Vestal says CBF will have to recall missionaries unless funding improves - Word&Way

Vestal says CBF will have to recall missionaries unless funding improves

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ABP) – The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be forced to recall missionaries from the field if donations to its annual Offering for Global Missions do not increase next year, CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal told the CBF Coordinating Council June 23.

“People are always saying ‘Why don’t you appoint more funded missionaries?’ The fact is we don’t have the money,” Vestal said at a meeting of the Coordinating Council on the eve of the CBF’s General Assembly June 23-26 in Charlotte, N.C. “What is amazing is that we have not had to call any missionaries home.”

Vestal said the Fellowship would have already reduced its missionary force had it not been for several generous designated gifts to global missions.

“Had it not been for these large anonymous gifts that we received the last six or seven years, we would be calling missionaries home,” Vestal said. “We try to be good stewards of those gifts by disbursing them over a period of years, but they run out next year. Unless the global mission offering increases in the next year, we will call missionaries home.”

Vestal’s comments followed a financial report showing contributions to the Offering for Global Missions running 29 percent behind budget eight months into the fiscal year. Total CBF revenues through May were $8.6 million, 73 percent of projected receipts of $11.9 million year-to-date toward an annual 2009-2010 budget of $16.1 million.

“We are operating in a contingency plan for 80 percent,” Larry Hurst, director of finance and accounting and controller, said. “We’re about 7 percent behind our contingency plan.”

Total October-May expenditures were $7.9 million, 76 percent of the budget. That resulted in a spending gap of $560,000 that Hurst said Fellowship leaders hope to close in the last four months of the fiscal year.

“At 80 percent our contingency plan is not adequate for the amount of revenues that are coming in,” Hurst said. He said that staff was looking at some further spending cuts, but added, “I think where our opportunity is really is on the revenue side.”

Ben McDade, coordinator of Fellowship advancement, said the CBF is looking at ways to increase revenue.

“I think we are experiencing the same economic impact as many others,” he said. “I do not think that we’re experiencing some kind of public relations downfall or some misstep there. When we had the Haiti disaster, we received over a million dollars from people who trust us enough to administer their funds on their behalf to the people in Haiti. I do think we are trustworthy. I do think people have faith in our integrity as an organization.”

Hurst said he believes churches are feeling the pressure of families being unemployed and people hanging on to more of their resources because of uncertainty about the economy.

“I don’t think people stopped giving to CBF because of anything we have done,” Hurst said. “I think it’s overall in the economy. Also, the over a million dollars for Haiti in the last six months says a lot, but we do know that anytime you have a natural disaster like this – like we experienced with the tsunami in 2004 and 2005 — sometimes people take their missions giving and they give it to relief because it seems much more urgent. That affects our budget. We’re not only dealing with a down economy. We’re also dealing with a disaster that is very visible and very powerful.”

Vestal called it “puzzling” that churches don’t give more to the Offering for Global Missions.

“I am totally puzzled,” he said. “I am confused. I don’t understand why churches don’t give to the Offering for Global Missions. Every dime goes either to pay a missionary’s salary or project or living ministries of a missionary.”

Rob Nash, coordinator of global missions, applauded the appointment of 16 new missionary personnel June 23 “at a time of financial crisis and all the challenges we are facing.”

“Despite all of that, God is calling people, they are responding and we are sending them,” Nash said. “That is something we can celebrate even as we deal with all those other challenges we have talked about. That is a miracle.”

In other business the Coordinating Council voted to endorse a study of the Fellowship’s structure started by Vestal based on discussion at a recent gathering of leaders of more than 20 CBF partner organizations and state and national CBF organizations to begin planning for the Fellowship’s 20th anniversary meeting next year in Tampa, Fla.

CBF moderator Hal Bass appointed a 14-member “2012 Task Force” to hold listening sessions and develop a report and recommendations at the next two annual meetings addressing three questions:

— “What is the new model of community that fosters missional collaboration rather than competition for resources?

— “How can we refocus and streamline organizational structures in order to provide leadership and resources for churches and other ministries to respond more effectively to global challenges?

— “How do we help Baptist churches and organizations embrace their identity as partners within the community.”

The recommendation passed by a wide majority recorded by voice vote, but some council members dissented, saying they didn’t have enough information to bless a process that could have far-reaching implications for the organization’s future.


Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.