One of the responses on the BGCT blog related to the cutting of convention jobs suggested that if the churches would not cut their Cooperative Program giving, then these cutbacks would not have been necessary. That statement can be taken several ways. If it was mean to put the blame for the cutbacks on the churches that have cut their Cooperative Program giving, then I must emphatically disagree.
First, the executive director has already stated that it is not a drop in Cooperative Program gifts that is creating the budget pinch which leads to jobs being cut, but rather a drop in investment income and a desire to be less dependent on allocated funds. We’ve been told that there is an anticipated “slight” increase in Cooperative Program receipts expected for 2008. That’s either positive spin, or reality. To admit that there might be an anticipated drop in Cooperative Program gifts from the churches might be an admission that there is a level of disatisfaction with the way finances are being handled in the convention, or that the political influences that have held on to convention control for the past decade or so are slipping. To lay the blame at the feet of investment income says that the BGCT is doing its part and holding up its share of the expense, and that the vague and ambiguous “circumstances beyond our control” are to blame for the job losses.
Examination of the Cooperative Program giving for this year might be a clue to determine what is reality. Receipts are 5% below the budget, almost $1.5 million short, and 1% below the same period last year, almost $300,000 less. You tell me what that says about reality.
I’ve been a member of a Southern Baptist church in one place or another all my life. I know how Southern Baptists feel about the missions causes tied to the Cooperative Program. I know that, in spite of all of the ugly politics of the past 25 or more years, that most Southern Baptist churches will continue to support their missions causes, and find ways to keep the money going to the places where it is needed most, in spite of the denominational politicians and power brokers who are building their own personal kingdoms and using the structure of the convention to their own benefit and for their own control. Observing the reaction of Southern Baptists to the tactics and methods of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, I am convinced that the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches will not use the threat of reducing or shutting off completely their Cooperative Program support unless they feel completely disenfranchised and cut off from the democratic processes of convention operation, and there is no other recourse.
Throwing this back in the lap of the churches, and blaming it on cuts in Cooperative Program support is nothing but a good, old fashioned guilt trip. The churches of the BGCT have been more than generous in their Cooperative Program support, stepping up as the formation of the SBTC led to the departure, either completely or partially, of more than 1,000 churches. The financial setbacks were not nearly as devastating as they could have been, partly because most of those who left for the SBTC weren’t big supporters of the Cooperative Program to begin with, and partly because the churches that supported the BGCT stepped up as a result of their committment to Texas Baptist causes. They do not need to be slapped in the face now.
Get real. The BGCT lost over $1.5 million dollars in church planting funds by writing checks to phantom churches. Frankly, it doesn’t matter who was at fault, or how that happened, but indications are that the good old boy system of influence peddling, and getting around the rules and policies by “knowing the right people,” and by pulling strings were at fault. The reaction and response of the BGCT administration and executive board has been at best lethargic and apathetic. A new set of tougher policies was put into place. The executive director, who may not have been directly involved, but whose lack of action ultimately prevented a timely investigation and the ability to recover at least some of what was lost, announced a year-long transition to retirement. Since the original investigation occurred, more revelations of improper use of BGCT money have come out, in the same geographic region.
In addition to that, the lame-duck executive director announced, on his own authority and without convention approval, that the BGCT would be a full supporter of and participant in the controversial New Baptist Covenant. If you don’t see any problems with that, you are blind, deaf and mentally impaired. It’s not the NBC itself that I have a problem with, since, like any other Baptist gathering, participating is a matter of personal conviction. It is the apparent lack of respect for the many Baptists in the BGCT who will obviously have arguments against participation that upsets me. It is the convention, not the executive administration or even the executive board, which holds the sole right to make this kind of decision. In failing to do that, the executive administration of the BGCT is telling churches, “We couldn’t care less about your opinion or your feelings.”
And you want to blame those churches for cutting their Cooperative Program giving?
If rebuilding the trust of the churches in the BGCT is going to take place, some major changes need to be made. I’ve got some good ideas as to how to go about that, but I’ve already written enough for one day, and I’m too angry and too upset to write clearly.