http://www.bgct.org/texasbaptists/Page.aspx?&pid=5014&srcid=178

Facing a budget crisis in his first couple of weeks as executive director was probably not what Randel Everett wanted to do at the beginning of his term as Executive Director of the BGCT, but the move to cut spending levels to 90% of the current budget was a prudent one.  Both the investment income and the Cooperative Program giving has decreased, requiring the spending to be decreased as well.

There were cuts in the budget presented in Amarillo last October.  Most notably, cuts in the mission budget were pointed out in the discussion, and the lack of cuts in the executive budget were passed over.  Like most votes on routine business at a Baptist convention, in spite of signs that people might not have been totally happy with either the job cuts or the budget, as always, it passed.  Frankly, I do not understand why more people did not come to the break-out discussion conducted by David Nabors.  I did.  And afterward, when the vote was taken, I voted against the budget.  A decline in interest income was cited as one of the main reason for the convention having to lay people off during the year, and by the time the convention met, though it seemed the leadership made every effort to avoid mentioning it, there had been a significant downturn in Cooperative Program giving from the churches by that time as well.  Clearly, though, those involved in the budget planning process did not anticipate a 5.8% drop in CP gifts by the end of the first quarter of this year. 

We don’t have control over the investment income.  At some point, that will increase again.  But we do have control over the Cooperative Program giving.  So what do we do about that?

The political climate in the SBC has had a major effect on the BGCT.  A combination of actions taken by convention leadership during the past decade has led to the departure of a third of the churches, most of them in the period immediately following the selection of the last executive director, but since then in a fairly steady trickle that appears to have increased in the past couple of years.  The decreasing numbers of messengers at the annual meeting, and their increasing age, says that we probably haven’t done a very good job of educating our churches, particularly their younger members, in Cooperative Program stewardship.  But it is also an indication of problems in the stewardship of those gifts by the convention’s leadership.  Valleygate may have been the catalyst for some, along with the reduction in the amount the BGCT forwards to the SBC, a casualty of the ongoing battle with the SBC over the BFM 2000 and the influence of the conservative resurgence a.k.a. the fundamentalist takeover. 

Is recovery possible, or are we doomed to see a continuous stream of churches leave the BGCT for the alternative state convention, or simply redirect their Cooperative Program gifts away from use by the BGCT?  Is it time to evaluate not only the effect of denominational politics on the BGCT, but also the effectiveness and relevance of the way we do things as a convention in other ways?

I believe we can see recovery, and renewed support from the churches. That requires realistic thinking about why things are in their current condition.  Denying that denominational politics has had anything to do with it, and trying to blame the economy, or anything but the ongoing struggle between SBC conservatives and BGCT moderates won’t cut it.  Getting past all of that is absolutely a necessity.  The day we can elect officers without knowing their “alignment” or “affiliation,” we will see improvement.  The day that the BGCT’s partnership with the SBC is not affected by politics, we will see improvement. 

That is not all that we need to do, however.  For years, we have neglected missions education objectives.  We’re replaced mission organizations with AWANA, which isn’t a bad organization by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t specifically dedicated to teaching children and youth about cooperative missions supported by Southern Baptists.  We focus on the fact that younger people seem to be turned off by denominational politics and thus, are not involved in the convention.  That’s true enough.  But I don’t run into a whole lot of younger people who know much about the way we operate, or why we have a Cooperative Program, or in some cases, even that we have a Cooperative Program. 

The fighting, politics, personal kingdom building, and the old Baptist heirarchy of pedigree is long overdue for an end. 

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

7 responses

  1. Cameron says:

    Hi. I’m a regular Joe-Layman from a mid-sized(?) BGCT church (we run about 300 in SS). From my perspective with the little I’ve talked to folks from my church, the split between the BGCT and the SBTC is strictly theological at its base. If you polled our members, I’m pretty sure they would approve of the BFM2000. But, a major contributing factor in the exodus is that people feel like they will be ignored by the BGCT “moderates.”

    I’m 29 and have missed out on a lot of the wars, but I became interested in Baptist denominational life a couple years ago. I asked my pastor about attending the BGCT annual meeting, and he said something like “I’d rather have a root canal.” This coming from a pastor who used to be heavily involved in the BGCT. Being shocked at his answer, I didn’t press in and ask, “why?” I’ve been following some BGCT blogs like yours and can’t say I’m any less perplexed now than I was then.

  2. Ken Coffee says:

    Cameron, hang in there. Change for the good is on the way.

  3. David Lowrie says:

    Lee,

    As usual you have a keen sense of the situation. I appreciate your grasp of the issues and challenges we face.

