IRVING, Texas (BP)–Southern Baptist entities hurt by the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ defunding can count on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to help make up the shortfall, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said after Oct. 30 BGCT action.
Richards announced a “Great Commission Partners in the Harvest” plan that will deliver half of all in-state undesignated receipts above the new state convention’s annual budget to Southern Baptist agencies impacted by the BGCT vote.
Noting that the BGCT action diverts millions of dollars from worldwide causes to in-state interests, Richards said, “We regret this decision and believe it will be detrimental to the Great Commission work of both Southern Baptists and Texas Baptists.”
BGCT messengers accepted a budget recommendation that reduces funding of Southern Baptist seminaries from $5.3 million to no more than $1 million. Only Southern Baptist seminary students who have been members of a BGCT church in Texas for two years will receive support in the approved budget. If church-directed funds for the seminaries through the BGCT meet or exceed the $1 million total, then the support for Texas students in SBC seminaries will be considered to have been met, capping contributions at the reduced level.
In addition, the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission lost all BGCT funding, taking a $345,000 hit, while the Executive Committee of the SBC will see its funding from BGCT drop from $706,000 to $10,000.
Richards thanked those messengers and churches who worked for and voted to maintain the historic partnership between Baptists in Texas and those serving God around the world.
In contrast to the BGCT action, Richards said, “The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is enthusiastic toward and committed to the worldwide work of Southern Baptists.”
The Great Commission Partners in the Harvest plan as approved by the SBTC executive board expresses that enthusiasm in several ways, Richards said. In addition to sending half of the excess receipts on to the defunded SBC entities, Richards said pastors and laymen attending a Feb. 6 SBTC evangelism conference luncheon for the SBC’s Great Commission Council of agency leaders will hear SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman set the stage for an increased emphasis on Cooperative Program ministries. At that time, a challenge will be issued for 100 churches to give $10,000 above current Cooperative Program gifts to provide a $1 million gift to offset the cuts by BGCT.
“We believe that Texas is a great mission field and we are committed to missions and evangelism among the millions here who do not know Christ as Savior,” Richards said. “Our mission field is not limited by state borders, however. We are also committed to a worldwide gospel ministry.”
Richards clarified that the priority of the two-year old convention is not Texas first, but rather, it is Jesus first. “Jesus gave the Great Commission,” he emphasized. “He commanded that we go to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. He meant for us to do this simultaneously.”
SBTC already sends half its undesignated Cooperative Program receipts to worldwide Southern Baptist causes, surpassing the portion most state conventions give which is more typically a third of the receipts. And the SBTC commitment will increase in 2001 to sending 51 percent of undesignated CP gifts to the SBC. “Never in the history of the Cooperative Program has a state convention budgeted more for the SBC than it has retained,” Richards noted.
Richards said he considers it a privilege to serve alongside state conventions, agencies and churches across the country to fulfill the Great Commission. “We invite all those Baptists who share this commitment to join with us in this great task,” he said.