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Executive Committee urges GCR Task Force to preserve Cooperative Program identity

 

Neal Reeves/GBC

Those attending the GBC Executive Committee meeting in Duluth March 16 look over the proposal addressing the Cooperative Program to be sent to the GCR Task Force. The statement, asking for a stronger endorsement of Southern Baptists’ longstanding primary funding channel, was drafted by the state Administration Committee.

DULUTH – The Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention approved has a motion to fully endorse the Cooperative Program as “the historical and proven method of missions support” for the Southern Baptist Convention.

The purpose for the Committee’s endorsement of the Cooperative Program is to urge the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to reconsider the terminology they have proposed for SBC missions giving and “bring clarity to the GCRTF’s desire to keep the Cooperative Program as the central means of support for Great Commission ministries.

The Task Force’s interim report suggests that “Cooperative Program giving and designated gifts given to the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or a local association” should be called ‘Great Commission Giving” and should be celebrated by all Baptists.

The GBC Executive Committee fears that “the wide application of the phrase ‘Great Commission Giving’ for monies given through the Cooperative Program as well as to designated causes may cause some Baptists to surmise wrongly that the Cooperative Program is merely a subset of giving instead of the primary means of missions giving for Southern Baptists.”

The state leadership also wants the Task Force to formally state that designated or special gifts are best provided as a supplement and not a substitute for the Cooperative Program.

The Executive Committee action clearly indicated that their belief is that the way to “take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations in a cooperative, biblical, and missional way” is not through a redefinition of terms, but by challenging the local churches to increase their support and sacrificial giving through the Cooperative Program.

Executive Committee members Tom Vann and Herman Parker believe the vote expresses the sentiments of a majority of grassroots Southern Baptists.

Vann, pastor of Rentz Baptist Church, told The Index, “I believe the vote of the Executive Committee on this issue expresses the feelings of the majority of Southern Baptists, especially those who know what is going on. In fact, the decision reflects the heartbeat of the Baptists in my area.”

 

“don’t ... reinvent the world.”

Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bremen, commented, “Our people believe in the Cooperative Program; and the vote of the Executive Committee expresses the sentiments of most of the Baptists I know. We don’t need to try to reinvent the wheel. I certainly feel comfortable with the decision. We are not making any demands on the Task Force, we are just asking them to reconsider their terminology.”

Neal Reeves/GBC

Members of the Executive Committee have a time of prayer for GBC Executive Director and GCR Task Force member J. Robert White.

In introducing the recommendation, Administration Committee Chairman John Waters explained, “Since the work of the Task Force is not complete, now is the time for a leading body like the Executive Committee of our state convention to speak in a manner that can be heard so that our hearts and our core values can mesh with the core values that have been mentioned by their leadership.

“The ability for us to take the Gospel to the nations is inherently and intrinsically tied to the way we utilize and support the Cooperative Program. Therefore, we’ve got to let the Task Force understand that how we accomplish the Great Commission Resurgence will either unite us as Baptists or divide us as Baptists.

 

“We care about the Great Commission, [CP] ...”

“We want to say that we care about the Great Commission, about the Cooperative Program, and about taking the Gospel to the nations. But we want to speak in a manner that will be received as helpful to the process and that will honor our Convention and the cause of Christ around the world.

“The members of the Administration Committee don’t want to be a part of the generation to whom the baton has been passed and who dismantle it and dismiss one of the greatest mechanisms for taking the Gospel to those who are lost.”

The intention of the recommendation is to ask GBC Executive Director and Task Force member J. Robert White to present the concerns to the Task Force at their April 26 meeting in Nashville.

White stated, “The thing I would ask you to do is help me make the right recommendation; and here is the assignment: ‘not to do any damage to the Cooperative program at all; leave it like it is.’ Now, on this one, some of you are going to have to swallow real hard, but I think it is a godly thing to do. Acknowledge that churches are autonomous and they have a right to decide where their money is going to go. You don’t have to agree with them.

“I don’t agree with what a lot of churches are doing with their money, but as long as they are giving it to a Southern Baptist Convention or a state convention or an associational cause, let’s tell them that we appreciate that gift and not call it ‘other,’” White added. “Give me a term that will acknowledge a gift that is given to Southern Baptist causes in such a way that they will feel that what they have voted to do as a church is appreciated. We want them to be in the family.

“People have suggested that I get off the Task Force, but I have always believed that you affect change from within, not from without. The fact that I am on that committee has given me and us a voice that we would not have had otherwise.

“I am thankful that Johnny [Hunt] called me and asked me to serve and I think it is important for me to be there at this time to carry this kind of message and this kind of concern.

Neal Reeves/GBC

John Waters, chairman of the GBC Administration Committee, reads the statement asking for stronger language supporting Cooperative Program giving in the GCR Task Force Report. The Executive Committee approved the recommendation unanimously.

“I want to stand withthe Task Force. I want it to get to the place where it is acceptable to our convention. It is not going to be acceptable to everybody, but I am not a quitter. It is in me to be a changer, a trailblazer, to be a person who has influence on a process. So, I want to be in the system and I want to help get us to a place where you will feel encouraged and excited. It is not enough to criticize. We have got to come up with something that is better, so help me come up with something that’s better.”

Frank Cox, pastor of Lawrenceville’s North Metro First Baptist Church, stated, “Dr. White, I don’t think you will find a divided room here. I pray that our vote will be 100 percent in the affirmative. When you go back to that Task Force meeting it would be my desire that you stand before them knowing that you have all Georgia Baptists behind you; and you can tell them that the Cooperative Program is Great Commission giving and we do not put it on a line with other designated gifts.

“We would challenge them to look ahead and ask the question: When are we going to quit apologizing for the Cooperative Program declining and when are we going to put together the people to figure out a way to re-invigorate the Cooperative Program so we can inspire the next generation to give sacrificially to touch this world with the Gospel? So, you go with a clear calling. We are behind you, but it is time to dream a new dream that we re-invigorate Cooperative Program giving.”

Executive Committee Chairman Fred Evers called for those in favor of the recommendation to stand and for those who opposed the recommendation to stand and then declared, “It is a clear, unanimous (affirmative) vote that you (Dr. White) can take with you (to the GCRTF meeting).

In other business the Executive Committee:

• honored the request of Truett McConnell College President Emir Caner by giving

the college nearly 42 acres of land with a value of about $1.2 million. The gift will help the college improve its financial condition and put the school in a position to increase its enrollment.

• approved the renewal of a line of credit of $2.5 million for Truett McConnell College.

• excluded Druid Hills Baptist Church from the state convention. The action was based on guidelines spelled out in Article VI, Section 5 © of the Constitution. The Committee concluded that the Atlanta church did not qualify as a cooperating church, being in violation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message by having a woman serving as co-pastor.