by Tim Guthrie, pastor
Arlington Baptist Church
In a few weeks Tennessee Baptist will decide to accept or reject a change in the funding plan for CP giving in Tennessee. Included in this proposal is the phased out plan to defund some Tennessee Baptist entities. These entities are Union University, Carson Newman University, the Adult Home and the Children’s Home. You read that right. The plan calls for a phased out funding of CP money to these institutions. This article will focus primarily on the two Educational Institutions. Each of these institutions currently receives $1,800,000 per year from the Tennessee CP giving plan. The new approach is calling for a phase out of funding at a yearly $200,000 per year until ZERO.
The goal – get the convention to a true 50-50 plan (half in state and half to SBC)
Ironically along with the defund move, the Tennessee Baptist plan asks for 60% of trustees to remain Tennessee Baptist people. Yet it allows the remaining 40% of trustees to be selected from anywhere with preference given to SBC people but open to any and all evangelical groups. This is a major change that allows the two Tennessee colleges to be even more ecumenical in their approach both in the selection of the trustees and their casting of the vision of the school. No doubt those graduating from these two institutions will soon no longer look like Tennessee Baptist Churches.
If you do not fund, how can you control?
In Tennessee the task force seemed to have worked out some kind of deal to secure majority trustee selection from Tennessee Baptist for the institutions. How long this will hold is another story. The idea that a state can control the trustees without any funding of the institution will not last long in my opinion. This move is actually the phase out of Tennessee Baptist higher education in the state. The senior adults who have cherished this part of the funding plan will find this one difficult to take. The report also allows the schools to approach churches for money individually, a further erosion of cooperative efforts and an expansion of a more independent and societal mindset. The CP will be under massive attack when this occurs.
Union and Carson Newman will be on their own to chart their own path. Some will be fine with this. But not all. The dog in that hunt will be gone to the shelter. This change in CP budget allocations will be just another step in the gradual dismantling of historical CP structure and the abandoning of Baptist Christian education in Tennessee.
The emphasis of National SBC rules the day:
The effects of the GCR and the move to increase church plants is now the focus and priority of everything CP. The idea is that in SBC life, CP giving, the whole egg is being streamlined to IMB, NAMB, and the seminaries. All else is on the chopping block. Everything else drains too much money away from the main focus. To be Great Commission-oriented is now defined as only supporting the above. This will be a tough move for many in the pews of our churches.
The effects of the change – CP days are numbered:
The real change is one that was actually discussed with the release of the GCR. With GCR giving being a valid line item now in the ACP, add to that state conventions allowing direct fund solicitation from churches, you have the beginning steps of dismantling of the CP or at best, a major alteration. There are only so many dollars in our churches. With the institutions getting the green light to go straight to the churches, the dash for the cash will begin. CP will be effected substantially regardless.
This post is NOT an attack. It is simply presenting factual realities and consequences. Both of which we need to think and pray through. Taking a 360 look at our SBC levels and funding is important. Streamlining is vital today. But the nuts and bolts of the streamlining can be treacherous. Tennessee is proposing a BOLD move. The agenda of getting the state conventions to do what a select group in the SBC are pushing can be a dangerous game. If it works, success. If it fails, the SBC will have been changed with no path for a return. It is known as a fundamental transformation.
It is important to realize that our younger adults do not have the same passion for all things SBC. Yet they are passionate about select things. Baptist Christian education may or may not be one of them. I am seeing a growing concern for CP money being channeled to church plants that last just a short while and result in more swapping of members from other churches than new souls added to the Kingdom. Is it not ironic that recently a group was tasked with studying why we are seeing a continued decrease in Baptisms? We were told church planting would change this. Decisions to make such drastic changes can and may backfire. Are we seeing the results of this change already?
Some important Questions:
The real problem is that if there is a failure or backfire, what will we do next? Will other state conventions move in this direction? And if they do, have the people of the SBC decided to get out of ministries such as education, adult homes, and children’s homes? What will be the societal ramifications of such a move. The President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently discussed the role of higher education in changing a nation. It seems odd that we are abandoning the same while saying we are trying to reach the nations of the world.
I keep thinking about the healthcare crisis and the Affordable Care Act. People are demanding a defunding and return to the old system. What they do not realize is that there is no return. The old system was and has been changed over the past three years. There is now NO going back. The old system is gone!
The above mentioned changes in CP funding in the state of Tennessee are extremely similar and there will be NO going back. Are we ready to make this move now and in this manner?