Monday, May 17, 2010

What do you get for $7,774,046 in Cooperative Program gifts?

What do you get for giving almost eight million dollars to the Cooperative Program over the last ten years?

If you are Bryant Wright, pastor of megachurch Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and candidate for SBC president next month in Orlando, you get kicked in your very nice set of pearly whites. In the past month or so, you cannot have missed a number of bloggers and articles that have been critical of Wright's church CP giving.

What's to criticize? Well, here are some of JFBC’s giving stats for the past decade:

Georgia Baptist Convention – $7,774,046 (CP)
• International Mission Board Lottie Moon – $5,548,547. The church was the top giver to Lottie Moon in 2005, 2007, and 2008.
• Noonday Association (1 percent of our annual budget) – $1,348,898
• Annie Armstrong Offering – $109,249
• Georgia Baptist Children’s Home – $135,278
• Truett-McConnell College (a GBC school) – $13,408
• New Orleans Seminary (Hurricane Katrina Relief) – $35,000

I understand that some SBCers are stuck on the Cooperative Program as something to which churches must contribute at least a certain percentage of their offerings (10% is the figure I’ve heard mentioned most) or not be considered a genuinely cooperative church but where is the profit in criticizing a church whose denominational giving record is absolutely stellar?

There are four candidates for SBC president now. Not to be presumptuous but there are three major candidates – Wright, Ted Traylor, and Jimmy Jackson – and one minor candidate – Leo Endel. The first three are megachurch pastors; the last a state executive.

Wright’s church gives 3.9% to the Cooperative Program, Traylor 10.1%, and Jackson 4.64%. Traylor’s church cut their CP percentage by about one half since he became pastor but that was some years ago. All of these are healthy percentages, hefty dollars, and demonstrate sufficient SBC support.

It was from the lips of the golden-voiced Adrian Rogers that I first heard the pithy saying that “dollars pay bills, not percentages.” It was true 30 years ago. The same is true now. $7.77 million pays a lot of bills.

We will have another megachurch pastor elected as SBC president in Orlando next month. All of the candidates look good to me. Bryant Wright looks best to me.

The Christian Index has a handy comparison of the three here.


Norm said...

Norm: Whereas you are a good bit of the problem, William, and such has come to closely touch you concerning Jonathan, that does not preclude you having a case that deserves consideration. On the substance of the economic realities facing the US, I favor the arguments advanced by Bruce and agree that Jonathan is out of the mainstream of much, current economic thinking. Jonathan would do well to avoid unnecessary editorial comments having nothing to do with his arguments, which doing so would be to engage in dialogue in a manner that he often criticizes others for not doing. Sharing with others that one regularly laughs at one’s perspective and then complain that others seldom interact at a desired level is a bit, well, it is behavior that is working in opposite directions. Having said that, although representing a far-right economic perspective, Jonathan represents a perspective that a good many people adhere to and it helps to become more cognizant of his and their point of view. He/they is/are never fully wrong even if his/their perspective is at times irrelevant. And whereas the now again emerging Keynesian view is relevant and beneficial, it still leaves unexplained variance, and absent criticism, how do we or would we even proceed to question assumptions and thus potentially advance economic theory? Thus culling his voice from the conversation is not wise. Love is patient. And Bruce, you simply need to be more patient. Love is generous. And Jonathan, you simply need to be more generous.

I am concerned that Jonathan called Bruce a liar, as I am also concerned that Bruce titles his website an “online community” but continues to use the metaphor/or even the reality that BaptistLife is his living room. He and Timothy have used this concept repeatedly and subsequent decisions based on this belief have not helped the viability of said forum. Given that neither have seriously considered (as manifested by transparent forum behavior) legitimate tensions in the community (that have been ill-manifested by those on the right and the left and ill-handled by moderators on the right and left alike, too) and that moderators will not fully explain their decisions to the community, and has on at least one occasion has shared that such is not necessary, it is not appropriate for BaptistLife to be promoted as an online community, and Bruce should cease promoting BL as such.

The idea that Jonathan has or is banning himself is the type of argument that moderates found distasteful when, then, fundamentalists stated that moderate lack of participation in the SBC was due to their behavior/belief, not due to fundamentalist behavior. That is, fundamentalists stated that moderates banned themselves from leadership participation in the SBC. It was a spurious argument then as it is a spurious argument now that Jonathan has banned himself.

