Picking up from my previous post, I also want to make certain that you did not miss the updated report that I later linked in a new first paragraph to that blog. GCR Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd has engaged in a little Q&A with the press in the aftermath of Monday night's report.
The full text of the GCR Task Force Progress Report is here. The six numbered initiatives in that report, abridged and paraphrased by myself, are (as you recall from the previous post):
- The adoption of a new mission statement for the SBC.
- The thoroughgoing reorganization of the NAMB.
- The handing-over of international people groups living within the USA to the IMB.
- The reassignment of CP promotion and education to the state conventions.
- The addition of "Great Commission Giving" as a statistical category alongside "Cooperative Program Giving"
- The reallocation of 1% of the CP budget away from the Executive Committee to the IMB
I covered items 1-3 in the first post. Let's pick up the thread at item 4.
State Conventions to Resume Primary Role in Promoting the Cooperative Program
This will appear to many as a merely clerical move. It will affect the "preferred items" portion of state convention budgets. It will mean that less money and fewer assignments now belong to the Executive Committee, causing that entity to be marginally less powerful and important within the Southern Baptist Convention.
But I really believe that the best analysis of this fourth recommendation pertains to a consideration of the next two planks of the GCR platform. Let's move to an analysis of these items in sequence without letting go of this fourth item entirely. The fifth item is:
"Great Commission Giving"
Southern Baptists have always acknowledged designated giving to Southern Baptist causes. We give awards to top Lottie Moon Christmas Offering givers. Putting a new label ("Great Commission Giving") on these designated contributions, in and of itself, is no substantial change from what Southern Baptists have always done. I know of no reason to withhold support from something that is, in its substance, merely the status quo.
However, there is clearly a symbolic aspect of this plank. Some churches give very little through the Cooperative Program. At times in the past, Southern Baptists have engaged in the shaming of such churches. This is something of an effort to put an end to that practice once and for all.
What do I think of that?
Well, first of all, I think that the Cooperative Program has been misused in our recent past. The denominational apparatus of the Southern Baptist Convention should not be using CP litmus tests to determine who will serve the denomination as officers or trustees. Also, it is very unseemly for the Southern Baptist Convention to be sending denominational employees to upbraid churches about their CP giving (if such has ever happened). If I, as a member of a church giving 10% through the Cooperative Program, wish to complain to the SBC church down the pike that they are not pulling their weight in partnering with us, then that's one thing. For CP-paid denominational employees to try to dictate terms to an autonomous local church is repugnant to what I believe about the churches.
Secondly, I would note that some churches have VERY good reasons for not giving through their particular state conventions. If a local church has a beef with a state convention precisely because that state convention is not very supportive of the SBC, then it is foolish for the SBC to step into that squabble on behalf of the state convention. Somebody really smart once said that "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
There certainly are churches that give very little through the CP because (at least in part) they like to spend that money in their own churches. If a church were to (a) give around 0.02% of its receipts through the Cooperative Program while (b) the church leased and operated a private jet for the pastor, then in that hypothetical situation I would affirm the church's right to operate in that manner, but would not personally celebrate that situation in any sense. But not every low-CP church can be classified together with the churches that make no good-faith effort to join us in our cooperative mission.
I said that we would consider the third plank together with these latter two planks. When the reassignment of CP promotion responsibilities is combined with the advent of a new "Great Commission Giving" category, I do believe that we need to be careful that we are not setting aside the Cooperative Program as the primary giving emphasis of the national Southern Baptist Convention. The task force report clearly states that this is not the intention of the task force, and I applaud them both for having the foresight to see that this would be a danger and for having the decisiveness to state plainly that the Cooperative Program should neither be altered nor should share the spotlight with an unproven newcomer.
Nevertheless, the primacy of the Cooperative Program will not be secured merely by the well-wishes of the task force. We must be diligent that we continue to speak from the platform about the Cooperative Program. We should not introduce speakers by talking about their "Great Commission Giving" totals, nor should denominational magazines or emails trumpet anyone's "Great Commission Giving."
In other words, to state the matter more plainly, "Great Commission Giving" should not stand at any disadvantage to Cooperative Program giving as it pertains to giving tests for any aspect of participation in the SBC, but I think it is terribly important that Cooperative Program be the only giving plan promoted at all by Southern Baptists at any tier. We should never do anything to promote "Great Commission Giving" as a convention.
To do so is simply to embrace societal missions and to discard the convention method.
Now it appears why the third plank is relevant to the fourth one. The relinquishment of the task of promoting the Cooperative Program must not be a move that makes way for the SBC at the national level to perform any promotion of "Great Commission Giving."
Clearly, the task force has not given any indication that such an attempt lies behind this plank at all. My point is not that these two actions are designed to make this happen. I just think that, taken together, they open the vulnerability. This is not a reason for us to oppose these actions; rather, it is an indication of the areas in which we must be careful as we adopt them.
Moving 1% from Executive Committee to IMB
The task force is proposing that we reallocate 1% of the Cooperative Program receipts away from the Executive Committee to the International Mission Board. This follows logically from the fact that the task force is adding to the job of the IMB (domestic internationals) while taking away from the job of the Executive Committee (CP promotion).
One is tempted to wonder whether a whopping 1% reallocation lives up to all of the hype about getting more resources to lostness and all of the criticisms about how little Southern Baptist missions money makes it out of the USA. It is not clear from these recommendations that the task force will succeed in getting any more money out of the USA. The IMB will indeed receive 1% more funding, but it will also, for the first time in its history, start having to spend money on missionary activity here in the USA. It is possible that the IMB will spend more money to get programs going within the USA than it will receive by the 1% reallocation—possible, but not likely. The point being that some percentage demonstrably less than 1% will additionally go overseas from the SBC because of these changes.
I don't say this in criticism of the task force recommendations. I think that these are good recommendations. I say what I have said more in criticism of some of the more radical recommendations and appeals to the task force—appeals that they have obviously (and wisely) set aside.
This is not a report that "blows up" anything. Praise the Lord. This is a report that respectfully recognizes the value and substance of previous generations' accomplishments and then determines to build upon them.
Were you expecting this report to amount to Moses come down from the mountain with the thing that somebody else was going to do to inaugurate a third great awakening to spread across the globe? Then you're likely to be underwhelmed by this progress report. Obviously, a <1% reallocation of money and a few points of restructuring are not going to mark the sea-change of our spiritual future.
If, however, you were expecting (as I was) a few points of denominational restructuring that stand a chance of helping a little bit, then maybe you're pleased with this progress report. I know that I am. I plan to vote in support of these measures, and I hope that you will do so, too.
I also think that the task force has identified in the prolegomena and in some of the content of the first proposal a few of the really powerful concepts that do indeed have the potential to propel Southern Baptists into an unprecedented age of Great Commission effectiveness. None of these things can really be put into place by a ballot vote. None of these things can really be accomplished by a task force.
The greatest potential that we have for a decisive step forward as Southern Baptists lies not in programmatic restructuring but in spiritual renewal. The best parts of the report are the other areas besides the six recommendations (or maybe that statement reflects my lack of wonkishness). The lack of sensationalism in the six items listed in this proposal may be the best feature of the report. Perhaps the absence of seminary mergers and name changes among the six restructuring proposals will cause us to pay less attention to them, and to pay more attention to the spiritual concepts embedded within the report.
To realize all that God would love to do through our obedience will take hard work on our part—on the part of vast numbers of Southern Baptists. In my final post in this series, I want to move away from the six specific proposals and consider some of the things that I believe we all will need to do as Southern Baptists in order to see these efforts succeed.