by David Roach
NASHVILLE (BP) – With an ad hoc committee of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee set to begin its study of churches’ escrowing Cooperative Program money, EC chairman Stephen Rummage says the study was occasioned in part by the notable volume of contacts the EC has received regarding the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press the entity is “a servant of our churches” and “happy to work with the Executive Committee.”
Meanwhile, Jack Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, told BP the congregation will conclude its internal study of giving to SBC causes before the convention’s June annual meeting in Phoenix. Prestonwood announced last month it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” Prestonwood plans to continue cooperating with the SBC in some form, Graham, a former convention president, said via text message.
Other churches have taken or are considering similar action over concerns related to multiple SBC entities, according to reports received by the EC.
Rolland Slade, chairman of the EC’s CP Committee told BP today (March 6) the ad hoc study group will include 11 members : Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif.; Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.; EC vice chairman Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Dave Bryan, pastor of Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang, Okla.; Daniel Carr, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis; B. Scott Davis, pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, N.C.; Dale Jenkins, pastor of Airway Heights (Wash.) Baptist Church; Mike Lawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas; Glynn Rhinehart, a member of First Baptist Church in Youngsville, La.; Hoyt Savage, pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Las Vegas; and Jared Wellman, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas.
The group’s initial meeting, Slade said, likely will occur via conference call. A date for the meeting will be calendared by March 18.
According to a motion unanimously adopted by the CP Committee last month, the study committee will “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.”
Slade said in an email the study committee “will discuss ways to discover whether escrowing CP funds is widespread and, if so, the reasons why; then we can begin to develop redemptive solutions to resolve the issues … We’ll likely look at this issue, share our findings with the [EC] officers and the CP Committee and then with the full EC.”
Slade said he will “stress with the group” that “this is first and foremost a Kingdom effort, not an effort to single out an individual, entity or point of view. What affects CP affects the work of Southern Baptists. We must be about sharing the Gospel to the world.”
Rummage told the SBC This Week podcast March 3 the ad hoc committee, and a separate study of SBC entities to be undertaken by the EC officers, is necessary because “a lot of … churches” have “concerns about some of the things that are happening in certain SBC entities. Specifically, some of the actions of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have caused a lot of churches to respond and register concerns.”
Rummage added, “In fact, our Executive Committee staff tells me that they have received more letters, more calls, more emails [from] people who are considering defunding or holding back CP monies” over “this issue” than “from any other issue in memory.”
The ad hoc committee’s study will examine “the way our churches are responding” to all SBC entities, Rummage said, even though discussion of the ERLC “has surfaced most strongly” in recent months.
Roger S. Oldham, EC vice president for convention communications and relations, told BP the EC office has processed dozens of requests over the past year from churches seeking to withdraw from the SBC.
“Pastors seldom call or write the EC offices to express concerns about an entity, so when they do it is notable,” Oldham said in written comments. “Our practice is to refer them to the entity’s leaders or its trustees. In addition to numerous conversations with pastors expressing frustration or even threatening to withhold CP funds this past year, our office processed requests from 49 churches to withdraw from the convention, up from the half dozen or so we usually process in a given year. We grieve each time we send a notice to our entities that a church has voted to leave the convention.”
Moore told BP in written comments, “The ERLC could not do what it does without the sacrificial giving of churches, and there is hardly anything more foundational in our denomination than our Cooperative Program partnership, working together for the sake of Gospel advance.
“As a servant of our churches, we are happy to work with the Executive Committee, and more broadly, grateful to be able to serve our churches daily, whether by answering their questions, providing resources and assistance or standing alongside them in the public square contending for the fundamental issues of life, family and religious liberty,” Moore said.
Rummage expressed hope that churches’ concerns can be resolved.
A decision by Prestonwood to resume CP giving could indicate resolution of “most of the concerns that have been raised by the [Executive] Committee” because Prestonwood appears representative of other concerned congregations, Rummage said.
Graham told BP Prestonwood executive pastor Mike Buster “is chairing a study committee to evaluate our SBC giving” and the committee has “nothing to report” at present.
According to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile, Prestonwood has given $500,000 through CP each of the last three fiscal years for which data is available. The congregation has given approximately $500,000 each of those years through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $100,000 through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, according to ACP data.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Twenty-nine Southern Baptists were appointed as missionaries to the nations during the International Mission Board’s trustee meeting Feb. 28-March 1 near Richmond, Va. Trustees also heard numerous reports and recognized 63 missionaries who retired or died within the past year.
During IMB’s Sending Celebration service, new missionaries represented churches that cooperate with 11 state Baptist conventions. The missionaries will take the Gospel to peoples in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Newly appointed missionary Carter Finley* of North Carolina said God is providing unprecedented opportunities for her to serve Him among the nations, and “with a degree in fibers, fabrics and handcrafted textiles, along with a desire to take the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth, the Lord is allowing her to literally and figuratively weave the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts of Central Asians.”
