How to kill a state convention in four years [Update]
Posted by SteveDeVane at 10:11 PM
A recommendation in the Southern Baptist Convention‘s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force progress report would be a “death sentence” for some state Baptist conventions and harm others, a state executive said.
Others have also raised concerns about a proposal that would end cooperative agreements between the North American Mission Board contributions and state conventions over four years. The move would cut $50.6 million that NAMB sends to state conventions each year.
Joseph Bunce, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, said in an article for Baptist Press that some parts of the report concern him.
“I would rather not take my concerns item-by-item at this point, but highlight one area that, if the report is adopted as-is, would create a huge dilemma for our state convention and dismantle other Western state conventions,” he said.
Bunce points out that once the cooperative agreements end, missionaries that have been jointly funded by NAMB and state conventions would come under the direct supervision of NAMB, rather than the state conventions as they have historically.
“This is huge for New Mexico and is a death sentence for other Western state conventions,” he said. “For example, if jointly funded missionaries were removed from the Wyoming Convention staff, only one out of the eight people serving in their leadership could be supported by the Wyoming Convention.”
According to the 2010 NAMB Ministry Report, 3,666 of the 5,304 NAMB missionaries operate “under various levels of cooperative funding with state conventions and local associations.”
Bunce noted that the report calls for states to adjust their budgets, which would reduce the amount forwarded to the SBC.
“I find it very difficult to understand this logic, as state conventions have been chided for not sending on more gifts for work outside their respective states,” Bunce said. “Now we are told to keep more dollars in-state to pay for our own staffs, rather than have jointly funded missionaries.”
The progress report said, “When churches give more through the Cooperative Program and state conventions keep less of it within their respective states, and a compelling unified Gospel vision is cast for Southern Baptists, we will see giving through the Cooperative Program increase in a major way.”
Bunce pointed out that the report is not final. And Tim Patterson, chairman of the NAMB trustees, told Baptist Press that the GCR task force is leaving the particulars of implementing the plan to NAMB’s trustees. He said NAMB will still work under cooperative agreements and will still work with state conventions as highly valued partners.
“The states will absolutely take on a greater role than ever before,” Patterson said. “Their responsibilities will increase as NAMB becomes much more of a facilitator than a program provider.”
But the progress report says that any future partnerships involving financial support, would be “project-driven, meaning these projects must be driven by the North American missional strategy and fulfill the direct mission and priorities of the North American Mission Board. Additionally, any funding must be streamlined, since the North American Mission Board will become the leader in reaching North America.”
Jim Drake, pastor of Brushfork Baptist Church in Bluefield, West Va., wrote in a blog post about the possibility that NAMB would stop sending money to state conventions.
“I wonder how this will impact small conventions like West Virginia’s,” he said. “My initial impression is that support will continue, but with far less state autonomy.”
George Bullard, who has consulted with 50 different denominations, said in one of 20 observations he made about the report that he thinks the state conventions will “manage their budgets accordingly” as the report suggests when they lose national cooperative agreement funds.
“They will adjust Cooperative Program percentage to replace what they feel is essential,” he said.
Bullard said that he agrees the cooperative agreement system needs revision.
“But, it does not need eliminating,” he said.
Even worse, eliminating the program would eliminate some state conventions.
Scott Brewer is president of the 425-church Northwest Baptist Convention. He wrote that money the Northwest convention would stand to lose from NAMB is a large part of the convention’s budget. Brewer, whose convention consists of Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho, said:
Obviously this raises questions about the future of state conventions that exist outside of the South. I’m not sure how a large southern state convention would be impacted by this but our convention would be radically impacted.
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