How the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee spends its allocation of Cooperative Program funds hasn’t garnered much attention during budget presentations in recent years, but that’s likely to change going forward.
EC trustees and staff members anticipate a different experience when messengers gather for this year’s SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim (June 14–15). That reality plus an attempt to follow through with recommendations presented June 1 by the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force prompted the group to review, revise and approve budget proposal adjustments during a special-called meeting June 2. EC members also approved an additional up to $500,000 for ongoing legal fees.
More needed for legal fees
William “Bill” Townes, EC’s interim chief financial officer, shared that the $2 million allocated for Guidepost Solutions’ work has been spent. As of April, total billing since the task force and Guidepost began their work in 2021 has reached $2.1 million, Townes said, noting the EC anticipates owing Guidepost for May, June and July (and possibly longer).
The additional funds will come from operating reserves and was approved with 89% of the vote of the 54 members present for the meeting.
The Committee on Convention Finances and Stewardship Development is charged with monitoring these expenses monthly, and “approval to expend operating reserves in excess of these amounts will require further discussion and approval by the Committee,” the approved recommendation states.
Adjustments in budget proposals
As far as the overall budgets, changes were approved by EC trustee members for both the current budget year (2021–2022) and the next (2022–23) to prepare for the anticipated new aspects of the EC’s work coming out of the task force report and recommendations. The decisions made by the group June 2 are strictly proposals at this point. They will be presented to the messengers for explanation and a vote at the annual meeting.
“Our responsibility, our fiscal responsibility is to come together and make a recommendation that we believe is within the best interest of our convention and supportive … of the recommendation that comes from the task force,” said Willie McLaurin, EC interim president and CEO.
“The commitment of this body is to bring what I believe to be a common sense approach that does not negatively impact our Great Commission work together.”
Rolland Slade, EC chairman, noted, “I firmly believe we must do everything we possibly can for the vulnerable and those who have been hurt and victimized.
“We have to do our very best, and I pray that what we’ll offer in these recommendations … the messengers will receive them,” Slade said. “If they adjust them, change them, throw them out, that is the will of the messengers and that’s the polity of our network of churches. And ultimately yes, we want to see the kingdom of God advanced. … He’s gonna provide for the Southern Baptist Convention to continue on for our individual congregations, to continue on as we do the work and make our convention, our network of churches as safe as possible.”
The proposed budget changes were brought to the full board by the Committee on Convention Finances and Stewardship Development and garnered several questions, including whether the SBC entity leaders will be supportive of the recommendations. After a few phrasing changes, EC members approved the recommendation focusing on the current year with 88% of the vote.
Current budget year recommendation:
The EC recommends messengers approve the first $5 million of any overage of gifts received in excess of the projected 2021–2022 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget be administered and funded by the EC as follows:
- 60 percent to provide up to $3 million “for initial implementation of sexual abuse reforms as recommended by the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force.”
- 20 percent to provide up to $1 million “to further assess, establish, develop and implement a comprehensive framework for the SBC to improve its response to sexual abuse and misconduct allegations, respond appropriately to legal matters on behalf of the SBC, and to achieve meaningful and sustainable reforms in a manner that recognizes SBC polity in accordance with the amended and adopted SBC VISION 2025, strategic action number 6, in cooperation, collaboration and oversight of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force.”
- 10 percent to provide up to $500,000 to assist with implementation of Southern Baptist initiatives “to endeavor to eliminate all incidents … of racial discrimination among our churches in accordance with the amended and adopted SBC VISION 2025, strategic action number 6.”
- 10 percent to provide up to $500,000 “to assist with subsequent funding provided by the SBC Executive Committee in excess of the initial estimated cost of the Guidepost … investigation.”
This recommendation also states “any remaining overage of gifts received for the 2021–2022 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, in excess of the allocations noted above, be distributed in accord with the percentages already approved for the other distributees in the 2021–2022 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.”
And as a proactive move, an additional item included in the recommendation allows for transferring funds between entities. Wording in the recommendation states that “any appropriations by an SBC entity made to another SBC Bylaw 14 entity that are designated to provide financial support for the abuse prevention and awareness initiatives approved by the SBC, be authorized in advance, full accounting of which for reporting purposes, shall be made to the SBC Executive Committee and the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, by both the contributing and receiving entities.”
Next budget year recommendation:
EC members also voted, with 82% of the vote, to increase the 2022–23 proposed SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget from $192 million to $196 million. This includes the percentage of total allocations for each entity.
The recommendation noted, a “Special Priority Allocation (of $4 million) will be set aside to be administered and funded by the SBC Executive Committee in cooperation, collaboration and oversight of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force to provide ongoing funding to assess, establish, develop and implement a comprehensive framework for the SBC to improve its response to sexual abuse and misconduct allegations, respond appropriately to legal matters on behalf of the SBC, and to achieve meaningful and sustainable reforms to prayerfully endeavor to eliminate all incidents of sexual abuse among our churches in a manner that recognizes SBC polity.”
The budget proposal changes will be shared with messengers in Anaheim, but they will not be shown in the published Book of Reports distributed at messenger registration because those books have already been published with the previous proposed numbers.