Aaron and Melissa Stormer of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., are being sent to the American peoples. Aaron said they are going “because we know that God’s heart is for all people to know His name.”
Melissa noted she realized God’s heart for the nations while sharing the Gospel in a small mountain village in Haiti.
“I felt Jesus whispering, ‘I died for them as well as you,'” she said during the March 1 celebration. Her husband felt God calling him to the mission field while walking the stone-lined streets and surrounded by blue tiles and the lost people of Porto, Portugal.
“God has called us to go and carry out His mission in order that the lost may be found and His truth proclaimed,” she said.
Jim* and Pam Smith* expressed thanks that Southern Baptist churches work together through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to send and support missionaries. Jim said it was as a young Royal Ambassador (a Southern Baptist missions discipleship program) at a church in Virginia that he became aware of God’s heart for the nations. From Panama to China, short-term mission trips were formative in turning his heart toward the nations.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid in Colorado and Virginia, Pam felt God used short-term mission trips from the bush of Kenya to the busy streets of Turkey to awaken her desire to go from short-term to full-time missions. The Virginia couple will share the Gospel in South Asia.
‘A day of wide open doors’
During the trustees’ plenary session, IMB President David Platt implored trustees to lead Southern Baptists away from the deception, diversion, distraction and division that have dominated news not just in American culture, but also in the church, and specifically the Southern Baptist Convention. Rather, Southern Baptists should be looking at what the apostle Paul refers to as a “wide door for effective work” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).
“We are living in a day of wide open doors here and around the world, and it is high time for Southern Baptists not to divide, but to join together — not to be distracted, but to be resolutely focused on the purpose for which we came together in the first place: the spread of the Gospel in a world of urgent need … a world of urgent need and unprecedented opportunity,” Platt said.
Sharing a video story about Abuk, a young refugee from Africa who obediently answered God’s call to return to Africa to make disciples, Platt praised God for a Southern Baptist church in Amarillo, Texas, that reached out to the immigrant family.
“We hear those words “refugee, immigrant” today, and they’re so politically charged, and if we’re not careful, we can start to picture immigrants as problems to be solved, not people to be loved,” Platt said. “Brothers and sisters, there are wide open doors to love people right around us in a way that leads to love for people all around the world.
“This is a story of a refugee turned IMB missionary! And that’s possible — why? Did you see the news headline in that video? ‘Baptists come together despite barriers.’ Oh, may that be the commentary on our cooperation in this day of wide open doors.”
This story was compiled by Baptist Press staff with reporting from the International Mission Board and is reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
* Names changed.
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.
PLANO, Texas (BP) — A Dallas-area megachurch has decided to escrow Cooperative Program funds temporarily in order to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention causes.
At issue are what the congregation calls “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a statement the church released to Louisiana’s Baptist Message newsjournal.
Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will escrow what would amount to $1 million annually, the Message reported Feb. 16.
In a text to Baptist Press, Message Editor Will Hall noted he had queried Prestonwood about its giving to SBC causes after pastor Jack Graham was interviewed in December by The Wall Street Journal. Graham told The Journal the church was “considering making major changes in our support of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
At issue, Graham said in the interview, was alleged “disrespectfulness” by ERLC President Russell Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Moore, who publicly opposed Trump during the primary and general election cycles, said in a December blog post he never intended to criticize all evangelicals who supported Trump.
Graham is a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
Some Southern Baptists also have criticized the ERLC for joining a friend of the court brief last May in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque. The International Mission Board joined the brief as well, and IMB President David Platt apologized Feb. 15 for the divisive nature of the action. See related story.
Graham, a former SBC president, told BP via text message Prestonwood is engaging in “an internal evaluation” of its giving, “and our desire is not to seek publicity so we can make the right decision for our church and Southern Baptists.”
Asked whether Prestonwood also will escrow funds for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention — the state convention with which it cooperates — Graham responded, “We’re evaluating everything.”
Graham told the Message he is “not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people, and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.” He wants Prestonwood to remain “a cooperating partner with the SBC as we have been for many years” but cited “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”
SBTC executive director Jim Richards told BP in a statement, “In our fellowship of churches, Prestonwood Baptist Church has been a faithful ministry partner for many years. We love Jack Graham and his people. It is our hope that these concerns can be resolved in a way that strengthens the kingdom work of Southern Baptists and honors the autonomy of the local church. We stand ready to assist as we have opportunity.”
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in a statement, “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”
Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who serves on the ERLC’s Leadership Council tweeted following Prestonwood’s announcement, “I love and appreciate” Jack Graham “but am an ardent advocate for #ReligiousLiberty and for” CP. “I’m just heartbroken & conflicted.”
In related news, First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., announced last month it would escrow funds traditionally given through CP over concerns related to ERLC and IMB participation in the New Jersey mosque brief. First Baptist pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November over the brief.
