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The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship would provide no more than one-fifth of the Baptist Center for Ethics’ annual funding—a reduction from its current level of support–under a proposal being presented to CBF leaders this week.

The CBF Coordinating Council is expected to discuss but not vote on a report of a special Partnership Study Committee this Thursday in Atlanta. According to an e-mail to council members forwarded to EthicsDaily.com, presentation at the February meeting is a first step in deliberation, to be followed by fine-tuning and additional feedback before a final vote anticipated no sooner than June.

Recommendations include capping the level of funding for any CBF partner at 20 percent of the partner’s operating budget. A partner’s previous year’s financial statement may be used in determining the 20-percent level, and no partner would be guaranteed to receive the full 20 percent.

The 20-percent cap could be exceeded under special circumstances, such as in startup of a new potential partnership, with a goal of reducing dependency on CBF funds to 20 percent or less within three years.

The Nashville-based BCE is one of several groups labeled as “historic” partners in the report, because they have for the most part been associated with the CBF from its beginning in 1991.

The BCE received a total of $376,300 from all funding sources in 2004, according to Executive Director Robert Parham. That included $83,383 in undesignated CBF funding, he said, about 22 percent of the total.

Another historic partner, Associated Baptist Press, would be harder hit, according to a Thursday story reporting details of the report. The partnership study report went out a week earlier in the mail to council members as a draft copy marked “not for distribution.” EthicsDaily.com obtained a copy of the document from a source on condition of anonymity after the ABP story appeared.

The 20-percent cap would reduce ABP’s current funding level of $132,119 to $91,784, a cut of 31 percent, according to the story by ABP Executive Editor Greg Warner.

The 20-percent threshold, according to the report, represents a level consistent with the CBF’s philosophy of partnering with free-standing entities rather than creating agencies under CBF control, while allowing churches the convenience of making a single contribution that is divided among several partners and causes.

If the report is approved, however, it wouldn’t be the first time that partners received a smaller piece of the CBF pie.

According to ABP, the Fellowship’s funding of its primary ministry partners has declined 16 percent over nine years since 1996. During the same period, the amount of undesignated money received by the CBF grew by 19 percent.

Administrative costs for CBF went up from $1.9 million in 1996 to $4.4 million in fiscal 2003-2004, according to ABP, while CBF home staff increased in size from 33 to 59.

Ben McDade, CBF director of communications and resource development, was traveling Friday but said through a staff member he could not verify the accuracy of ABP’s report, because he did not know the source of the information.

Lance Wallace, associate director of news and information, said CBF has a total of 59 employees–46 full time and 13 part time–in the Fellowship’s Atlanta Resource Center, Global Missions office in Dallas and other locations across the country, not including missionaries.

The Church Benefits Board has another two full-time and one part-time staff members, and the CBF Foundation two full-time employees. The Benefits Board and Foundation are technically separate entities from CBF with their own boards, Wallace said.

In addition to staff, the Fellowship uses contract workers, most of which are hired out of department budgets for a particular time and task.

In addition to the general guidelines, the report divides 14 theological education partners into three new categories:

–Identity partners, which are explicitly identified with the CBF and include the Fellowship as a denominational affiliation with accrediting agencies.

–Leadership partners, non-CBF schools which provide theological training that helps produce effective leaders of CBF congregations.

–Global partners, which develop leaders outside the United States or, if in the U.S., whose primary language is other than English.

Of the three types, only “identity” partners would be eligible for “institutional” funding. The other categories would be limited to scholarships and funding for “collaborative initiatives.”

The Study Committee also recommends new guidelines that include signing and review of a covenant agreement and requiring partners to “acknowledge CBF’s involvement in their work as it pertains to the partnership” and to “appropriately promote CBF.”

CBF moderator Bob Setzer said in an e-mail to Coordinating Council members last Thursday that the embargo on releasing the information was to “clarify that this is a draft document” that needs to be reviewed or amended before release to “our larger CBF family.”

“That is only due diligence on the part of the council,” Setzer wrote, “not an effort to withhold information from our partners and others.”

Setzer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., until recently also served on BCE’s board of directors. He resigned in January, citing potential conflict of interest in light of the partnership study.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

Editor’s Note: EthicsDaily.com is an imprint of the Baptist Center for Ethics, which receives partial funding from the CBF.

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