Monday, August 30, 2010

What SBCers cannot see: NAMB/state Cooperative Agreements

Need some help sleeping? I'm happy to provide such assistance today.

Our North American Mission Board’s contracts with the individual Baptist state conventions, the “Cooperative Agreements,” are strictly inside SBC baseball and would be of little interest to most SBC pastors and all but the most engaged SBC laypeople except for the fact that they involve millions of dollars and except for the prominence given these contracts in the Great Commission Resurgence Report.

The Report adopted by the SBC in annual session in June recommended that these agreements be phased out.

I don’t have much hope that anything I report or any comment I make on this arcane business will be of much interest…but here is what little I have.

I have a copy of NAMB’s “generic” Cooperative Agreement. It is about 4 pages long and has language about Strategic Mission Plans, personnel policies, cooperation, etc. etc. It is saturated with good old fashioned Baptist bureaucratese. I don’t doubt that it is a necessary written contract between NAMB and the conventions.

I asked for a copy of our Georgia Baptist Convention/NAMB Cooperative Agreement. They wouldn’t let me have it, since it “involves personnel and…there are issues related to confidentiality that prohibit it from being shared” and "the...document does not belong to the [GBC]" and "remains in NAMB's possession." Can't say that I quite get that, but that's what I was told.

The NAMB/GBCdocument is 50 pages long and, sorry, I don’t buy the explanation that there are "issues" that preclude me and other ordinary SBCers from seeing it. Baloney. It is confidential not because it has to be, is required to be, or lack of such would be harmful if we got to see it. It is confidential because some SBC leader wanted it to be confidential. Bad policy, but typical in the SBC these days.

Our GBC people were polite and as helpful as they could be with the constraints they feel. I didn’t push it. The GBC has explained, generally, with some specifics, what NAMB’s money is used for here in our state: some GBC staff people, some associational staff people, some in-state training for churches and individuals, conferences, etc. etc. No, I don't have suspicions of gross waste and frivolous spending. I'd just like to see it for myself.

The GBC has indicated that they will try and absorb the $835k in NAMB money that would be lost in accord with the gradual phase-out of the NAMB funding. With Georgia having about 3300 SBC churches, 92 associations, and over a billion dollars in receipts, I don’t know why we should expect to get nearly a million dollars back from NAMB. I appreciate our CEO, Robert White and his leadership in this.

I would, however, still like to see the 50 page Cooperative Agreement between NAMB and the GBC and know of no persuasive reason why I should not be able to bore myself to death reading the thing should I so choose.

Unless the tooth fairy leaves it under my pillow, I guess I’ll never get the chance.

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