    It is clear the signs tell us that business as usual will continue to lead to decline and trouble. On the high plains of the Texas dark thunderheads warn of storms approaching. We can see them miles way and can only prepare as best we can for the winds and rain. However, if it were not for the storms our grasslands would become a desert waste land.

    The next few months or couple of years may be stormy but I believe the winds of change are blowing. We have a new beginning with Randel Everett at the helm. He has an opportunity to put together a new visionary leadership team. I suspect we will have to make some hard choices between the good and the best, but if we choose well I believe we can seize the day.

    Cooperation within the Kingdom of God will always be in vogue. I pray for guys like Cameron that they will not lose heart and give God a chance to shape our future.

    David Lowrie

  4. kfgray says:

    Hi Cameron, I’m a layperson too. I’ve spent almost 10 years studying and observing this, b/c it affects our churches. Asking church members or leaders you can get diametrically different responses — or “I’d rather have a root canal” or some other conversation-stopper. But keep seeking until you find someone who appreciates your interest and responds dispassionately, without rancor or suspicion.

    IMO Lee and David Lowrie are some of those people.

  5. Lee says:

    kfgray, thank you for the kind words.

    Cameron, I think reading some of those BGCT bloggers will help clear some things up for you. There are several on the blogroll here that I would recommend, including David Lowrie, Strong Coffee, Spiritual Samurai, Walking the Beat, Ain’tsobad and humbly, this one, where you will get an honest, forthright presentation of perspective. There are individuals who visit those blogs occasionally, as well as the writers themselves, who can answer a lot of questions.

    The perception that the differences between the BGCT and SBTC are theological in nature is a fairly common one. Frankly, I more or less thought so myself until fairly recently. I no longer hold that position. For one thing, if “theological differences” means the difference between the BFM 1963 and 2000, is there really anything there that warrants a breach of Christian fellowship, or is so seriously in disagreement that it prevents churches from cooperating together in missions and ministry to advance the Kingdom? For another, pull out two random churches, one from the BGCT and one from the SBTC, and compare the basic doctrinal beliefs held by the majority of active members of each. It would be like doing a Coca Cola taste test with two glasses of soda from the same bottle. The blindfolded tester would be convinced that there was a difference simply because he was told to compare, but in actuality, there wasn’t a real difference.

    To be sure, there is likely a larger diversity of doctrine in the BGCT, and a broader acceptance of some perspectives when it comes to defining cooperation. Local church autonomy related to certain practices and doctrines in a small percentage of churches is probably the biggest difference. The other most obvious difference is not really doctrinal, but is related to the level of loyalty demonstrated toward the leaders of the conservative resurgence in the SBC.

  6. Lee,

    Like David and others I appreciate your eyes and thoughts on these issues for Baptists (it’s amazing a GC Antelope can think so deeply 🙂 ). I hesitate to comment on too many issues for a couple of reasons– (1) I am extremely cognizant of the reality that my opinions (for that is all they are) can somehow be placed on the perception of Baptist University of the Americas (my ministry assignment until Friday) or Buckner (my assignment starting Monday), and (2) I want to be extremely careful critizicing the boat in which I sit keeping me from having to swim in the ocean myself.

    Having said that, I wanted to try and articulate my own opinion about the future of missional cooperation. My thoughts are nothing new; various authors have shared them in various forms. I believe that the up-and-coming generation of Baptists and every other denomination are looking at ways to remove the middle-man from missional experience. Whether that experience is going or giving, we want to be more involved with the front-lines than perhaps the past generation or two. I don’t just want to give to my church and then have the church apportion a piece of my offering to go to the homeless, I want to give to the homeless directly. I don’t just want to support my friend Jim who is with the IMB in Europe living among Muslims from North Africa, I want to email Jim and talk to Jim and pray for and with Jim and go see Jim and work with him. And I don’t think I’m alone in that desire.

    So, what can we do that both empowers those who want closer ties to front-line missions AND funds the cooperational mission efforts of the CP? To me, that is the $64k question, and it will require prayer, time and wisdom–and most likely some “test-and-fail” trials–in the coming years if our missional efforts are to succeed.

  7. Tim Dahl says:

    Hmm. I learned something today. Today is a good day!

    1) giving from churches isn’t as bad as some people lead us to believe.

    2) it seems that funds from the endowments were used for expenses, thus lowing our endowment.

    3) income from the endowment won’t be near as much as what it was in the past (because of #2).

    It looks like it is time to take care of that endowment. I’m proud of Everett for making the hard decisions (as reported over at Aintsobad). I hope we take care of the ones that have lost their jobs better than we did the other 30 at the end of last year.

    Tim