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Trustees OK history book for Stewardship Commission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In their final item of business, Southern Baptist Stewardship Commission members March 20 approved an expenditure of up to $20,000 to publish a history of the agency, which will close June 19.

The commission, created at the 1960 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, is one of seven SBC agencies to be dissolved or merged in the convention-wide restructuring approved at the 1995 and ’96 SBC annual meetings to reduce the number of agencies to 12.

No history of the Stewardship Commission has previously been written, and such a book would close the agency “in a commendable way,” said commissioner chairman Charles Sullivan, executive director- treasurer of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.

Stewardship Commission President Ronald Chandler, in his report at the 30-member board’s final meeting in Nashville, Tenn., projected the agency will have a minimum balance of $250,000 when it closes at the conclusion of the June 17-19 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

“This amount, when invested,” Chandler said, “should cover all of the Stewardship Commission’s liabilities for retirees and other staff,” not counting, however, an estimated $322,000 for a special staff severance package commissioners approved at their March 1996 meeting.

Specific projections of assets, according to Chandler, include $597,513 in reserve funds as of June 19 and a cash balance of $22,000.

Under the incentive-oriented severance package, employees who remain until their positions are terminated or the agency closes, or until their work is “transitioned to another agency,” will receive bonuses and medical and life insurance on the following scale: Two years of service or less, two months salary and housing; two to five years, three months salary and housing; over five years, four months salary and housing. Staff members still searching for jobs June 1 additionally will be accorded up to $2,000 for employment agency assistance. Chandler said the commission staff now numbers 13, down from 17 in mid-1995.

“This commission,” said Chandler, its president the past three years, “has made a difference in our denominational life which few have recognized (and) almost none have acknowledged … . I am confident that the words, ‘well done thou good and faithful steward,’ are recorded next to our name somewhere in heaven.”

Overall giving in SBC churches increased 1,244 percent from the Stewardship Commission’s founding in 1960 through 1996, Chandler said, while gifts to SBC and state Baptist convention causes supported through the Cooperative Program increased 746 percent. Inflation increased 419 percent during that period, Chandler said, with the number of church members and churches increasing 65 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

In capital fund-raising, the commission staff has led more than 2,000 programs in SBC churches, raising more than $770 million — and saving more than $2.25 billion in interest, Chandler said.

Commissioners authorized their executive committee to conduct any needed business in their behalf until the agency’s June closure.

The executive committee is to authorize contracts for a writer of the commission’s history and for a publisher of the hardbound book by June 19 and to name a “sign-off” committee of commission members to review the work before it is printed.

Recapping the employment status of commission staff members, Chandler said he will work under a one-year contract with the Baptist Sunday School Board, which is assuming the agency’s stewardship education and capital fund-raising responsibilities. Carl Hoffman, executive vice president of endowment and capital giving, also will join the board’s staff as a consultant in capital fund-raising, Chandler said.

James Powell, executive vice president of Cooperative Program promotion, and James Austin, vice president of Cooperative Program promotion, will join the staff of the Executive Committee, which is assuming the commission’s CP responsibilities. Accountant Lana Kimbro will be joining the Christian Life Commission’s staff, Chandler said.

Dwayne Fischer, vice president of capital funding, was not offered a position at the BSSB, while Charles High, also with the same title, will be retiring, as will Barbara Conner, senior vice president of publishing, Chandler said. Patsy Vick, assistant to the president, will be taking early retirement, Chandler said.

In addition to Fischer, others Chandler listed as still needing employment are Ernest Standerfer, executive vice president of stewardship development; Lee Davis, vice president of stewardship development, who may take early retirement; secretary Ginger Moore; and receptionist Judith Moore, a new employee.

Commissioners approved a separation agreement for Vick, Fischer, Standerfer and Davis and their spouses providing health insurance until the staff members reach age 65 or become covered by another employer; health insurance supplemental to Medicare from 65 until death, unless they obtain other insurance coverage; and $20,000 in term life insurance.

Chandler closed his report by voicing “some of my deep convictions about stewardship and missions support:”

1) “Christian stewardship is one of the most important issues of our generation because greed is far more prevalent than even racism; love of money is more dangerous than AIDS; materialistic lifestyles are sinful; and silence concerning mammon prevents true worship.”

2) “The relationship between giving and worship must be reclaimed because this is the highest model for biblical giving; worship is the best motive for giving; stewardship always acknowledges lordship; and blessings flow from a relationship (between giving and worship).”

3) “Mission support must become a priority in our churches because the Great Commission is still our mission; unsaved people will spend eternity in hell; trends in giving show reduced percentages to missions; and God blesses obedient people.”

4) “The Cooperative Program is the best method to support world missions because it has proved itself for over 70 years; it allows churches of all sizes to have a part in world missions; it provides fair distribution of money to needs; and it draws churches together in cooperation.”