This afternoon Baptist Press reported that Prestonwood Baptist Church would resume their Cooperative Program giving. The article specifies their giving will be without designation, meaning there will be no redirection of funds away from any specific entities. This is a welcome resolution to an issue that had gone mostly quiet since Russell Moore and ERLC trustees released their ‘Seeking Unity’ statement more than a month ago.
“After a time of prayerful evaluation, Prestonwood is renewing our commitment to Southern Baptist missions by giving to the Cooperative Program without designation,” Prestonwood executive pastor Mike Buster told Baptist Press in a statement.
The BP article mentions the Executive Committee studies that are currently underway, but it’s too early to give any updates on what effect this news will on their work. I remember it being implied somewhere along the way that if the Prestonwood issue were resolved, then the need for the study committees would greatly diminish since Prestonwood seemed “representative” of those churches who had expressed concerns. (I wish I could remember the source, was it Rummage on the SBC This Week podcast who said that? If someone remembers, please jump in the comments.)
While I’m glad to see Prestonwood restore their previous funding for CP missions causes, I remain firm in my view that this whole episode was unhealthy and unnecessarily divisive in the life of the SBC. I’m concerned about this tactic being used in the future, regardless of the “side” or cause that chooses to employ it. We shouldn’t use missions funding as a bargaining tool. Every church has a responsibility to steward their missions giving in a way that supports the causes they desire – you won’t see me criticize a church for directing funds toward this or away from that entity. But when demands are being made (We’re not giving to the IMB until this action is taken… or We’re stopping CP giving until our concerns are addressed…), whether spoken or implied, that ought to be treated as out-of-bounds by all of us.
Disagreements about their tactics aside, I want to thank and express appreciation for Prestonwood for their past and future missions giving, along with many other large churches who give huge sums of money to support our missions work, seminaries, and other cooperative efforts. We’re not a perfect convention, and we have our disagreements, but we do a lot of good things as we work together for the Kingdom of Christ.