Thursday, January 26, 2012

When states cannot pay their Cooperative Program 'bills'

The innocuous Baptist Press headline read, "Ga. Baptists reaffirm commitment to forwarding CP gifts to SBC" and, had I not been a Georgia Baptist, I would not have read the article.

The piece was from our state paper The Christian Index and was written by Gerald Harris, editor. What the article explained was that the Georgia Baptist Convention had fallen way behind in sending the Cooperative Program gifts received from GBC churches to the Executive Committee in Nashville.

Last fall, prior to the GBC convention and presidential election, there was an anonymous blog that addressed some GBC internal matters. The blog is defunct now but one of the issues raised on it was that the GBC was not forwarding CP gifts to Nashville.

What's that, we're using gifts intended for the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, seminaries and other SBC entities to pay local bills?

GBC Cooperative Program revenues dropped significantly the last few years, times are tough, and when receipts dropped below the level needed for the GBC to pay budgeted expenses the temporary solution was to use not just the 60% of CP receipts that by budget were to be used for GBC purposes but also to use the 40% that was to be forwarded, monthly, to Nashville.

This would be robbing Peter to pay Paul...for awhile anyway. The IMB, NAMB, seminaries and other SBC entities that depend on CP revenues from the states would just have to wait.

The article explained it like this:
Due to the budget shortfall and the additional expense of temporary employees for summer missions ventures, the forwarding of gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention was delayed. To make up the shortfall, in October $4,263,182 – with $1.7 million taken from reserve funds – was wired to Nashville to fulfill Georgia Baptists' obligations through July.

By December 15 the GBC had fulfilled its obligations through September and as of January 10, 2012, all 2011 obligations -- which is 40.32 percent of what had been received -- were forwarded to SBC offices in Nashville.
Read between the lines that the GBC was way behind on their CP obligation.

If I am reading the article correctly and have the figures right, before the GBC made the big payment of over $4 million in October they had paid up the CP only through April. That is to be about 6 months and about $8.4 million behind (and I'm averaging here, CP receipts aren't consistent throughout the year). Any way you want to slice it, the GBC was in serious arrears.

I'm speculating that there was serious gnashing of teeth in Duluth over this, particularly over the GBC getting so many millions behind.

The GBC has fixed this, according to the piece. Good.

One might take this unfortunate episode to be reminded that the Cooperative Program is a fragile, cooperative agreement primarily between the state conventions and the SBC Executive Committee. Instead of saying that the GBC "reaffirm[ed] their commitment to forwarding CP gifts to the SBC", the article could have read, "GBC figures out a way to pay their bills without riding the Executive Committee for the money."

But I'm all for saving face and positive spin.

I somewhat sympathize with state executives who in a time when CP revenues are declining, are being pressured not to cut the proportion of them that is kept in their states. The solution to this is (a) get the churches to give more, or, failing there to (b) pare down state convention expenses, personnel, programs, and obligations to a manageable level.

My prediction is that state conventions have yet to settle on the personnel and program levels that will fit the revenues from churches. But, absent formal action by their constituent churches through church messengers, they don't have the option of unilaterally keeping CP money in state until things get better.


Anonymous said...

Everybody needs to be in a mod of reducing expenditures. NAMB did this to my applause. Hating to see any job lost (mine especially) sometimes these things are necessary so missions progress can be made.

I am surprised at any state convention moving towards a 50 / 50 split. You already spoke of the creative ways of money distribution so no need to go there again.

Associations may be on their way out, or it is possible that state conventions really might end up taking the biggest hit.

We are just about ready to be like some of the megas and give money directly and have it still considered CP. Got to love the GCR... I am waiting on the vote to count missions money spent by local churches from their own budget being CP counted.


Interesting days we are in.

Jon Estes

Anonymous said...

The GBC is trying to eke out an existence. I guess we didn't see that one coming.

Anonymous said...

Fourteen more people cut from the GBC on Thursday. More to come on Monday.

Anonymous said...

I feel for those at GBC. I went through it at NAMB. Many who left NAMB in December 2010 are still looking for places to serve. I am afraid this is just the beginning for State Conventions. How many at the executive level at GBC are leaving? NAMB just added to their Senior leaders and VP's.

William Thornton said...

I'm sorry to hear about the cuts at the GBC. Going from a budget of over $52m just five years ago to probably under $40m is quite drastic.

Anonymous said...

Pity the GBC execs that must become adept at managing rapid decline and steering the venerable GBC through this demoralizing period.