Friday, November 22, 2013

The best Cooperative Program giving plan you never heard of

The South Carolina Baptist Convention is fairly typical among SBC state conventions in that it divides a Cooperative Program mostly in favor of in-state expenses. The SCBC keeps 59% of Cooperative Program gifts in-state and forwards 41%. That is a couple of clicks less kept in-state than the SBC average for state conventions.

But they do something that no other state convention does, so far as I am aware. They send a considerable sum directly to the International Mission Board, bypassing the Executive Committee. The 2014 budget calls for $716,813 in Cooperative Program gifts to be sent from Columbia straight to Richmond.

This method multiplies the CP gifts of South Carolina Baptist churches that is used for international missions by a factor of five.

SC Baptists wanted to increase their support for the IMB and their efforts in sharing the Gospel with the billions of souls around the world. To do this they could have taken the traditional route of attempting to decrease by tiny increments the amount of CP funds kept in state thereby increasing by even tinier increments the part of a CP dollar devoted to international missions. Doing this would yield negligible additional sums for the IMB, since 59 cents of a CP dollar is taken for in-state expenses, and then another 20.5 cents is sliced off by the Executive Committee for the seminaries, North American Mission Board, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Executive Committee itself. Thus, the SCBC Cooperative Program dollar that finally arrives at the IMB has shrunk to 20.5 cents.

Instead of the above, SC Baptists take some Cooperative Program gifts and send them directly to the IMB. The IMB gets that full dollar. Thus, the $716,813 to be sent in 2014 is the equivalent of $3,496,649 sent through normal CP channels.

It surprises me that little is said around the convention about this. In a way it undermines the CP which has a rather rigid fixed allocation formula whereby a CP dollar is sliced and diced into tiny chunks. The IMB does get the largest chunk but on average that is less than twenty cents.

The way the SCBC explains their action is that they are sending direct gifts to the IMB in order to quickly arrive at supporting international missions with the same sum of CP gifts that they would if there were a 50/50 split, rather than 59/41. The Baptist Courier reported it in this way:
messengers voted to increase South Carolina’s contribution to IMB by 21.95 percent over the next three years in order to fund IMB at a level equal to the amount IMB would receive if South Carolina were splitting Cooperative Program receipts 50/50 with the Southern Baptist Convention.  
I love the action of South Carolina Baptists here. While I appreciate and support the Cooperative Program, it has a serious flaw in that the allocation formulas are essentially inscribed in stone, as if by the finger of God.
Touch not the portion of that dollar allocated to the six seminaries, or NAMB, or ERLC! Thou mayest touch the state/SBC split...but only just a little!
We are seeing small movements by state conventions to reduce the portion kept in state, often described as "moving to a 50/50 split." This is very slight, quite incremental, and will make little difference in international missions. Although some state conventions have declared an intention to move to a 50/50 split, because of funky CP accounting in some states this only means moving to a 55/45 split or other proportional division, not a true 50/50.

The SBC allocation formula is even less likely to be changed from the present where the IMB gets about 50%, NAMB 23%, the six seminaries 23%, and XComm and ERLC the remaining 4%. The Great Commission Resurgence wasn't so great in doing anything with this, every entity successfully protecting their financial turf. Frank Page did lead the Executive Committee to reduce his allocation by a few tenths of a percent. That's the grand substance and outcome of the GCR effort at the SBC budget level.

None of this nonsense for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. They recognize that if they want to quickly put more of their CP money towards global missions, the most efficient way is to send it directly to the IMB.

Will other state conventions follow this plan? I don't know.

I do know that I like the approach. If because of its rigidity the Cooperative Program is seen as an impediment to reaching the vast numbers of people around the world who need Jesus, then I'm for any reasonable workaround.

South Carolina Baptists are to be commended for their creativity and determination in this matter.  

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