Shared expenses and Southern Baptist State Conventions
In our previous post (SBC Loyalty?) we focused mainly on our generation, but this post speaks more to the generation before us. It would seem that there is a lack of transparency when it comes to allocating the CP dollars that ma and pa Southern Baptist are sacrificially giving, specifically in terms of shared expenses between the state conventions and the SBC. Since the inception of the CP, “the SBC recognized its obligation to compensate the state conventions for their partnership in promoting the entire Cooperative Program.” There are questions that need to be asked: (1) Are we being transparent about where CP money is going and (2) What are legitimate shared expenses?
The recent impulse has been to see state conventions move to a 50/50 split for CP funds. Our fear is that this category of “shared expenses” is being used to mask the fact that some state conventions are not moving towards more for the SBC and less for the state convention. This fear in many ways is being confirmed by the numbers. State conventions designated 9.2 million dollars as shared expenses in 2011, but that has risen 116% over the last two years to 19.9 million dollars being designated as shared expenses in 2013. Over the last two years we have seen an increase from only 4 state conventions that separated out shared expenses as a separate line item from the percent of funds kept in state to 17 state conventions. In many ways these budget categories of shared expenses make it look like conventions are moving closer to or have achieved a 50/50 split when it’s not actually happening.
For example, the Georgia Baptist Convention claims to share every CP dollar equally with the SBC. In a recent Baptist Press article, the chairman for the CP Allocation Study Committee of the GBC said that the committee agreed to “maintain the 50/50 percent funding split between state and national ministries.” A 50/50 split seems great, but when one examines the budget more closely it reveals that the GBC keeps 19.63% for shared ministry expenses. In reality, 40% of CP dollars given in Georgia go on to the SBC, and 60% stays in the state. Georgia keeps almost as much money for shared expenses (8.2 million) as they give to the IMB (8.4 million).
Is it transparent to continually tell ma and pa Baptist that every CP dollar is shared equally with the SBC when in actuality it is only 40 cents on the dollar? What are the shared expenses that demand that much money? Two things they include are the offices of the Executive Director and the Assistant Executive Director. SBC Plodder says that the shared expenses include “the expense of not a few staff members…I haven’t asked but I’m guessing that far more than 20% of GBC employees are charged to this ‘Shared Causes’ category.”
Another example of this is the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The BGCO says that it allocates 46% of cp dollars to SBC causes and 54% stays in state for BGCO causes. However, when one looks at the budget, you see that 3.37 million dollars are kept out of the allocation for shared expenses. So, while the BGCO claims that its allocation is 46/54, in actuality the division is more like 60/40 (the same as 2011).
Interestingly, while the BGCO and GBC present the numbers differently, both have about the same allocation. In these two examples, the percentages make it look like a state is moving closer to or has achieved a 50/50 split when in actuality no movement is being made, and in some cases more is being kept in state than before. Not every state does it this way. For example, states like Tennessee, North Carolina, Louisiana, and others place their shared expenses under their state allocation since those funds stay in the state. By having different ways of presenting this information and differing on what shared expenses are from state-to-state, it makes it look like some states have more of an equal sharing with the SBC when they do not. We need transparency.
Again, these shared expenses have been a part of the CP process from the beginning and are still today. About one-third of state conventions put shared expenses in a different category and take the allocations “off the top for items that they identify as benefitting both the state convention and SBC before dividing what remains between in-state and SBC use.” However, why has there been so much increase over the last few years? One reason is that conventions are now moving positions formerly funded by NAMB cooperative agreements under the shared expenses category. A recent article states, “The items placed in that category vary from state to state, most often including retirement benefits paid for pastors…mission efforts previously funded or jointly funded by NAMB; and the expenses of the state Baptist paper. Among other items included in a few conventions are various personnel, property and technology expenses.” So, instead of realigning partnerships to get greater resources to the unreached and underserved, states are now putting these positions under the shared resources category. In some cases this makes it look like there is more equal sharing with the SBC when there is not.
We are seeing many states move towards the 50/50 split. From 2012 to 2013, 20 state conventions increased their percentage giving to the CP (8 decreased). However, we need transparency so that ma and pa Southern Baptist know exactly where their money is going. We need to know why some states keep 19% for shared expenses while others keep 4% or less. We need some uniformity on how budgets are presented and what exactly constitutes a shared expense. Of course, every entity is autonomous and is free to decide these things, but pastors should also be good stewards of their people’s giving and ask hard questions about where the money is going.
We are grateful for the sacrificial giving of ma and pa Southern Baptist that allow us to do so much together. But, we desire that those who benefit from their giving (seminary students and church plants) and those who decide where their giving is allocated (state conventions) will be good and grateful stewards of what has been entrusted to them without taking advantage of those who have been so faithful. The end goal is the glory of our King through the propagation of His Gospel. However, we believe we do this King a disservice along the way if we show a lack of integrity in how we get there.