Dear church leader:
"Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?"* Music City's Alan Jackson captured the emotions of all of us here in Nashville and across the country with his timely and thoughtful song about the September 11 attacks on America. Where were Southern Baptists on that September day? What was our response?
Our response was the immediate dispatching of chaplains, volunteer teams, and disaster units to Ground Zero and the Pentagon. Our response was hundreds of thousands of dollars given for the emergency efforts. Pastors counseled and prayed with their churches and communities all over the United States, and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention offered personal words of encouragement and prayer for the president of our nation.
Baptist Press personnel went to New York to give first-hand perspectives to Baptists and the world. SBC spokesmen, through print and television, offered biblical perspectives, words of consolation, and a loving gospel witness to a stunned and grieving populace. Television spots heralding the Christ of Christmas as the Hope of the world were aired in New York City. Our web site, www.sbc.net, featured a moving video memorial of the events. Southern Baptist volunteers from across the nation spent days in New York helping residents near Ground Zero clean their homes and begin to put their lives back together. The SBC president and the Executive Committee president called all Southern Baptists to join in prayer for the victims' families, emergency personnel in New York, Washington, D. C., and Pennsylvania, leaders of our nation, and members of our armed forces. They were encouraged to register to pray on a special web site, www.acalltoprayer.net. These are just a few of the responses, and our work and ministry are still under way.
Southern Baptists, like our whole nation, had to reach deeply into our faith and resources to respond to this crisis. But we did not have to invent a way to minister. By the grace of God and the faithfulness of our people, our ministry framework (human resources, financial ability, communications networks, equipment, and material, etc.) was already in place on 9/11. How thankful I am for our churches, our denominational structure, the Cooperative Program, and our convictions and commitments. We were ready to be used by God.
As part of a Southern Baptist church in Texas, you have performed a strategic role, not only in these crisis ministries, but also in everything God has been doing through the Southern Baptist family. Your faithfulness in praying and in giving through the Cooperative Program has literally fueled the work of our Lord Jesus across the world.
I am writing to ask you to remain faithful in these urgent days. We need your partnership in the gospel. In light of the drastic changes in the budgeting plan of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I have enclosed materials** designed to aid your church as you decide how you will respond to the missions giving options before you. We want to assist you in your continued generous support of the effective, far-reaching missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This is my concern: If you give through the Baptist General Convention of Texas and select the "BGCT Cooperative Giving Budget" on the remittance form, you will severely limit your gifts to SBC ministries. Therefore, if you desire to fully support SBC seminaries, mission boards, and other work as you have in past decades, you will need to direct your gifts utilizing the "Other" option.
How significant is this? One of our new missionaries appointed last month will be returning with his wife and four sons to serve in a Muslim dominated nation where it is unsafe to openly declare he is a missionary. He is a recent graduate from Southeastern Seminary and was enrolled in their two plus two program that allowed him to serve overseas the last two years while he completed his seminary degree. The BGCT Cooperative Giving Budget does not provide any support for this man's seminary education because he is not from Texas. Thousands of other Southern Baptist seminary students will be similarly deprived of Texas Baptist support because the BGCT has voted to shift millions of dollars of support from them to a couple of hundred Texas students at two new seminaries in Texas. I am so grateful most Baptists in Texas want to support all our student missionaries and ministers regardless of which state they call home.
In addition to these unprecedented reallocations in the BGCT budget, this year the BGCT Cooperative Giving Budget redirects over a million dollars from money the churches had previously earmarked for the North American Mission Board. 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 and desire to continue the historic partnership, especially in these days of dramatic opportunity for outreach to the whole nation. This is no time to turn inward. This is no time to abandon the nation and the world. I urge you to stay with the traditional Cooperative Program giving method and remain firm partners with the thousands of Southern Baptist churches in all fifty states who are committed to Cooperative Program missions.
Gratefully, the SBC has not yet had to reallocate any resources among its entities due to the defunding actions of the BGCT. If your church continues to give through the traditional model outlined in these materials, we can maintain the distribution pattern among our mission boards and seminaries.
It is our desire to have a traditional partnership in the Cooperative Program with the state conventions in Texas, and we have expressed this to state convention leaders. Some churches, however, because of the budgeting changes in the BGCT, have requested directions for sending their monthly Cooperative Program gift directly to the Executive Committee in Nashville. If you think this may be a necessity for your church, feel free to contact us with questions and comments.
Please know that I, along with the staff and members of the Executive Committee, and the staff and trustees of all our SBC entities, are praying for God to give you clear direction for the future of your church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and God's kingdom. May God bless you "exceeding abundantly above all you ask or think."
In Jesus' Name,
Morris H. Chapman
*Alan Jackson, "Where Were You." ©2001 EMI Music/Tri-Angels Music (ASCAP)
**View PDF version of the brochure on CP Giving
Order Brochures on CP Giving and Texas Churches