Ga. EC vote: CP 'historical and proven'
EDITOR'S NOTE: The article below was published March 25 by the Georgia Christian Index as a follow-up to an earlier report on the March 16 meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention executive committee. Baptist Press reported on that article March 17.
DULUTH, Ga. (BP)--The Georgia Baptist Convention's executive committee has endorsed the Cooperative Program as "the historical and proven method of missions support" for the Southern Baptist Convention and asked the Southern Baptist Convention's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to reconsider proposed new terminology for missions giving.
In a March 16 meeting in Duluth, Ga., the committee urged the Southern Baptist Convention's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to reconsider proposed new terminology for 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 Feb. 22 interim report suggested "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 celebrated by all Baptists.
"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," a statement adopted by the GBC executive committee said. The committee 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 committee asked GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, who is a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, to present their concerns at an April 26 task force meeting in Nashville.
"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," Frank Cox, pastor of Lawrenceville's North Metro First Baptist Church, said prior to the vote on the proposal. "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."
White told the committee he believes Southern Baptists must affirm the value of all missions gifts, whether directed through the Cooperative Program or not.
"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,'" White said. "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 effect 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," White added. "I am thankful that Johnny [Hunt, SBC president who initiated the task force] 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.
"I want to stand with the 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," White said. "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."
The GBC executive committee action said 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.
"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," said Vann, pastor of Rentz (Ga.) Baptist Church. "In fact, the decision reflects the heartbeat of the Baptists in my area."
Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bremen, Ga., said: "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."
In introducing the recommendation, John Waters, chairman of the group's administration committee, said: "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," Waters said. "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 want to say that we care about the Great Commission, about the Cooperative Program, and about taking the Gospel to the nations," Waters added. "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."
Executive committee chairman Fred Evers called for a standing vote on the recommendation, which passed unanimously.
J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.