There is other news of note than the sad saga of LifeWay and President and Mrs. Trump being sick. For a bright, positive example consider our IMB appointing 80 new missionaries, ones that are “fully funded” and supported by our existing revenue stream. More on that later.
But about the Alaska state convention and our beloved Cooperative Program as reported in Baptist Press:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BP) – Messengers to the annual meeting of the Alaska Baptist Resource Network took the unprecedented step of attempting to withhold the allocation of future Cooperative Program funds intended for the North American Mission Board.
The state convention moved Tuesday (Sept. 29) that beginning with the 2022 budget, “the percentage of Cooperative Program funds that traditionally were intended for the North American Mission Board … be retained in Alaska” and designated for a state missions fund “until such time as there is a collaborative, cooperative and mutually-agreed upon strategy with the North American Mission Board, as determined by our executive director and the executive board of the Alaska Baptist Resource Network.”
This is a significant action even though the state (their name is “Alaska Baptist Resource Network”; seems that using “convention” is sooo 20th century) has only 120 of the SBC’s 47k churches (churches and missions, I think is more accurate but BP reported the larger number of “churches.”)
Here’s the arrangement about state conventions and the CP:
- State conventions promote and collect CP contributions from their churches. State conventions have no money of their own. It all comes from churches (a few minor exceptions to this, like property sales, bequests, and investment returns).
- State conventions receive these monies, designated “Cooperative Program” from the churches, and pass an agreed percentage to the SBC Executive Committee. Each state decides what percent they want to keep for themselves. The overall SBC average is around 60% to the state, 40% to the EC. I couldn’t find current ABRN data. This doesn’t matter. It’s the decision of the autonomous state convention what percentage to keep.
- The SBC Executive Committee divides the CP receipts from the states among SBC entities according to percentages approved by SBC messengers in annual session. Most importantly here, NAMB receives 22.79% of each CP dollar received in Nashville. It gets that because the SBC messengers voted that. You can’t get more grassroots than that.
- The ABRN voted to keep the 22.79% in state; that is, NAMB would be defunded from CP giving through the churches in Alaska. Needless to say, some in the ABRN are mad at NAMB. This is their reaction, called “somber” by the ARBN’s leader, Randy Covington.
But, you knew all that already.
Here’s what is newsworthy about this (and when was the last time Baptist Press wrote a 2,000 word story on Southern Baptists in Alaska?).
- As Ronnie Floyd is quoted in the story, “The Cooperative Program is not a cafeteria plan.” Righto Ronnie and exactly the right metaphor. SBC messengers, not state convention messengers, define the Cooperative Program. If a state wants to reduce support for the CP, they can reduce the percentage sent to the EC for distribution.
- The ABRN action poked all their churches in the eye concerning the churches’ CP giving. In effect, the ARBN said that we want your Cooperative Program gifts but we’re going to redefine what it means in this cold state.
- The ABRN action poked the Cooperative Program in the eye. Actually, it cut the heart out of the CP.
- The ABRN action poked NAMB in the eye. Hey, I get it. Some states don’t like how NAMB spends the money they receive from the CP and the Annie Armstrong offering.
- The action may be illegal, depends on the agreements signed by states concerning the CP. Perhaps we can avoid another lawsuit. It doesn’t matter to the CP if a state recalculates their CP percentage and reduces it by the amount NAMB or any other entity receives. It does matter if the state says, “We’ve agreed to the CP but want to defund some of the entities Southern Baptist messengers have approved and keep the money for ourselves.”
NAMB, by the way and not insignificantly, puts an average of around $1 million annually into Alaska. That’s about $10k per church, according to the latest data I have at hand. Not quite chump change. The problem is that the ABRN would like to have more say in how NAMB spends its money in their state.
So, why not have a confab and work it out face-to-face? Kevin Ezell, NAMB leader, says he is willing to meet. Randy Covington says, “Negotiations are ongoing about the venue and the size of the meeting and those kinds of things.” Yeah, those kind of things. Really.
Not likely to supplant the outrage and angst over LifeWay, but very important nonetheless.
Please, no complaints about “drop dead.” The principle of cooperation is effectively killed by actions like the ABRN. Besides, it’s a good phase to use in the title.
Update: I admit to an affection for famous headlines. “Drop dead” is one of them. I think it’s a good fit but nowadays folks don’t ever read articles, much less links. I’d be interested for any ABRN people to challenge Ronnie Floyd on his “cafeteria” comment or dispute anything in the BP article.