Our venerable Cooperative Program is doing well this fiscal year. Baptist Press reports from the SBC Executive Committee that National CP 4.9% ahead of mid-year projection.
The $100,706,826.63 received by the Executive Committee for the first six months of the fiscal year, Oct. 1 through March 31, for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget represents 104.90 percent of the $96,000,000.00 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $2,358,588.29 or 2.40 percent more than the $98,348,238.34 received through the end of March 2017.
Note the figure comparing the first two quarters of this fiscal year with that of 2016-2017: Up by $2,358,588.29. If the next six months is strong with CP gifts then the CP allocations will bump over the $200 million mark for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
This is for the portion of CP revenues that state conventions forward to the Executive Committee for distribution mainly to the SBC mission boards and seminaries. The state conventions keep about 60% of all CP revenues for their own use. I would speculate that the CP is up because of stronger economics in the country along with the decisions of some state conventions to slightly decrease their keep.
The question is can we in the SBC live with prosperity, with a slightly rising Cooperative Program, or are we bent on behavior that can do nothing but lower the confidence of churches in our grand denominational funding scheme? While the resignation of Frank Page, the CP’s chief and most effective advocate, is painful, I doubt it will have any long term effect.
The greater danger to the longer term outlook of the Cooperative Program comes from the behavior of some partisans in our current denominational divide. Some state convention leaders are heavily promoting one candidate in ways that look harmful to me. One state convention leader has classified all churches that give below the current SBC CP average, about 5%, as “not fully cooperative.” How tens of thousands of SBC churches like being so classified by a denominational leader cannot be helpful to their CP giving. Another state convention leader, while insisting that no CP funds were used, offered his state’s apparatus to promote one of the candidates. At least one other state convention leader, this one an officer of the convention, looks mighty partisan in communications to his state’s churches.
One candidate and some of his supporters has coined and/or is using the negative scare phrase “neo-societal” to brand certain churches that have made their autonomous choices about how they support our common denominational work. We need the support of all of our churches for the CP to succeed.
In an ideal world we would have splendid nominees from which to choose our titular leaders, and that without any partisan agenda being driven by zealous advocates. In the real world we have half of that. Unfortunately, it looks like we may act in such ways so as to harm our common work and common funding mechanism.
…but let’s be optimistic that some more positive way forward will be found.
For obvious reasons, no one is rejoicing at the Executive Committee at the moment but there is some good news and this is it.
The counter argument offered relative to some state convention leaders acting in what I see as an unhelpfully partisan manner is that some prominent SBC leaders, former presidents and entity heads, have spoken positively about the other candidate. I take that to be a healthy recognition of the authentic moment of grace and comity we had in 2016 between the two candidates.