By Mark Kelly
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–By an estimated 3-to-1 margin, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report was adopted June 15 by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
After the historic vote, task force chairman Ronnie Floyd recalled the statement issued by northern and southern Baptists after the 1845 founding of the Southern Baptist Convention and told the assembly: “Following the pattern of our leaders of old, we also would say to the watching world that the differences between those who support the Great Commission Resurgence report and recommendations and those who do not should not be exaggerated.
“We are still brothers and sisters in Christ. We differ on no article of faith. We are guided by our shared commitment to the Gospel itself and to the articles of faith identified in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The Southern Baptist Convention is a convention of churches that is committed to a missional vision of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. We are a Great Commission people.”
The seven recommendations of the report were adopted on a show of ballots after about an hour and a half of debate, with one significant amendment.
Early in the debate, John Waters, pastor of First Church in Statesboro, Ga., offered an amendment to the third recommendation, which would institute a category of “Great Commission Giving” to recognize designated gifts to Southern Baptist mission causes outside the convention’s 85-year-old unified giving channel, the Cooperative Program. Waters’ amendment would have replaced the Great Commission Giving language with a statement affirming only the Cooperative Program.
Waters praised the report’s affirmation of the Cooperative Program but pointed out the recommendation’s only action involves adopting new terms regarding “Great Commission Giving.” Waters argued that formally establishing a mechanism for designated giving would harm the cause of cooperative giving.
“Today, the Southern Baptist Convention has brother against brother, church against church, conservative against conservative because we have abandoned an historic and proven method, and by elevating designated giving we are diminishing the Cooperative Program,” Waters said to a round of applause.
After a period of debate over Waters’ proposed amendment, SBC President Johnny Hunt, in response to a request from the floor, led messengers in a prayer for divine guidance, then called for a vote on the amendment with a show of ballots. The vote was judged too close to call but a ballot vote would have taken at least 35 minutes, Hunt said. In a spirit of compromise, the task force offered to add a sentence saying: “To continue to honor and affirm the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach.”
Hunt asked messengers to indicate with a show of ballots whether they accepted the task force’s added sentence and the chair ruled the amendment was accepted. When another messenger later challenged the process for dealing with Waters’ amendment, a lengthy off-microphone conference between task force leaders and Waters resulted in another solution: a reworded additional sentence that had both Waters’ and the task force’s unanimous approval.
“In the spirit of unity and togetherness, we’re trying to find a way forward…,” Waters said. “Not to divide the body of Southern Baptists but to find some common ground on which we can stand for the sake of God’s Kingdom, I would like to add this sentence that would state that ‘We affirm that designated giving to special causes is to be given as a supplement to the Cooperative Program and not as a substitute for Cooperative Program giving.’
“I would agree with this,” Waters said, “and hope this could provide a pathway forward to finding us as people who love missions and evangelism, for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
Messengers adopted the proposed amendment with a show of ballots.
A final messenger, Jonathan Jenkins of Calumet Church in Patterson, La., rose to speak against the recommendations before the vote on the whole report was taken.
Passage of the recommendations “will have unintended consequences,” Jenkins predicted. “When you start to designate money out of your tithe, the church as a whole gets less and has to do what it’s already been doing with less…. The limited funds that go to all of our entities will only be drained down by saying it is OK to designate specific money to what has become — and I hate to say this because it sounds wrong — the most popular movement at the time. Missions should always be the most important movement but it should not be at the expense of all other causes.”
As time expired for debate, Hunt asked messengers to indicate their vote with raised ballots and at 5 p.m. declared, “The affirmative has it and the recommendations are adopted.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.