By Allen Palmeri
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—An idea put forth by Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Tolliver concerning a progress report released Feb. 22 by the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) drew support from two of Missouri’s three representatives on the SBC Executive Committee.
Tolliver wants to see the report tabled in June so that Southern Baptists can spend a year looking at what the outcome may ultimately be. Both Lovina Rush, member, First Baptist Church, Kearney, and Randy Johnson, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Republic, agreed.
“There is so much in the progress report, I think we need to be very careful and study the ramifications of what could be the end result,” Tolliver said. “I think we need to walk and not run through this process. What happens in the Western states as a result of GCR? That’s an unknown at this point.”
Rush called the GCR initiative “complicated” in a manner where the work could have unintended consequences.
“Their agenda looks very ambitious,” she said. “It’s bound to shake some things up.
“I would agree with Dr. Tolliver in that we need to go slowly.”
Rush signaled that she is “on board” with the six components of the task force’s vision while at the same time acknowledging that their recommendations will cause “some pain.” Thinking through the details would be wise, she said.
“I agree that there are changes that need to be made,” she said. “I would hope that we would do them methodically.”
Johnson said he would be in favor of a motion to table, if it came up, for the purpose of prayerfully considering the details and the implications of all the changes. The final report is scheduled to be released May 3.
“It’s such a major adjustment,” he said. “We haven’t done anything like this for years and years.”
Johnson voiced the majority view of Southern Baptists that due to the makeup of the task force, and the subject matter at hand, it would only be logical to give the task force members the benefit of the doubt. He noted that he wants to reserve judgment until more details emerge in May, simply because “there’s a lot of wisdom on that committee.” However, he does have some concerns over the Cooperative Program (CP) paragraphs in the the progress report.
“I’m a big CP guy, and I believe in the power of CP giving,” he said.
Johnson said moving the primary responsibility for CP promotion and stewardship education ministry assignments from the Executive Committee to the state conventions may be unwise in that some states may be lacking in money and/or manpower. He also expressed skepticism about establishing a broader category of “Great Commission Giving” to celebrate all the financial support local congregations provide for Southern Baptist missions.
“A lot of churches give,” he said. “I’m just not sure we need to celebrate it.”
Johnson said this point is an example of one that could be studied for an additional year. He noted that all churches participate in this type of giving, and that “we just call it giving to missions.”
The third member of the Executive Committee from Missouri is Jeff Paul, pastor, Country Meadows Baptist Church, Kansas City. Paul did not directly agree with Tolliver’s idea to table the report for a year, but he does see the need for Southern Baptists to be patient amid the generation of a lot of new dialogue.
“My overall response was favorable to the presentation,” Paul said. “Does that mean blanket acceptance ? No, I would stop short of that.”
“I would not be opposed to tabling it for a year. I’m not certain of the necessity.”
Paul said he is looking forward to learning more about the plan in May.
“I want to see some of the nuts and bolts,” he said.
Brent Campbell, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustee and director of missions for Twin Rivers Baptist Association, observed that NAMB appears to be more of a task force target than the International Mission Board (IMB). That IMB would be cast as more of a “big brother” in the debate is OK, Campbell said, and even, to a degree, understandable. But there is a limit.
“Little brother’s doing good things, too, and we don’t want to just kick him,” Campbell said.
By that he means that NAMB trustees are “ready for change,” but at the same time “we’ve got to be real careful about that.” Protecting and preserving the good missionary work in regions like the West is important.
“NAMB’s been working hard in pioneering areas, and we want to make sure that we don’t defund them,” Campbell said.
The other NAMB trustee from Missouri, John Wenberg of Bridgeton, does not view the progress report as a particular threat to NAMB at this time.
“It’s all conjecture at this point, as far as that’s concerned,” said Wenberg, who is a member of Garden Baptist Church, Overland.
Wenberg is taking a wait-and-see attitude on the task force’s work.
“We’re about as in the dark on it as anyone else,” he said.