NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) -- The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will ask messengers at this year's annual meeting to reduce its own share of the Cooperative Program unified budget by two-tenths of a percent in the first step of a seven-year process proposed by the agency's new CEO to move toward a "historically appropriate" level of 2.4 percent CP allocation for administration.
Frank Page, the new president/CEO of the administrative body that carries on work of the nation's second-largest faith group between annual convention meetings, urged committee members to support his vision for modeling "a Christ-like selflessness" to build trust in a formerly growing denomination now in numerical and fiscal decline.
"I met with one of our groups yesterday, and I said, 'You know, every wonderful ministry that has come before you today needs more money,'" Page told committee members involved in the process of building a budget to propose at this year's SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. "
"And they do," he said. "The Executive Committee doesn't. Not only do we not need more, we are going to operate on less."
Page, who has been on the job for five months, has already reduced staff by 19 percent.
"That was gut-wrenching for me," Page said. "Never in my ministry -- I've had to fire some people for other reasons -- but I've never had to lay off people because of economic reasons. It was difficult for me."
In 2011-2012 the Executive Committee is proposing a new SBC operating budget reduced from the current 3.4 percent CP allocation it has received since assuming responsibility for stewardship education and promotion in 2007 to a 3.2 percent level. The International Mission Board, meanwhile, would see its share of the Cooperative Program pie increase from 50 percent to 50.2 percent in the coming year.
The transfer is less than a recommendation last year by a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force that called for reducing the Executive Committee allocation by a full 1 percent while upping the IMB portion to 51 percent as a symbolic reordering of denominational priorities.
The Executive Committee recommendation, to be presented at the convention's next annual meeting June 14-15 in Phoenix, expresses hope for further reducing the Executive Committee's allocation in years to come and also encourages trustee boards of SBC seminaries and the North American Mission Board to likewise consider voluntarily adjusting their allotments in favor of international missions.
Page recommended the budget cut as part of a decade-long program titled Vision 2020 aimed at restoring trust and celebrating methodological and generational differences while affirming the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.
Page, who describes his CEO title as "Chief Encouraging Officer," said he hopes the spirit of cooperation among denominational partners will become contagious. In a recent meeting, for example, the executive directors of 42 state and regional Baptist conventions that partner with the SBC voted unanimously to endorse a 50/50 division of the Cooperative Program between state and national ministries.
A motion recommended to convention messengers "respectfully" urges churches to increase their Cooperative Program contributions by 2.5 percent by the end of 2013. It also asks LifeWay Christian Resources to add a new reporting category of "Great Commission Giving" in addition to Cooperative Program and total missions giving on the Annual Church Profile tabulated in cooperation with state conventions.
The new category, recommended by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, would include designated contributions to any Baptist association, state convention and causes and entities of the SBC, but not gifts to non-SBC entities such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
The Executive Committee also considered another GCR recommendation to change the International Mission Board's ministry assignment to allow it to work with international people groups within the United States. IMB trustees have already voted to request the change, but the Executive Committee opted to hold off on a final recommendation until its meeting just prior to the SBC annual meeting in June to allow more time for conversation between the IMB and the North American Mission Board.
Both mission boards, along with the Executive Committee, are going through leadership transitions. For that reason, leaders said, the various entities need more time to work out details, but they already agree in principle about the two organizations working in concert.
The total SBC budget being recommended by the Executive Committee is $186 million. The current budget is just under $200 million. Last year the convention took in $191 million through the Cooperative Program. Through January, receipts were lagging 3 percent behind the same time period last year.
The 2.4 percent benchmark for the SBC operating budget proposed by Page would return the Executive Committee to roughly the CP allocation it received until the Southern Baptist Foundation was transferred to its control in a denominational restructuring in 1996.