A Letter to Charles R. Wade, Executive Director
Baptist General Convention of Texas
March 1, 2002
Dr. Charles R. Wade, Executive Director
Baptist General Convention Of Texas
333 N. Washington
Dallas, TX 75246-1798
During its February 26, 2002, meeting, the BGCT Executive Board passed a resolution urging Southern Baptist Convention leaders to "cease and desist from seeking to undermine the mission endeavors of state conventions in general and the Baptist General Convention of Texas in particular." It expressed "dismay and offense," and further stated that I had attempted to "persuade Baptist churches in Texas to redirect Cooperative Program giving away from the BGCT budget."
Though I certainly wish to speak fraternally, I am compelled to speak frankly as well. I believe you have misconstrued both my statements and my intent in the matter addressed. We are all aware that the letter I sent was not written in a vacuum - it was a direct response to actions of the BGCT we strongly believe to be adverse to the interests of the SBC.
I have consistently urged that we should continue to cooperate according to historic principles. The Executive Committee's position is that all churches should be encouraged to give undesignated Cooperative Program offerings through the state convention. We have resisted creating any other track for giving because we believe it harms the idea of the Cooperative Program and breaks faith with our state convention partners. Of course, we believe it is also a breach of faith for state conventions to identify as Cooperative Program gifts those contributions that are not to be distributed exclusively to the SBC and state convention budgets. I have steadfastly advocated for Southern Baptists staying with the traditional Cooperative Program giving method and remaining firm partners with the thousands of Southern Baptist churches in all fifty states who are committed to Cooperative Program missions. The Southern Baptist Convention has never suggested that Southern Baptist churches in Texas should not support both the SBC and their state convention. On the other hand, we have long been aware that anti-SBC persons in Texas, including many of your elected leaders, have openly discouraged support for the SBC. We have repeatedly stated for the record that this threatens the long-standing partnership between the SBC and the BGCT.
Charles, you commend the Texas WMU for urging the "SBC to refrain from seeking to directly influence our Texas Baptist Churches in their decisions regarding the giving of funds." Frankly, I think that statement may capture the essence of the problem to some degree. The churches are not possessions of the BGCT, or the SBC, or any other extra-church body.
As recently as last fall, I plainly restated that if Southern Baptist churches in Texas were dissuaded from supporting the SBC portion of the Cooperative Program or denied a straightforward vehicle for SBC mission support, then the Southern Baptist Convention would be forced to find ways to partner with those churches.
The churches in Texas apparently do not want the separation from the SBC that some BGCT leaders do. They demonstrated by their giving choices last year that they intended to be supportive of world missions and ministries through the SBC. Judging by the options they chose, most apparently objected to the BGCT budget formula, which they, and we, judge to have anti-SBC features. In the face of their demonstrated loyalty, your only response was to make it even more difficult for them to be supportive of SBC causes, requiring either that they give by default to the BGCT preferred budget, which retains almost 74% of the receipts from the churches for the BGCT, and excludes a number of SBC ministry entities, or write in their own division percentages.
My purpose in writing the letter about which your resolution was drafted was to point out that the remittance form designed by the BGCT, which only mentions the SBC as a special missions offering option, was, in effect, influencing churches to greatly diminish support of the SBC. You should not be surprised that the churches who were forced to check the "other" box, but wished to give to the Cooperative Program as in the past, were encouraged to write in a division amount that fully supported the work of the SBC.
If the churches give through the Baptist General Convention of Texas and select the "BGCT Cooperative Giving Budget" on the remittance form, they would severely limit their gifts to SBC ministries. Therefore, if they desire to fully support SBC seminaries, mission boards, and other work as they have in past decades, they had to direct their gifts utilizing the "Other" option. The illustration used in the printed piece was of a 50%-50% division. We could have chosen any division as an illustration. We have been happy enough with the 67%-33% division. No one can tell individual Southern Baptist churches how to give their money. But we can encourage the churches in a particular direction, precisely as you do in the remittance form with the parenthetical statement: We encourage a contribution of at least 67% to the BGCT.
It has ever been our desire to have a trust-based, traditional partnership in the Cooperative Program with the BGCT, and we have expressed this to state convention leaders. That is still our desire. While we do not own the Southern Baptist churches in Texas, or in any other part of the country, we do partner with them, and wish that partnership to be fruitful for the cause of Christ.
I appeal to you once again for a return to the traditional and mutually supportive relationship between the SBC and the BGCT that has prevailed until recent times.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Morris H. Chapman