I'll summarize my thoughts under two heads:
Johnny Hunt Was Right On the Money
In an interview published in Baptist Press yesterday, SBC President Johnny Hunt said something to the effect (as the headline characterized it) that the Cooperative Program is not the only door into the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe that he is correct and that his observations are worthy of our consideration.
Let me state first of all that I am not at all supportive of any changes to the Cooperative Program. Only undesignated gifts should count as a part of CP calculations. I'd prefer that everyone have good opportunity to give through a state convention rather than giving in any sort of a designated manner. That's the ideal.
Support of the Cooperative Program in an undesignated manner is valuable to the Southern Baptist Convention, and it ought to be recognized and encouraged in ways that designated gifts are not recognized and encouraged. Designated gifts can be recognized and encouraged in other ways (and already are), but we ought to put a premium as Southern Baptists upon encouraging Cooperative Program giving.
CP giving is not the sine qua non of Southern Baptist identity. The messenger body of the SBTC wisely fended off a proposed resolution amendment that would have made the Cooperative Program THE distinctive feature of being a Southern Baptist. You sure can't make that declaration historically, since the SBC existed 80 years with no Cooperative Program at all! Ours is an ecclesiological identity and not a programmatic one.
Let me be clear: Southern Baptists who give entirely differently than the Cooperative Program ought to be welcomed, respected, and appreciated for their giving. They shouldn't be described as people who support the Cooperative Program, but they should be described as people who support whatever it is that they support. And if they are supporting the whole SBC package, just in a different way or by a different formula, then they should be described as people who support the SBC.
What's more, Southern Baptist elections and nominations should not be tied slavishly to any analysis of CP giving percentages. Is it a fiction to say that we pray about these matters and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit? Would we tell the Holy Spirit that we will not follow His leadership unless He leads exclusively to people who have given through the Cooperative Program?
Cooperative Program giving should be A factor duly considered in these matters, but it should not be THE factor controlling the process. A few years ago the CP veered dangerously close to being emphasized too much in the process, IMHO.
I do not take the election of Johnny Hunt as the convention saying that the CP needs to be scrapped or that the SBC needs to be torn apart and put back together from top to bottom. But his election most certainly does represent the people of the SBC saying that they'll elect whomever they wish as the officers of this convention, and they will neither tie their own hands nor surrender their own ballots to anyone else's determination of who gives enough by this method or that method so as to be qualified to serve.
The sole qualification to serve as president of the SBC is that you have won the confidence of the people of the SBC for service in that role. The same principle ought to be applied to nominations all the way down the line. During the Conservative Resurgence, we rightly concluded that doctrinal integrity is more important than financial conformity to a single favored giving plan. We make a terrible mistake if we determine that faithfulness to support the Cooperative Program is unimportant, but neither is it all-important.
David Hankins Was Also Spot-On With His Remarks
In a separate article in Baptist Press yesterday, David Hankins presented four affirmations from state convention executives to the Task Force. I will present and interact with each of them:
First, Hankins opined that "the structure that has served Southern Baptists in the past is well suited for the future." I believe that Hankins is speaking with regard to our macro-structure. In other words, we have local churches, local associations of churches, state conventions, and then the Southern Baptist Convention. Hankins is stating that we ought to move into the future with all four of those tiers still intact. With that sentiment I agree.
Now, within those tiers, I do not know that we must stay with precisely the same structure. For example, I believe that some helpful refinements could bring us a brighter day for NAMB. I don't take Hankins to be saying that no minor changes in structure can be considered. If he were saying that, I would disagree. But with him I affirm that our basic structure is precisely the structure for our future as Southern Baptists.
Second, Hankins reminded the task force that "state conventions are necessary, crucial partners for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists." Do I agree? Sort of.
I would re-word the whole matter thusly: "State conventions are as necessary and crucial as partners for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists as is the Southern Baptist Convention." It goes too far to include the word "necessary" in an unqualified sense in either case, IMHO. The local churches are the only necessary component to a Great Commission Resurgence. I believe that both the state conventions and the SBC are helpful, maybe even crucial, partners in this endeavor, but they are not necessary.
Nevertheless, I believe that Hankins means by his statement exactly what I said when I reworded it. He's comparing the necessity and cruciality of the state conventions to the task force and the SBC that inaugurated it. In that context, the state conventions are just as important.
Third, Hankins stated that "the NAMB serves a vital role in a coordinated, comprehensive evangelism and church planting movement for Southern Baptists." I agree entirely, and have said as much on several occasions. Southern Baptists must not emerge from this reorganization without a board separately tasked for evangelism and church planting in North America.
Fourth, Hankins suggested that "the Cooperative Program should be the vehicle of choice for funding Southern Baptist initiatives related to a Great Commission Resurgence." Again, I agree entirely, and have been busily writing along those same lines myself.
It just goes to show that there are good ideas on all sides. If we humbly listen to one another and fervently pray, we just might be able to accomplish some worthwhile things in all of this.