SCBC Future Vision Committee: Keep less money in state, send more to international missions

(Updated Aug. 31, 2015 to include the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina among the South Carolina Baptist Convention institutions that currently receive Cooperative Program funding.)

A committee charged with developing a master plan for the future cooperative work of South Carolina Baptist Convention churches is recommending that half of all Cooperative Program dollars go toward international missions while the portion of CP funds earmarked for SCBC ministries and institutions be reduced in order to accomplish the goal.

Precisely how the budget cuts should be applied across the state convention’s Executive Board ministries and its seven CP-funded institutions — Anderson, Charleston Southern and North Greenville universities; The Baptist Courier; the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina; Connie Maxwell Children’s Home; and South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging — will be a major topic of consideration when the SCBC Executive Board gathers Oct. 12-13 at White Oak Conference Center for its fall meeting.

The SCBC’s “Future Vision Committee” detailed its recommendations in an Aug. 14 report. Kent Smith, chairman of the Future Vision Committee, emailed the report to The Courier.

Smith said his committee will recommend to the Executive Board’s Budget, Finance and Audit Committee that the SCBC annual budget be allocated on a set percentage basis, regardless of income. “It has been said that a rising tide lifts all ships, so when Cooperative Program giving increases, everyone gets more,” he said. “In the event that CP giving declines, we all equally share the loss.”

As for the institutions, the FVC recommends reducing funding to The Baptist Courier and to South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging. The committee also recommends that funding to each of the three universities be reconfigured to reflect an even distribution. (Historically, Charleston Southern University has received more funding than have Anderson and North Greenville universities.) Connie Maxwell Children’s Home would be funded at its current percentage of the SCBC budget.

Smith met recently with presidents of the institutions, who were given the opportunity to make suggestions and to offer amendments to the committee’s recommendations.

The committee recommends that no further cuts be made to Executive Board (Baptist building) ministries because EB ministries “have taken cuts each year for the past four years” and “had to absorb any budget shortfall” during the same period.

Finally, the report calls for reduced CP funding to South Carolina WMU by about $100,000 (as based on current funding levels).

Smith praised the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina as a “great example” of the committee’s recommendation that all SCBC institutional leaders and trustees be encouraged “to reduce or eliminate their need for CP funding.” The Foundation, under a goal set by its president, Barry Edwards, has reduced its dependence on CP funding steadily since 2012 and will receive no CP support beginning in 2016. Smith said the Foundation has moved from being “a beneficiary to a benefactor” for the convention.

In addition to measures regarding CP distributions, the FVC recommends the adoption of a new statewide theme: “Helping Churches Fulfill the Great Commission.” “We see this [theme] as the defining purpose of the convention,” said Smith. “If we fail in this, there is little meaning in having a convention.”

The committee’s recommendations, if adopted by the SCBC Executive Board and approved by messengers to the state convention this November in Spartanburg, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, when the five-year spending guidelines adopted as part of the Great Commission Resurgence report are set to expire.

The committee’s desire is to “support global missions with what’s right, not what’s left,” Smith said. “Though we have sent approximately an additional $1.5 million to the International Mission Board in the past four years, we have not achieved the [GCR] goal of raising our giving to the IMB to reflect a 50/50 division.”

“In effect, we have been giving the IMB what’s left after other obligations have been met. We believe that this formula needs to change,” said Smith, who serves as pastor of River Hills Baptist Church in Moore.

The Future Vision Committee was appointed by former SCBC Executive Board chairman Tom Tucker in December 2013. Working from a “Great Commission Living” convention vision theme and 10 initiatives adopted in November 2013 by messengers to the SCBC annual meeting, the panel was charged with bringing recommendations “regarding the enhancement of our cooperative work in South Carolina.”

“This subcommittee was tasked to define and recommend a future vision for the convention,” added Smith, “with the … intention of moving us further towards a 50/50 split of funding between South Carolina Baptist Convention causes and Southern Baptist Convention causes.”

