GCRTF VIEWPOINT: Glen Land on Cooperative Agreements & accountability

by Glen A. Land, posted Friday, March 12, 2010 (4 years ago)

OSHKOSH, Wis. (BP)--The report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force contains a glaring statistical error based on inaccurate information that was given to them by the North American Mission Board. An article explaining this mistake can be found at http://bit.ly/bsSbvg. It includes this description of the nature of the error:

"Page 19 of the Progress Report depicts how Southern Baptist resources are distributed throughout the United States. That data indicates that at the end of 2008 there were 3,515 missionaries serving in the 14 states most often considered to be the area where Southern Baptists are the strongest and only 1,735 missionaries serving in the remaining states across the US. In the GCRTF report the 14 states are depicted in blue and the others in red."

"In actuality, within the US there were 2,573 missionaries serving in the 14 blue states in 2008 and 2,733 serving in the remaining red states. This indicates a disbursement of 48 percent of NAMB missionaries serving in blue states and 52 percent serving red states. Another 133 NAMB missionaries serve in Canada. If Canada is included in the overall numbers, 2,866 of NAMB's missionaries serve outside the blue states, making the percentage 53 percent in North America serving outside the 14 blue states."

The NAMB article adds this important note:

"In addition to money from Cooperative Agreements, NAMB sends money to state conventions through missionary benefits and national ministry funds. When these items are added, more than three-fourths (77 percent) of the $62 million NAMB distributed throughout the US and Canada in 2009 went to areas where Southern Baptist church presence is the least. These are the 36 states depicted in red on page 19 of the GCRTF's Progress Report, plus Canada. Less than a quarter (23 percent) of NAMB's spending occurred in states where Southern Baptists are strongest. These are the 14 states depicted in blue in the Progress Report."

The corrected figures indicate that instead of the so-called new convention areas receiving only one-third of NAMB's Cooperative Agreement subsidies, they actually received just over half of these funds plus additional financial assistance totaling over three-fourths of all NAMB funds distributed across North America. While even this allocation may be open to criticism, it is far from the shockingly lopsided picture presented in the Task Force Report. Since the error was NAMB's, so long as the statistics are corrected in the final report the Task Force, members should not be faulted for this mistake. However this reaction from Ronnie Floyd reported in Baptist Press (3-8-10) seems to ignore the math:

"Ronnie Floyd, GCRTF chairman and pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale Ark., said the change in missionary numbers did not alter the major concern of the task force."

"'[W]e spend 2/3 of the Cooperative Program dollars on 1/3 of the population and conversely spend only 1/3 of the Cooperative Program dollars on 2/3 of the population in the United States,' Floyd said."

What is much harder to justify is the criticism that the Task Force Report levels against the current level of accountability by the state conventions to NAMB for Cooperative Agreement funds. On page 20 of the report, it states that the Cooperative Agreements "have become complex and at times cumbersome, resulting in a lack of accountability." This reflects an almost willful ignorance of reality.

The current system includes the following accountability structure:

* A Cooperative State Mission Plan is developed by the state convention partner and approved by NAMB's strategy coordinator in conjunction with the input of NAMB's cross functional team representing the different NAMB teams. This Strategic Mission Plan is an agreement of strategy and funding. It includes goals, action plans and accountability for progress.

* The Cooperative Budget is a 15-page document that notes to the cent where NAMB money MUST be spent and the matching dollars required by the state convention partner. There are no nebulous monies available for discretionary spending by the state convention partner. All dollars are assigned to individual personnel or shared projects.

* The state convention partner pays for an annual audit that reconciles not only their financial affairs but the authenticity of how NAMB dollars are spent.

* The state convention partner provides an annual performance review of all jointly funded missionaries.

In light of such rigid rules for accountability, I can only read with incredulity the following statement by Task Force member Al Mohler:

"In the year 2009, about $50-million dollars was routed through these Cooperative Agreements. Many of these dollars were spent on the salaries of workers in the state conventions and associations. The monies are allocated and channeled in ways that are difficult to trace, much less to prioritize" (http://www.pray4gcr.com/2010/03/cooperative-missions-and-the-great-commission-resurgence/).

Anyone who has sweated through the tedious process of annually renegotiating Cooperative Agreement funding between NAMB and a state convention partner will readily agree that it is a complex and tedious business. A Presbyterian friend of mine, upon having the system explained to him, commented, "I can see why most SBC people and pastors don't understand the state convention funding process. It seems to have been borrowed from somewhere in the Ottoman Empire." Many of us would applaud any efforts to simplify and streamline that process. But if accountability contributes to the clumsiness of the current system, then one can persuasively argue that we suffer from too much, not too little.


Glen Land served as state missions director for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention from 2000-2009, after serving as pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Appleton, Wis., from 1991-2000. He has served in other leadership roles, including two terms as MWBC president and two terms as first vice president.

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