October 30, 2002
SPRINGFIELD — Missouri Baptist Convention messengers have approved a downsized $17.5 million allocations budget for 2003 with no monies going to the convention’s five renegade agencies.
Messengers voted to send state cooperative money next year to:
- The Children’s Home, $577,500;
- Christian Higher Education Operations, $3,412,500;
- Executive Board Strategic Initiatives, $6,711,250;
- SBC Annuity and Insurance Program, $542,500;
- SBC causes, $6,256,250.
Messengers also established a $750,000 Rheubin L. South Missouri Mission Offering. With both the allocations budget and the missions budget, messengers noted that at such time the rebel agencies rescind their action to become self-perpetuating, the budgets may be revised.
Before approving the budgets at the Tuesday session, messengers heard Executive Director David Clippard paint a less-than-rosy financial picture for the convention. Clippard told messengers that receipts are far below what was expected.
"Last year at this time, this convention set the 2002 budget at $19.2 million," he explained. "The reality is that receipts will probably total only about $15.5 million. This is nearly a $4 million dollar drop from anticipated revenues."
Clippard said August, 2002 marked the first time since 1996 that monthly Cooperative Program receipts fell below the $1 million level.
"Therefore, it is obvious that we will have to back up before we can go forward," he said. "We will have to give priority to the most important things and set aside the less essential. Some very good ministry may have to be put on the shelf in order to give priority to the most essential. The purpose always will be to build a stronger ministry."
Clippard said one of the most pressing financial problems for the MBC is the status of cash reserves.
"We have no cash reserves to draw from," he told the overflow crowd who had gathered to participate in his installation ceremonies. "Cash reserves are like your personal savings account. You dip into savings in those times that income does not meet expenses.
"Like now," he explained, "when the economy takes a downward turn, cash reserves would help us weather this storm. At present we do not have that ability."
The only option, he explained, will be for expenses and ministry to take a step backward in order to rebuild.
Why no cash reserves?
Clippard said the answer is simple.
"The reserves have all been spent or given away," he said. "In the last five years alone, there have been over $2.2 million of expenditures for items that are not a part of budgeted ministry. In short, our savings accounts are at the empty mark."
Clippard said he had also uncovered another financial problems since taking his job at the Baptist Building. He revealed that deficit spending has been practiced for at least 20 years in connection with the Rheubin L. South Missouri Missions Offering.
"I have discovered that for many years this offering has been taken backward," he said. "The money is spent beginning Jan. 1. The offering is solicited in September. What happens if the money spent is more than the offering received?
"There are only two answers. Either cooperative program budget funds have to be used to pay the deficit, thereby wrecking the budget. Or, reserves have to be raided to pay the deficit. I believe the current way the MMO is raised is presumption on God and God’s people."
The proper sequence, Clippard explained should be:
- Develop a ministry plan, developing from that plan a budget that is necessary to fund the plan;
- Share that ministry plan with Missouri Baptists; and
- Based upon the offering God supplies, adjust the ministry to fit the resources.
"In other words," Clippard explained, "spend only MMO dollars that are given … in advance, not after the fact.
"I will be working very closely with our officers and the executive board to implement a strategy that will put this offering into a proper sequence," he added. "It will give us fiscal integrity with you. This will not be an easy fix, but we are determined to conduct this offering by fixing this sequence."
Messengers voted to get the MMO back into the proper mode by releasing $750,000 of escrowed monies to fund the state missions offering for 2003.
Clippard also discussed "frustrations of the moment" with messengers.
"We have started many colleges, retirement homes, beautiful encampments, a foundation to help us secure the future and news journals to keep our people informed," he said. "Missouri Baptists are certainly industrious, visionary and a generous people.
"At present, however, we have five entities that seem to think they are self-existent and therefore not dependant or accountable any longer to this convention that birthed and supported them. This is disappointing to us all," he continued with messengers applauding.
"From my understanding of their actions, I believe those actions to remove themselves from this convention are both illegal and immoral," Clippard added with messengers applauding even louder.
"I use the word immoral because these entities have broken their word and violated their commitments to this convention. We look forward to the not-too-distant future when each of these entities will once again be restored to their historic relationship and ministry role with the convention … a relationship that with some of these entities spans over 106 years!
"I am committed to work with our Executive Board to see their return," he concluded as applause rippled across the hall.
Clippard told messengers the immediate direction of the convention points to some "downsizing."
Without giving details, he added that the downsizing will be for "fiscal responsibility and to give our staff the resources they need to advance their work and ministry."
"But at the same time, we will add strategic ministry that is essential to build this convention," he concluded. "We will work carefully with our convention’s officers and Executive Board to position this convention’s ministry for growth."