Jonathan is guilty of poor form. Bruce rightfully should recognize such, for he has engaged in such, too, in the past. But if throwing stones is justified because it happens in one’s living room, then one should perhaps refrain from inviting people into one’s living room if one’s wishes to more consistently follow Christ’s teachings. That one has been inconsistent, and who has not, is a pretty good reason to be a bit more patient and forgiving of others that demonstrate such. This is not an argument against consequence, but if Bruce wishes to promote community then he, too, must be subject to the penalties that he fashions for others. Yes, Bruce pays the bills, but does anyone think that he receives or has received nothing for this, yes laudable, behavior?

If BL wants a more reasoned and civil community, assuming it desires an online community, then it needs to put the community to work policing itself and demand a system in which its moderators are appointed by the community and are accountable to the community. That is the baptist way.

William Thornton said...

Good to hear from you, Norm.

Given that you cannot post this stuff on BaptistLife, and given that some of the BL folks would be interested in your opinion, I don't mind providing the venue for such on this occasion.

I wish you well.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

William - good luck with your blog. I will be an avid reader. I know you and I don't see eye to eye on many things, but I consider you one of the good guys. You have been one of the few pastors out there who has actually extended me any sort of grace (during the slyons unveiling last year), so I have grown to respect your views on things in the SBC.

foxofbama said...

I never knew who Norm was, so maybe he will remind us or tell us a little more about himself.
Even so it risks hijacking the thrust of this particular blog on Mega Church and the CP.
I doubt, William, you want to indulge your site here as a cleanup from leftover matters at; but since Norm weighed in here, a discussion or a blog on that particular matter would get some audience I'd have to imagine.

foxofbama said...

Serious question for Bryant Wright:
Where does he come down on the church state matter as it is now being played out in the Texas School Board wars.
I have talked personally to Tucker Carlson about it when he visitted Upstate SC recently.
And Tony Cartlege of has recently blogged about it.
Either George Truett matterred or he didn't and I think it fair to ask Wright where he comes down on this matter before the election in Orlando.

Norm said...

Fox: I never knew who Norm was, so maybe he will remind us or tell us a little more about himself.

Norm: He was the one, Fox, that repeatedly defended you when the BL moderators treated you harshly and unjustly. As I remember, about the only one doing so and enough to draw the ire of the moderators. Given that such is now forgotten and apparently unappreciated, is there anything I can say that would interest you, Stephen? Second, I don’t think you are one to make a credible case about hijacking a thread. Third, I do, however, thank William for allowing an off-topic post to remain, especially given the situation that he currently decries (and a large part occasioning his resignation as a BL moderator) is part of his making. Better late to decry heavy-handedness than to remain silent forever. Much easier to do so when one is not personally involved, however. Fourth, my interest in posting is not to litigate the past, but for posters at BL to ask whether they desire an online community, and if so, to ask if the present leadership processes are consistent with such. If the response to both questions is the affirmative, it makes little sense to ban Jonathan, given his behavior is no worse in this situation than that of some moderators’ behaviors, met with impunity mind you, of the recent past. From a norm-referenced perspective one wonders why he was banned, but such is somewhat more understandable (but not rising to the apparent level of punishment) from a criterion-referenced perspective. But if the latter perspective is operative, then the moderators need to explain some moderator behavior and why said variances are excused and Jonathan’s are not. Something that BL moderators, to date, do not do. While it was William’s bull that was gorged in this instance, he was, still, wise to remove himself in protest from leadership. Perhaps now he will advocate for ‘other’ bulls, too, and be a more consistent voice. It’s just a bulletin board; nonetheless, theology is being worked out … by those on both sides of the issue. Realizing one’s own shortcomings and past participation in unjust decisions has a tendency to round out a few hard edges and bring about a greater degree of humility and sensible action. I think Jesus calls it being meek. That we all would be more so.

Norm said...

Timothy: Unfortunately ... I've seen this [i.e., protest] happen just about any time someone is banned ....

Norm: Unfortunately? And if people perceive an action is unjust we are to dismiss their instinct to protest as unfortunate? But then one would argue that the protest is unfounded, no? Who controls the narrative and how much weight is given to those not in a position to assert influence?

