ORLANDO, Fla.—Almost 11,000 messengers to the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved crucial recommendations brought forth by the Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) June 15.
Meeting at the Orange County Convention Center, messengers carefully considered what many regarded as one of the most controversial issues brought before the Convention in many years. The Task Force’s report, titled “Penetrating the Lostness: Embracing a Vision for a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists,” included seven recommendations.
The GCRTF, a 22-member group appointed by SBC President Johnny Hunt, pastor of Woodstock, Ga., First, was authorized by a vote of messengers to the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky. It was charged with “bringing a report and recommendations concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission” to the 2010 annual meeting. Chairing the panel was Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Springdale, Ark., First and The Church at Pinnacle Hills, Ark.
The document was endorsed enthusiastically the afternoon of June 15 after it was amended twice to strengthen language it contained regarding the Cooperative Program (CP), the SBC’s historically unified channel of giving for 85 years.
Debate on the issue began at 3:36 p.m., continued for approximately 90 minutes and focused almost entirely on Component 3 of the report, which adds a new giving category—Great Commission Giving—to the Annual Church Profile.
John Waters, pastor of Statesboro, Ga., First, offered an amendment to the third recommendation, which would institute the “Great Commission Giving” category to recognize designated gifts to Southern Baptist mission causes outside of the CP. Waters’ amendment would have replaced the Great Commission Giving language with language which affirmed only the CP.
Waters said setting up a mechanism for designated giving would do nothing but 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.
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 and since a ballot vote would have taken at least 30 minutes, 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.”
The first amendment says Southern Baptists “continue to honor and affirm the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach.” The second amendment adds the following sentence: “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.”
The language regarding Great Commission Giving remained in the recommendation.
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. The margin of approval was estimated at 3-1 in favor of the motion.
After the vote, 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.”
Baptist Press contributed to this article.