Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Three outrageous suggestions for the Cooperative Program

Plodder is beholden to no man, woman (save my wonnerful wife), or animal (save my beloved pooch) and feels no compunction to hold back on possibilities for improving the Cooperative Program. Here are three suggestions:

1. Close a seminary. Shut down, shutter, and sell either Midwestern or New Orleans. We do not need regional seminaries and have not for some years. Regional seminaries are a relic of the mid-twentieth century. We could have closed NOBTS after the hurricane. MWBTS lacks the economies of scale that Southwestern, Southeastern, and Southern have, besides Southern Baptists have started and supported from scratch, without the Cooperative Program, a seminary in that area that is thoroughly SBC but independent of the CP – Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.

Golden Gate has made it by selling fabulously expensive real estate but that golden goose may be about dead. The idea of an SBC seminary in California was/is good. How much are we willing to devote to it?

This idea doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Gehenna of being implemented, since both MWBTS and especially NOBTS have substantial allies. Would the SBC be able to educate ministers for the foreseeable future without either or both of them? Sure.

2. Set an informal standard for elected leaders, trustees, and executive employees. If you want to be elected SBC officer, trustee, or employee you have to have been a member or pastor of a church that gives at least X% to the Cooperative Program and/or X% in Great Commission Giving. If we are serious about the CP and SBC entities, prove it by telling pastors who want a job, or want to be trustees, or their laypeople that if they don’t give a minimum percentage to the CP/GCG then they should not expect to be employed or elected as a trustee of an SBC entity.

The Executive Committee through the new consortium of Cooperative Program specialists could implement this. Even if it is only a suggestion and does not, indeed cannot, force the SBC in annual assembly or the Committee on Committees or the Nominating Committee to nominate or vote for folks who met the threshold standard it could be a powerful factor in future elections.

3. Ask all SBC entities – the mission boards, the Executive Committee, the seminaries – to reduce the number of trustees and trustee expenses. The IMB has 96, count ‘em, trustees. I believe I saw an annual trustee expense figure of about a million dollars for that mob. NAMB doesn’t seem to have prospered the last decade or so with a huge number of trustees. Save the money and maybe get a better result with less, I say. Someone commented that Golden Gate seminary has more trustees than it has faculty. Why? We all know the reasons that there are so many trustee slots – we SBCers love positions, titles, and perks. The savings would be in the millions.

Any other irreverent and outrageous suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Take the company cars away from seminary VPs. Why would seminary ees have company cars at all. I suppose the seminaries could have a car that could be used be used to travel for business purposes, but how many of those are there?

Only build buildings on seminary campuses that you can afford the upkeep on?? SWBTS is building that white elephant chapel with "donated" funds for a student body that is 1/3 the size of what it once was and they can't afford the upkeep!

How about using an independent body to appoint fewer trustees and some with real world business experience that can keep control of finances at these institutions....

Jim Champion

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Complete financial transparency

Anonymous said...

Use it for real missions.


stephen fiox said...

Dr. Thornton: If you could get along with President Obama a little better, I would vote for you for Congress if I was a citizen of Winder, Ga, which I take to be in your congressional district. With the SBC as your template, if your judgment was a sound on the National Debt, then you could be a good axe man for sure.

Love to see you weigh in on the difference between Eisenhower and Demint Republicans. Ask Bryant Wright what he thinks about it.

Dave Miller said...

I like the suggestions. Here's one in the same vein. How about one BoT for all six (or five if you have your way) seminaries?

Doug Hibbard said...

Cut the trustees and follow Dave's suggestion over at Voices: 1 per State/Regional Convention for NAMB and IMB.

Somehow there's a way to save money on seminaries. I'd almost argue for cutting them loose completely: let them live and die on direct donors and tuition. I know of churches here in Arkansas that are direct supporting Southern Seminary with more money than they give CP, so it's not like there aren't people willing to do it. (And yes, it's worked for MABTS)

Anonymous said...

Doug, you may have a good idea (though it won't happen). I can imagine that SWBTS, SEBTS, SBTS could survive on donations. NOBTS is cutting staff, MWBTS is off the radar on most SBCers mind (and I support their president - great leader and possibly the most mission minded), GGBTS can only sell so much land until they have none.

The non SBC school that is ahead of the curve on all of this is Liberty. They have learned how to, and praise the Lord for it, reach those who want college and seminary but hove no way of attending. Their online program is the best of the best and with it having a solid theological foundation even sets it higher above the other choices out there.

Liberty may cost a bit more but if you took away the CP dollars from our seminaries, watch out, we will then have the most costly theological school in the country.

At Liberty's cost,they still have students pouring in, I thought I heard 50,000 students this year.

We won the fight for the bible, and even printed our own version, but have not fought for the machine which is limping into obscurity.

I'm getting older and the SBC fight does not grab me as it used to. The younger men being trained want little or nothing to do with our ancient machinery or the traditional, and won't change, churches which are scattered all over the country, dying their own death.

This "I believe the bible but I don't need to live it" must come to an end, or we will... CP or not.


William Thornton said...

Dave, there are good reasons for having separate trustee boards for each entity that prevents some being combined or eliminated. Just shrink them.

I think CP support of our seminaries is good and proper. I would not be willing to relinquish that degree of control to donors. See what has happened to all the major state colleges, Mercer, Baylor, Furman, etc. I am a little wary of Liberty, frankly.

The idea of loading trustee boards with lots of people from all (or almost) all the states is, presumably, to garner broad support for the school or entity. If there isn't any informal CP percentage standard for a trustee nominee, why try and have so many from all over?

