REVISED on March 20 to change the date information in the lead sentence of paragraph 4.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Information about the history of Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education provided to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee contradicts a basic premise of one of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force interim report proposals released Feb. 22.
The historical review, conveyed in a white paper by Roger S. (Sing) Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the SBC EC, specifically addressed “Component #4” in the GCRTF progress report which recommended “to move the ministry assignments of Cooperative Program and stewardship education from the Executive Committee” and “return” them to each state convention. The proposal also called for state conventions to “reassume” their primary role in these assignments.
The GCRTF proposal stated that Southern Baptists “have struggled with where to place both of these assignments [CP promotion and stewardship education] in order to serve our churches most effectively,” and referred to the “1930 minutes of the Executive Committee” saying that the 1929 Cooperative Program Commission placed responsibility for “promoting” and “gathering funds” with the states.
However, Oldham, in a white paper released March 12 and revised March 19, noted that contrary to the GCRTF assertion, the record shows Southern Baptists have been clear from the beginning that responsibility was intentionally vested at each level of cooperation — local association, state and national conventions — and that they intended for the national convention to represent the interests of national causes in the cooperative effort, while aiding state conventions and local associations with material support.
In an interview with Baptist Press, Oldham said the GCRTF information relating to their “Component #4” told only “a part of the story.”
“It’s the part that is omitted that is so fascinating,” he said.
“Over the past few weeks I revised my first submission as I reread the more than 100 pages of Executive Committee minutes from 1927 through 1931, as well as the entire proceedings of the SBC annual meetings beginning in 1923 into the 1930s,” Oldham said. “While it is true that the SBC and the states have always maintained a collaborative relationship in Cooperative Program promotion, at no time has the SBC failed to fulfill its spiritual obligation to promote funding for its own ministries.”
Oldham’s paper includes timelines showing a continuum from 1925 (conception of the Cooperative Program) through the present that indicate the ministry assignments for Cooperative Program and stewardship promotion “have always been entrusted to an SBC committee or commission.” Oldham also said that although at the national level these responsibilities have shifted among entities, “there has never been a time these two ministries were not assigned to and conducted under the watch of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Whenever another national agency took the lead for a while, he said, eventually these two ministry assignments “gravitated back to the Executive Committee.”
Oldham said the pastors who crafted the language of the early reports about cooperation “were very wise” in that they recognized the peril of competition that could threaten cooperation without the formalizing of mutual responsibilities among local associations, state and national conventions.
“They recognized that ‘no Baptist body has authority over any other,'” he said, “They affirmed that ‘there can be no question of dictation on either side.'”
Moreover, he said, the drafters of the early reports were aware of the frustrations that would strain relationships if the SBC attempted to dictate an unfunded mandate from the national convention to the states to raise money for national ministries.
“From 1925 to the present, the convention has never failed to exercise its responsibility to provide seed money to and through an SBC Committee or Commission for the promotion of its ministries,” he told Baptist Press, citing from his paper.
“The convention has always spent its own money to promote the Cooperative Program,” he said. “By 1927, the Executive Committee was producing more than 5 million pages of stewardship and CP materials annually.”
Since then “the convention has routinely produced and distributed resources to the churches, associations, and states,” he added, emphasizing that “the SBC has never failed to spend its own money to promote its own causes.”
Oldham also said that although “the SBC has always encouraged the states to assist in raising funds for both state causes and convention causes” the SBC has never “tried to impose on the states” the responsibility to raise money for national entities nor bear the costs alone.
“From the beginning,” Oldham noted, “they made provision for the states to deduct the costs associated with promoting the whole Cooperative Program before the states made the state/national split with the convention.
“In fact, in the Sept. 10, 1930, minutes of the Executive Committee, the committee ‘respectfully suggested’ that each state name or employ a full time Stewardship and Budget Secretary to assist the states in this task,” Oldham said. “Of course, they reaffirmed that all administrative costs associated with promoting the national portion of the CP were to be deducted before the state/SBC split.”
Oldham’s white paper was completed the same week of NAMB’s discovery that it had given wrong data to the GCRTF on which the task force based its proposal to make considerable changes to the North American Mission Board’s structure and its relationship with state conventions.
When asked March 8 about the wrong data NAMB provided, GCRTF chairman Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., said the flawed information nonetheless did not alter the major concern of the task force, suggesting that no changes would be made.
However, when contacted March 19 for comment about Oldham’s white paper, Floyd wrote in an e-mail to Baptist Press that the task force was glad to receive any comment or suggestion from any Southern Baptist.
“[W]e are very thankful for all the good responses we have received thus far,” he said.
“The GCR Task Force is taking all these under consideration as we continue our work, and our determination is to arrive in Orlando with the report that will best serve Southern Baptists as we look to the future.
“We are thankful for the good data contained in the white paper, and all of this is being taken into consideration as we continue our work.”
Oldham’s white paper may be read in its entirety online at http://www.baptist2baptist.net/issues/gcr/rso-03-19-10.asp.
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press.