Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Cooperative Program has some problems? A little perspective provided by the CBF

The main alternative for moderate and liberal former or fringe Southern Baptists has always been the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship - the group founded by Cecil Sherman and the other Gatlinburg Gang guys to handle the 40% or so of SBCers who didn't like the Conservative Resurgence. Well, the 40% never was and never will be. How about 10%...5%? Nope. Maybe 1% if you look at the funding.

CBF leader seeks to rally churches to make up missions-offering shortfall

While various SBC voices proclaim the beginning of the end of the Cooperative Program if the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations are passed, as if a funding stream greater than a half-billion dollars will dry up, the CBF is heading southward from five million dollars and field missionary personnel are in danger of losing the ability and funding to "perform their jobs adequately." Precipitous might be a good word to use concerning the CBF budget drop.

The SBC's venerable Cooperative Program has been declining (as a % of church offerings) for two generations. That may be lamentable, but at least it can be put that in perspective.

The other noteworthy thing in the ABP piece linked above is this quote from Rob Nash, global missions coordinator of the CBF:

"The truth of the matter is that churches are telling us that they want to fund missions differently," Nash said. "Certainly they want to continue to have career field personnel who are fully funded by CBF. However, churches also want to support field personnel directly."

What? The CBF listens to what churches want and how churches want to do missions? Sounds so "bottom up" doesn't it?

It might be heresy but maybe the SBC, especially some of those who are so eager to condemn change and reestablish the SBC of the 1950s, could learn from the CBF.


foxofbama said...

Dr. Thornton: I thought I would put your thoughts in some perspective. I was looking for a link to Tony Cartledge report from the CBF of NC last fall where I think there were 7,000 in attendance, just a few folks short of what is expected in Orlando in a few weeks for the national SBC,but I could be mistaken.

I did come across this, a grand essay by Buddy Shurden in 2001 on ten years of the CBF anniversary.
And excerpt; Enjoy:

As our great grandchildren look back on us from the vantage point of the year 2101, the cardinal question will not be: did CBF live and survive? The only important question is: did the principle endure? Will we live it out? Will we push it forward? Fighting for freedom is a heady and intoxicating thing. But squandering freedom appears to be an inevitable thing. The natural evolution of freedom in Christian history is that it gets crushed by the juggernauting forces of creedalism, sacerdotalism, and centralization, by people who speak glibly and cavalierly about knowing God's will. And then the fight for freedom breaks out all over again.

So we got out with our lives. But we also got out with treasured principles. If we had kept the gold and the silver and lost our heritage, we would have lost more than the battle; we would have lost the war. Baptists cannot live by bread alone or by brick and stone alone, either. Ideas matter. Fundamentalists and moderates had different ideas. And those ideas work themselves out in church life and denominational life in vastly different ways. If there really is no difference in the SBC and the CBF except who is in charge, we ought to close this thing down and go back and accept our role as submissive losers in a war over gold and silver. But there was something more at stake than gold and silver. Convictions were involved.

So, we got out with our lives. And we got out with the principles. But we also got out with each other, with other lives, good and decent and, in some cases, fearless, lives.. And that's the second reason it has been a decade of promise. We didn't get out with the most people, and we didn't get out with all the good people, but we got out with some very good people. And that is of no small moment when you remember what lives we got out with: Duke McCall and Grady Cothen, Foy Valentine and Keith Parks, Carolyn Crumpler and James Dunn, Randall Lolley and Russell Dilday, Jimmy Allen and Roy Honeycutt. Most of our administrators came with us, though some of the best of those got tongue-tied and stumbled at places along the way.

And most of those who taught us came with us. In a sense they had no choice! We were doing and saying what they had taught us to do and say. So Frank Stagg and Glenn Hinson and Ken Chafin and Morris Ashcraft and Henlee Barnette and Alan Neely and Wayne Oates and the list could go on and on of our teachers who came with us.

But there were also pastor-types who rode the lead horses and performed valiantly in the trenches: Jim Slatton and Don Harbuck and Lavonn Brown and Bill Sherman and Bill Bruster and John Jeffers and Daniel Vestal and especially, especially Cecil Sherman. Maligned by some even on our side of the aisle as "too abrasive," Cecil Sherman was right more times on more issues in SBC life in the 1980s and 1990s than any other single person I know.

He was right to call the Gatlinburg Gang together to resist the attitude of control.

Spiritual Samurai said...


Nice blog. I did not attend the founding meeting of the CBF. I did, however, support it and encouraged giving to it until it too began to change.

Steve, Sherman was right, as long as it was about our values and principles, the CBF thrived, however, when it became apparent that the princes and princess who where thrown from power were hell bent to create another SBC, many of us decided what's the use.

