NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee approved Tuesday (Feb. 19) two SBC entities' requests regarding work in China and Canada.
Committee members unanimously approved a request by LifeWay Christian Resources to form LifeWay Global, a for-profit subsidiary that will make Bibles, Bible study materials and training materials available to churches and Christians in China.
Although China will be the only country initially impacted, the request also allows LifeWay Global to provide the materials to other countries. The for-profit status is necessary because China is reluctant to grant registration to international non-profits, Executive Committee members were told. The goal is for LifeWay Global to be self-funding.
Executive Committee members also unanimously approved a request by the North American Mission Board to form NAMB Canada, a nonprofit corporation that will make it easier for NAMB to continue to expand its church planting work in Canada. Currently, NAMB must direct its Canadian ministry efforts through the Canadian National Baptist Convention. Forming the nonprofit will allow NAMB to directly hire employees, rent office space and purchase property as needed.
Jerry Taillon, the Canadian National Baptist Convention's ministry leader, expressed support for the proposal. The corporation will be funded solely by NAMB and will have five board members -- three Canadian citizens and two U.S. citizens. Canadian law requires that nonprofits be governed by a board whose majority is comprised of Canadian citizens. Passage of any matter would require the votes of four of the five members. To change the bylaws, it would require five votes.
During subcommittee discussion of the proposal, NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the mission board has a good working relationship with the Canadian convention, but NAMB's increased focus on reaching Canada means more church plants and more personnel, which would create an increasing administrative workload for the CNBC. The formation of NAMB Canada would remove that problem, Ezell said.
NAMB's ministry assignment encompasses two countries: Canada and the United States.
GuideStone ministry assignment
Executive Committee members approved a recommendation from GuideStone Financial Resources that would allow it to offer its investment and insurance products and services to like-minded individuals. Under the proposal, to be placed before messengers at the SBC annual meeting in June, GuideStone would create two new affiliate companies that would be controlled by and answer to GuideStone's trustees, much as its current affiliates do.
The Dallas-based board, which provides retirement, insurance, property and casualty and investment opportunities to Southern Baptist churches, affiliated ministries and their employees, has served approved like-minded evangelical churches and organizations for nearly a decade. GuideStone also sponsors Mission:Dignity, a ministry that provides financial assistance for retired Southern Baptist ministers and their widows who need financial assistance in their declining years.
Under the proposed expansion of its ministry assignment, GuideStone would begin making its mutual funds, which garnered key finance industry awards last year, available to Southern Baptist church members and other eligible evangelical Christians sometime in 2014. GuideStone also is studying potential insurance products and services it could make available. During the presentation before the Executive Committee, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said the initiative is "the capstone of GuideStone 100, our long-range strategic plan, for which we have been praying and working toward for several years."
After the meeting, Hawkins emphasized the motivation behind the request for a change in ministry assignment, stating that GuideStone is committed "to further enhance the financial security of the SBC pastor at the crossroads by producing additional economies of scale and helping to undergird the coming needs of our Mission:Dignity program fueled by a massive baby boomer generation who is retiring within the next 15 years. Ã¢ Â¦ We are only requesting the opportunity to serve a larger audience because we firmly believe it will enhance our ability to serve our Southern Baptist pastors in a more cost-effective manner for the long-term."
D.C. Baptist Convention
In another matter, the Executive Committee voted to consider a recommendation at its June meeting that the combination of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware be designated a "defined territory" for the purpose of determining eligibility for representation on SBC committees and entity boards. Only a limited number of churches in the District of Columbia contribute to SBC causes, resulting in SBC committee and board members from the District routinely coming from a small set of churches. According to background material given to the EC members, this creates "an impression that runs counter to the goal of broadening inclusion and board and committee involvement as widely as possible among Southern Baptists."
"It is not the trustees themselves which are in any way the subject of stated concerns, but the fact that the criteria presents a very limited set of churches from which to select qualified trustees" creates an anomaly in the trustee selection process, the background material stated.
According to SBC Bylaw 30, the number of cooperating Baptists in a defined territory must meet certain thresholds before Baptists in that territory qualify for representation on SBC boards and committees. By combining the District of Columbia with Maryland and Delaware as a "defined territory," the number of churches from which qualified SBC committee and board members can be selected becomes a larger set, helping meet the goal of broader inclusion.
The SBC will continue to relate directly to the District of Columbia Baptist Convention as a cooperating state convention, as it does seven other state and regional conventions in areas of the country that currently do not qualify for representation on SBC boards and committees.
The recommendation would require a change in SBC bylaws and approval by SBC messengers. The Executive Committee directed EC staff to "engage in further study of this plan and to receive and evaluate any input regarding this plan" prior to its June meeting in Houston.
