February 4, 2002

SEE ANOTHER EDITORIAL: Missionaries will agonize: Conscience vs. continuation

Baptists deserve decisions based on fact, not fallacy

___Your pastor and some lay leaders in your church recently received a letter and a brochure from Morris Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. On the surface, that's understandable. Leaders of all kinds of organizations often communicate with constituent groups.
___Chapman's mailout asks Texas Baptist church leaders to support the SBC Cooperative Program. Specifically, he appeals to Texas churches to turn away from the Baptist General Convention of Texas' Adopted Budget, approved by messengers to the BGCT annual session last fall. He urges churches to provide more money to SBC causes by utilizing the BGCT giving form's "other" category, even suggesting they might split their giving 50-50 between the state and national conventions. He also tells them how they can contribute their Cooperative Program budget funds through the rival Southern Baptists of Texas Convention or directly to the SBC Executive Committee, steps that would bypass the BGCT completely and de-fund the historic state convention.
___Unfortunately, Chapman oversteps his bounds in at least three places:
___ Chapman misleads his readers.
___He begins by praising the SBC's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist tragedy. What he doesn't say is nearly all of these volunteers were recruited by and through the state conventions, not the national convention. For example, Texas Baptists played a key role in ministry, and Chapman takes credit for their action, when in fact they served under the auspices of Texas Baptist Men.
___He also seeks to lead readers to erroneous conclusions about funding. The new BGCT Adopted Budget "redirects over a million dollars from money the churches had previously earmarked for the (SBC) North American Mission Board," Chapman complains. "BGCT leaders say they want to direct this money for Texas missions work by themselves. I believe most Baptists in Texas recognize the value of the national strategy of our North American Mission Board."
___Chapman's letter would lead readers to believe the BGCT had taken more than $1 million from the "national strategy" of the mission board. In fact, the 2002 state convention budget only redirects the money the mission board would have sent back to Texas. The new budget eliminates red tape and speeds up funding for mission work in Texas, where that money would have wound up anyway. Chapman's insinuation to the contrary, the new BGCT budget does not cut funding for the North American Mission Board's projects outside Texas. Despite what Chapman implies, the BGCT still is likely to provide about $9 million to the mission board--still the largest contribution of any state convention.
___In another place, he claims a church's decision to give through the BGCT Adopted Budget will fail to "fully support ... mission boards"--plural. The state convention's Adopted Budget does not impact the SBC International Mission Board in the least. Nothing in the BGCT budget suggests cutting back funds for foreign missions.
___ Chapman doesn't tell the whole story.
___He appeals to Texas Baptists' emotions by pointing out the BGCT Adopted Budget will not provide funds for non-Texan seminary students like a recent graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who has been appointed to a "Muslim-dominated nation."
___What he doesn't say is this Texas budget was proposed after a special study committee examined all the SBC seminaries and pointed out numerous problems with those schools. He doesn't tell his readers that, even despite these reservations, each church still is free to fund any such causes as it feels God directs. He doesn't say the BGCT still is expected to provide about $3 million to the six SBC seminaries. Of course, he doesn't say the other funds Texas Baptist churches provide for theological education will support ministerial students who also will serve across Texas and around the world. And he doesn't mention that no other state is helping to fund these BGCT ministerial students, even though almost 40 other state conventions are providing support for the SBC seminaries.
___ Chapman takes sides among Texans.
___While criticizing the BGCT, he implicitly affirms the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He tells how some churches are supporting the breakaway convention. He urges church leaders to get in touch with the SBTC and provides complete contact information, although he never provides information about how to contact the BGCT.
___Even in this, he fails to tell the whole story. While he affirms the SBTC allocation of funds, Chapman declines to note churches that leave the BGCT cease to support the 43 child-care facilities and programs operated by BGCT agencies. He doesn't report how churches that leave the BGCT will forsake funding for 10 educational institutions that train more than 34,000 students, including more than 2,000 young people preparing for ministry--about 47 percent of all ministers-in-training within the SBC. He declines to say churches that abandon the BGCT will cease support for numerous God-ordained efforts, like River Ministry, Texas Partnerships overseas and with other Baptists elsewhere in America, the Church-Starting Center, Baptist Student Ministries statewide, 17 facilities for and ministries to the aging, seven healthcare ministries, ministry alongside and to 44 language groups in Texas, and much more.
___Sadly, Chapman's letter reflects a pattern common among adversaries of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Many begin by removing the Baptist Standard from the church budget. But they also deny Baptist laypeople access to BGCT leaders, who can set the record straight. They often provide material like Chapman's letter, which distorts the BGCT's record and leads churches to erroneous conclusions. If anyone in your church or a church close to you seeks to lead the congregation away from the BGCT, do everything you can to make sure the members receive accurate information and hear directly and in person from a BGCT representative. Call BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade at (214) 828-5301.
___Every church has a right to determine its affiliations. But every Baptist deserves to base that decision on facts, not fallacy.

___ —Marv Knox
E-mail the editor at marvknox@baptiststandard.com

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