SBTC reports 209 'affiliated' churches
___By Mark Wingfield
___DALLAS--In its first public report on membership, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has identified 209 churches that have become "affiliated" with the new state Baptist convention for conservatives formed last fall.
___The July issue of the SBTC newsletter, the Plumbline, lists all churches that have affiliated with the new convention as well as other churches that have not become affiliated but from which contributions have been received.
___To become an affiliated church, a congregation must vote in a formal business meeting to do so, must financially support the work of SBTC and must affirm its agreement with the "foundational beliefs" of SBTC.
___Churches that have declared their affiliation with the new convention also may remain in good standing with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. SBTC allows its churches to be either uniquely or dually aligned.
___No information was published about how many of SBTC's affiliated churches have retained their affiliation with the BGCT as well.
___However, 23 of the 209 churches that had affiliated with SBTC as of July 15 were not previously listed in the BGCT annual, meaning they perhaps had been independent churches or had been affiliated with some other denominational group.
___The 186 SBTC churches that have in the past been related to the BGCT represent about 3 percent of the BGCT's 6,000 churches and missions.
___Thirty-six of the SBTC-affiliated churches that were listed in the BGCT annual for 1998 gave no money to the Cooperative Program that year, according to data reported on the Annual Church Profile.
___However, the remaining 150 churches gave a combined total of $2.05 million to the Cooperative Program in 1998, according to the same data. That equals less than 3 percent of the total Cooperative Program gifts of $70.8 million reported by the BGCT in 1998.
___Of all the churches currently affiliated with SBTC, the average contribution to the Cooperative Program in 1998 was $9,786. When only those 150 SBT-affiliated churches that made contributions to the Cooperative Program last year are considered, the average contribution rises to $13,634.
___The vast majority of SBTC-affiliated churches have fewer than 500 resident members, a pattern that also is true of the BGCT. Resident membership is a common benchmark measurement of the size of Baptist churches, although it is not a measure of average attendance. Generally, average Sunday morning attendance in a Baptist church equals slightly better than half of resident membership.
___Within SBTC, 17 percent of affiliated churches reported resident memberships of more than 500. Within the BGCT, about 21 percent of churches report resident memberships of 500 or more.
___The average resident membership of an SBTC church is 450. The median average (half fall above and half below) of resident membership of SBTC churches is 234.
___Sixteen churches with resident memberships of 1,000 or more have affiliated with SBTC, including eight with resident memberships of more than 2,000: First Baptist Church of Pearland, First Baptist Church of Euless, First Baptist Church of Sachse, Gardendale Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, Macedonia Baptist Church of Longview, Orchard Hills Baptist Church of Garland, San Jacinto Baptist Church of Amarillo and Woodforest Baptist Church in Houston.
___In addition to the churches listed by SBTC as affiliated with the new convention, the July Plumbline also listed 62 churches which have not affiliated with the new convention but which have forwarded contributions. Those contributions could be approved from the church budget in some cases or may be designated contributions by individual members in other cases.
___SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards states in the newsletter that an average of one church every-other day is affiliating with SBTC.
___The new state convention was launched officially in November by conservatives who favor recent changes in the Southern Baptist Convention and believe the BGCT is distancing itself from the SBC.
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