Other members appointed to the committee, which began meeting in the spring of 2014, are Alex Sands, pastor of Kingdom Life Christian Center in Mauldin; and Rocky Purvis, pastor of Northside Baptist Church, West Columbia. At the time the committee was appointed, Smith said it would “also include” Jim Austin, SCBC executive director-treasurer (now retired); D.J. Horton, then SCBC president; and Dwight Easler, Executive Board chairman and pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Gaffney.

Easler, who was elected to a second one-year term as Executive Board chairman, continues to serve on the FVC, and current SCBC president Tommy Kelly is now on the committee. Smith said the committee has also received assistance from SCBC executive leadership members, including interim executive director-treasurer Richard Harris and associate executive directors Wayne Terry and David Parks, as well as Marshall Blalock, chairman of the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, and D.J. Horton, former SCBC president.

Below are the recommendations contained in the Aug. 14 report of the Future Vision Committee. (The “~” symbol indicates approximate funding based on the current SCBC budget of $28.6 million.)

— “Helping Churches Fulfill the Great Commission” will become the SCBC’s vision statement.

— The SCBC budget will be established on a percentage basis for all entities, and an additional 4.5 percent of receipts will be designated to the IMB.

— The Executive Board shall encourage all institutional trustees and leaders to reduce or eliminate the need for CP funding.

— The allocation to South Carolina WMU will be reduced from 2.11 percent (~$600,000) to 1.75 percent (~$500,000) of CP receipts.

— Each SCBC-affiliated university will receive 4.56 percent of SCBC Cooperative Program receipts (approximately $1.3 million) to use for scholarships for students who are members in good standing of a South Carolina Baptist church.

— Connie Maxwell Children’s Home will continue to receive 3.2 percent (~$912,000) of CP receipts.

— Ministries for the Aging be reduced from 3.80 percent (~$1.012 million), to 3.16 percent (~$900,000).

— The SCBC budget will move to a distribution of CP gifts within five years to reflect 33.5 percent allocated to Executive Board ministries and 21 percent allocated to ministry partners (institutions) and WMU.

Although not framed as a recommendation, the committee published the following statement regarding Cooperative Program funding for The Baptist Courier: “[Baptist Courier] editor Rudy Gray has suggested to our committee that their funding be reduced to 0.61 percent (~$175,000) per year starting in 2017 with the goal of becoming self-sustaining. We endorse this suggestion to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee for action.”

Noting that Executive Board (Baptist building) ministries have “had to make significant adjustments” in recent years, the committee nevertheless noted “some areas where thoughtful consideration of change is still appropriate.” The committee offered the following recommendations for action by the Executive Board Properties Committee and convention staff:

— Recommend a plan in regard to the White Oak Conference Center that would reduce the need for CP funding.

— Recommend a plan to facilitate the establishment of shared ministry initiatives and endeavors with ministry partners.

— Study the pattern of relationships existing in other state conventions regarding the WMU, state missions offerings, and CP support of the WMU, and bring recommendations to the Executive Board if appropriate.

— Study the need for and efficacy of the Office of Public Policy, and make recommendations to the Executive Board if appropriate.

Following is the unedited report provided to The Courier by Future Vision Committee chairman Kent Smith. Sections printed in bold are as published in the report.

Report of the Future Vision Committee

8/14/15

In December of 2013, Tom Tucker (as Chairman of the Executive Board) established an Executive Board Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee was tasked to define and recommend a future vision for the Convention, with the added intention of moving us further towards a 50/50 split of funding between South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) causes and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes at the conclusion of the Great Commission Resurgence Agreement (GCR: ending 12/2016). This is our report.

In the recent history of our convention we have periodically adopted a theme or slogan to focus our efforts. An unintended consequence of these various slogans and emphases has been a loss of understanding of the core purpose and value of the convention over time. Article VIII of our Articles of Incorporation states, “The comprehensive purpose of the South Carolina Baptist Convention shall be to serve churches throughout the state in efforts to advance the Kingdom of Christ in the world.” Tasked with casting a vision for the future, and in keeping with our Articles of Incorporation, we recommend to the Convention that “Helping churches fulfill the Great Commission” be our vision statement.