I think some of the boards have additional local trustees a relic of when travel was difficult.

We could save some serious CP dollars by looking at the trustee numbers and expenses. If those slots are seen as perks maybe we ought to reexamine the concept.

David Montoya said...


I am surprised MWBTS has survived this long. There was talk of selling it as far back as the early 1990's.

It really would not be that hard to do. All it would take would be for Patterson (I doubt they would want Pressler involved anymore after he settle the lawsuit with the young man) to activate his network of "soldiers", pack the board of trustees as was done after the takeover/resurgence, and sell the thing.

Hey, he might even be able to add a new wing to Pecan Manor with the money.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that the SBC close SWBTS though I deeply love the school . . . for what is once was . . . but is currently a shadow of its former self! i.e.: There are very few MDIV students there preparing for the pastorate. Plus they are getting ready to bring online a 3000+ seat chapel they can't even fill with their present declining enrollment plus the President has added over 8,000 square ft. to the more 5,000 sq.ft. he already had in his mansion, affectionately named "Pecan Manor." The upkeep of both of these massive buildings will be and are supported through Cooperative Program dollars . . . plus there is an under-graduate school on campus for one reason: to boost enrollment to get more CP dollars from the SBC in a state where there are more Baptist colleges than "Carter has pills!" But according to the SWBTS "administration" none of those schools are "conservative" or good enough to provide SWBTS "master-level" students. Plus the SWBTS "administration" needs to come clean with Southern Baptists and repent for the trustee misdeeds of the horrific past over the last 17 years . . . for instance . . . the trustee who led in the firing of Russell Dilday was having multiple affairs with multiple women in the church that he pastored (can you say "sexual predator") and the immediate past President of SW was sabotaged by "lieutenants" of the present president so he could have the "job" he always wanted. Now this president wants to "take over" the building that houses the staff of Tarrant Baptist Association though the property was deeded to the association back in the late 90's by the seminary. And there is much more (i.e. Patterson/Pressler "escapades", etc.) but that is enough for now! Plodder, you recommend closing GGBTS but I would say to you that Golden Gate is about the only SBC Seminary led by someone who is theologically sound and does lead with integrity as a President even though it is out of the "Bible Belt" and traditional SBC strongholds that are growing weaker by the day! I thought I would just provide your readership some "food" for thought! One more thing --- the work of the President of the Executive Committee could be done out of a home office with a laptop and cell phone! That would save enough money to support 25 church plants in the Northwest for 3 years! You certainly don't have to post this but every bit of it is true!

William Thornton said...

Actually, anon, I mentioned closing and selling either SWBTS or NOBTS, not Golden Gate. The latter made it into my piece because I was aware that it is small, has recent infusions of money from selling real estate, and presumably (I haven't crunched the numbers) has higher operating costs per student than the others. I like the concept of a seminary outside of the Deep South. Are we willing to put what is necessary into it?

All of the seminary closing ideas are DOA, I'm afraid, but it doesn't cost to lob outrageous ideas around the SBC.

Andrew said...

Dr. Thornton,

As a soon-to-be graduate of MWBTS, I must protest the sale of my soon-to-be alma mater! I understand your point of economy, but a better solution would be to sell one of the redundant seminaries in the South (you suggest NOBTS, I would also propose SEBTS, but that's even less likely!)

Actually, I would like to get your take on the feasibility of merging NOBTS's satellites (which I believe have more of their students than the main campus) with the other Southern SBC schools (i.e. Atlanta to SEBTS, some to SWBTS, the north Louisiana with MWBTS, etc.) since NOBTS seems to be in the most financial/attendance trouble.

To comment on David Montoya's comment, it is true that Dr. Roberts was thought to have been brought in to close down the school, but he has done a phenomenal job (and no, I don't work for him!) of making MWBTS a missiologial and apologetics-oriented school...and the Midwest/West needs a school of their own. Do you think many SBTS or SWBTS students are going to Iowa or Oregon?

Suggestion 2 (informal standard) is the most feasible...perhaps someone (you?) should publish a voting guide or flyer about these ideas?

Suggestion 3 is also good...but unlikely. I think the NAMB reorg to regions is the best we'll see from them for a while. And the IMB seems equally resistant to further structural change. I do think the C of C and C of N should be amended...that's a Bylaw 15 and 19 (or 30) change, which requires 2/3 majority (under Bylaw 37).

Hope you re-post (on SBC Voices?) with some more ideas or proposals!

New BBC Open Forum said...

Somehow there's a way to save money on seminaries. I'd almost argue for cutting them loose completely: let them live and die on direct donors and tuition.

I agree with this except for one word -- "almost." I say cut 'em loose and let 'em sink or swim.

Anonymous said...

You guys would be shocked at how much money it takes for upkeep of the physical facilities at only 1 of the SBC seminaries.

I was appalled when I found out--it is several several millions.

William Thornton said...

Andrew, your comment went to my spam folder, which I rarely check.

It seems a waste to me to have multiple seminaries doing distance learning. If it is distant, why not a 'consortium' (the spiffy new word the Exec comm likes). In the long haul, we have too many seminaries to support and there is not a good reason for having six.

Many bloggers and others (I was among them though not in a blog) loudly offered personal voting guides when ronnie floyd was running for prez with a CP record of <1%. Bloggers are an anarchic crowd. I feel sure you will get all kinds of voter guides prior to important SBC elections.