NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A task
force studying ways to make the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) more
effective recommended greater flexibility and cooperation among state and
national entities in its initial progress report to the SBC Executive Committee
Task force chairman Ronnie
Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark., said the group will
meet at least once more before releasing a final report May 3 to be presented
at the SBC annual meeting June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla.
While any structural changes
suggested in the report would fall under purview of boards of trustees of
various SBC entities, the task force proposed six specific components of a
vision for Southern Baptists to champion in the future.
The first calls for a “new
and healthy culture” that provides local Southern Baptist churches with a “missional
vision” to present the gospel and make disciples in North America and around
“Our present culture
represents First Corinthians 3 much more than First Corinthians 13,” Floyd
said. “Envy, strife and division need to become unacceptable. Instead, let this
world know us by the depths of our love for Jesus, the gospel and one another.”
The second component calls
for the convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) to be “reinvented and
released” to prioritize church planting in America among under-served people
To do that, Floyd said,
Southern Baptists must address “one of the stark realities” of the way the
Convention currently functions. Two thirds of Cooperative Program dollars are
spent among one third of the population that lives in the Bible Belt, while one
third of the unified budget goes to the two thirds of Americans living in
states in the West and Northeast with a much smaller Southern Baptist presence.
The task force recommends
phasing out over four years cooperative agreements with Baptist state
conventions through which NAMB shares the cost of certain missions personnel
who are on state convention staffs. Floyd said ending the agreements would give
NAMB freedom to budget for a national strategy instead of committing the bulk
of its funds to established Baptist state conventions in the South.
At the same time, Floyd
said, globalization has flattened the world so that people groups engaged by
highly trained International Mission Board missionaries are also found on
American soil. A third component would allow the IMB to reach “unreached and
under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.”
Task force members said the
strategy would create “a new synergy” between the North American and
International mission boards.
“I think in Southern Baptist
life it’s time for all hands on deck,” task force member Robert White told
reporters. “If we can’t work together we need to learn how to work together.”
The fourth component
recommended by the task force is to move ministry assignments for promotion of
the Cooperative Program and stewardship education from the SBC Executive
Committee, which assumed them in a denominational restructuring in 1997, to the
Baptist state conventions, which were understood to be primarily responsible
for promoting and gathering funds for the unified budget when the plan was
developed in the 1920s.
A fifth component reaffirms
the Cooperative Program as the “central means” for supporting work of the
convention, but also proposes a new nomenclature of “Great Commission Giving”
for gifts designated to the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or
local association instead of through the unified budget.
The final component calls
for increasing the International Mission Board’s Cooperative Program allocation
in the 2010-2011 budget by one percentage point to 51 percent, a both “symbolic
and substantial” change that for the first time in history would mean that more
than one half of money collected through the CP goes to international missions.
Viewing distribution of the
Cooperative Program as a pie chart, that would require reducing spending to
other ministries by 1 percent. The task force said moving assignments for
Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education from the Executive
Committee to state conventions should free up at least 1 percent of “facilitating
ministries” that can then be reallocated to international missions.
Floyd acknowledged the
realignment would blur boundaries delineated in program assignments for various
SBC entities developed over the years.
“Either we can sit back and
play it safe with lines so clearly drawn you get your hand spanked if you cross
over, or we can say: ‘Hey, let’s roll up our sleeves for the gospel. There’s
plenty of lost people. Let’s go, and let’s make a difference,’” Floyd said.