Executive Board hears report on NAMB funding issues

Published Mar 01, 2012

FRESNO – The California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board began evaluating future ministries of the Convention by hearing reports about the impact of changing strategies at the North American Mission Board and the direction for moving forward related to the Focus 21 Task Force report.

During their winter meeting, Jan. 26-27, Mike McCullough, CSBC associate executive director, distributed a written report to Board members about NAMB actions that will impact CSBC ministries.

“We want you to see this document for three reasons,” he said. “You’re the Executive Board. The actions NAMB is taking have directly impacted this Convention and the staff. You need to know this information.

“You need to know this information because it will demand strategic responses by the staff and/or the Executive Board as we look to the future and how we’re going to fulfill the ministry of this Convention.”

McCullough added that Board members needed the information “because you cannot move forward with Focus 21 without also understanding actions of the North American Mission Board.”

“These two events in California Southern Baptist life today – the change in our relationship with the North American Mission Board and the report of the Focus 21 Task Force – are going to have to be taken in tandem to be effective in how we go forward,” McCullough explained.

On Jan. 26, Board members received the seven-page document that outlined seven actions by NAMB over the past year and the impact those actions will have on CSBC ministries. A cover page explained the report was only intended to “clearly communicate” CSBC’s understanding of NAMB actions and their impact on CSBC and its ministries. “This document is not intended to be adversarial, but seeks to inform California Southern Baptists about the current state of the relationship which exists between the two entities,” the statement said.

The actions relate to the “Cooperative Agreement” and working relationship between NAMB and CSBC, elimination of jointly funded missionary positions that were vacant/frozen by NAMB, change in the ratio for matching dollars in the jointly funded budget, the defunding of three church starting and two evangelism positions on the CSBC staff, the defunding of all CSBC ministry evangelism field staff (13 positions), the transfer of all funds from eliminated positions to the church starting portion of the jointly funded budget, and reducing the number of jointly funded missionary personnel from 64 to 32 including associational directors of missions.

After the document was released, Fermin A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director,
e-mailed it to Kevin Ezell, NAMB president, and Steve Bass, NAMB west region vice president, informing them that the document had been presented to the Board.

On Jan. 27, Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield and vice chairman of the Focus 21 Task Force, addressed the Board concerning the referral of the task force report. After that discussion, Spradlin, also chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, delivered to Board members a response from Ezell.

Spradlin said he knew the NAMB discussion was a “delicate” issue, and had received a copy of the report from Ezell. He noted that from Ezell’s perspective the report “was full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations” concerning NAMB.

Spradlin encouraged the Board to invite Ezell to a meeting, or at least to meet with Board leadership.

“I don’t have a dog in the race in one sense,” Spradlin said. “I’m not on the (CSBC Executive) Board and I don’t represent NAMB. But, I do want to try, as chairman of the Executive Committee, to play the role of a peacemaker.”

Spradlin noted NAMB is “the largest contributor” to CSBC ministries. “As an outsider looking in,” he noted, “this is hugely important that it be resolved … since there are obviously strained relationships between our state convention and the North American Mission Board.”

Don Fugate, Executive Board chairman, said he had invited Ezell to meet with the Board’s executive committee to “work through the report and respond if they think there are misrepresentations or a lack of clarity.”

At press time a date had not been set for the meeting; however, on Feb. 16 a representative from NAMB responded in writing to the initial document, explaining the organization’s position.

Details were not available by press deadline.

In addressing the Board about the Focus 21 Task Force, Spradlin said, “These are tough times and that’s why we really passed this off to the Executive Board, because we think it’s important that rather than us just bringing the recommendations, that this Board deal with it and process it.”

In October 2011, messengers to the CSBC annual meeting in Fremont voted to refer the Focus 21 Task Force report to the CSBC Executive Board.

In making the motion to refer the recommendations, Glen Paden, chairman of the group, told messengers the task force wanted the recommendations to be “accelerants to the mission of California Southern Baptists” and wanted them to be “processed through the governance and under the leadership of the CSBC and its entities.” He added the task force did not want to “bypass these processes,” but wanted to establish “a path for these groups to accomplish future progress in key areas.”

Spradlin indicated the recommendations made by the task force “are not just about change, but about managing change that is already occurring.”

He addressed several of the recommendations, notably those dealing with financial issues, by giving Board members his perspective on how the task force came to their conclusions.

“We looked at how money flowed in an ideal world,” Spradlin explained. “This Board will need to look at the issues a little more pragmatically than we did. We didn’t get into structure of the Convention; we looked at things from a more ideal perspective.

“It is way more complicated,” he said, “than what can be reduced and put into print.”

Board members approved a recommendation that the executive committee serve as the study group for the Focus 21 Task Force report and “bring its findings and recommendations to the full Board for approval and presentation to messengers at the CSBC Annual Meeting in 2012 and future annual meetings as needed.”

Fugate noted the committee was going to “solicit input” in order to “gain insight and perspective” from around the state. He said approving the recommendation was just the first step to move forward in the process.

Three members of the task force serve on the Executive Board: Narri Cooper of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley; Pete Ramirez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista White Road in San Jose; and Steve Davidson, CSBC president.

The Board also elected Anthony Ahaev to lead the church starting group and Eva De La Rosa as Woman’s Missionary Union/Women’s Ministries specialist.

Ahaev replaces Joe De Leon who retired in December 2011 after serving in the position for more than 10 years. De La Rosa, who had been serving as interim, replaces Linda Clark who retired in December 2010 after 15 years of service.

Board members approved a goal of $400,000 for the 2012 California Mission Offering. In 2011 CMO gifts totaled $395,908, exceeding the $350,000 goal by $45,908 or 13.1 percent. The 2011 CMO figure is $60,157, or 17.9 percent, more than 2010 gifts of $335,751.

In other business the Board:

  • approved committee assignments;
  • approved meeting dates for 2013-15;
  • authorized the business services group leader to designate housing allowance amounts for qualified Convention employees;
  • approved corporate officers and authorized them to transact business for 2012; and
  • retained legal counsel for 2012 and authorized corporate officers to seek additional general counsel as needed.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for May 10-11.