GCRTF NEWS: 4 new endorsements announced

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Three key Southern Baptist leaders and a prominent pastor have issued public statements endorsing the final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Task force chairman Ronnie Floyd also has delivered a new appeal for support of their concept of "Great Commission Giving."

The task force will recommend to messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla., that annual statistical reports on congregational life will note a "Great Commission Giving" category that would focus solely on giving to Southern Baptist causes, rather than the current category of "Total Missions Giving," which can include non-Southern Baptist missions causes.

In a statement posted May 26 on the GCRTF website, www.pray4gcr.com, Floyd said that, amid all the attention being directed at the proposal, "the intent is questioned, the facts are ignored, and the great things in the report about the Great Commission are being overlooked."

In his statement, Floyd reiterated seven facts about the giving proposal, including a reminder that the task force report emphasizes the SBC's Cooperative Program giving channel, which would be one component of the broader Great Commission Giving category, as the "central and preferred conduit of Great Commission funding" and challenges "Southern Baptists "to give as never before and support the Cooperative Program as never before."

Floyd also noted that the report "provides an additional year for this to be studied by the Executive Committee of our Convention."

His statement also provides a new glimpse into how the task force proposal might be reflected in changes to the Annual Church Profile, which is administered by the SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources. Floyd listed an eight-point request for information on missions giving that places the Cooperative Program and the convention's two annual missions offerings at the top of the list, as opposed to the current request, which places those items near the bottom of the list.

The full text of Floyd's statement can be read at http://www.pray4gcr.com/2010/05/great-commission-giving-and-the-annual-church-profile/.

Endorsements of the final report came from Bill Crews, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention; O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources; Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the North Carolina Baptist Convention; and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

BILL CREWS

In his statement posted on the task force website, Bill Crews, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, explained why he has decided to support the task force's recommendations when they come before messengers at the annual meeting June 15.

"When the Task Force released a Preliminary Report in February 2010, some among us had serious concerns with certain proposals in the report," Crews said in his statement, which was dated May 24. However, in subsequent meetings with task force members, discussions led to "significant changes" being made for the final report, said Crews, a former president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

"Although there remain some elements in the final report that I continue to have concern about, I am fully supportive of the majority of the report and recommendations," Crews added.

Crews offered four reasons he can support the proposal: It "is built on a 'Theology for Great Commission Faithfulness,'" "properly focuses on the centrality of the local church in carrying out the Great Commission," "challenges the Southern Baptist Convention and each cooperating church with a missional vision to 'present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations,'" and sharpens the focus of the North American Mission Board to "long overdue and necessary" priority on evangelism and church planting "with an emphasis on the reaching of the cities and underserved regions and people groups of North America."

The full text of Crews' statement can be read at http://www.pray4gcr.com/2010/05/bill-crews-executive-director-of-the-northwest-baptist-convention-i-have-decided-to-support-the-report-and-recommendations.

O.S. HAWKINS

O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of the SBC's GuideStone Financial Resources, offered his endorsement of the task force's report in a May 25 statement on the GCRTF site.

"In my present calling at GuideStone, we have the privilege of serving everyone in SBC life and since we do not receive any Cooperative Program dollars, we have no personal profit in whatever comes from the GCR report and vote," Hawkins noted in his statement. "However, being saved in a Southern Baptist church, being educated in a Southern Baptist seminary, pastoring four wonderful Southern Baptist churches and now leading a Southern Baptist institution I have a keen interest and concern for the future of Southern Baptists at this crucial and critical juncture in our journey."

Affirming his appreciation for Southern Baptist leaders at the state convention and local association levels, as well as members of the task force, Hawkins said his "abiding concern was with the feelings of the state conventions in and through this process." He noted his pleasure that several state convention leaders recently endorsed the final report and that many Southern Baptists are "moving toward Orlando with a solid front in love and unity."

"Men and women do not give themselves to needs; they give themselves to visions," Hawkins said in his statement. "The GCR report provides the makings of a new, fresh and expanded vision for our future, one in which we can all embrace together.... Let's go to Orlando and with one voice and in one accord rally behind the vision that has directed the church for two thousand years. We could well be on the verge of ... a new day."

