Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Association calls on churches to cut CP giving by 25-35%

The longstanding general trend of churches giving less to the Cooperative Program is widely known at all levels of the SBC. We've gone from an average of over 11% thirty years or so ago to less than six percent today.

More keenly felt, though is the dramatic loss of CP dollars in state conventions in the past few years. The mortgage meltdown and subsequent recession has reduced individual giving and concomitantly,  the flow of CP dollars from churches to states.

Many state conventions like my own, the Georgia Baptist Convention, have made repeated, drastic cuts in spending, and, since most of the discretionary spending is in staffing, dozens and dozens of jobs have been cut.

Here in Georgia we also have the additional burden of a considerable amount of debt service for a magnificent HQ building that was built just prior to the economic meltdown.

Times are tough in this state convention.

It is not lost on state executives that when CP receipts are down, they are hit the hardest, since (a) they have always kept the great majority of CP gifts (convention wide average is that about two-thirds of CP gifts from churches stay with their state convention and do not leave state borders to go to NAMB, IMB, the seminaries, or other SBC entities), and (b) state conventions have little else in revenue aside from CP gifts (the IMB, in contrast, has other major revenue streams and the CP makes up only 30% of their budget).

One association in our state has passed a "RESOLUTION TO PROVIDE FOR OUR STATE CONVENTIONS" which calls for its churches to "consider" cutting their Cooperative Program giving by 25-35 percent.

Really? Yep. Really, a sort of cut your nose off to spite your face resolution. Undermine the Cooperative Program as a method of helping the state convention which benefits most from the Cooperative Program.

The idea is that churches would take their present CP giving, cut it by  25-35%, and designate that proportion to state convention causes exclusively.

So, here in Georgia, with the Georgia Baptist Convention already retaining over sixty percent of the CP dollar, if churches made this designation it would effectively raise the Georgia percentage of a CP dollar to about 75% if all churches followed this plan.

I have read the resolution and also spoken with the association's director of missions and acknowledge that not everyone is happy with all the changes around the convention. I also believe that this is a well-meaning effort, however misguided. I understand our state convention wants nothing to do with it.

The idea that we would penalize NAMB and the IMB, remove funds from NAMB's church planting efforts or from IMB missionaries serving in places that don't have counties full of churches is rather absurd. Georgia has about 3300 churches, a million resident members, who collected over a billion dollars in 2010, and over $25 million to spend in this state on our own needs. 

Do we really think it proper to undercut that missionary in a place desolate of the Gospel to put back in staff in Georgia to conduct VBS training, or deacon training, or other local needs? 

Surely not.

If the GBC desired they could propose that we increase our percentage of CP receipts from 61% to 75% or 85%. It is up to us. If the churches feel this is best, we may certainly meet and vote these increases. I'm not persuaded that churches will recognize that associations in south Georgia are suffering enough to take money away from NAMB and the IMB to help our poor peach state brethren out.

So, what's the best way to help the Cooperative Program? Give more.

Below is the key part of the association's resolution:
  Therefore, be it resolved, that the administration committee of the  __________ Baptist Association encourages each church to “consider” to contribute a portion of their  cooperative program contributions  (25 – 35%)  to state missions and give the balance to the cooperative program (this is not binding on any church since each one is autonomous, we are only suggesting). The intent of the resolution is not to destroy the cooperative program, though some feel the Great Commission Giving has already accomplished this, but to encourage a means to balance the cooperative program so that state conventions are adequately provided. This will assure that our state conventions will receive enough contributions to provide assistance to our small town and rural churches. The state convention needs us as we need the state convention, and,

Be it finally resolved, that the ________ Baptist Association encourages all sister churches and associations to consider this recommendation.
Ironically, even though the resolution claims that Great Commission Giving has already "destroy[ed]" the Cooperative Program, were churches to adopt these recommendations, this association would be a leader in Georgia in Great Commission Giving. Go figure...

Even though the resolution was passed at a recent spring associational meeting and the document is public, I edited out the name. The DOM said they might want to tweak the document. Tweak? How about deep-sixing it?

But, ah, we are all autonomous. And, maybe this resolution should go to the place where lots of associational resolutions go - a cool, dark, place where it can be quietly forgotten.

I don't know that anyone connected with this reads my humble blog but I would happily provide a place for them to defend the resolution and disagree with your humble blogging semi-retired pastor.


Jonathan S. Jenkins said...

How sad that there is an Association that wants to keep even more money in there state where there are churches everywhere!

I for one would not advocate designated giving to the state until more financial transparency came along. Surely payouts could have staved off some of these layoffs lately. Maybe it's just me but doesn't a little less for all sound better than none for some?

I think I read something about people bringing all they had so each could have as he had need. Where could that have been?

Just some thoughts from the rural route.

Hope retirement and Mrs. Plodder are treating you well brother.

Dave Miller said...

Thank you for taking a stand on things like this.

Rick Patrick said...

It sounds like this association disagrees with the new "GCR Agenda" priorities for the use of Cooperative Program funds. The heavy emphasis on church planting to the exclusion of other missionary endeavors, even ones locally, has never been universally embraced. Because GCR has been more or less dictated from the top, one had to expect there would be some level of opposition eventually. I am only surprised it has taken a few years to materialize.

I think it's fair to say that this association does not reject the idea of CP giving. They simply reject the current agenda in favor of the previous one. They have the right to do that now, just as Kevin Ezell now has the right to direct expenditures out of the same funds he previously did very little to support.

