Southern Religion

Fundamentally, the voters determined health reform’s fate

Nate Silver digs statistically down to the root of it.

He does explore how complex the decision was. Truly complex.

Even so, pull retiring Democratic members of Congress out of the mix. That done, as the chart at right illustrates, and the best predictor of their Sunday votes was “the percentage of the vote that Barack Obama received in each congressional district in 2008.

The voters decided this one, it seems.

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical Care, Politics | , , | Comments Off on Fundamentally, the voters determined health reform’s fate

It’s official: States don’t like the GCR report

Opposition to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s progress report has become official. The Georgia Baptist Convention‘s Executive Committee voted to ask the task force to reconsider part of the document.

The head of another state convention said the report broke his heart.

The task force report affirms the Cooperative Program – Southern Baptists’ traditional method of collecting funds. State conventions collect CP funds from churches, keeping part and passing the rest on to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The GCR report also calls for a new category of giving called “Great Commission Giving” that would include CP, plus designated offerings to Southern Baptist, state convention and association causes.

The proposal has already been questioned by a Baptist editor, a pastor and a denominational expert.

David Lee, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said in a Baptist Press article that he is concerned that the new giving category will not enhance financial support.

“What this new proposal suggests is tantamount to the local church saying to members, ‘We would like for you to give to the general fund, but if you had rather designate your tithe for the pastor’s salary or the student ministry or to buy a new bus, that will be OK,'” Lee wrote. “I fear that this new designation has more to do with making some of us feel better about how we already do things than it does about calling us to a higher level of stewardship and missions commitment.”

The Georgia convention Executive Committee asked the task force to reconsider and clarify:

The wide application of the phrase ‘Great Commission Giving’ for monies given through the Cooperative Program as well as to designated causes may cause some Baptists to surmise wrongly that the Cooperative Program is merely a subset of giving instead of the primary means of missions giving for Southern Baptists. A reconsideration of terminology may bring clarity to the GCRTF’s desire to keep the Cooperative Program as the central means of support for Great Commission ministries, while still acknowledging the important role that designated gifts play in mission support.

The Georgia convention’s statement says it wants the task force to “formally encourage and challenge local churches specifically to increase their support and sacrificial giving through the Cooperative Program.”

J. Robert White, the executive director of the Georgia convention, is a member of the task force and talked about the Great Commission Giving when the group gave its report.

White promised Executive Committee members that he would “represent their sentiments as effectively as possible at the group’s next meeting on April 26 in Nashville,” according to the Index. In an earlier interview with the paper, White said that there is a “critical” need for Southern Baptists to recognize the need for Great Commission Giving.

“The time for unity is here. Let’s unite under the theme of ‘Great Commission Giving.’ Let’s do it for our missionaries. Let’s do it for our ministries. Let’s do it for our Jesus Who commanded that we take the Gospel to the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

White also said some feared the new designation would lead SBC entities to solicit funds directly from churches, which would violate the SBC Executive Committee’s business and finance plan.

“It is absolutely essential that the boards of trustees of our entities exercise strict control over their entities to see that direct solicitation among our churches does not happen. Such solicitation is a direct threat to the very existence of the Cooperative Program.”

The question is how many churches will decrease their CP giving because of the new terminology, even without solicitation. The church of the only announced candidate for SBC president didn’t need solicitation. Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has cut its CP giving from 10 percent to 3.5 percent, the Index reported.

The church’s pastor, Bryant Wright is running for president. The Index outlined the church’s giving patterns and noted a guest commentary in which Wright called for “a radical reprioritizing of Cooperative Program funds through our state conventions.”

Wright said state conventions which often use more than 60 percent of CP funds, should instead keep no more than 30 percent.

The task force report already calls for the North American Mission Board to end cooperative agreements with state conventions, a move that some say will kill smaller state conventions. The states would lose more than $50 million if the agreements end.

“One of the key elements missing from this report is what has been the marquee of Southern Baptist success in doing missions — cooperation,” Lee said. “Despite the call for unity, this new strategy will in essence pit the national SBC entities against state conventions and local associations, making us compete for resources.”

Replacing the Cooperative Program with any type of competitive program will bring about an official desurgence.

March 22, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | Comments Off on It’s official: States don’t like the GCR report