FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–As the only state convention sending more Cooperative Program funds out of state than kept for in-state ministry, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention received SBC leaders’ commendations for their cooperative spirit during the SBTC’s Oct. 29-30 meeting in Fort Worth.
Bill Merrell, Executive Committee vice president for convention relations, reported a continuing increase in the amount of funds received for use by Southern Baptist entities, while noting a dramatic shift to what is called “other designated” giving. “I think this year, more than in other years, it is important for us to look at the combined Cooperative Program and designating giving which is $347.9 million for the year,” he noted.
While designated giving to SBC entities rose, the amount received with no strings attached for the Cooperative Program dropped slightly from $178.2 million last year to $176.9 million this year during the SBC’s Oct. 1-Sept. 30 fiscal year. The designated gifts, however, grew from $163.2 million to $170.9 million.
Merrell said the dramatic increase of $6.8 million in designated giving includes $6.4 million in receipts resulting from accounting changes in the Baptist General Convention of Texas budget. The BGCT adopted budget in past years would have been classified as Cooperative Program contributions, he said, but is now received as designated giving because the funds are not sent by the BGCT without stipulations.
“Furthermore, in reaction to the BGCT budgeting changes, many churches that had traditionally given through the standard Cooperative Program method in prior years chose to designate their gifts to the SBC this year,” Merrell explained. “The point of the matter is that when Southern Baptists are called upon to give to missions through the Cooperative Program and through this category called other designated, they have stepped up to the plate.”
He thanked SBTC churches for their cooperative spirit in giving to Southern Baptist causes, adding, “We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but simply have to do what God wants us to do as his people. SBTC, let us keep our hands gripped even tighter. We are in this great enterprise together.”
Merrell concluded, “Some voices are being raised to a shrill, fevered pitch to lure us away from commitment to cooperate. I feel compelled to remind you there has never been a better time than now for cooperation, never a more compelling reason to work together than those now thrust upon us, and never a greater opportunity to minister his great mercy and proclaim his great gospel.”
In a report delivered on behalf of all Southern Baptist seminaries, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson described a typical day in the life of a president at any of the six Southern Baptist seminaries, which included reports of staff leading people to the Lord, preaching that would bless any pastor, encounters with students awaiting missionary appointment, the success of church planters trained at the school and completing writing assignments.
“We just don’t have boring days,” Patterson said. “The future is brighter than it ever has been at your six seminaries. Thanks, Southern Baptists of Texas for supporting your seminaries. The next generation of pastors, evangelists and incomparable missionaries are training right now. Get ready for them now; their afterburners are ignited and they intend to turn the world upside down for Jesus Christ.”
North American Mission Board strategy coordinator Harry Lewis, in thanking the SBTC for its partnership, said, “As we think about our strategy of how we would carry out our Great Commission assignment from the Southern Baptist Convention, we realize there are over 40,000 Southern Baptist churches, 1,200 associations and 42 conventions. Strategically, we partner with those conventions and the Southern Baptists of Texas is one.”
He described Texas as “key to carrying out the Great Commission,” adding that it is “a launch pad, a foundation for providing missionary personnel and missionary resources.” He commended the convention, stating, “Southern Baptists of Texas have set a new standard. Of every dollar that your church gives, 51 percent goes to the Executive Committee and this is distributed to the agencies for the work.”
Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins told the convention, “What a privilege that is to serve those who are out there on the front lines in serving those who serve the Lord.” He encouraged churches to participate in the retirement program, which at a minimal level also provides a $100,000 survivor benefit as well as a $500 per month disability benefit. “Every church in our convention ought to have ministers in the retirement program just for this safety net.”
Hawkins said, “Our burden and our heartache is to get these next two generations of Southern Baptist ministers to that point of vocational retirement where they are financially secure enough where they can volunteer for service.” With new products and new ways that allow the Annuity Board to “truly be a life partner,” Hawkins said Southern Baptists can have confidence in the integrity and skill of those who serve the servants of the Lord.
