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Task force calls for 50-50 Ky./SBC funding

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–After eight months of discussions, the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force has released its report.

Among the report’s four recommendations: a call for the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Mission Board to move to a reallocation of Cooperative Program funds that results in a 50 percent split of CP receipts (after shared administrative expenses) between the KBC and the Southern Baptist Convention by 2017-18.

The report will be voted on by KBC messengers at the Nov. 16 annual meeting in Lexington.

Recommendation No. 2, described by task force chairman Hershael York as “the one that’ll certainly get the most discussion,” calls for the KBC to start by moving to a 53.28/46.72 percentage allocation split between the KBC and SBC, respectively, for the 2011-12 Cooperative Program budget.

By comparison, the 2010-11 fiscal year budget, which begins Sept. 1, includes a 62 percent CP allocation for KBC ministries, while 38 percent goes to the SBC. “That’s a pretty radical cut in the first year,” acknowledged York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and an associate dean and professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

In order to accomplish this, the KBC and all of its partnering entities would be required to reduce their budgets by at least 6 percent starting with the 2011-12 fiscal year.

According to the task force’s report, there would be a KBC Mission Board staff reduction of 12 percent and a total Mission Board budget reduction of 9.85 percent.

KBC institutions, Campbellsville University and University of the Cumberlands would absorb an additional 7 percent budget cut. York said the colleges’ reductions would total $192,000, which is nearly equal to the reallocated funds the schools have been receiving since Georgetown College’s departure from the convention last year.

In addition to the required 6 percent cut, Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union would reduce its budget 3.85 percent to match the KBC Mission Board’s reduction.

Recommendation No. 2 also calls for eliminating the convention’s annuity contributions for pastors and church staff members — a $400,000 reduction. York said the task force did not, however, opt to call for elimination of the $400,000 contribution that goes for ministers’ protection, disability and term life insurance.

The report states that in order to achieve a 50/50 allocation split by 2017-18, the Mission Board would make incremental adjustments in years two through seven of the plan.

According to the CP Distribution Plan document released with the report in mid-August, the CP allocation at the end of the seven years essentially would be a 48/48 percent split between the KBC and SBC, while factoring in 4 percent of shared expenses — money used by the KBC that simultaneously benefits the state and national convention.

The task force’s recommendation complies with a challenge laid out by the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force in its “Penetrating the Lostness” report, which was adopted by SBC messengers in June.

That challenge calls on state conventions to “return to the historic ideal of a 50/50 Cooperative Program distribution between the state conventions and the SBC.”

However, York noted, the national GCR report “really didn’t set our agenda at all.”

What did drive the group, York said, was that in the last 12-15 years, Kentucky Baptist churches’ total undesignated receipts have gone from $200 million to more than $300 million. Conversely, churches’ average percentage gifts to the Cooperative Program have dropped from 10 percent to 6.8 percent — nearly one-third.

“Cooperative Program giving has not kept up with the blessings that our churches have received,” he said. “We’ve gotten more money from our people and we’ve kept more of it at home or used it elsewhere than the CP.

“We must reverse that trend or else we can just mathematically project what year CP dies.”

The decline in CP gifts ultimately belies pastors’ criticisms that too much money stays with the state convention, York said.

“People can complain that we aren’t giving enough to the SBC side [and] we’re keeping too much in Kentucky. So, you change the sizes of the slices of the pie,” he said. “But if the pie is shrinking, it really doesn’t matter; eventually, you’re going to run out of pie.”

The task force’s “ambitious” third proposal seeks to address that problem, York said. Recommendation No. 3 sets a goal to increase Kentucky Baptists’ overall Cooperative Program receipts by at least 3 percent per year through 2017-18.

To achieve this goal, the task force’s report calls for all KBC churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 0.25 percent of their undesignated receipts each year for the next seven years.

“We feel it’s wrong for us to merely vote to change the allocation and then not challenge our churches to give more” to the Cooperative Program, York said.

If all churches were to accept the challenge, the report states, “the results for missions would be staggering.”

Over seven years, the increase for SBC causes would total more than $23.7 million, according to the report. With the International Mission Board’s soon-to-be share of 51 percent of that money, Kentucky Baptists would contribute more than $11.8 million more to international missions.

“I’m trying to tell churches that aren’t giving anything to give something, and the churches that are giving little to give a little more, and the churches that are doing great to do even better,” York said.

Recommendation No. 3 briefly alludes to the hot-button issue of a Great Commission Giving category proposed by the SBC task force. The Kentucky report encourages church leaders not to designate missions dollars to other causes at the expense of the Cooperative Program.

“While we encourage multiple missions efforts, we believe in the wisdom and strategic genius of the Cooperative Program which, after all, was born here in Kentucky,” the report states.

York said he is sure not all Kentucky Baptist churches will accept the challenge to increase their CP by 0.25 percent per year. However, should all of the churches that participated in the recent Find It Here evangelism campaign — approximately 1,700 of the more than 2,400 KBC churches — meet the CP goal, it would be huge, he noted.

“If we really buy into this and start doing it, what we can accomplish for Christ is just mind-boggling,” York said.

Realizing the goals laid out in recommendation Nos. 2 and 3 requires all Kentucky Baptists buying into recommendation No. 1, York said, referring to a call for Kentucky Baptist messengers to adopt a three-year emphasis called “More for Christ.” Described as an “intentional time for repentance, renewal and redirection for the future,” York explained that the recommendation’s goal is to “create a culture of giving and generosity and doing less for ourselves.”

“We’re praying that adopting this emphasis will become a part of who we are and help us change that culture, that we begin to think ‘More for Christ’ in all we do,” he noted. “If we make it about money, we’re totally missing it.”

The final recommendation calls for the Great Commission Task Force to remain constituted for the next seven years. The group intends to monitor the plan’s progress; report to the KBC Mission Board or convention messengers each year; and make further recommendations as needed.

The task force consists of 15 members, all of whom would remain. New members would only be added as original members rotate off through natural attrition. As that occurs, the KBC president would have the authority to appoint new members.

The Kentucky Great Commission Task Force was approved by messengers to last year’s KBC annual meeting. Formed in response to the creation of the SBC’s GCR Task Force, the Kentucky committee was charged with the task of studying “how Kentucky Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

York said he felt the task force’s work over the past eight months has been “Holy Spirit-guided.”

In its deliberations, the group spoke with leaders of all KBC entities, institutions and Mission Board teams. “We looked at budgets and charts and team plans — we looked at everything,” he added.

“What we found was we were very pleased with the job that so many were doing,” York noted. “But for us, the big picture was a spiritual issue.

“We reached a conclusion that what we have here is a spiritual problem,” he said. “It’s not about money; it’s about Jesus.”

York called the task force’s report a “bold vision” which he hopes all Kentucky Baptists can rally around. He did admit, however, there likely will be some who think the report goes too far or not far enough — which is OK.

“If everybody’s a little unhappy, we’ve probably done a good job,” he said.

Whether Kentucky Baptists are for the report or against it, York urged churches to send their full allotment of messengers to the KBC annual meeting Nov. 16 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington.
Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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