Pastors' Conference reimbursement
Also at its Feb. 19 meeting, the Executive Committee amended a February 2012 recommendation that had increased the reimbursement stipulation from the Pastors' Conference for use of the SBC annual meeting facilities. That 2012 recommendation increased the reimbursement stipulation from $50,000 in 2011 to $100,000 in 2013, $150,000 in 2014 and a full reimbursement for all costs by 2015. Under the amended recommendation passed Feb. 19, a three-year plan will begin whereby the reimbursement will increase by $10,000 per year "of the base cost." For this year's Pastors' Conference, the reimbursement will be $60,000.
The recommendation also asked EC staff "to continue documenting the variable cost attributed to the SBC Pastors' Conference and request a written financial report be provided by the SBC Pastors' Conference leadership by October 30, 2013, to the Executive Committee for review during its February 2014 meeting."
The Pastors' Conference paid a $38,000 reimbursement between 1992 and 2010 while its costs rose over the years, to $179,000 in 2010 in Orlando, Fla., for example, and to $201,000 in 2011 in Phoenix. The balance has been paid from Cooperative Program funds in the SBC Operating Budget.
Resolutions of appreciation
The Executive Committee approved resolutions of appreciation for Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and David Lee, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
Land will retire Oct. 23 after 25 years as ERLC president, and the resolution says Land and the ERLC staff "participated in thousands of meetings with congressmen, senators, congressional staff, and White House personnel throughout his tenure, advocating on behalf of Southern Baptists from a biblical perspective."
Also during Land's tenure, the ERLC filed 62 amicus briefs with the Supreme Court and lower courts "championing religious freedom, basic human rights for all people, sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, the role and sanctity of biblical marriage, and addressing other issues such as education, fiscal policy, gambling, health care, homosexuality, and obscenity from a biblical perspective."
The resolution also states that Land "worked tirelessly to effect racial reconciliation" in the Southern Baptist Convention and in American life, including as a principal architect of the SBC's 1995 resolution on racial reconciliation.
Among his other accomplishments, the resolution states, Land "helped Southern Baptists take positive, proactive steps to minister to those ensnared in the homosexual lifestyle or by drug abuse."
Lee will retire July 31 after 13 years as executive director of the Maryland/Delaware convention. He previously served six years as director of the convention's church growth and services division and in other positions.
"Lee's tenure with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware was marked by a strong emphasis on missions and church planting, building relationships among pastors, and helping existing churches become healthier and more Great Commission-focused," the EC's resolution of appreciation states.
The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware achieved a growth rate of nearly 40 percent in the number of churches affiliated with the convention during Lee's 19 years of leadership.
In Executive Committee also:
-- approved a 2013-14 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $191,500,000 for recommendation to the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.
The proposed budget increases the allocation to the International Mission Board by .20 percent, giving IMB 50.41 percent of the total allocation. The increase is funded by a corresponding decrease in the allocation to the SBC Operating Budget, as requested by EC President Frank Page. While the current operating budget, which funds the SBC annual meeting and the work of the EC, is 3.20 percent of the budget, Page requested the allocation be cut to 2.99 percent, with the difference going to international missions.
The proposed budget maintains the current allocation of 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board, for an overall total of 73.20 percent allocated for mission ministries nationally and internationally.
The six seminaries would receive 22.16 percent of the budget, with 4.80 percent distributed to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, based on the enrollment formula; 4.58 percent to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; 4.18 percent to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; 3.80 percent to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; 2.44 percent to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and 2.10 percent to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)
The budget proposal maintains a 1.65 percent allocation to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.
-- recommended to SBC messengers that they approve a request by NAMB to increase the maximum amount of its contingency reserve fund. The current maximum is 90 days, and it would change under the recommendation to six months of the operating budget requirement. Messengers will consider it during the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Houston
-- authorized a 1.7 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
-- received as information that C. Barry McCarty will be retained as the chief parliamentarian for the June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.
-- elected John G. Blackman and Marshall Albritton as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees for terms to expire in 2016. Blackman is retired from SunTrust Bank; Albritton is an attorney. Both men are from Nashville.
The EC also responded to three motions referred from the 2012 annual meeting by:
-- declining a recommendation to meet every two years instead of annually, affirming an annual meeting "to inform Southern Baptists about their missions and ministries, encourage them to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and conduct the business necessary to facilitate Southern Baptist missions and ministries."
-- declining a request to reduce the current seminary allocation percentage to allow for an increase in International Mission Board funding, "after doing its due diligence in weighing the request ... in consultation with the six SBC seminaries and the president of the International Mission Board."
-- voting, in response to a request to create a program to train all convention-elected trustees, to report at the 2013 Houston annual meeting that it approved in 2005 the dissemination of certain orientation materials to trustees, and "still intends to formulate some methodology by which a more comprehensive, direct and concentrated orientation may be undertaken." Inadequate funding has delayed the inception of such a program, the Executive Committee said.
Compiled by Michael Foust, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press; Mike Ebert of the North American Mission Board; and Roy Hayhurst of GuideStone Financial Resources. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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