocated for Southern Baptists staying with the traditional Cooperative Program giving method and remaining firm partners with the thousands of Southern Baptist churches in all fifty states who are committed to Cooperative Program missions.”

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