A Task Force on Cooperation was approved unanimously by the presidents of Southern Baptist Convention entities and executive directors of state Baptist conventions at the conclusion of a July 26 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
The meeting was moderated by Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Wyndell O. Jones, president of the Association of State Baptist Executive Directors. The meeting was conducted according to press background rules, meaning that no one would be quoted directly and individual attribution would not be given. It was also decided that only Chapman and Jones, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa, would issue statements to the news media. The statement noted that the meeting was held at the invitation of Chapman and Jones.
The eight-member task force, according to the motion made for its formation, will "be initiated for on-going dialogue between the presidents of SBC entities and executive directors of the state Baptist conventions," the statement by Chapman and Jones reported.
"This dialogue will include, but not be limited to: the future of cooperation; the Cooperative Program; strategies that will cultivate and strengthen cooperative relations and assist in engaging a new generation of Southern Baptists in cooperation," the motion stated.
The motion was made by John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, the Chapman-Jones statement reported.
Four representatives of the SBC entities on the Task Force on Cooperation will be the president of the International Mission Board; the president of the North American Mission Board; the chairman of the Council of Seminary Presidents; and the president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee.
Representing the Association of State Baptist Executive Directors will be its president and three executive directors to be appointed by the association's president.
Jones said July 31 he is appointing to the task force Carlisle Driggers of the South Carolina Baptist Convention; Robert White of the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia; and Anthony Jordan of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
The motion named Chapman, as Executive Committee president, as chairman of the Task Force on Cooperation.
"It was decided the Task Force would report to a combined meeting of the state Baptist executive directors and SBC entity presidents in February 2001," the statement by Chapman and Jones noted.
The reason for the meeting, Chapman said, was "to provide both groups an open forum to discuss present and future needs in Southern Baptist life."
Said Jones, "It is the sincere desire on the part of the Executive Directors to build trust and to work together in promoting the Cooperative Program through the Convention." The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' unified channel for supporting missions and ministry in the state conventions and worldwide.
"The State Conventions wish to work in partnership to build the Kingdom of God," Jones said, "and be the missionary force God wants us to be."
The statement noted, "Each state convention and the SBC are autonomous bodies that historically have worked together through partnerships to assist Southern Baptist churches throughout the United States in evangelism, missions, and ministries."
Said Chapman, "Because Southern Baptist polity is not hierarchical, but autonomous, keeping lines of communication open between the SBC and the state conventions is vital to our work. If we hope for Southern Baptists to remain faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission, we must talk and work together as genuine partners. At least, this is what our forefathers envisioned years ago, and, in my opinion, should continue today. For the partnership to hold fast and remain effective, Southern Baptist leaders must doggedly determine to do so purposefully, and not leave it to happenstance."
Chapman, of the July 26 meeting, also recounted, "The vast part of the day-long discussion centered on cooperation and communication. It appeared that everyone wants to find ways to improve both elements that are profoundly critical to succeeding under an autonomous polity. I was encouraged by the substance and tone of the day. Very candid concerns were expressed, but it was done in a spirit of brotherhood. I am optimistic about continued efforts to enhance the cooperation that always has been so important to Southern Baptists."
Chapman also noted after the meeting, "Among other topics discussed, it was strongly agreed that leaders throughout the SBC need to do a better job educating a new generation of Southern Baptists about the Cooperative Program."
Concerning the Task Force on Cooperation, Chapman continued by saying, "My impression is that everyone who attended the meeting wants the task force to discuss every facet of cooperation and eventually recommend avenues to be taken in improving cooperation in a generation where individualism is often trumpeted to the exclusion of team and family. The group that met in Nashville is not an official body in Southern Baptist life, therefore any recommendations coming from the Task Force will be informally considered as an agreement among the bodies represented."