William Thornton blogs at the SBC Plodder.
Our wonderful Cooperative Program has done well in funding the panoply of state and SBC missions, seminaries, and entities over the last 87 years. It is not a perfect stewardship vehicle but is has been and is our main channel for cooperation. SBC life as we know it is unimaginable without it.
As it stands now, the state conventions keep, on average, about 62% of each CP dollar for their own use, a figure well within the 60 to 65 percent range that is the historic average.
Question: How much of each undesignated Cooperative Program dollar should be enough for the state conventions?
[I am asking mainly about the legacy state conventions of the south, the ones with thousands of churches and millions of members, not of the state conventions outside of the south.]
After the Great Commission Resurgence there was a move to give more of the CP dollar to missions and, concomitantly, for states to keep less. A 50/50 split was the declared goal of many state conventions including the Florida Baptist Convention.
As I suspected/predicted almost two years ago when the FBC voted overwhelmingly for a 50/50 split, it is one thing to designate a 50/50 goal but quite another thing altogether to actually do what is necessary financially to get there.
It looks like the FBC, with predictable regrets, may abandon the goal of a 50/50 split. It hasn’t happened yet but the groundwork is being laid by convention leadership and the matter is being discussed. I suspect that a rollback from the 50/50 goal is as sure an outcome as is the rising of the sun over the Atlantic rather than the Gulf of Mexico.
Baptist Press reported the other day about how ‘Liquidity challenges’ may loom for Fla. convention. ‘Liquidity challenges’ is a fancy way to say that the FBC cannot meet its current financial obligations. The story condensed opposing viewpoints of two Florida Baptist leaders (I do not think that the two opinion pieces in the Florida Baptist Witness are available online just yet). One view was that FBC spending must be cut to continue on the track to a 50/50 split while the other view implied that it was more important to keep CP dollars in Florida.
One FBC executive board member said,
“… I don’t want to see the Florida Baptist Convention come to a point where we can no longer do viable ministry here in Florida for the sake of sending monies somewhere else.”
The proposed 2013 FBC budget keeps 58.5%, over $18 million, in the Sunshine State for “viable ministry.” in Florida where there are about 3000 churches and missions and a million members? That is better than many state conventions.
No doubt the speaker supports international missions but differs on the funding proportion, implying that to do “viable ministry” in Florida requires the FBC to keep much more than half of every CP dollar.
One must acknowledge that state conventions have suffered far more in the last few years than other SBC entities. The FBC executive director claims that his state convention has suffered more than any other in this regard. Budgets have been slashed and then slashed again. Jobs have been cut.
The question is whether or not churches value the work of the state conventions such that they are willing to continue allot over sixty percent of every CP dollar to in-state ministries or if this legacy allocation formula needs to be updated for the 21st Century.
Since the Florida Baptist Convention is on a defined track to keep less in-state and give more of that CP dollar to SBC entities, mainly the mission boards, the question for churches is this: Do we believe that it is proper to cut international and north American missions funding to continue the same funding level for ministry expenses in our state?
Reading Baptist tea leaves is difficult but my sense about these funding decisions is that state conventions will do what is necessary to continue the historic funding proportions and we will never see anything close to a 50/50 split. As a result partly of that, churches will continue to give less to the Cooperative Program.
But to go back to my highlighted question above, just how much of each CP dollar should state conventions keep?