Ohio Baptists may join a growing list of state conventions that split their annual Cooperative Program (CP) receipts equally between the state and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international causes.
Both the 50/50 Task Force Committee, appointed in 2015 to study CP funding allocations, and the state’s Mission Council have voted to ask messengers to approve the 50/50 split, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio president Jeremy Westbrook told Baptist Press (BP).
“The 50/50 committee has spoken, the mission council has voted … so now I pray the messengers will follow this vision and make a historic moment in November and send a message to our state, but also to our country,” said Westbrook, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Marysville. “My prayer is that every state convention would move toward a 50/50 ratio with urgency.”
The Mission Council, the convention’s executive board comprised of a cross section of Southern Baptists in the state, approved the funding recommendation at its July 28 quarterly meeting at Crossing Community Church in Hilliard.
Jack Kwok, executive director/treasurer of the state’s executive resource group, said increasing CP giving has been Ohio’s long-term goal, but had been hindered by the state’s economic recession.
“For 10 years we’ve been challenging our churches to support the Cooperative Program so that we could go to 50/50,” Kwok told BP. With the state’s economy recovering, so is CP giving.
“Gratefully, this has been a really great year. Our churches are responding and they are giving tremendously well,” Kwok said. “They’re back up to where we were several years ago.” An additional $630,000 in CP receipts this year over the nearly $4,300,000 received in 2014-2015, or a 16.65 percent increase, would allow the convention to adopt a 50/50 split without cutting convention work, Kwok said.
SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page expressed optimism in Ohio’s move.
“It is our hope that this bold recommendation by our Ohio Baptist brothers and sisters will impact our nation and the world with the Gospel, while simultaneously allowing them more effectively to reach their own Jerusalems and Judeas for Christ,” Page told BP.
“The strength of the Cooperative Program is faithful tithers giving to their churches, followed by visionary CP giving from their churches, resulting in effective ministry by our states and our SBC entities,” Page said. “This can only happen as Southern Baptists step up and say, ‘Count us in.’ That is the spirit of the Cooperative Program!”
If messengers adopt the recommendation at the annual state meeting Nov. 1-2 at First Baptist Church in Vandalia, Ohio, would join four other state conventions that have pledged at least a 50/50 split (with no shared ministry expenses) between the state convention and SBC national and international missions and ministries the donations the state’s Southern Baptists give through CP.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention gives 55 percent of CP receipts to the SBC, the Baptist Convention of Iowa and the Nevada Baptist Convention split their receipts equally, and the Florida Baptist Convention is in its first year of forwarding to the SBC 51 percent of receipts.
The International Mission Board’s (IMB) announcement that budget challenges precipitated a 2016 reduction in missionaries and stateside staff motivated Westbrook to encourage an increase in that state’s CP giving to the SBC, he said.
“I knew that something had to be done. I knew that I could not as a Christian, as a [state] convention president and a pastor or church leader … sit by idly and do nothing,” Westbrook said. “There were several pastors and leaders in Ohio that had a stirring as well, and the Lord just aligned all of this together for Ohio to make this shift.”
IMB President David Platt announced in February that 983 missionaries and 149 stateside staff members would leave IMB in 2016 through a Voluntary Retirement Incentive and a Hand Raising Opportunity collectively aimed at balancing the entity’s budget.
In turn, Westbrook encouraged Ohio Baptists to faithfully begin forwarding to the SBC 50 percent of their CP receipts. Ohio Baptists in 2016 will forward 40.25 percent of CP receipts to the SBC, retaining 59.75 percent within the state.
“State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, now is the time for us to move forward in our sacrificial, faithful, and generous giving, as both Christians and churches,” Westbrook told Ohio Baptists in his April 2016 Ohio Baptist Messenger column. “It is time for us as a state convention to sacrificially and urgently press toward a 50/50 funding ratio. I am asking you to please pray for us in the weeks ahead as I begin meeting with our 50/50 task force committee. Please pray that God would unify our hearts and that we would step out in faith like never before!”
While messengers have yet to approve the measure, Westbrook said many are already excited about the prospect.
“Just the talk of going 50/50 I think has really encouraged a lot of pastors and given a renewed vision in sending more money to our mission boards and entities,” Westbrook said. “God’s been doing a great work here so I’m excited.”
Stephen Spurgin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Miamisburg, chaired the 10-member 50-50 Task Force Committee, Westbrook said. Westbrook and Ohio Baptist first vice president Tom Pendergrass and second vice president David Starry served as ex-officio members.