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Stone seeks to restore traditional Cooperative Program in N.C.

DURHAM, N.C.(BP)–Ted Stone, president of Durham, N.C.-based Ted Stone Ministries, announced Oct. 28 that he will introduce a motion to restore the single giving plan of the traditional Cooperative Program as the sole method of funding missions outreach by Baptists in North Carolina. Stone said he plans to push for passage of his initiative during the upcoming annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Since 1991, North Carolina Baptists have endorsed four optional giving plans, which were created from dissatisfaction among some state leaders about the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Stone’s motion also would ask the state convention’s general board and its budget committee to divide the Cooperative Program missions funds by allocating 65 percent for the state convention budget and 35 percent for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Presently the Southern Baptist Convention receives 32 percent in Plan A (the original CP plan) and Plan D. The SBC receives only 10 percent under Plan B and nothing under Plan C, which instead allots 10 percent of the national and international missions funds to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a constant critic of the SBC. Plans A, B and C give 68 percent to the state convention budget, while Plan D trims the state allotment.

Stone’s proposal would direct those responsible for drawing up the proposed budget to include funding for Fruitland Baptist Institute at an amount no less than the amount designated for the smallest North Carolina Baptist college (Chowan). Under this arrangement, Fruitland Institute would receive approximately $992,606 in 2006 compared to current funding of about $654,000 garnered from a combination of general board designation and additional proceeds gained through Optional Plan D.

Stone’s proposed changes would become effective with the 2006-07 budget, which would be presented to state convention messengers in November 2005 at the annual meeting.

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, offered his support of Stone’s initiative, saying, “The Cooperative Program has been the financial lifeline through which Southern Baptist churches have contributed one gift in support of all budgeted ministries of both the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

“The Cooperative Program has made possible the churches doing together what any one church cannot do alone,” he added. “Consequently, God’s people called Southern Baptists have built the most far-reaching missions enterprise in the history of Christendom.”

Chapman also commented on the negative effects on SBC causes when support is lessened.

“Any erosion in Cooperative Program giving reduces the churches’ support of our missionaries and diminishes our Southern Baptist witness to those who are in desperate need to hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The November issue of the Conservative Record, the newsjournal of Carolina Conservative Baptists, describes Stone’s intended motion as “a good proposal and worthy of support.”

Stone said, “The Cooperative Program is a Southern Baptist program designed and used since 1925 as the best and most unified way for the Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions to do missions together as partners. The optional giving plans have distorted the original purpose of the designers of this God-ordained program.

“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a competing organization to our national denomination, and the funding of this or any other missions outside the budgets of the state convention and the SBC makes a mockery of the Cooperative Program. It is time to discard ‘the North Carolina way,’ a descriptive term used by those who are constant critics of our denomination, to justify optional giving plans. It is time for us to do missions together the Southern Baptist way. After all, we are Southern Baptists, and most of us are proud to be Southern Baptists.”

Only two other states, Texas and Virginia, both of which have split into two state conventions, have used optional giving plans.

“In spite of divisive statements by some of our present and past paid state convention leaders, the single giving plan advocated by the Cooperative Program does not detract from the local autonomy of the local church or the right of every individual or church to give to whatever cause the Lord leads them to support,” Stone said. “It is the Baptist way. But we should never call these designated funds outside the budgets of the SBC and state conventions ‘Cooperative Program giving.’ It is not Cooperative Program giving, and to call it this is both deceptive and wrong.”

Stone’s ministry of the past 27 years has led him into the pulpits of more than 2,700 Southern Baptist churches, where he has urged Christians to take the leadership roles in solving the drug problem. His motions at BSCNC meetings in 1987 and 1991 eventually led to the establishment of a Baptist-operated halfway house for recovering addicts in Creedmoor, N.C., called Damascus Home. He sponsored a successful motion in 1998 at the Salt Lake City SBC convention that established a drug abuse task force. Stone is a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of visitors.

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  • Jerry Higgins