If you would take a survey of those pastors who once supported the CBF you would find that this is the biggest reason they quit.

As one very dedicated moderate friend of mine (and yes I still have a few) said, "If you are not a related to a former SBC administrator or are a middle aged white male, you had better keep your mouth shut at a CBF meeting."

This is what is killing the CBF.

Lee said...

There are several factors involved in all of this for both CBF and the SBC. Nash's statement is correct, as far as it goes. But whether churches fund traditional mission programs that support field personnel, or individual churches get involved in that, the international missions paradigm has shifted. Indigenous work has taken root in a lot of places, and is far more effective than having someone from the United States come, supervise the work, provide a little money and a lot of control. Most non-denominational missions like Campus Crusade and New Tribes have already made the shift. Whether or not the SBC and CBF will do it is a matter directly related to their future effectiveness.

The CBF's decline, which on a per-capita basis is creating a much deeper financial crisis than that of the SBC's drop-off in CP giving, is due to the nature of the organization. The Spiritual Samurai alludes to the "princes and princesses" of the former SBC. Part of the problem with the formation of CBF was that, from the very beginning, it designed itself to rescue the strutters and posers from former SBC leadership, and tried to create jobs and places where the prominente could still be prominente, the self-important could still get their name and picture in the Baptist paper, and set about to rescue ousted executive leadership. What they failed to recognize was that the whole issue wasn't theology, and that there was a general perception across the denomination that many of those entrenched executives and bureaucrats in high paying denominational jobs weren't worth the money and hadn't been hired because of what they could do, but because of who they knew. The old expression, when I was in college, was that denominational jobs were for former pastors who "couldn't preach their way out of a paper bag." Having heard some of those denominational execs preach, I'd agree with that. And what has CBF done to prove that it is "a new way to be Baptist," and that it isn't just a small attempt to recreate the old SBC structure for the job grab? You tell me, because I don't see anything. Parham and the BCE keep telling us that they are exactly what their critics say they are every time they vent their continued hostility toward the SBC.

foxofbama said...

Lee is mistaken, but I doubt I can change his mind. But for fair minded folks who may come here and read this exchange I do hope they will copy and paste this url so they can get the entirety of Buddy Shurden's Remarks.

Lee has a small frame for what happenned. CBF is not perfect but it is much better than the Texas Regulars Southern Baptist Convention of Judge Pressler and Paige Patterson.
Lee may want to engage the discussion further in the moderate critique discussion at faith and practice.
In the meantime I challenge all fair minded folks to consider Shurden in full:

Norm said...

Was Self correct? Alliance, even with its progressive theology, is a closed system, and CBF is more and more becoming such. The treatment of Killinger was shameful and a reminder that CBF leadership needs to cease playing the role of parent and allow the adults to interact as adults with other adults, even those in which there is disagreement. And for heaven’s sake, cease asking the question, “how is this going to play in Texas or in dually-aligned (i.e., SBC-CBF) churches?” As Carter once said at a CBF meeting, “forget them.” Be that “other way” even when it attenuates the bottom line. Tell me what you have done with the money. I am an adult; I expect results will be hard-won and slow, and mostly modest when present at all. Were we baptist committed to cooperation and dialogue and faithful with resources in light of such? Can I ask for anything else from a baptist entity? When the organization demonstrates such a commitment, it will likely attract those looking for a baptist in which to have fellowship.

Lee said...

A small frame? Considering how few Baptists, even among the 40% which regularly voted against the Conservative Resurgence in the decade before CBF formed, have signed on, I'd say the frame you are working with is the small one. The Alliance did pass the 100 church mark, barely, with some help from a few ABC-USA congregations. CBF may have as many as 150 uniquely aligned churches out of its claim of 1,700 contributing. That's part of the problem, and Norm alludes to it. How do you build an identity separate from the SBC when 90% of your supporting churches still belong to it, and most of them contribute more to SBC causes than to CBF causes, as evidenced clearly by the budget? And how do you build an identity separate from the SBC when your leadership is made up largely of ex-SBC leaders, many of whom are motivated by a desire to get back at least some of the prestige and prominence they lost when they got pushed out of the limelight? And when the current generation of leaders, now in their 60's and 70's, passes on, will CBF survive? What happens when Vestal is no longer on the scene? There are few "young" leaders stepping up, either that, or there are few dollars left to pay executive salaries and the old crowd intends to hang on to them as long as they can, keeping the young leaders from ascending.

Sorry, Fox, but if I live to be 70, I think I'll outlive CBF, and I'm 52 now.

foxofbama said...

Where is the SBC conversation and luncheon comparable to the one Robert Parham is having with Franklin Graham?