DAVIS—The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) Board of Directors approved a 2011 Cooperative Program Objective budget of $24.2 million Sept. 21, and that the receipts for that budget be distributed 60 percent to the BGCO and 40 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The final 2011 budget was nearly $2 million less than originally proposed in a preliminary budget presented to the Board in May because of a sagging U.S. economy and declining CP receipts as a result.

The Board also accepted the Convention’s Mission Advance Team’s (MAT) report, which will be presented to messengers to the BGCO Annual Meeting Nov. 15-16 at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee for final approval. The MAT was  organized after the Board called for its formation in February to consider the Convention’s “cooperative future as churches united together in the work of the BGCO.”

The 23-member group’s assignment was to analyze the work of the Convention and recommend strategic priorities to guide the BGCO Board and staff as they seek to “take full advantage of the opportunities presented in our changing future.”

Meeting in the Jenny V. Massey Chapel in the Falls Creek Tabernacle, the Board was walked through the budget by BGCO executive director-treasurer Anthony L. Jordan.

“This budget has been one of the most difficult I have been a part of in my 15 years here,” Jordan said. “The reason is we have seen something in the last two years that we hadn’t seen since I came here. We had 15 consecutive years of higher receipts in CP giving than the prior year until 2009, when we began to see the recession taking its toll on us and on you and on our churches.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that we give praise  and thankfulness to God for the faithfulness of Oklahoma Baptists. Any financial issues we are facing today are not because Oklahoma Baptists have decided they don’t believe in the Cooperative Program or the work that is being done, but it’s because we are in the middle of one of the deepest recessions we have had since the Great Depression.”

Jordan said the reduced budget has caused the BGCO leadership team to make some tough decisions in cost cutting measures, including reductions in staff.

“We are committed to this. As hard as it is, as difficult as it may be, we are going to live within the dollars that are provided for us,” he vowed. “We are going to make the sacrifices, stay on solid ground and not erode all of the resources that we have.

“There is no way to reduce our budget to that level without reducing staff. Over the last two years, we have reduced more than 20 positions at the Convention. That amounts to $518,000 in salaries and benefits; huge to say the least.

“We have attempted to the best of our ability to address this through retirements and attritions.”

Other cost-cutting measures include:

• Using more consultants and part-time help in various areas.
• Reducing the number of issues of the Baptist Messenger by four to trim printing and mailing costs.
• A four percent reduction in CP support to BGCO affiliates (Cutting Baptist Village Communities and Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children from 3 percent to 2.88 percent and Oklahoma Baptist University from 11 percent to 10.56 percent) at least for 2011. The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma will be reduced from $50,000 to $25,000.

Another factor affecting the 2011 budget is an estimated 10-15 percent hike in medical insurance costs for employees.

“The challenges that are going forward for us as a Convention are extremely difficult, and it is true not only of us, but also for all state conventions,” Jordan stressed. “And that’s all as a result of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (Recommendations approved by messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting in June).”

The challenges will continue. With the implementation of the GCRTF recommendations in 2012, Oklahoma stands to lose  funding from the North American Mission Board that has helped support jointly-employed missionaries, the majority of whom serve in church planting. Incremental reductions begin in the amount of $150,000 the first year with an additional $150,000 decrease each successive year, culminating the seventh year in a total annual loss of $1.27 million.

Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, and chair of the MAT, presented the group’s report to the Board in its afternoon session Sept. 21.

Dilbeck pointed out that the members of the team took the time to read the history of the BGCO before gathering input from BGCO staff and specialists.

The MAT forged a new mission statement for the Convention, which they feel will “serve as a ‘north star’ to guide the staff and work for years to come.”

The mission statement reads:
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma is a partnership of churches serving together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ to impact lostness with the Gospel by making disciples of all peoples.
“Doing more together than we can do alone.”

The MAT report addresses and provides a response to the GCRTF report and the challenges it presents to Oklahoma, stresses primary values of the BGCO, affirms the strength of present work being undertaken by Convention staff and lists five priority areas of focus for the next decade, including:

1. Develop an aggressive, comprehensive plan to train pastors who are able to equip Oklahoma Baptist churches to impact lostness by making disciples.
2. Equip Oklahoma Baptist churches to make disciples of young adults and impact the lostness of the emerging generations.
3. Facilitate broader participation in partnership missions in order to inspire more Oklahoma Baptists to impact lostness and make disciples.
4. Lead Oklahoma Baptists to respond to the changing demographics of Oklahoma by planting new churches that impact lostness and make disciples.
5. Employ new technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our communications to tell the story of Oklahoma Baptists and to inspire our churches to impact lostness and make disciples.

“The mission statement is focused on reaching people with the Gospel,” Dilbeck stressed, adding that, “strength and health flows from the churches to the state convention, not the other way around.

Part and parcel, “the strength of the church depends on the strength of the pastor,” he added.

After the presentation, Jordan stressed to the Board members that their responsibility is to “Hold me and this  (BGCO) staff responsible to take these priorities and move them forward.
“I appreciate this team in that they kept driving us to think in the bigger realm, so that we step back and focus on these things that have a broader impact, which means we cannot do a lot of the things that we have done in the past.

“One of the critical areas for  us as we work with our Directors of Missions is to eliminate some of the duplication process and how can we better help them and how can they better help us get it done.”

In other business, the Board:
• Approved a recommendation that the 2010 Annual Meeting be made accessible through live streaming on the Internet and that a task force appointed to consider regional satellite conventions and/or interactive Internet participation meet after the Annual Meeting to evaluate viewership and consider future possibilities.
• Approved the 2009 audit report, prepared and presented by Eide Bailey, CPAs, and that it be included in the Convention Annual for distribution to all churches.
• Approved a GuideStone 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan Agreement for the BGCO, permitting participants, at age 591/2, to begin to receive the maximum allowable benefit distribution, effective Oct. 1.
• Approved a recommendation by the Executive Committee to abolish the Committee on Order of Business and directing that the Executive Committee of the Board assume responsibility for convention program review.
• Approved a resolution granting Power of Attorney to the Baptist General Convention of Texas in management of the BGCO’s oil, gas and other mineral interests and to real properties that may be the subject of exploration and/or development for oil, gas or other minerals.
• Approved resolutions of appreciation to James Swain, Chad Fielding and the entire Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center Staff and to service organizations and agencies who helped with the three-day search for Indian Falls Creek camper Moses Fitchpatrick, who wandered from his group and became lost, tragically losing his life as a result.