I can tell you the batting average of Dale Murphy from his 1983 NL MVP season rose 21 points from his 1982 MVP season(.281 to .302). Much to the chagrin of my poor wife I might add, I am a statistical nerd. It’s true I hated Statistics in college though. No not stats, but Statistics, Probabilities & such. I don’t care if you roll a pair of dice 2909872 times you might not ever get six on both at the same time, but I digress. This isn’t a post about my abnormal LOVE for statistics, the measurable ones at least, it’s a post about the recent kerfuffle we as SBC folk have found ourselves in. Our beloved or bemoaned (depends on your outlook) EC has decided a six-member Task Force should be created consisting of the now-serving Executive Committee chair (who will continue serving until the task force concludes its work) and six Executive Committee members appointed by the Executive Committee chair; and
That the task force review the past and present activities of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in the fulfillment of its Convention-approved ministry assignments and;
That the task force assess whether the actions of the Commission and its leadership are affecting Cooperative Program giving or the further advancement of the Cooperative Program.
With that being the case I have decided to dive deep into my great love of statistics, again the measurable ones, to see if in fact the ERLC has “affected Cooperative Program giving”. The Task Force will be looking into the past & present activities they say. We aren’t exactly sure a) how far back they will go and b) who will be on this TF besides Mike Stone yet, Side Note: I did reach out to the EC Chair & received confirmation from the Senior Executive Assistant to the Board, Becky Chandler as far as she knows, “members for the Task Force have not been named. I would imagine it will be reported in Baptist Press as soon as it happens.”, so my second question cannot be answered, but let’s dive in to the first one shall we?
We have the ability to go back to our Annuals from each year to see what the giving has been. I am going to reach back as far as fiscal year 2013-2014, because that is when Dr. Russell Moore was elected President of the ERLC(June 1, 2013, to be exact). I don’t know if they’ll go back further than this, but my guess is the motion was made concerning Dr. Moore’s leadership per the story published in Baptist Press. It could be broken down on a monthly basis, but for the sake of non-statical folk, I will use Fiscal Years(FY starts in Oct. btw).
For FY18-19 the numbers are online at:
This will give you the raw numbers of the Annual we will get in Orlando. Those numbers show that CP allocation is $190,967,402.58 which is down 0.15%. For FY19-20 so far we are up 2.96% from FY18-19.
As for the total overall giving of Southern Baptists is also up. This picture shows us that detail over the same amount of time. As you can see below we have seen an overall uptick in giving.
So what does this all mean? Well if you look at the % Change line in the photo above you’ll see that money is up. States have funneled more money on to the SBC as well with a slight decline of -0.19% in FY17-18. I am unsure though what the % is for FY18-19 & FY19-20 because the annuals aren’t out yet & the current year isn’t over. We can see from measurable statistics that CP giving is up & more money is being sent on to the SBC. Now what we can’t see is how many churches, if there are any, that are withholding money or if they are designating directly to entities(that number isn’t tracked). In 2017 when the EC did its investigation of those churches withholding, designating or escrowing Cooperative Program funds they confirmed 14 churches yes 14 out of 46,000 churches were estimated to have diverted a total of about $1.5 million away from the Cooperative Program. Small potatoes if you ask me.
“We are looking for the facts,” said Executive Committee chairman Mike Stone, who will chair the task force. “We are hearing from state leadership and other pastors across the country. We are making a statement about effectiveness.” “The ERLC is governed by their board of trustees,” Stone continued. “This is not a governance issue. This is a budget issue related to their fulfillment of their mission and ministry assignment. We continue to hear reports that are largely anecdotal but increasing in number where churches are either decreasing or withholding Cooperative Program funds related to concerns with the ERLC. We have a responsibility that we are granted under the bylaws of the SBC to look at this.”
The EC says they received multiple complaints & I’m guessing threats even that churches are going to withhold unless there is an investigation. We know this to be true because in 2017 Jack Graham had a very public statement regarding this exact issue. He received lots of backlash, rightly so because he was withholding the CP money from his megachurch unless there were answers. Many came out against this rhetoric because his megachurch money helps fund missionaries around the globe & at home. This kind of sentiment is akin to Stan & Mable directing their tithes because they don’t like the music or the pastor wears jeans or we aren’t using Lifeway curriculum any longer. Threatening to use your money as power didn’t get him that far then, but seemingly it has gotten further this time around, whoever the threateners may be.
What we can’t tell by looking at these numbers is how much of the rise in state conventions sending more money to the SBC or the minimal fluctuation in CP giving is quantifiable to Dr. Moore’s leadership good or bad. We could say that giving is up or down because of his leadership. If money is down immensely(which it isn’t) it could be the economy or fewer people in the pews, it’s only speculation at this point.
If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it several times said “If there’s nothing wrong, then why wouldn’t the ERLC want this? It will clear their name.” Well, the problem here is that when we investigate someone when there is nothing wrong we have kowtowed to the powers that be or the money men. Motions have been made from the floor at multiple SBCAMs to defund the ERLC, all of which have failed miserably. It would seem that the EC has decided to not listen to the messengers, but listen to the rhetoric spun by the internet critics.
The TF is going to have a tough job ahead because it seems many minds are already made up. These numbers don’t tell us anything, because like Dale Murphy’s batting avg. numbers don’t always tell us everything. We can find anything we are looking for if we already have our minds made up. Abraham Kaplan said, “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” If it ain’t broke don’t fix it is what my father always said, but I guess his logic was lost in the EC Executive Session.
Chris Gordon serves as Pastor of First Baptist Church Hennessey OK. Chris has served as a Sr. Pastor for 7 years and 14 years as a Youth/Music Minister. Chris is Married to McKenzie and has 4 children that were all adopted at birth domestically. He co-hosts the SBC History podcast & is an advocate for Adoption & Racial Reconciliation.