North Carolina Baptists’ top administrator stands with the originators of the Great Commission Resurgence document that calls for, among other things, an evaluation of “Convention structures and priorities.”
Although Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) executive director-treasurer, had not joined almost 2,800 others by May 26 who have signed the document, which would publicly endorse the 10 commitments it calls for, he said in his address to the BSC board May 20 that “I stand with the leaders of this great movement.”
Only two executives of Baptist state conventions have signed the document. The public statements of some indicate they feel singled out as part of the “bloated bureaucracy” mentioned in the sermon by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin from which the Great Commission Resurgence document was derived. They resent it and the document’s originators, Akin and SBC President Johnny Hunt, are meeting June 8 with many to assure them they are friends and supporters of state convention leaders.
As of May 26 the presidents of 14 Baptist state conventions have signed the document, including North Carolina’s Rick Speas and Allan Blume, BSC board president.
Hollifield said Akin and Hunt “acknowledge to me they don’t have all the answers but they want to see Southern Baptists become a stronger mission force … and I support their effort.”
Hollifield said Baptists at all levels of denominational life “must take a hard look at ourselves and be willing to change.”
In other points of his address, Hollifield said North Carolina Baptists have faced difficult economic times before and rebounded with strength. He noted historical accounts from the Biblical Recorder in 1923 and 1929 in which leadership said, “We must cut expenses during hard times.”
“People can be drawn to radical obedience” when they trust the providence of God, Hollifield said.
He recalled the “largest downsizing in our history” in 2003 when 24 positions were eliminated from the BSC staff, and 15 people lost their jobs. Since then a position evaluation committee must approve continuation of any newly vacant position before it can be refilled.
Seven new positions have been added to the Convention staff since 2003, Hollifield said. Ten approved positions remain unfilled.
He said Convention staff is managing the decline in Cooperative Program income by “scrutinizing the budget,” by prioritizing efforts and by challenging the staff to work “hard, smart and efficiently.”
He said he “painfully told staff,” that he “cannot promise you we will not have to cut any positions.” Currently, running on an internal budget significantly lower than the budget approved by messengers in 2007 for 2009, Convention revenue is $550,000 ahead of expenses, he said.
Hollifield reminded directors that just three years after the 2003 downsizing, the Convention realized its “largest Cooperative Program receipts in history.”
Gifts dipped in 2008 to nearly $4.8 million less than the budget approved by messengers in the 2007 annual meeting, he said. The only two areas of work receiving more funds than in previous years are church planting and Southern Baptists’ national and international work.
“The Baptist State Convention is healthy and doing well,” Hollifield said. “We have a tremendous, bright future before us.”