NAMB trustees OK BGCT cooperative
agreement, settling year-long debate
By Ken Camp
Texas Baptist Communications
Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board has approved a new cooperative agreement with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
The trustee action came after the BGCT Executive Board on Sept. 30 approved a revised agreement between the state convention and the missions agency. At previous meetings, the BGCT board had voted on two earlier versions of the document, but each was met by counter-proposals from NAMB.
Final approval of the agreement came after more than a year of negotiations between NAMB and the BGCT. One key issue was the NAMB requirement that its personnel comply with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, a faith statement approved by the Southern Baptist Convention but not by the BGCT.
The approved cooperative agreement retains the requirement that jointly supported personnel conform to procedures and requirements of both NAMB and the BGCT but acknowledges the BGCT's disagreement. It states, “When North American Mission Board funds are used, both entities acknowledge that personnel must comply with North American Mission Board's requirements concerning the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, though this does not indicate affirmation of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”
NAMB provides full financial support for fewer than 60 missionaries throughout North America. Most NAMB-appointed missionaries are funded cooperatively by local Baptist associations, state Baptist conventions or both. NAMB typically pays for insurance benefits and often contributes a salary supplement, while the other partners bear the remaining expense. BGCT leaders have said the Texas convention will pick up the entire compensation package for any missionary related to Texas mission efforts who does not wish to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.
E.B. Brooks, coordinator of the BGCT Church Missions and Evangelism Section, expressed appreciation both to NAMB and BGCT leaders for their efforts in negotiating the cooperative agreement.
“I believe this affords us the opportunity to continue our historic partnership with the North American Mission Board to do very effective evangelism and benevolent ministry in Texas,” Brooks said.
Terry Fox, chairman of the NAMB board of trustees, described the agreement as a “win-win situation” for everyone involved. “This agreement is the best thing for the kingdom of God,” said Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan.
NAMB President Bob Reccord said he was pleased the new agreement “clearly resolved” what he termed “two cornerstone issues” for his agency–the personnel policy regarding affirmation of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and the BGCT practice of retaining funds the convention believed NAMB would have routed back to Texas.
That policy grew out of a recommendation by the BGCT Missions Sending Agency Study Committee in 2001. The rationale cited at the time for retaining funds was to “enable Texas Baptists to plan and fulfill missions strategies within Texas more efficiently, by greatly reducing paperwork, bureaucracy, time-consuming documentation and delays.”
BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade wrote to his Executive Board members recently: “That rationale no longer holds. New processes and funding channels created by NAMB assure us that the problems faced earlier will no longer be present.”
More significantly, Wade pointed out that continuing to retain funds would put the BGCT in the position of keeping money not designated to return to Texas. The current amount of funds retained has been based on commitments NAMB made in 2001 at an annual strategic planning meeting.
“Because we have been in the process of framing a new cooperative agreement, no such meeting has been held with the BGCT since 2001,” he said. “Therefore, there has been no commitment of funds to Texas. We must not be in the position of withholding funds not allocated to Texas.”
Reccord expressed appreciation to Wade for his actions that “opened the way for … continued partnership” between NAMB and the BGCT.”
“I believe this agreement will be a key to reaching Texas and the rest of North America for Christ,” Reccord said.
The last formal cooperative agreement the BGCT had with a domestic Southern Baptist Convention missions agency was negotiated in 1991 with the Home Mission Board. That board merged with the Brotherhood Commission and the Radio & Television Commission in 1997 to form the North American Mission Board.
The approved cooperative agreement retains the requirement that jointly supported personnel conform to procedures and requirements of both NAMB and the BGCT but acknowledges the BGCT's disagreement.