February 22, 2017 | Posted in:Southern Baptist Convention

Executive Committee chairman Stephen Rummage said the "prominence" of churches' escrowing CP funds justifies a "special look" at the issue. Photo by Morris Abernathy

Executive Committee chairman Stephen Rummage said the “prominence” of churches’ escrowing CP funds justifies a “special look” at the issue. Photo by Morris Abernathy

NASHVILLE (BP) — Amid continuing discussion of churches’ escrowing or withholding Cooperative Program funds, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee launched two efforts to study the issue at its Feb. 20-21 meeting in Nashville.

The EC’s actions related to CP came less than a week after it was reported that Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” See related story. Other churches have taken or are considering similar action over concerns related to multiple SBC entities, according to reports received by the EC.

In light of such reports, the EC’s CP Committee unanimously adopted a motion “that the chairman of the Cooperative Program Committee form a subcommittee … 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.”

Adoption of the motion followed extended discussion, in which EC members and other attendees urged the committee to take action.

CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade told Baptist Press the “concern of the committee is anything that’s negatively impacting the Cooperative Program,” Southern Baptists’ unified channel for funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.

“We need to know about” such challenges, said Slade, pastor of Meridian Southern Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., “and be on top of creating redemptive solutions.”

The ad hoc subcommittee likely will be appointed by Feb. 25, Slade said.

During a Feb. 21 plenary session, EC member Tony Crisp requested that EC officers “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.” He requested a report to the full EC at its June 12 meeting in Phoenix.

EC chairman Stephen Rummage responded that the request was “certainly within the purview and responsibilities of our officers … so we are glad to comply with that request.”

Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., told BP the two efforts to study CP challenges — by the CP Committee and the EC officers — are “complementary” and will “help inform” one another.

“The issues behind churches escrowing funds have risen to a level of prominence that justifies us taking a special look” at what is occurring, Rummage said.

In other action, the EC recommended a 2017-18 SBC Operating Budget of $7,450,000.

The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for world missions ministries.

The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will yield: Gateway Seminary, 2.11 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 2.93 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.72 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 4.03 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.17 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 3.96 percent; and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)

The budget proposal designates 1.65 percent to the ERLC.

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.