NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A growing number of Texas Baptist churches are bypassing the Baptist General Convention of Texas and sending their Cooperative Program gifts directly to the Southern Baptist Convention, according to information released by SBC officials.
“The amount of money given has jumped tenfold,” said David Hankins, vice president for Cooperative Program. “We have not seen numbers like this before.”
In May, Texas Baptist churches sent $372,288 in Cooperative Program gifts directly to the SBC, instead of the traditional CP method of giving to the state convention.
“We are very grateful for the Texas churches and their continued faithfulness to the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention as evidenced by their direct giving,” Hankins said.
Hankins said the SBC prefers for churches to use the traditional methods of giving to the Cooperative Program. However, he said actions take by the BGCT forced Texas churches to consider alternate methods of giving.
“Because the BGCT has broken that trust, we understand why the churches, in order to support the Southern Baptist Convention, give directly through the Executive Committee or the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” Hankins said.
Becky Bridges, director of communication center for the BGCT, confirmed that the state convention’s financial picture has been impacted by churches that give directly to the SBC.
“Yes, we are aware but we don’t have access to the same statistics as the SBC,” Bridges said in response to the amount of money bypassing the BGCT. “We don’t want to have to dramatically change the ministries and work we do, but we will be accountable and work within our means.
“It’s obvious that giving is down this year,” Bridges told Baptist Press. “Our books are always open as a matter of accountability and I know that Dr. [Charles] Wade and everyone on staff feels like the lower giving to CP is a matter of prayer and concern for us.”
Bridges said the BGCT does not want to cut ministry budgets. “But this is a reality,” she said. “There has been a change in giving patterns and everybody’s budget is down for a lot of different reasons.”
Bridges would not speculate on the reasons for the BGCT’s financial shortfall nor why Texas churches are giving directly to the SBC.
“Like I said, we can’t get into the minds of the people to know what’s going on,” Bridges told Baptist Press. “Churches who give directly to the Southern Baptist Convention are saying they want to give to the Southern Baptist Convention. That is their right as an autonomous church and we respect that.”
Hankins said the drop in BGCT giving can be attributed to two issues — churches that are bypassing the BGCT and churches that have aligned with the SBTC.
More than 800 Texas churches have either exclusively aligned or dually aligned with the pro-SBC state convention.
In May, the SBTC gave $383,519 in gifts to the Cooperative Program and in April, the SBTC gave $731,134 to CP, compared with the BGCT’s $649,409 in gifts.
“These churches have aligned with the SBTC because they want to continue a strong relationship with the SBC,” Hankins said. “Their numbers have increased dramatically as Texas churches discover they can partner with the SBC through the SBTC.”
In the meantime, the BGCT has stepped up its attacks of Southern Baptist Convention leaders by taking their disagreements into the secular media.
The BGCT’s Committee for Baptist Integrity has placed full-page advertisements in three Texas newspapers denouncing the SBC and accusing SBC leaders of spreading lies about the BGCT.
For the past two weeks, ads have appeared in newspapers in the Texas cities of Lubbock, Amarillo and Tyler. The ads were designed by a secular advertising firm and appeared in Sunday editions of all three newspapers.
Bridges did not disclose the campaign’s budget. However, she told Baptist Press that the ads running in the Amarillo newspaper cost $11,000.
Private donations are being used to fund the campaign. However, the money is being funneled through the BGCT.