Prestonwood Baptist Church has announced it will resume giving through the Cooperative Program after two months of evaluating its support of Southern Baptist missions and ministries.
“After a time of prayerful evaluation, Prestonwood is renewing our commitment to Southern Baptist missions by giving to the Cooperative Program without designation,” Prestonwood executive pastor Mike Buster told Baptist Press (BP) in a statement.
“For more than 40 years, Prestonwood has been a steadfast supporter of the Cooperative Program and its mission to advance the gospel through this vital giving program. We are grateful for the Southern Baptist Convention and our longtime ministry partnership and look forward to fulfilling the Great Commission together in the days ahead,” Buster said.
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page expressed gratefulness at the Plano, Texas, congregation’s announcement.
“I am so delighted to hear of this news,” Page told BP in written comments. “In an earlier conversation with Dr. Graham, he promised that Prestonwood would be back in to CP sooner than later, and he is a man of his word.”
Prestonwood had announced in mid-February it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” During the escrow period, the congregation said it would evaluate how to proceed with future financial support of SBC and state convention ministries.
In a December 2016 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham, a former SBC president, alleged “disrespectfulness” by Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In March, Moore and the ERLC executive committee released an extended statement “seeking unity in the Southern Baptist Convention.” Shortly after the ERLC’s statement was released, Graham tweeted, “This is a gracious and unifying statement from [Moore].”
Moore told BP in written comments April 26, “Prestonwood Baptist Church is a faithful, vibrant, missions-minded congregation. I’m grateful to God to partner with them as we seek to reach our world for Jesus Christ.”
Responses to Prestonwood’s decision to escrow included a unanimous vote in February by the SBC Executive Committee’s (EC) CP Committee to create an ad hoc committee to “study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting.”
In response to an EC member’s request, the body’s officers also said they would “monitor the activities of our various Southern Baptist entities since our last convention … in relation to how those activities might adversely affect” CP and “our churches and other stewardship structures of Southern Baptists.”
The EC had received reports of other churches taking actions similar to Prestowood’s, BP reported previously.
EC chairman Stephen Rummage told the SBC This Week podcast in March a decision by Prestonwood to resume CP giving could indicate resolution of “most of the concerns that have been raised by the [Executive] Committee.” Prestonwood appears representative of other concerned congregations, said Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)