LifeWay children’s Sunday school ministries director David Morrow offered a video in which LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. described resources and services “that truly are biblical solutions for life.” He spoke of the availability of LifeWay Link for church websites, progress at Glorieta and Ridgecrest conference centers and the word-to-word translation of Holman Christian Standard Bible that is “a trustworthy translation suitable for personal devotion, serious study or evangelistic outreach.”
With this year’s Vacation Bible School theme of “Amazon Outfitters,” Draper said, “Explorers of all ages will be outfitted to know the one true God who is Creator, Provider, Healer, Savior and Lord of all.”
International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin thanked SBTC for its partnership in setting the standard of what missions is all about in giving to the Cooperative Program and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions as well as involvement and support alongside missionaries through prayer and volunteer efforts.
“We seek at the International Mission Board to lead Southern Baptists to be on mission from God, that all the peoples of the world might come to saving faith in Jesus Christ,” Rankin said. “Our world has changed, but the Great Commission has not. And I believe that God is creating an environment where people can no longer look to their religion and their culture and their tradition, but only to the Lord Jesus Christ for their hope and security. And whatever God is doing throughout the Muslim world in these circumstances, he’s calling on us to seize the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and to speak the word with boldness.”
Rankin predicted, “At the rate of exponential growth as God is stirring the nations and opening the door, I believe by the year 2010 there will be no more unreached people groups,” drawing applause from the audience. In the meantime, Rankin asked, “How many of us are praying that 1.2 billion Muslims held hostage in the darkness of their Islamic faith would be set free by the gospel of Jesus Christ? They, too, need our prayer. God has said, ‘Ask of me and I will give the nations as thine inheritance, the ends of the earth as thy possession.'”
ERLC President Richard Land told the convention, “Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has been incredibly supportive of the ministry and work of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.” He voiced appreciation to three SBTC leaders who previously served as chairmen of the ERLC board prior to the formation of SBTC: Houston Northwest Baptist Church pastor Steven Wright, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards and SBTC communications director Gary Ledbetter.
“The only Southern Baptist entity totally, utterly and completely defunded by the BGCT was the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,” Land said. “We’re proud of every reason that they chose to defund us,” he said to an applauding audience.
Land said when reporters called to ask how the ERLC would handle the BGCT budget cuts, they were surprised at his lack of concern. “First of all, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is not for sale. We’re going to do what Southern Baptists want us to do. Secondly, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has made a very serious mistake. They have forgotten that the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention is the local church, and the local church will decide how it’s going to allocate its resources. And they have a funny way of doing what they believe the Lord wants them to do regardless of what is said in Dallas or what is said in Nashville,” Land said.
“Since we have been defunded by BGCT, largely through your efforts and the efforts of your convention we have received more money from Texas Baptist churches after we were defunded than we did in the 12 months before we were defunded.”
Land said he was gratified and surprised by the response of the nation to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. “America was humbled on Sept. 11. We were brought to our knees and we remembered, we rediscovered and we reasserted the fact that even the young men will grow weary and faint, but those that wait upon the Lord will mount up with wings as eagles and they shall renew their strength. And we have renewed our strength in God.”
Recently appointed to serve on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Land said, “That job just got a lot more important because the greatest and surest long-term defense against this kind of fanaticism and murderous zealotry is a free and open society in every country in the world. This kind of fanaticism can only flourish in a closed society in which all dissent is stifled at the point of a bayonet or the barrel of a gun.”
Land dismissed the comparison made by the BGCT’s Baptist Standard of his participation with the commission and the BGCT-funded Buckner Benevolence Ministries’ participation in a Planned Parenthood event. “The BGCT needs to take a basic lesson in what is analogous and what is not. To say that my serving on a government commission where I am appointed by the president of the United States as an individual is somehow analogous to the BGCT participating in a conference of Planned Parenthood strains the credulity of any kind of analogy. It just won’t wash.”