Just about any time? Polite-speak, but not so humble, way of stating: “We rule. Really. And that’s the story. It’s history.” But is history and the punctuation of interaction that lacking in nuance? How often is X explained by X alone?

Timothy: A person is banned ... and eventually it quiets down ....

Norm: “It quiets down.” And we are left with the implicit: So what? Where is the “let’s step back and ask, ‘why is this happening, especially among the long-time regulars?’”

Timothy: ... ALL other forums I moderate ... when someone is banned attacks [sic] on the moderators or site owners are not allowed. ... All public discussion about banning is disallowed.

Norm: And this is a goal for a baptist discussion community? No questioning of leadership? No discussion of an important matter that impacts the functioning of the community? Bruce ‘owns’ the space, but he does not own the community. If the people are not allowed to function as community (or criticized for desiring such which seems implicit above), then they need to leave the space, otherwise they cannot make a legitimate claim to being a community.

Timothy: A lot of the back and forth ... because Bruce is ... tolerant ... He makes the rules. ... by his gracious choice to have this forum ... you can't call me a liar in my own home and expect to be welcome in it ... I'd show you the door and remind you of where my property line is.

Norm: Then, again, the people are not allowed to function as community. For if this is an online community it should be about the property of all, not just the one. Again, Bruce foots the bill, but there is benefit for him by doing so. Apparently many are comfortable with the fact that he benefits from the labors of forum participants but in return does not allow any meaningful participation in how the site is managed.

Concerning back and forth. It may not be Methodist, but it is surely baptist. It is not extraordinary that a baptist allows for such, for such is a defining feature of the ‘brand’, that is, it is axiomatic. It is rooted in the priesthood of the believer and being a priest to each other; there is an implicit need to hear the other as other as often as we must in order to develop a high regard for him or her. It is not that the other will or must change that we listen. The goal is for us to change, instead. For me it will be a life-long task. I pray for patience, for the trial in which to exercise it already exists.

Timothy: ... pay for and provide gratis as a free service, ... "free" forum.

Norm: Jonathan showed poor form. Bruce has admitted to intentionally pushing buttons in the past. Both have pushed buttons. Does owning the site, notwithstanding arguments about community, provide the necessary moral ground to ban the visitor for what is accepted in the home for self? Let’s jettison arguments about rights shall we, and Ask the Question, instead.

Concerning free or ‘free.’ Again, Bruce is not the only one providing for this forum. Much time and energy from a host of participants is needed to ensure its viability. Both financial and human capital are needed. Perhaps some moderators would do well to think of participants as more than the hired help that ought to be grateful for and submissive to any portion that management deems sufficient. As long as the owner and moderators (owner proxies) think of BL as their ‘property’, it makes little sense to speak in terms of community and shared responsibility for civil discussion. The problems at BL are systemic, structural, and based on questionable basic assumptions. Who is next?

William said...

May I suggest that you guys find another venue to continue this BLife insider baseball game after today.


Jon L. Estes said...

Since it is still today, I'll throw in two comments.

1 - I find myself agreeing with Norm for the first time.
2 - I doubt anyone can remember why I was banned. HINT: It wasn't my disagreement with Norm or his not asking what I meant but pushed for my being banned.

Norm said...

Norm: Jon, I don't oppose the concept of banning, given reasons that are justifiable, nor was I a party in your banning. As I recall there was another person behind the scene working for your ousting, which was revealed on the forum after your removal. But hindsight is often greater than foresight and I do acknowledge, shamefully, that I contributed to the development of a culture at BL in which generosity is typically partisan, which occasions an attenuation of effort in hearing the other. Take questionable participant behavior (to include the regular and the moderator) and couple that with inconsistent and arbitrary moderator decisions and you get a forum in which a good amount of dysfunction is the norm. William doesn't want to hear about it or deal with it, thus his direction to find another venue in which to speak of the conditions surrounding Jonathan's banning, and the current set of moderators apparently don't wish to deal with it, either, preferring instead to place total blame on 'offending' participants and ignore their own role in the often toxic environment of BL.

William Thornton said...

You guys can talk all about it on your own blog.