For the life of me, I still cannot understand why people thought GCR would increase CP giving. They expected those churches who didn't like NAMB to give more once it changed. Okay, I get that. But why did they not expect those who supported the previous NAMB agenda to be just as consistent about the priorities they held dear. If you do not view the state conventions as bloated bureaucracies, but rather as effective missionary organizations, then the actions of the association above make complete sense, it seems to me.

William Thornton said...

Rick, the resolution manifestly, transparently, plainly, and vividly demonstrates a rejection of CP giving. You cannot get around that if churches are asked to consider cutting one fourth to one third of thei CP gifts.

We all have complaints about specific SBC spending but, remember, the part that goes to
NAMB is just ten cents or so on the CP dollar here in GA.

Rick Patrick said...

Well, okay, but they never "manifestly, transparently, plainly, and vividly" rejected CP giving back when Kevin Ezell's church was "manifestly, transparently, plainly and vividly" rejecting CP giving.

Their decision is clearly tied to the unpopularity of the GCR implementation, at least from their perspective. One could even go so far as to trace this decision back all the way to GCR. If the funding channels had not been changed, they would not be doing this.

William Thornton said...

NAMB called Kevin Ezell in spite of his giving record, something he gets still gets asked about. The matter of NAMB and giving might be better evaluated on the basis of how the Annie Armstrong offering is doing. It was up over one million last year and running ahead this year (though the bottom line is still undetermined). Uh, manifestly, SBCers are not displeased with the job he is doing.

You can maintain that the GCR implementation is unpopular, and it certainly is in some quarters, although the changes (and it's mostly about NAMB) have stirred the ire of some state executives, I don't know that you can state with confidence that it is unpopular with Southern Baptists overall.

Sometime when you have time, I'd like to see you justify the status quo at NAMB in regard to their spending practices.

I will be travelling through Alabama later this morning...hope I don't get waylaid by any disgruntled Baptists.

Thanks for the comments.

Rick Patrick said...

No worries! All Alabama Baptists are gruntled!

Joe McGee said...

I am the associational missionary of the Consolation Baptist Association that passed the resolution. I noticed that those who champion the Great Commission Giving expects churches to only contribute to SBC causes. GCG is only acceptable if one gives to NAMB, IMB, or one’s Southern Baptist seminary they graduated from. This is not seen as attacking the cooperative program. However, if a church dares to use the same means to contribute to their state convention it is deemed misguided, anti-cooperative program. Does the word hypocrite mean any thing? It is perceived by many pastors in our association that the Southern Baptist Convention is being govern by two Southern Baptist seminary presidents who have encouraged the election of the last two SBC president, who are responsible for the GCG, which provides for their institutions, they served on the GCG committee and now one is serving on the, what we refer to as the illegal, name change committee. Actually, every appointed committee is filled with SBC institution presidents and leaders. We find this a conflict of interest sine their decisions affect the institutions that they serve, it is the tail wagging the dog. Then there are several mega-church pastors, and those who they influence, who also run the Southern Baptist Convention. These are not bad men; however, their religious worldview is much different than that of the rural and small town churches that have been left out in the cold when it comes to determining the direction of the convention. I disagree with William when he states that the Georgia Baptist Convention keeps sixty percents of the cooperative program contributions. He once told me that one only needs to prove a negative. He can not prove it. If one will go to the Georgia Baptist Convention website he or she will find that Georgia keeps 40.16%, the SBC receives 40.16%, there is 15.48% giving to shared ministries with the GBC and SBC, and 4.2% giving to capital debts. In reality the GBC keeps only 54%, which is the second largest state convention amount contributed to the SBC. One important thing left out of this discussion; although one may read where the resolution recommended that our churches contribute 25 – 35% of their cooperative program to state missions, what is not known is that some of our pastors had already recommended, or plan to recommend during the next budget year, to decrease their giving to the cooperative program because of their dissatisfaction with the SBC institutions and leadership. Our plan was to encourage our churches to take that very amount and contribute it to state missions. This would be monies that would have been eliminated from the cooperative program anyway. This is our Great Commission Giving and if anyone chooses to criticize our churches for their decision, they should criticize the churches that chose to contribute to the SBC causes just as hard. Both sides have the right to do what they think is best.

William Thornton said...

I have had two long, cordial phone conversations with Joe McGee and understand better his perspective. He has also sent me additional commentary on his association's resolution and I will probably revisit this matter next week.

For the factual record I would want to be clear about what the Georgia Baptist Convention keeps from the churches CP giving. Joe said, "If one will go to the Georgia Baptist Convention website he or she will find that Georgia keeps 40.16%, the SBC receives 40.16%, there is 15.48% giving to shared ministries with the GBC and SBC, and 4.2% giving to capital debts. In reality the GBC keeps only 54%, which is the second largest state convention amount contributed to the SBC."

To me "keeping" means that the money stays in our state and is not forwarded to the Executive Committee in Nashville for division among our entities such as IMB, NAMB, the seminaries et al.
I am fully accurate to say that the GBC keeps right at 60% of every single CP dollar.

That the GBC labels a category "shared" ministries or debt service doesn't mean that these funds get past our state borders. The don't. I think it rather disingenuous to describe payments on our HQ building in Alpharetta as somehow shared with NAMB, IMB and other entities.

Thanks for the comment, Joe. I appreciate the discussion.