Louisiana Baptist Convention executive director David Hankins and former SBC Executive Committee chairman Bill Harrell both told The Wall Street Journal they know of churches considering a diversion of funds away from the ERLC.
Threats to escrow CP funds have occurred periodically in SBC history. In the mid-1980s, some Southern Baptist conservatives threatened to escrow CP funds if moderates regained control of the convention presidency, BP reported.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.
by Julie McGowan
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Bob and Melanee Gallina invested 18 years in leading The Church at Green Hills in La Habra, Calif. They lived in a comfortable house that was a home base for their children, who are missionaries overseas. After retirement, the couple noted, they planned to serve overseas themselves.
But then they felt God prompting them to consider, “Why wait until you retire? Why not now?” Now the church they once led is sending them through the International Mission Board to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to American peoples.
The Gallinas were among 50 new Southern Baptist missionaries appointed through the International Mission Board Nov. 10 near Richmond, Va.
The celebration highlighted ways God transforms personal experience into a willingness to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Lily Llambes’ appointment is a long way from her history involved in voodoo, to the point of almost being personally sacrificed in a ritual. She heard the Gospel on TV and surrendered her life to Christ.
Lily and her husband Carlos joined Iglesia Bautista Estrella de Belen in Hialeah, Fla., where they were discipled. Lily was involved in Woman’s Missionary Union and prayed for four years that God would call Carlos to missions, as God had called her. He did, and the couple will share the Gospel in Mexico City, “grateful to God, IMB and the Lottie Moon Offering.”
When she was 19, Jamie Schilt said, she was “jaded toward the Gospel and indifferent to the resurrection.” But “God brought my dead heart to life. Now, I celebrate the resurrection of my Lord every Sunday and long to see the nations do the same!”
Schilt and her husband Chris are being sent by Relevant Worship Church in Claremore, Okla., to partner with a team in Malawi, Africa, to plant churches, train pastors and gather worshippers among the nations.
“Why are you going? Why are you uprooting your lives, giving away your possessions, altering your future to move to difficult, even dangerous, places in the world?” IMB President David Platt asked the new missionaries.
He extended the question: “Why are we sending them? Why are we sending single sisters and brothers, married couples, parents, grandparents with our support to difficult, even dangerous, places in the world?”
“Why?” is a really important question, Platt said. The answer can be found in 1 Corinthians 15. In the passage, Paul is willingly walking into difficulty and danger for the spread of the Gospel in the world. The first reason, Platt said, is because death is coming (1 Cor. 15:20-22).
“Death is our destiny. And death is our enemy,” Platt said. “It could be today. It could be tomorrow. … We don’t invest our lives here in temporary trinkets. We invest our lives here in eternal treasure. We don’t spend our lives here on fleeting pleasures and foolish pursuits. We spend our lives here on what’s going to matter forever.”
Followers of Christ go to share the Gospel because others’ death is coming, too. “Here’s why it makes sense to go and live your life and lead your family into great risk in another part of the world: because those 2.8 billion people who haven’t heard the Gospel, they’re not guaranteed tomorrow either,” Platt said.
“The second reason we go is because the resurrection is real,” Platt noted, reading 1 Cor. 15:3-8. Christ’s resurrection, he said, is “crazy good. It’s the greatest news in all the world: death has been defeated! … Because Jesus was raised from the dead, risk-taking, death-defying missions in difficult, dangerous-to-reach places is to be envied in this world.”
The Bible gives an outline of history in the passage, and Christian believers go to share the Gospel because of where all history is headed, Platt said.
“All of history is headed toward the day when Christ will put all His enemies under His feet, and we will join with men and women from every nation, tribe, tongue and people to enjoy and exalt Him forever in a new heaven and new earth where there is no more sin, sorrow, or suffering,” he said. “Let’s lead the church for that day. Let’s live and die for that day.”
Pathways to go
The 50 new missionaries represent fully funded, full-time personnel. While IMB is developing ways to send “limitless” missionaries, the organization is committed to continue sending these fully funded, full-time missionaries to the field. This includes funding in the 2017 budget for Journeyman and International Service Corps personnel — those previously called “short-term personnel,” but what IMB soon will call “mid-term personnel.”
“Let me be crystal clear,” Platt told Southern Baptists during IMB’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention in June, “the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent. They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”
Those career missionaries, he noted, will be surrounded with professionals, students, retirees and others who collectively show that global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church.”
Support through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering make it possible for these new missionaries to be appointed. Cooperative Program and LMCO gifts also sustain the thousands of Southern Baptist personnel already on the field.
The 50 new missionaries are able to go through the sending of all kinds of churches — such as Three Wooden Crosses Cowboy Church in Augusta, Kan., or Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., among dozens of others. Churches interested in learning how they can partner with IMB to send their members on mission can visit IMB.org/send. To learn more about personal pathways of service, including students, retirees and professionals, visit IMB.org/sendme.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.