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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Plans to increase Cooperative Program support were embraced by 17 state Baptist conventions in their annual meetings this fall.
The Cooperative Program is the channel by which Southern Baptists cooperatively send and support domestic and international missionaries, fund six theological seminaries that train pastors, missionaries and other ministry leaders, offer a voice for social and ethical issues and religious liberty, as well as provide relief for retired ministers and widows.
Southern Baptists in Arizona, the Dakotas, Louisiana and Ohio embraced the CP Advance Plan that moves state conventions toward giving an increasing percentage of receipts to SBC mission causes. When the Cooperative Program was begun in 1925, Southern Baptists intended for state conventions to share half of the receipts from local churches with SBC ministries. Currently, the portion sent beyond a state convention to the SBC ranges from 54 percent in Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to 13.21 percent in Minnesota-Wisconsin.
In Arkansas, a Ministry Task Force report was approved to increase the portion sent beyond the state to the SBC by .2 percent during each of five years in order to reach 42.77 percent by 2012. New England Baptists plan to increase the portion of receipts for SBC outreach by a quarter of a percent in the years ahead.
Other states passing increases to the SBC portion of CP receipts include California (up .75 percent of budget), Indiana (up .2 percent), Kentucky (up .35 percent), Michigan (up .5 percent), Missouri (up .25 percent), Nevada (up .5 percent), New England (up .25 percent), New York (up .25 percent) Penn-Jersey (up .1 percent) Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (up 1 percent), Utah-Idaho (up .5 percent), and West Virginia (up .5 percent). North Carolina’s two-year budget continues a half percentage point increase to SBC causes.
A 10/10 Cooperative Program Strategy passed by Colorado Baptists encourages all Colorado Baptist churches to increase their percentage of giving to 10 percent by the end of 2010. Kentucky Baptists also approved the nine-point CP-related recommendations adopted by the SBC during its annual meeting last June. West Virginia Baptists were commended for exemplary giving as a part of fulfilling Executive Director Terry Harper’s dream of the budget allocation for SBC reaching 40 percent, with a long-term goal of 50 percent. Similarly, New York and Ohio Baptists leaders are moving those conventions toward a 50/50 split of CP funds.
Maryland-Delaware Baptists will send 75 percent of receipts over the anticipated $5.1 million in CP giving. Louisiana Baptists will forward half of all receipts in excess of budget requirements and resolved to call on every congregation to prayerfully consider annual increases not only in the amount of dollars given, but also in percentage allocated. Other state conventions adding a plan to send half of all budget overage to the SBC include New Mexico and South Carolina.
Illinois Baptists allowed a greater number of budget items to be excluded from the ratio of CP dollars sent to the SBC while assuring messengers of an effort to move toward a 50/50 split between the IBSA and SBC.
In other changes to state convention operating procedures, both Arkansas and Penn-Jersey approved recommendations to consider regionalizing state convention ministries.
Several state conventions considered changes to affiliation requirements for member churches while one disqualified particular churches based on an existing expectation.
California Baptists altered wording on the messenger registration card to identify a cooperating church as one in agreement with the Baptist Faith & Message instead of prior language that read: “has not adopted articles of faith in conflict” with BF&M. A second motion inserted a sentence to be signed indicating the church’s compliance with membership requirements of the CSBC constitution. A motion clarifying that the BF&M refers to the version most recently adopted by the SBC was referred to the 2007 annual meeting.
In Tennessee, messengers affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and added a question about the statement of beliefs when nominees are considered for committees and boards, with each nominee’s answer to be provided to messengers.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina specified that member churches do not support homosexuality and do not allow homosexuals to be members until they repent. By a three-quarters margin, North Carolina messengers voted to add a statement to the articles of incorporation noting that, “Among churches not in friendly cooperation with the Convention are churches which knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior. The Board of Directors shall apply this provision. A church has a right to appeal any adverse action taken by the Board of Directors.”
Michigan Baptists heard a motion that will be considered next year to not seat messengers from churches that endorse or affirm homosexuality. A second motion due for debate in 2007 proposed adding a messenger for each $1,000 a church gives to the Cooperative Program.
Missouri Baptist Convention disqualified 19 local churches due to ties with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or a rival Baptist General Convention of Missouri that is not recognized by the SBC. MBC is unique in its approach to require single alignment, with no such requirement in either of the two state conventions operating in Virginia and in Texas.