Article IX of our Articles of Incorporation states, (the) “South Carolina Baptist Convention approves the Cooperative Program as the basic channel of support for our total world mission outreach. The Convention appeals to the churches to contribute through the Cooperative Program and to recognize the right and responsibility of the Convention to divide equitably Cooperative Program Receipts.” The Cooperative Program (CP) has suffered in the 21st century. In years past it was customary for churches to give 10% of their undesignated receipts to the CP, and that states would seek to forward 50% of CP receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention. The 2014 Book of Reports reveals that in our state the average rate of CP giving from our churches has dropped to 5.4%, and our state forwards only 41% to SBC ministries.

The decline in giving and new economic realities have left us with some great challenges. Our convention has clearly expressed the desire to see more money leave our state to support the effort of global missions to unreached and unengaged people groups (UUPG). The Great Commission Resurgence initiative was designed to provide greater funding to the IMB by a schedule of reduction in expenses, and fixed support for most of our institutional partners. Because budget goals were not met, the IMB did not receive the projected amounts that were expected, though approximately an additional $1.5 million was given to the IMB over the past four years. We recommend to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee that our convention budget be established on a percentage basis for all entities, and that an additional 4.5% of receipts be designated to the IMB. This would move our convention to a 50/50 equivalent distribution in regard to the IMB. Furthermore, a percentage based budget encourages everyone to promote the Cooperative Program as “a rising tide lifts all ships.” However, the redistribution of 4.5% of receipts to the IMB requires that other ministry areas would receive less.

A preliminary plan was considered and presented to the Executive Board in April, and discussed further in June. The preliminary recommendations were then discussed with our ministry partners, and they too were given an opportunity to propose changes to our recommendations. We arrived at several conclusions and recommendations.

We recommend that the Executive Board encourage all our institutional trustees and leaders to reduce or eliminate their need for CP funding. The Baptist Foundation is a great example of this endeavor. Under the leadership of Barry Edwards the Foundation set a goal of moving from being “a beneficiary to a benefactor” in regards to the convention. They have met this goal, and no longer receive direct CP funding. (We do still support the Foundation, in part through providing office space and accommodations at the Baptist Building for $1 per year.) Our desire is to partner with our institutions to do more ministry together. There are so many ways that our institutions can (and many already do) help our churches fulfill the Great Commission, but there are also many areas of duplication, or even competition between convention efforts and institutional endeavors. We are excited about the possibilities of seeing our partnership move beyond simply financial support, to cooperating with one another to efficiently reach our state with the gospel of Christ through shared ministries and endeavors.

If our institutions are able and willing to reduce their need for CP funding, then more funds would be available for shared ministry endeavors and missions support.

The Baptist Courier has likewise accepted this challenge. Editor Rudy Gray has suggested to our committee that their funding be reduced to 0.61% (~$175K) per year starting in 2017 with the goal of becoming self-sustaining. We endorse this suggestion to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee for action. We applaud their cooperative spirit and willingness to sacrifice. It is of note that the Courier is also requesting permission to consider the sale of their downtown Greenville facilities in order to relocate. This could provide them a significant source of capital for use as an endowment, or for operational expenses; we support this request.

The reduction in funding to the Courier was not sufficient to fund the additional 4.5% to the IMB, therefore other measures were required. We are recommending the following adjustments in order to provide additional funding to the IMB.

We recommend to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee that the allocation to the WMU be reduced from 2.11% (~600K) to 1.75% (~500K) of CP receipts. We affirm the WMU and their legacy of cooperation and missions support. At present the WMU receives the receipts of the annual Janie Chapman offering for state missions (~$1.7M), and CP support of $600K, for a total of ~$2.3M. In turn the WMU returns ~$1.1M to the convention in designated support of specific mission efforts. The remainder supports the WMU infrastructure and Camp LaVida. Additionally the convention provides the WMU office space and facilities at the Baptist Building for $1 per year, and provides water and sewer service to Camp LaVida through the White Oak Conference Center. However, WMU does pay their own separate water usage bill for Camp LaVida.