The full text of Hawkins' statement can be read at http://www.pray4gcr.com/2010/05/o-s-hawkins-president-and-ceo-of-guidestone-gcr-we-can-do-this-and-do-it-together.

MILTON HOLLIFIELD

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the North Carolina Baptist Convention, told members of the convention's board of directors May 25 that he would be voting in favor of the report when it is brought to the floor in Orlando.

While some structural changes might help Southern Baptists, only "a super unusual movement of God's Spirit in our lives" will make them effective in accomplishing God's plan, Hollifield said, according to a May 25 article in the convention's newsjournal, the Biblical Recorder.

Hollifield addressed several components of the report in his presentation, including:

-- Great Commission Giving: adopting the new giving parameter would make the Cooperative Program simply the "primary" element of the category, instead of an exclusively recognized missions giving channel that supports all the work, the article said. However, "if the Cooperative Program remains the priority and supreme way our SBC leaders recognize church support for SBC missions, then I have no disagreement with celebrating the additional gifts that churches make to support Southern Baptist missions."

-- Cooperative agreements: If joint funding for missionary positions in state conventions is removed, those ministries might be lost and the SBC's North American Mission Board would need to establish a "new national strategy for which it does not possess the staff to accomplish," Hollifield said, according to the article. Yet Hollifield said he would support the loss of those funds if the money would go instead "to fund effective and strategic efforts in the underserved areas of North America."

-- 51% FOR IMB: Hollifield said he is less enthusiastic for an additional 1 percent of Cooperative Program funds being allocated to the International Mission Board if it comes exclusively from the budget of the SBC Executive Committee and would like part of that additional $2 million to come from another area of the budget, the article said.

Hollifield said he will vote for the task force report because it met its assigned task and because once approved, the recommendations will go to the SBC Executive Committee and to the boards of the SBC entities where they will receive the study and input from Southern Baptists they deserve and require, the article noted.

The Biblical Recorder article about Hollifield's comments can be read at http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/post/2010/05/25/Hollifield-affirms-GCR-Task-Force-Report.aspx. The full text of his remarks may be read or downloaded at http://www.ncbaptist.org/index.php?id=1265.

DAVID PLATT

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., in a May 27 statement posted on the GCR task force website, said his support for the final report is based not on concern for the future health of the Southern Baptist Convention but on his conviction that it moves Southern Baptists toward a radical commitment to making disciples for Jesus Christ among the world's unreached peoples.

While he describes himself as "thoroughly Southern Baptist," Platt said believers are "created for and called to something much greater than" the well-being of a denomination.

"Now the Southern Baptist church I pastor is tempted to do everything except for what Jesus told us to do," Platt said in his statement. "Jesus never told us to construct church buildings, start programs, or organize Sunday School. He never told us to host conferences or events. Instead, he told us to get the gospel to all the nations. Therefore, as a church we have stopped construction on buildings, we are removing programs, and we are reorganizing our structure so that we can more intentionally focus his church on what he said is most important."

Noting his church has cut $1.5 million it was spending "on maintenance and ministries, projects and programs for ourselves," Platt said his church members "want their resources going to the ends of the earth, and they are making sacrifices to ensure that it does."

"All of this to say as plainly and I pray as humbly as I can -- the people I pastor are not wanting the money they have sacrificed to go toward denominational structures that are not making similar sacrifices," Platt said. "We are not sacrificing programs and events in the church only to support programs and events in a convention. Moreover, in light of the mandate these brothers and sisters have seen in God's Word to get the gospel to all the people groups, they are not willing to give to a cooperative structure where the majority of money stays in the southern part of the United States where there are already thousands of Southern Baptist churches, a plethora of trained pastors, and the resources of one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This makes no sense to the people I lead, and it makes no sense to me."

Platt said he wants "desperately to cooperate with other churches but "for the sake of the Great Commission," not for "the survival of the Southern Baptist Convention."

The full text of Platt's statement can be read at http://www.pray4gcr.com/2010/05/dr-david-platt-why-i-wholeheartedly-support-the-gcrtf-report-and-more.


Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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