Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Baptists Abandoning Cooperative Program

In 1925 Southern Baptists created a Cooperative Program for churches to give a percentage of their receipts to do the Lord's work beyond the walls of local, independent congregations.

Individually, few Baptist churches had the resources to support hospitals, children's homes, colleges, seminaries or missionaries in foreign lands. Together we could pool our resources to support a wide network of such institutions and agencies, both in the United States and around the world. That is what the Cooperative Program did. It was a system for giving and supporting mission causes that was based on mutual trust and cooperation.

When moderate Baptists led the Southern Baptist Convention, they were careful to involve Baptists from across the theological spectrum in positions of leadership and responsibility. All Baptists felt a sense of ownership and had a stake in the work being supported by the cooperative program. Most Baptist churches believed they had a responsibility to send a tithe of their income to support denominational work.

Fundamentalist mega-churches started a trend away from supporting the work of the denomination. They started their own Bible Colleges and non-accredited seminaries and justified it by saying that the denominational seminaries were too liberal. Then they needed to find a way to place their graduates in positions of service, so they began a few new churches and started sending out their own missionaries. Then they decided to takeover the Southern Baptist Convention and purge it of all the moderates and "liberals" who were supposedly undermining the spread of the gospel.

Now, twenty years after they have had complete control of all the institutions and agencies of the SBC, the Fundamentalist mega-church preachers are still refusing to give a tithe of their multi-million dollar mega-church budgets to support the Cooperative Program. Here's what Baptist Press quotes Morris Chapman, Executive Director of the SBC, as saying to SBC leaders last week:
"Twenty years ago the average church was giving 10.6 percent through CP," Chapman said. "That percentage coming out of the local church has slipped to 6.99 percent. If that trend continues, obviously our missions enterprise around the world is going to be in a desperate condition."
Moderate churches are leaving the SBC and taking their money with them. Moderate state conventions like Texas and Virginia are creating new programs and shifting their funds to more trustworthy partners. Fundamentalists can't count on moderate Baptists to fund their fiefdoms any more.

It is past time for the Fundamentalist mega-churches to start carrying their weight. They are definitively proving that it is Fundamentalism, not moderation, that undermines the credibility of the gospel.


the_methotaku said...

You see this in the UMC as well. The progressives and moderates are the ones actually paying their apportionments and funding the denominational agencies, dispite the way the General Conference has bent over backwards to appease the fundies, especially on sexuality.

Jim said...

The sad fact is, the mega-churches don't feel that cooperation is necessary. They have their own little world, are wealthy, have plenty of publicity, and feel that yoking themselves to lesser entities somehow cheapens their standing (unless of course they can paternalize the relationship). It's a far cry from New Testament Christianity- but that doesn't matter to them because it's the gospel of prosperity they preach instead of the gospel of the cross.