We recommend to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee that each educational institution shall receive 4.56% of the SCBC CP receipts (approximately 1.3M) for use as scholarships for students enrolled at the institution who are also a member in good standing of a South Carolina Baptist Church, and that the Convention encourage our pastors and churches to suggest that their students consider one of our three Baptist institutions for their higher education. Charleston Southern University (CSU) has been funded at 5.66% (~1.613M), North Greenville University (NGU) and Anderson University (AU) have been funded at 4.33% (~1.233M). The total present funding for the universities is $4.079M or 14.32% of CP receipts. The recommendation moves the three universities to a total of $3.9M or 13.68% of CP receipts. 

We very much value our three educational institutions. They are facilitating direct ministry and missions through student engagement, and also preparing our future church leaders. We thank them for their efforts. Through their capable leadership all three of our universities have operated in the black, and continue to grow. The CP money currently provided to the universities funds scholarships. In the future we hope that we can provide additional funding to support new ventures in shared ministry endeavors. This can only happen with increased CP gifts, or further reductions elsewhere.

We recommend to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee that the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home (CMCH) continues to receive 3.2% (~912K) of CP receipts. CMCH is the institution that is most fully benevolent. They do not have any stable stream of funding besides their donors, interest from their endowment, and the convention CP support. The convention support represents about 10% of their receipts. Though we do not recommend at present any reduction in funding, we believe that even CMCH can reduce CP dependence over time, and that they should be encouraged in that regard.

We recommend to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee that the Ministry for the Aging (MfA) be reduced from 3.80% (~$1.012M), to 3.16% (~900K). We refrain from any further recommendations regarding the MfA at this time as we continue to discuss with Tom Turner and their Trustees what the future of the Ministry for the Aging will be.

Collectively the move to a percentage based budget, and the reductions to CSU, the Courier, WMU, and the Ministry for the Aging enable us to give an additional 4.5% of CP receipts to reach the unreached and unengaged through the IMB.

It is worth noting that we are recommending that these reductions be applied to the institutional partners and not the Executive Board ministries. Here is why. The EB ministries have taken cuts each year for the past four years, and will again in 2016 as per the GCR agreements. The EB ministries have also had to absorb any budget shortfall in the past four years because the amounts for the institutional partners was fixed by the GCR agreements. In 2015 the EB ministries received about 31% of CP receipts, and the Ministry Partners received about 24.5% of CP receipts. These figures have become increasingly skewed in favor of the Ministry Partners. In light of our renewed emphasis on “helping churches fulfill the Great Commission” as focused on the four strategic areas of Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Evangelism, and Missions Mobilization, we believe a rebalancing of funding needs to take place. We recommend to the EB Budget, Finance & Audit Committee that the convention budget be moved to a distribution of CP gifts within five years to reflect 33.5% allocated to EB ministries and 21% allocated to the Ministry Partners and WMU.

Though the Executive Board Ministries have had to make significant adjustments in the past four years, there is still some areas where thoughtful consideration of change is still appropriate.

We offer the following recommendations:

1) That the EB Properties Committee and Convention Staff recommend a plan of action in regard to the White Oak Conference Center that would reduce the need for CP funding.

2) That the EB Planning & Ministries Committee and Convention Staff recommend a plan of action to facilitate the establishment of shared ministry initiatives and endeavors with our Ministry Partners.

3) That the EB Planning & Ministries Committee and Convention Staff study the pattern of relationships existing in other state conventions regarding the WMU, state missions offerings, and CP support of the WMU, and bring recommendations to the EB if appropriate.

4) That the EB Planning & Ministries Committee and Convention Staff study the need for and efficacy of the Office of Public Policy, and make recommendations to the EB if appropriate.

Respectfully Submitted:

Kent Smith, (Ch.)
Alex Sands
Rocky Purvis
Dwight Easler (Ex. Brd. Ch.)
Tommy Kelly (Convention Pres.)

With Assistance from:
Dr. Richard Harris (Interim SCBC EDT)
Wayne Terry (AED)
David Parks (AED)
Marshall Blalock (EB BF&A Ch.)
D.J. Horton (Former Conv. Pres.)