What shall we say about SBC leadership and their support, or lack thereof, for our grand Cooperative Program?
Here is a summary of the past SBC presidents and their Cooperative Program support over the past 32 years:
Less than 4%: Rogers, Smith, Stanley, Vines, Young, Elliff, Merritt, Graham, Hunt, Wright.
Above the contemporary average: Draper (7%), Chapman (11%), Henry (10%), Welch (15%), Page (12%).
Between 1979 and 1992, the year the Conservative Resurgence was effectively over, seven men were elected president. Only two of those were significant CP supporters, Draper and Chapman, and only Chapman’s church gave greater than what was held out as the standard at the time, 10%. I don’t recall either of them being elected on a platform of cooperation or CP giving, but rather on a platform of continuing the conservative takeover. For the entire period up to 2010, sixteen presidents have served. Only six of those gave average or above to the CP.
Since 1992, the convention has happily elected leaders who are not known for their outstanding CP support. Only Henry, Welch, and Page were above average, while Merritt, Graham, and Hunt were down in the 2% range. I don’t think you can find a greater contrast than in the election of last year where Bryant Wright, in the 3% range, defeated a candidate who was in excess of 10%.
Since the convention elected people whose CP levels were very, very low (Bailey Smith, 1% or so, Ed young the same, Stanley, Vines, Merritt 2% or so), one has to say that the Cooperative Program was clearly not an important factor for the Conservative Resurgence. Even in the years since the CR was completed, the convention has been quite comfortable in electing leaders whose CP levels are way below average.
I summarize these things because I keep seeing people who are dissatisfied with the giving of current leadership incorrectly interpret the SBC’s history of the past three decades. I think an honest view of the past would lead to the conclusion that the CR was not a boon to the concept of cooperation and to support of the Cooperative Program. The most salient of CP statistics, that churches give less and less of undesignated giving through the CP, is partly the result of the success of megachurch pastors like Rogers, Stanley, and Young in being elected to the SBC presidency in spite of low CP giving percentages.
For my part, a presidential candidate who shows strong support for NAMB, the IMB, and whose CP percentage is above the threshold of 3-4 percent is fine by me. In my book Bryant Wright is a very strong supporter of our cooperative work as Southern Baptists even though he may not meet the CP litmus tests of some. If we dismiss pastors like him and churches like his we will be a much weaker convention.
A future question to be considered: Why has the average church CP percentage been dropping for decades when almost all SBC pastors (87% in a 2007 survey) report that they are generally satisfied with the CP?