EDITOR’S NOTE: This article includes reporting from Baptist Press and The Baptist Paper.
NASHVILLE – The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) lost $6,704,285 in net assets during the 2021-2022 fiscal year – a trend that auditors called “unsustainable.”
“The assets have been cut in half,” said EC member Monte Shinkle, emeritus pastor of Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City. “We dropped $6 million this past year. We have $6 million left … it doesn’t look good.”
EC members learned about the loss in net assets – comprised of market investments – during their latest meeting, Feb. 21.
During the previous February EC meeting, financial reports indicated the EC had $15 million in investments and a little under $3 million of those were designated as restricted so that left around $12.2 million available for use, according to The Baptist Paper. As such, with the recent loss of net assets, only about $6 million is now available for use.
According to Baptist Press, EC member Dwight Easler, filling in for Convention Finances and Stewardship chairman Archie Mason, also reported that first quarter receipts given from Oct. 1-Dec. 31 for the 2022-23 budget had totaled $45,715,000, a decrease of 8.69 percent. First quarter net assets were also down by $1,372,527.
Members of the EC also approved for action and consideration at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting a proposed 2023-2024 allocation budget of $195,250,000. A proposed 2023-2024 EC operating budget of $8,335,000 for action and consideration at the Annual Meeting was likewise approved.
Mike Bianchi, interim chief financial officer for the EC, responded to concerns over the loss in net assets. He confirmed those losses can be attributed to the cost of a third-party investigation administered by Guidepost Solutions as well as the subsequent implementation of sexual abuse reforms in the SBC, including legal fees and an ongoing Department of Justice investigation.
On Monday night, ARITF chairman Marshall Blalock announced that Guidepost Solutions would be retained to launch and maintain a Ministry Check website database for those credibly accused of sexual abuse. He further told Baptist Press in a later interview that estimated costs to build the site and get it going could range from $1.5-2 million.
Several EC members asked questions regarding the sustainability of an organization losing approximately half of its net assets in a year.
“[Auditors] did use the word ‘unsustainable,’” Bianchi said. “The challenge is that much is unknown. They’re working with numbers … they have at this point.”
SBC Executive Committee leadership is looking at options to address those concerns, he said, including liquidating assets, changing financial arrangements, attaining other financing and looking to the SBC for future funding.
“Everything is on the table in terms of how we’re going to maintain and move forward,” said Willie McLaurin, interim EC president. “We’re monitoring that, literally, on a daily basis and working diligently. We feel confident God has given us a plan to make sure we maintain as much vitality as we can.
“… [W]e want to make the best decision we can to benefit all Southern Baptists.”
Revenue through which the EC carries out its responsibilities is generated through several streams, but primarily from Cooperative Program giving. While money is earned through investments, those same investments are being used toward the sexual abuse response.
“Like Dr. McLaurin said, everything has to be on the table,” said Easler on the financial report.
“We have to sustain the budget while talking about other things to produce liquidity” without touching things like CP and other gifts.