SBC Executive Committee
drops '10 percent' recommendation
By Hannah Elliott
Associated Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP)—The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has amended a recommendation that the convention encourage the election of SBC officers “whose churches give at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.”
The move came amid scrutiny of the two announced SBC presidential candidates—Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springfield, Ark., and Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.
Critics said Floyd, former Executive Committee chairman, should not be considered for SBC president because his church gives less than one fourth of 1 percent of its undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program, which funds state, national and international ministries.
The Springdale congregation gave $32,000 in 2005 through the state Cooperative Program—0.27 percent of undesignated receipts of $11,952,137. Another $189,000—1.8 percent—was sent to the national Cooperative Program but bypassed the state, while $489,862 was given to designated SBC causes, church staff members said.
For the same period, First Baptist Church in Taylors gave $535,000—12.1 percent—of its $4.4 million in undesignated receipts.
Now, SBC leaders have rescinded the 10 percent endorsement altogether. The Executive Committee officers released a statement saying they had changed their minds because the “recommendations never were intended to create controversy.”
“Messengers will have a number of decisions to make about a host of issues,” the statement continued. “We hope the revised recommendations will make it possible for messengers to wholeheartedly embrace our initiative to increase support for the Cooperative Program.”
Executive Committee President Morris Chapman said the officers changed their suggestion about giving because they didn’t want it to be viewed as a “litmus test” for candidates, according to a report in Baptist Press, communications arm of the Executive Committee.
“The members of both the executive committee and the (ad hoc Cooperative Program) committee strongly believe in the autonomy of the local church and fully understand that only a local church can decide what portion of their tithes and offerings will be given through the Cooperative Program,” Chapman said. “The language of the recommendations keyed on the word, ‘encourage.’ Nevertheless, if we can dispel misunderstandings about the report, we are obligated for the sake of God’s kingdom and the convention to do so.”
The initial special report came from an ad hoc Cooperative Program Committee, chaired by Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Jordan told Baptist Press said he was disappointed with the proposed revisions. The 10 percent goal was “never intended to be law” but to “challenge Southern Baptists,” he said.
“The revisions made by the Executive Committee do not change the reality that we can do more together than we can alone,” he continued. “The Cooperative Program is our chosen way of mission support. It deserves our best.”
Along with rescinding the suggestion of a specified amount for Cooperative Program giving, Executive Committee officers also encouraged churches to methodically increase their giving to the program, although they stopped short of mandating a growth rate. Neither did they mention a target percentage to which churches should aspire.