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The Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) approved a proposal Sept. 30 calling for the convention to scrap the four cooperative giving plan options it now offers, and return to a single plan.

The BSCNC offered only one plan until 1990, when an optional plan was approved that allowed churches to reduce the percentage sent to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and divert the difference to other ministries. By 1999, four separate plans had evolved, including one (Plan C) that sent 10 percent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) instead of the SBC.

If messengers approve the measure in November, the BSC would return to a single giving plan in 2010.

Options would remain, however. The proposed plan would continue to allow churches to exclude up to three line items, and would include a check-box allowing churches to forward the first 10 percent of their gifts to the national CBF organization. Similar boxes would allow churches to designate two percent of their gifts to the “Adopt an Annuitant” program and/or to scholarship support for theological education at non-SBC schools. Most of the scholarship support would benefit students in the divinity schools at Campbell and Gardner-Webb universities.

Currently, 10.9 percent of gifts to Plan B and Plan C go to theological education in N.C. Baptist divinity schools, and 0.5 percent goes to the Adopt an Annuitant program.

Contributions to any of the three optional causes would not be counted as Cooperative Program gifts.

The remittance form, as now, would include lines for special offerings and missions including the North Carolina Missions Offering, the SBC world hunger and missions offerings, and offerings for N.C. Baptist Hospital and Baptist Children’s Homes. Neither the recently-revived Heck-Jones Offering for Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina nor the annual offering for Baptist Retirement Homes are included on the proposed form.

Board members were told “the Convention will not act as a pass through for gifts to organizations not in the Convention’s budget,” according to the Biblical Recorder.

The proposed plan is designed to provide a framework for future budgets, beginning with the 2010 fiscal year, and does not include specific amounts or items to be included in the budget.
The current budget includes several causes typically favored by moderates in Plans B and C, including the Baptist World Alliance, Associated Baptist Press, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and the Baptist Center for Ethics. Whether those items continue to be included will be up to future budget committees.

The proposal calls for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, which receives 5 percent of all Plan D gifts, and Partnership Missions, currently included in Plans B, C, and D, to be fully funded within the newly structured single budget.

The proposed revamping of the giving plans came to the board from a 15-member “Giving Plans Study Committee” that was approved by messengers at the 2007 convention and later appointed by Executive Committee chair Allan Blume. Ed Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, is chair of the committee.

The committee conducted surveys and cited research showing that about 60 percent of BSC churches currently use Plan A, that “most churches” think the multiple giving plans are confusing, and that “most churches” favor some type of options. Churches were evenly split on the question of whether the SBC allocation – currently 33.5 percent of Plans A and D – should increase or decrease.

The proposed return to a single giving plan reflects what I have been predicting since last year’s convention – that the BSC would return to a single plan, but with some options for churches that have preferred the optional plans. It’s a common-sense proposal from a committee that took its responsibility seriously and did the best it could given the current realities of BSC life.

The proposal will be popular with many conservatives, though some will certainly object that CBF remains as an option. I will be surprised if no one offers an amendment to remove that option when messengers consider the matter in November — and would not be surprised to see it pass.

Moderate churches will find little to cheer about in the proposal, but also little motivation for excessive complaining. The option of contributing to CBF remains, along with an option of contributing to theological education at non-SBC divinity schools, though the percentage is considerably smaller than at present.

Even so, moderates will probably need to find other channels of giving, such as the CBFNC Missions Resource Plan, if they want to continue supporting the Baptist World Alliance and other causes favored by moderates without writing separate checks to each one: it is unlikely that they will be included in future budgets. And, if churches want to continue supporting WMU-NC or Baptist Retirement Homes, they’ll have to contribute directly to those organizations, which have become nearly persona non grata in the BSC family.

If the proposal is passed in its present form, it is unlikely to spark either a hoped-for spike in giving from conservative churches, or a rapid exodus of moderate churches. Giving from more conservative churches will probably hold steady, however, while the ongoing decline in moderate participation will continue for a number of familiar reasons, most of which have little to do with the giving plans.

That’s just the way it is in today’s BSC.

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