The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina could stop forwarding church funds to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other moderate organizations, if one conservative pastor has his way.
Bruce Martin, pastor of Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., is proposing that North Carolina Baptists do away with their current multi-track budget, which gives churches four options in how their cooperative giving funds are spent. Martin, who also serves as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, wants to return to a single giving plan that allows churches some flexibility but funds national and global work exclusively through the SBC.
Martin’s proposal came at the first of six “listening sessions” being held around the state this week, according to the Biblical Recorder. Messengers to last year’s state convention instructed convention staff and officers to gather input on its giving plans.
Martin’s plan will be sent to the state convention’s budget committee for study, according to the newspaper report. Any change would have to be approved by messengers at the state convention this fall.
Several years ago, North Carolina was one of a handful of moderate-controlled state conventions to protest fundamentalist leadership in the SBC by giving churches an option of funding the moderate CBF instead of the SBC through the state convention budget.
In recent years, however, power has shifted in the state, and conservatives now controlling the election of leaders have regularly brought up abolishing the budget plan that allows funding of non-Southern Baptist organizations.
Adding momentum to the effort are recent budget woes, forcing staff layoffs at the state convention headquarters last year. Giving this year is running 6 percent under budget, the Biblical Recorder reported this week.
Plan C, the option that provides 10 percent funding for the CBF, is down the most among the four tracks, by nearly 20 percent. Plan C gifts normally comprise about 7 percent of total gifts, according to the newspaper.
Martin said his plan would likely raise more money for the state convention, because it also does away with another plan that earmarks 50 percent of all receipts to the SBC. Churches using that plan, originally added to appease conservatives dissatisfied with what they perceived to be a drift away from the SBC, probably wouldn’t mind the state convention keeping 64 percent rather than half in the current political climate, according to Randy White, a member of the budget committee quoted by the Biblical Recorder.
Even the moderate candidate who ran a failed bid for the state convention presidency last fall acknowledged that North Carolina’s multi-option giving plan had probably contributed to the convention’s budget crisis. Moderates have resisted earlier efforts to abolish the current plans, however, saying that forcing churches to support either the SBC or CBF exclusively would violate their autonomy.
But moderates in North Carolina of late are talking about new models for supporting causes they favor, rather than perpetuating battles each year to elect officers and defend the budget of the state convention.
“Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could play political games at the state convention,” David Hughes, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, told about 500 moderates who met in January. “He wants us to raise our sights much higher than that. He wants us to take on the world in Christ’s name.”
Ken Massey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, said in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com that the multiple giving plans “were a noble attempt” to defuse conflict between moderates and conservatives but predicted the method will become less important as time passes and churches become more intentional in deciding how to spend their own mission dollars.
“Undesignated giving is a biblical practice for members of local congregations,” Massey said. “It is not a standard for churches relative to organizations.”
Massey said no one can do a better job than the local church in determining its own values for mission.
Bob Patterson, coordinator of North Carolina CBF, said Martin’s proposal would have no impact on the state CBF organization, which receives no funding from the state convention. He said the national CBF might lose some support in the short term. In the long run, however, “I suspect that those churches (that give to the CBF through Plan C) would begin to see that they have lost some of their autonomy or freedom to give as they see fit if those plans were abolished,” Patterson said, and as a result change their budgets.
Patterson said North Carolina CBF is prepared, if the current plans are abolished and the churches request it, to provide a service of distributing church funds according to a designated giving plan.
North Carolina’s current budget options (with links to pie charts at the state convention Web site) are:
—Plan A, which divides funds 68 percent for ministries of the state convention and 32 percent for the SBC.
—Plan B retains 68 percent for the state convention, but reduces the amount for the SBC to 10 percent. Just less than 11 percent goes to theological education at North Carolina Baptist colleges and universities and 11 percent goes to “special missions,” which include both projects in the state and national entities including the Baptist Center for Ethics.
—Plan C includes the same divisions as Plan B, but the 10 percent for global missions goes to the CBF instead of the SBC.
—Plan D cuts the North Carolina portion to 50 percent, sends 32 percent to the SBC and includes 5 percent for Fruitland Bible College and 13 percent for special missions tied to the SBC.
Martin’s proposal most closely resembles Plan A, which is the most popular of the current plans. However he also would allow churches a “positive designation” of up to 5 percent for any cause approved by messengers at the state convention annual meeting.
Asked by the Biblical Recorder whether groups that get money under the current plans might be “grandfathered in” under his proposal, Martin declined to speculate, saying it would be up to the budget committee whether or not to make that part of any recommendation.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.