For the second time, the Baptist General Association of Virginia received a Georgia Baptist church requesting affiliation across the border. Southern Baptists of Texas Convention referred to its executive board consideration of a request to receive churches from contiguous states holding membership in Texas Baptist associations.
Arkansas Baptists asked their constitution and bylaws committee to consider eliminating from the convention’s articles of incorporation the statement that BF&M shall not be interpreted as permitting open communion and/or alien immersion.
In several state conventions, strained relationships with educational institutions arose in the conduct of business. Tennessee Baptists were updated regarding the ongoing dispute with Belmont University for becoming self-perpetuating in its governance. Messengers heard how that action triggered a repayment clause included in a 1951 agreement, leading TBC to file a lawsuit seeking to reclaim more than $50 million in Cooperative Program funds allocated to Belmont since its founding.
Georgia Baptists finalized their split with Mercer University. Baptist General Association of Virginia messengers challenged a proposed budget that recommended funding reductions for any entity receiving 5 percent or less of its budget from BGAV, choosing to increase Bluefield College to $307,000, up slightly over last year’s allocation while cutting the portion given Fork Union Military Academy and Hargrave Military Academy to $10,000 each as recommended by the budget committee. Both academies were described as mature institutions with operational surpluses.
North Carolina Baptists voted to escrow funding for the Baptist Retirement Homes until a dispute over the relationship is resolved regarding BRH naming its own trustees. BSCNC-affiliated educational institutions were granted the right to select up to one-third of their trustees who are active Christians but not Baptists, although the convention nominating committee can still reject any nominee. Non-educational institutions, meanwhile, may choose to nominate up to half of their trustees, the BSCNC board of directors can then reduce the Cooperative Program funds allocated to that entity by the same percentage.
Two state conventions celebrated centennial anniversaries, including the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Illinois Baptist State Association. The BGCO presented a parade of choirs, music and ministry highlights from the last 100 years. Illinois Baptists heard challenges to declare their dependence on God in reaching the millions of unsaved people in the state.
Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia celebrated their 10th anniversary, honoring individuals and churches that organized the second convention in the state in 1996. With nearly 500 affiliated churches, SBCV gives half of its CP receipts to the SBC.
Kansas-Nebraska Baptists celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Webster Conference Center.
Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists celebrated its 50-year partnership with Texas Baptists, responding to MWBC Executive Director Leo Endel’s challenge to “give God our best” to reach goals in 10 key areas. According to Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Editor David Williams, the Baptist General Convention of Texas “put MWBC on notice that contributions will reduce each year and end in 2010,” having contributed as much as $200,000 a year during the partnership.
Among the challenges voiced was concern for the state convention’s financial stability. “If nothing changes,” Endel told the convention, MWBC stands to lose as much as $700,000 a year through a declining trend in Cooperative Program giving from the churches and the loss of BGCT support.
Messengers approved a resolution expressing gratitude to Texas Baptists for their 50-year partnership and pledged to work diligently to further the vision Endel cast in meeting the goals for the convention’s future. MWBC President Shelby Alcott agreed with the need for the state convention to “stand on our own two feet” and asked churches to increase the percentage given to CP, a challenge he said he intends to carry to his own church.
An issue dominating business during one session of BGCT’s meeting was the revelation several weeks earlier that the convention had lost $1.3 million over the past six years as three church-starting pastors allegedly took funds given to plant new congregations. Executive Director Charles Wade told messengers the BGCT staff and executive board will work toward “righting the wrongs” that occurred in the Rio Grande Valley. Two members of BGCT’s church-starting staff resigned within the month prior to the annual meeting and another resigned last year to head the church planting institute founded by one of the pastors accused of misdeeds.
Wade told the convention, “You have my pledge in the coming year you will have my very best in meeting the challenges before us.” Five motions presented by the executive board were approved that institute recommendations of an investigatory panel, implement a process for internal audits, elevate church-starting guidelines to the level of policy and seek reconciliation and restitution of misused or misappropriated funds.
A pastor’s motion to have the BGCT turn over an internal investigation report to government authorities was ruled out of order by BGCT President Michael Bell. Because the incident did not arise out of any action of the annual meeting, Bell said it could not be handled by the convention, but only the executive board, which gave that responsibility to Bell and Wade. Several weeks later, Wade announced plans to meet with law enforcement officials to pass along the full report, allowing for the possibility of criminal prosecution.