Southern Baptists’s New Annual Church Profile Form:
The New Great Commission Giving Version
8. Undesignated Giving/Gifts
9. Total Giving/Receipts
10. Cooperative Program Giving
11. Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
12. Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
13. Great Commission Giving
14. Total Missions Giving
The above listing is a sample of the new Annual Church Profile (ACP). Please notice something that is still there. “Total Missions Giving” (TMG) is a slot that we were assured, during the debate period, would be removed to make this a stronger Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) form. The reason this would be a stronger SBC form, given from a member of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force, was the deletion of the “Total Missions Giving” item. Well, we still have a “Total Missions Giving” (TMG) platform. While, it is not what we were told, I have no serious problem with it remaining. This is for two reasons.
The True Level of SBC Cooperation
The way the ACP is now set up one can add all of the categories together and come up with a TMG amount. That is, if the SBC missions agencies are the only missions agencies a church donates to missions. Thus, if one adds together Cooperative Program (CP), Lottie Moon (LM), Annie Armstrong (AA), and Great Commission Giving (GCG) and that amount equals the total in the TMG, then we will see that said church distributes their missions’ dollars throughout the SBC. This is very important for the simple reason we as Southern Baptists believe in cooperating with other Southern Baptists. Why do we believe in this cooperation? The SBC places together our funds for the simple reason we can do more together than we can by ourselves. It is not that a local church is not free to distribute their missions’ dollars to other denominations and fellowships outside of the SBC. The issue for Southern Baptists is cooperation. Let me say it this way. I am a Baptist because I believe the Bible teaches a Baptist theology. I am Southern Baptist because I believe the Bible teaches a Baptist Cooperative theology. In other words, I am a Southern Baptist because I believe in cooperating with others of like mind and like practice to get the gospel to the nations.
However, let us say that after adding these items together one finds there to be a difference in TMG. That difference will tell us how much the church believes in cooperating with Southern Baptists. Thus, if a church with a one-hundred thousand dollar TMG reports a giving record of fifteen thousand dollars to CP; ten thousand dollars to LM; five thousand dollars to AA; twenty thousand dollars to GCG then we see this church is only half committed to the SBC. Their commitment to getting the gospel to the world may be 10% of their million dollar budget, but they have a half-heart commitment to Southern Baptists.
Why is this such an issue? If we as Southern Baptists accept this kind of commitment in support of our churches, then we owe the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship an apology. It is this type of issue that we fought so hard for when the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) was formed. Many states began directly supporting and forming giving plans for their churches that included the CBF. With the addition of the GCG along with the inclusion of the TMG we are now seeing the tent pegs removed and the tent being enlarged enough to bring the CBF back into the fold. I do not know of any CBF churches that may desire to re-enter the SBC but the opening has now been put in place. Within our geographical region we have two states that consist of state conventions giving to the SBC. With the inclusion of TMG, this door is open wide enough to ask a simple question. Why do we need two state conventions in those states?
The True Level of Cooperative Program Giving.
While many pushed for the GCG item to be added Dr. John Waters of First Baptist Statesboro, Georgia pushed hard for the CP to remain central in our giving during the 2010 Orlando, Florida SBC meeting. Dr. Waters was, prior to the Orlando convention and remains today, a stalwart for the CP. He eloquently addressed the need for keeping the CP as our central giving unit even going through the process of being over looked once his motion received a second and never received a vote. Then he was called to the platform to discuss his amendment where he was verbally put down and even received a finger tapping in the chest by one on the platform that did not want his motion to pass. Dr. Waters remained calm and discussed his disagreement with the task force and worked toward an amended motion that the convention could leave Orlando united around and moving forward with the GCR. Because of Dr. Waters motion we have in our reporting apparatus a separate line item apart from GCG and not a part of GCG.
Because of this new report we are now able to better assess a church’s cooperation among Southern Baptist. Certainly some churches do not want to cooperate with other churches in doing ministry. That is fine let those churches give around the Cooperative Program and be as independent as they desire. However, when one now sees a church’s CP giving at 3% and their GCG at 6% one will be able to tell how cooperative the church really is in our convention. A church that gives 3% to CP and 6% to GCG tells the world I will not cooperate with you on everything but I will give to my pet projects. When this ACP report is filed we will tell very clearly who cooperates and who is merely giving in order to advance their status within the convention political system.
One other issue that needs to claim our attention. I was informed that here in NC when a church does not file an ACP our state office contacts that church and tries to get the information. When I found that out I was astounded. Let me say, for the sake of our readers, I do not believe North Carolina is unique in this. I believe that if NC does this, then other state conventions are doing it also. I am reporting NC because I know this happens here. They do this because, it seems, some church pastors feel the ACP is some kind of invasion upon their autonomy. I was informed that when a church does not turn in their reports they usually do not do so because of the in-depth questions that are asked. Thus, through the state office contacts the church is asked a minimal amount of questions. This state office initiative ACP report is much less than the former reports. From what I understand the only questions asked concern baptisms and budgets. I know one church was asked by the state convention about their baptisms and budgets and the church does not maintain a membership. Thus, the question that begs an answer concerns the churches that now refuse to report. To be honest, I do not know the reason the ACP was first instituted. However, I do understand today it is an act of accountability for the churches. While I do not want to see the report used as a bragging tool, neither do I want to see it abandoned on the altar of local church autonomy. Certainly we can us autonomy to hide a multitude of sins, but if a church desires to cooperate they should not be afraid of report their statistics. While I understand there is nothing that demands a SBC church to file an ACP to be Southern Baptist, I certainly do not understand a church that refuses to participate in this process. Thus, with this new form I look forward to following our leaders as they lead in the direction they are advocating we go as a convention.