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Western state execs petition Task Force to modify document

 

DENVER — Executive directors from nine western state conventions and Canada have made formal suggestions to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force regarding how the committee’s proposed restructuring of the North American Mission Board would impact their ministries.

Joe Westbury/Index

Joseph Bunce, executive director for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, listens as a fellow state executive shares his concerns about the proposed phasing out of the Cooperative Agreements.

Leaders from California, Colorado, the Dakotas, Kansas/Nebraska, Montana, New Mexico, the Pacific Northwest, Utah/Idaho, Wyoming, and Canada met in Denver on March 15-16 to discuss the report and share their concerns. Following the meeting, senior western statesman Bill Crews, executive director for the Northwest Baptist Convention, said the group decided to draft a document addressing their concerns.

Of special interest was how dissolving the Cooperative Agreements between NAMB and the state conventions would affect the work of smaller conventions such as those in the West and Canada.

 

Floyd, Spradlin field questions

Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Ark., and Task Force member Roger Spradlin of Bakersfield, Calif., attended the meeting to field questions and solicit feedback for the committee.

“We all felt the meeting had been productive in that we were able to express our concerns about certain sections of the Report. We were also able to hear some of the GCR Task Force’s reasoning behind the recommendations in the report,” Crews said.

The group responded to a request from Floyd to make written suggestions “as to how the Task Force’s preliminary report could be improved or changed to help further the cause of addressing the issue of the increasing lostness of North America, particularly in the West and Canada,” Crews added.

The state executives are hoping their suggestions will appear in the final report when it is released on May 3 at www.pray4gcr.com.

Baptist state conventions currently operate under agreements with NAMB in which Cooperative Program funds are returned to each state convention for missions and ministry. Those understandings, known as Cooperative Agreements, would be phased out over a four-year period until NAMB would be free to unilaterally appoint missionaries rather than through shared funding with the states.

The Task Force report stated that “it is understood that state conventions will manage their budgets accordingly,” meaning they would be responsible for funding any missionary positions that were reassigned by NAMB.

Several western state conventions have gone on record saying such an agreement would severely curtail their ministries since they are largely dependent on NAMB funding for their ministries.

Joseph Bunce of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico expressed concern over the GCRTF report in a first-person column released by Baptist Press Feb. 25.

 

Joe Westbury/Index

Bill Crews, elder statesman among western state executives, presides over the discussion concerning how the restructuring proposed by the GCR Task Force would impact their region. Crews is executive director for the Northwest Baptist Convention.

‘A death sentence’

Bunce noted that at the end of the Cooperative Agreements, “NAMB jointly-funded missionaries would be under the direct supervision of NAMB, rather than the state conventions they have historically served. This is huge for New Mexico and is a death sentence for other western state conventions.”

Bunce made it very clear in his article that while he agrees with “the diagnoses of our spiritual malady,” he does not agree with the “prescriptions” listed in the first Task Force report.

It would be even worse in Montana, Executive Director Fred Hewett said, noting that once the partnerships come to an end, the convention will lose $903,000 in funding.

The Task Force report, if approved as it now stands, “will dismantle 50 years of Southern Baptist missions work in Montana,” Hewett told Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, Tennessee’s state paper. Tennessee and Montana are currently in a partnership with each other.

The Montana convention has 11 missionary staff members, including those in associational missions and church strategists. If the Task Force’s report is adopted as it is now written, “I would lose all 11 staff members,” Hewett told Wilkey.

And just as important, Hewett added, “we would lose the ability to personally craft and implement what we believe could be a Great Commission strategy in Montana.”

The state executive said the Task Force report presumes “a new plan will be more effective to accomplish the Great Commission in Montana than what we have.”

One of the problems Hewett has with the Task Force is that no one from the Force has asked him or anyone else in the state convention if what they are doing is effective.

 

Montana state executive Fred Hewett

‘No one has called’

“No one has called,” he said.

The Montana leader also feels the report is a “condemnation” of all new work areas. “It presumes that we in the field do not understand and are not effective in doing Great Commission work,” Hewett charged.

The story was similar in Wyoming.

Executive Director Lynn Nikkel told The Index that seven out of eight strategy level staff members in his state are funded to varying degrees through the Cooperative Agreements with NAMB.

“I am the only staff member in our convention who does not receive NAMB funding. In the language of the Task Force’s preliminary report, ‘eliminating’ all of the agreements would mean the elimination of all seven of those missionary positions. It that were the case, it would be impossible for Wyoming Southern Baptists to assume that amount of funding in a short four-year period. That would mean we could possibly lose almost all of those who serve in those roles.”

 

Encouraged by Floyd comments

Nikkel said he was encouraged by talking to Floyd at the meeting and is “hopeful that he will represent these needs and some different wording to the Task Force so that these kinds of situations can be moderated and the effects reduced significantly.

“We will see how successful the effort is when the final report comes out,” he added.

Also attending the mid-February meeting in Denver were presidents from the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention and the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists; Jim Futral, chairman of the Fellowship of Southern Baptist Executive Directors and Executive Director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention; and Peck Lindsay, retired executive director of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention.

The western state executives have been meeting annually since 1987 when Crews, then serving as president of Golden Gate Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., first called the group together to discuss mutual concerns on how to reach the West for Christ.