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Southern Religion

New term; less giving?

By Steve DeVane

Some fear that the addition of “Great Commission Giving” to Southern Baptist terminology will disrupt the traditional Southern Baptists way of funding their ministries.

How? The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) recommended a new bundle of giving called “Great Commission Giving.” It would include both the traditional Cooperative Program funds and otherwise designated money sent to SBC causes, state conventions and local associations.

The Cooperative Program (CP) has been the cornerstone of SBC fund collection since 1925. Basically, state conventions collect money from churches. State conventions keep part of the money for state purposes, and send the rest to the SBC.

Norman Jameson, editor of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder, said in an editorial that the work of the SBC is the work of churches cooperatively.

“Changing nomenclature adds not a dollar in effect or motivation to missions,” he said. “But it will have the effect of sticking another drain in the vein of the Cooperative Program, to the demise of ministries North Carolina Baptists have birthed and nurtured for Jesus’ sake.”

Jameson points out that a number of recently elected SBC presidents were pastors of churches who gave less than 4 percent to the CP. He said those churches often give generously to other mission efforts.

“But the work of the Convention is the work of churches working cooperatively,” he said. “When the example is that the cooperative work does not merit support, the result is diminished support.”

Those seeking the SBC presidency “resent when their church’s anemic Cooperative Program giving is cited as evidence of paltry SBC support,” Jameson said.

“The ‘Great Commission Giving’ nomenclature suggested by the task force is a balm for their perceived injury,” he said. “But it is a dressing for disaster as it concerns the Cooperative Program.”

Jameson also mentions CP giving by the churches of the task force member, an issue which also came up earlier.

“When the average CP giving of task force member churches is less than five percent the report’s recommendation to ‘reaffirm the Cooperative Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries’ rings hollow,” he said. “Nothing leads like example.”

Jim Drake, a pastor from West Virginia, said he agrees with the task force’s reaffirmation of CP, but notes that other parts of the report “seem to undermine it.”

“Concerning designated gifts ‘counting’ as CP giving, this seems to be a non-issue for a rural, small-church pastor like me,” he said. “The fact that my church’s contributions to a local food bank, a crisis pregnancy center and a Bible in the Schools program don’t ‘count’ toward our 15% CP giving bears no impact on the furtherance of the Gospel.”

George Bullard has consulted with 50 different denominations and currently serves as general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance. He talks about the task force proposal to add Great Commission giving in several of his 30 observations about the group’s progress report.

“What a step towards the death of the Cooperative Program,” he said “What an accommodation to leaders and congregations who lack a core commitment to the Cooperative Program.”

Bullard said it’s inconsistent for the task force to want people to give 10 percent of their income to undesignated church causes, but not call for churches to do the same for the denomination.

Bullard said he has advocated for nearly 20 years that denominations should have as many as 12 funding streams around one foundational stream. But the task force’s strategy comes at such an effort from a position of weakness, he said, since it accommodates those who don’t support CP.

“They now want a category that will make them look good,” Bullard said. “It is not as altruistic and cutting edge as it sounds. It is a compromise.”

Ronnie Floyd, the chairman of the task force, sought to “bring greater clarity” to the issue with a post on his blog. The 374-word article reaffirms four times the CP, mentions three times that CP has priority, and twice each that it is primary and preferred, and also adds that CP is central and ultimate.

The Cooperative Program’s importance is clear. Not the necessity of performing surgery on it.

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March 5, 2010 - Posted by | SBC | ,

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