FLORENCE, S.C. (BP)–The 1,155 registered messengers to the 187th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention adopted a $33.95 million Empowering Kingdom Growth budget and approved a five-year plan for increasing the percentage of Cooperative Program funding allocated for the work of the Southern Baptist Convention.
South Carolina Baptists, meeting at the Florence Civic Center Nov. 13-14, also elected Aiken pastor Eddie Leopard as their president, adopted nine resolutions and heard a convention message from their new executive director-treasurer, Jim Austin.
Dennis Wilkins, chairman of the Executive Board’s budget, audit and finance committee, recommended the adoption of the Cooperative Program Advance Plan for budget years 2008-12, which will allocate 50 percent of all new Cooperative Program money to the Southern Baptist Convention. The plan thereby increases the percentage going to the SBC each year that the state convention increases its budget.
In 2008, the proposed budget will send 40.35 percent, or $13,645,000, to SBC causes and retain 59.65 percent, or $20,305,000, for South Carolina Baptist Convention ministries. The proposed budget represents an increase of $1.2 million over the 2007 amount.
Also, messengers decided that any budget gifts that exceed the EKG budget requirements will be distributed at 55 percent for the International Mission Board, 25 percent for the North American Mission Board and 20 percent for scholarships for South Carolina participants in mission trips.
The recommendation of the CP Advance Plan came in response to a motion by Hans Wunch, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Ware Shoals, at last year’s annual meeting. Wunch’s motion that the convention moves toward a 50/50 CP division between the state and national convention was referred to the SCBC Executive Board for study. At the time, 40 percent of CP funding was going to the SBC.
In a lengthy report to the convention, Wilkins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bluffton, shared results from the committee’s detailed analysis of Cooperative Program giving by churches during the past decade. He cited two trends that gave them considerable concern:
— Dollar gifts received by churches from their members have grown annually at nearly double (4.68 percent) the rate that local churches have increased their Cooperative Program giving (2.73 percent).
— The percentage of undesignated receipts given by South Carolina churches through the Cooperative Program has declined every year, from 8.95 in 1997 to 7.74 in 2006.
In a comparative study with 11 other state conventions, Wilkins noted that South Carolina had the seventh largest budget and the 40 percent that it gives to the SBC places it behind three other states — Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia — in percentage giving. In total dollars, South Carolina ranked fifth among the other conventions studied, he added.
“We are very pleased with the work done by our state convention ministries and realize that it is important to continue this work and make it even better,” Wilkins said. “All of our research and meeting with leadership of our state convention led us to one very important conclusion: Whatever changes we make in the percentage given to the Southern Baptist Convention must not damage the excellent work being done in our state.
“As we discussed this matter, we believe that in the coming decade the missions and ministries of our state convention and institutions will only grow more important in building a strong home base for ministry in our state and to equip South Carolina Baptists to reach the world,” Wilkins continued.
In exploring its options, the committee decided to pursue the recommendation of the CP Advance Plan presented by the SBC’s Cooperative Program Task Force during its report to the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.
“As we studied this plan, we began to get excited about the potential that it offered,” Wilkins said, highlighting the fact that of the $1.2 million increase in South Carolina’s 2008 budget, $600,000 will go to the SBC. And, since the plan affects only future increases in budgets, the current level of funding for South Carolina Baptist institutions or the work of the state convention is not adversely affected, Wilkins explained.
“Another exciting aspect of this plan is that the percentage of dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention will increase as rapidly as our churches increase their gifts through the Cooperative Program,” Wilkins said. “This approach places the future percentage given to the Southern Baptist Convention in the hands of our churches as they choose to send more in Cooperative Program gifts.”
Wilkins observed that if each church would increase by 1 percent the amount its gives through the Cooperative Program, then the SCBC’s budget would increase by $4.2 million, resulting in $2.1 million more for the SBC.
“The key to sending more to the Southern Baptist Convention and having more for the work of the state convention ministries and our institutions is for churches to give more dollars through the Cooperative Program,” he emphasized.
In discussion following the committee’s recommendation, Kirby Winstead, director of missions for Pickens-Twelve Mile Baptist Association, offered a motion to increase the CP allocation for the SBC by 1 percent annually, beginning in 2009, until a 50 percent split between the national and state conventions is reached. The motion failed after extensive discussion.
Another motion offered would have changed the 55/25 percent split of budget gifts exceeding the budget requirements to a 40/40 split between the IMB and NAMB. The motion, offered by Bill Curtis, chairman of the NAMB trustees and pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, also failed.
A resolution on Christian responsibility in the public square urged pastors and church members to “become educated and informed about the moral issues we face in our nation today and whether the candidates for public office have a biblical or world view of these issues.”
Messengers, in another resolution, voiced “vigorous opposition” to gambling in all forms, specifically denouncing a high-stakes bingo operation proposed in South Carolina.
Characterizing predatory lending practices as “unscrupulous, unethical, and unchristian” because of excessively high fees and interest rates, a resolution encouraged churches to not only offer biblically based classes on Christian stewardship, but also to support legislation to place restrictions on these lenders.
Other resolutions addressed gang violence, homosexuality and sexually oriented businesses.
Building on the convention’s theme, “A Story to Tell,” new executive director-treasurer Jim Austin declared that South Carolina Baptists have a message to preach: “The whole Gospel to the whole world that all people might be whole.”
Austin, who joined the SCBC staff in May after serving as an associate director for Missouri Baptists, commended various state convention ministries that he has observed in his first few months. Among them were the 18,000 volunteers who have participated in the Appalachian partnership, 5,000 persons who have now been trained in disaster relief ministries, and the 559 workers who have served in South Asia thus far.
While rejoicing in the International Mission Board’s recent reports of surpassing 600,000 baptisms and 158,000 churches overseas, Austin noted, “The task before us is still enormous.”
In the United States, he observed, there has been a 1 percent decline in church attendance from 2000 to 2005, and only 23 percent of the population attends on a regular basis.
“We had 169 church starts, but to keep up with the population, 298 more were needed,” Austin said.
Eddie Leopard, pastor of Millbrook Baptist Church in Aiken, was elected as president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in an election that also included Richard Porter, pastor of Branchville Baptist Church.
David Little, director of missions for Lakelands Baptist Association, was elected first vice president in a runoff with Jim Oliver, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Roebuck. Quinn Hooks, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church, was the third nominee for first vice president.
Brian Harris, pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church in Blacksburg, was elected second vice president. Hans Wunch, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Ware Shoals also was nominated for the position.
Adrianne Smith, a retired ministry assistant for First Baptist Church in Greer, was elected by acclamation as recording secretary, and Terry Corder, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Church in Jefferson, was elected by acclamation as registration secretary.
Next year’s annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention will be Nov. 11-12 in Columbia.
Todd Deaton is managing editor of the Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.