Deepening the rift between moderate and conservative Southern Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has directed its agencies and institutions to refuse funds channeled through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
Sixty percent of the messengers from local congregations voting on the issue at the June convention in Orlando, Florida, approved a measure "to maintain fidelity" to the SBC and to avoid compromising the integrity of the Cooperative Program," the fund through which local churches traditionally have financed SBC programs. Last year the CBF sent $1.6 million to SBC foreign missions and $434,000 to SBC home missions.
Some conservatives in the SBC view the CBF as a competitor for support from Southern Baptist congregations (CT, June 20, 1994, p. 52). Owen Bozeman, a Baptist pastor from Milton, Florida, opposed the proposal, saying an immediate severing of funds could lead to budget shortfalls within SBC institutions. But L. Russ Bush, dean of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, says any financial strain would be shortlived. "If people know missionaries are at risk, they will cover it somehow.
"Eventually the SBC and the CBF would have split anyway, but this forces the issue," Bush says. "They are setting up their own mission board and seminaries. They are establishing a denomination."
Still, new SBC president Jim Henry promised to reach out to disaffected Southern Baptists—provided they show a commitment to the Cooperative Program and a belief in the Bible's inerrancy. "If they have gone away and want to come back, we ought to talk to them."
CBF chief executive Cecil Sherman is not optimistic about reconciliation.
"This cuts us off from some good teachers and missionaries ...1
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