A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Partnership Study Committee upped a funding cap for partners and increased the number of “identity” partner theology schools in a final report to be voted on by the CBF Coordinating Council in June.

In February the committee presented a draft report capping funding for CBF partners at 20 percent of previous year’s receipts. Following an open-feedback period ending April 15, the committee increased the funding threshold to 25 percent.

In another substantive change, the final report increases the number of “Identity Partner” theology schools–institutions that identify explicitly with CBF, include CBF in denominational affiliations with accrediting agencies and promote CBF on campus and by participating in CBF.

The draft report recommended that “three to five” schools be named Identity Partners. The final report increases the number to “up to six.” A new sentence spells out the rationale: “Due to present financial constraints and a core commitment to preparing ministerial leaders for CBF partnering congregations, up to six institutions shall be designated as Identity Partners.”

Currently 14 theological schools receive funding from CBF. Those not designated Identity Partners under the new plan could still relate to CBF as either a “Leadership Partner,” offering educational opportunities to CBF students, or a “Global Partner,” developing leaders either outside the United States or in a language other than English within the U.S.

Leadership and Global partners would be eligible for scholarships and “collaborative initiative” funding but not institutional support.

Current theological education partners include four free-standing seminaries (Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Central Baptist Theological Seminary and International Baptist Theological Seminary); six theology or divinity schools at Baptist universities (Campbell, Hardin Simmons, Mercer, Baylor, Wake Forest and Gardner-Webb); three Baptist studies programs at non-Baptist schools (Texas Christian, Emory and Duke) and one “theological university, the Baptist University of the Americas (formerly Hispanic Baptist Theological School) in San Antonio, Texas.

While the previous partnership document stated expectations that partners acknowledge CBF’s involvement in their work and appropriately promote CBF, the final draft adds statements of reciprocity by CBF.

“It is appropriate for CBF to expect those with whom it partners to acknowledge CBF’s role and to promote the greater work of CBF,” stated the introduction to the draft report revised Jan. 31. The final report adds to that, “It is also appropriate and expected that CBF will acknowledge and promote the work of the partner within the context of CBF life.”

During the open-commentary period, one CBF partner organization went public with complaints that the 20 percent funding cap was too low. The executive editor and board chairman of Associated Baptist Press wrote supporters saying the figure would mean a loss of $40,000 and “poses a very real threat to our survival.”

While the revised report ups the cap to 25 percent, that level of funding isn’t guaranteed. “This 25 percent level should be seen as a level not to exceed,” the report says. “It should not be seen as an automatic level of funding nor as a goal to be sought.”

The purpose of the threshold, according to the report, is to allow the CBF to continue to function as a “funds-receiver” through which donors can make a single contribution that is divided among several partners or causes, while maintaining the CBF’s philosophy to partner with free-standing agencies rather than creating agencies under CBF control.

The Baptist Center for Ethics received about $83,000 in undesignated CBF funding in 2004, about 22 percent of total receipts of $376,000.

With recent word of an anticipated $6,500 decrease in CBF funding during the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the Nashville-based BCE has seen its support from the Fellowship drop by 25 percent over the last three years.

CBF Moderator Bob Setzer, a former member of the BCE board of directors, commended the Partnership Study Committee for a “job well done.”

“They have provided us clear, consistent guidelines for administering the partnerships, so vital to our movement,” Setzer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., said in a press release. “The intent is to revitalize old partnerships and empower new ones. I believe that will happen and CBF–and our partners–will be the stronger for it.”

The Coordinating Council will consider the report when it meets June 29-30, just prior to the CBF General Assembly in Grapevine, Texas.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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