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SBC letter to Texas church leaders draws editorial ire of BGCT paper

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A letter mailed to leaders of Southern Baptist churches in Texas has sparked a strongly negative editorial response in a Texas Baptist paper, The Baptist Standard.

The letter, written by Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman cautioned churches that Cooperative Program giving through the Baptist General Convention of Texas CP Giving Budget would “severely limit your gifts to SBC ministries.”

Chapman pointed to “unprecedented reallocations in the BGCT budget” and the redirection of “over a million dollars from money the churches had previously earmarked for the North American Missions Board” in a direct communication with church leaders. He noted however, “the SBC has not yet had to reallocate any resources among its entities due to defunding actions of the BGCT” owing such to the support by individual churches who gave to SBC missions, ministries and theological education around the actions by BGCT leaders to do otherwise as a convention. Chapman’s letter can be read in its entirety at www.baptist2baptist.net.

The SBC Executive Committee is charged by churches in the Southern Baptist Convention with the ministry assignment “to assist churches through the promotion of cooperative giving.”

Baptist Standard Editor Marv Knox took exception to Chapman’s communication with Southern Baptist churches in Texas, calling the letter “fallacy.”

Knox charged Chapman with allegedly misleading readers, not telling the whole story and taking sides among Texans.

In his editorial Knox called into question Chapman’s reference to BGCT actions to redirect funds from the North American Mission Board.

“The 2002 state convention budget only redirects the money the mission board would have sent back to Texas,” Knox wrote.

Knox also rejected Chapman’s suggestion that the “mission boards” of the SBC are hurt by BGCT changes in cooperative giving.

“The state conventions’ Adopted Budget does not impact the SBC International Mission Board in the least,” Knox countered. “Nothing in the BGCT Budget suggests cutting back funds for foreign missions.”

Knox also criticized Chapman for issues in the letter relating to reduced funding of SBC seminaries by the BGCT and for what Knox describes as Chapman’s preference for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, an alternative convention formed by churches wishing closer alignment with the SBC and its ministries.

The entire text of Knox’s editorial can be found at www.baptiststandard.com.

The Baptist Standard is owned by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and oversight of the paper is charged to a board of directors whose membership is recommended by a BGCT subcommittee.

David Hankins, who serves with the SBC Executive Committee as the vice president for cooperative program, has responded to Knox’s criticisms in a letter posted on the SBC website, www.baptist2baptist.net, with Chapman’s letter.

Hankins defended the mailout by the SBC Executive Committee writing, “The Baptist General Convention of Texas, by official action in its budgeting processes in 2001 and 2002, is trying to dissuade Southern Baptist churches in Texas from their long-term financial support of SBC ministries.”

“If the BGCT had not unilaterally broken 75 year-old agreements with the SBC in ways intended to harm the SBC, the letter would not have been necessary,” Hankins continued.

The response letter presents point-by-point rebuttals to the charges by Knox.

Regarding Knox’s charges that Chapman “seeks to lead readers to erroneous conclusions about funding,” Hankins noted that, “the BGCT has taken more than $1 million from the national strategy of the NAMB.”

“It is erroneous to equate the money that comes from the churches in a state with the money that NAMB grants to the state conventions for joint ministries,” he wrote.

Hankins argued that for the BGCT to keep an amount of money roughly equal to NAMB contributions to joint ministries performed in the previous year “presumes that the [BGCT] churches gave to the SBC Cooperative Program expecting to get a specified amount back in Texas, which is not so.”

“It also presumes NAMB will have a strategy for Texas costing the same amount as the previous year,” he added.

Hankins also addressed Knox’s criticism about Chapman’s reference to “missions boards.”

“Knox quotes just enough words to make it say what he wants,” he wrote. “The gist of what Chapman wrote is: If you want your CP gifts to support SBC ministries like they have in the past [same percentages, same recipients, same process] you will have to use something other than the BGCT Adopted Budget plan.”

Hankins replied as well to Knox’s allegations about funding of seminaries and taking sides in Texas. He included these in a combined eleven lines of reasoning that respond to Knox’s editorial.

Chapman and Hankins differed as much in their closing points with Knox as in the bodies of their respective texts.

Chapman wrote, “It is our desire to have a traditional partnership in the Cooperative Program with the state conventions in Texas, and we have expressed this to state convention leaders.”

Knox noted however, “Every church has a right to determine its affiliations. But, every Baptist deserves to base that decision on facts, not fallacy.”

Hankins wrote, “A fair reading of Chapman’s mailout and Knox’s editorial demonstrates that not only are Knox’s criticisms unjustified, but also that they are more applicable to him than to Chapman.”

He added, “If anyone regularly misleads readers, refuses to tell the whole story, and takes sides in Texas, it is the Baptist Standard and Marv Knox. The current editorial is just the latest example.”

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