The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention announced in June that it would sever financial ties with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention in 2003 over moral and theological differences. The decision could cost the DCBC $476,000 of its $1.5 million budget.
Robert Reccord, president of NAMB, told Christianity Today that the district convention has flouted the denomination's core beliefs by participating in interfaith gatherings.
"A number of speakers held vastly different views than what the SBC has clearly delineated that it holds," Reccord says. Reccord cited DCBC's speaking invitation to Welton Gaddy of the liberal Interfaith Alliance as one example.
"[Reccord has] described us as being unequally yoked," responds Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of the DCBC. "It's a statement about control and power—not theological purity."
In March district leaders rejected an NAMB proposal requiring greater oversight of the funds, which pay for evangelism and missionary salaries. The DCBC, unusual among other state-level SBC affiliates, is also aligned with the American Baptist and Progressive National Baptist conventions (ct, Feb. 4, p. 20).
Walter Shurden, executive director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, was a member of the first steering committee of the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. "The North American Mission Board has created a Presbyterian-type polity that connects state conventions to the sbc in such a way that if state conventions get out of hand, the sbc has a way of discouraging them," Shurden says.
Reccord says he is disappointed that D.C. officials did not suggest any alternatives to NAMB's proposal to provide an administrator to oversee the portion of DCBC staff that is supported by NAMB funds. But he remains open to limited cooperation with the DCBC.
One pastor in the DCBC, James Burcham of First Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, thinks Reccord has a point and says the convention needs to clarify its theology. "The culture here is being too influenced by pluralism," he says. "The tenets of Christ are being blurred."
Haggray said he is unsure of how much NAMB's withdrawal will hurt, although he expects some employee layoffs. Last year the DCBC gave $476,000 to the sbc—the same amount NAMB provided to it. He said that the D.C. convention could withhold some of those funds to ensure its own survival, but that DCBC leaders have not discussed this option.
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Christianity Today coverage of the case includes:
SBC Agency May Revoke D.C. FundsThe District of Columbia Baptist Convention may lose $475,000 in annual support because of differences with the North American Mission Board. (Jan. 25, 2002)
Related news stories include:
D.C. Baptist leader says convention 'not for sale'—Associated Baptist Press (Aug. 55, 2002)
SBC will defund D.C. convention; new convention loyal to SBC likely—Associated Baptist Press (July 15, 2002)
Area Baptists face cutoff over stand on issuesSouthern convention would sever ties — The Washington Post (Dec. 12, 2001)
NAMB proposal to clarify SBC ministries draws criticism from D.C. Baptist leader — Baptist Press (Dec. 12, 2001)
Southern Baptists question joint witness in nation's capital — Associated Baptist Press (Dec. 11, 2001)
SBC leaders cite differences with American Baptists in rift— Associated Baptist Press (Dec. 11, 2001)
See the official Web sites for the District of Columbia Baptist Convention and the SBC's North American Mission Board.
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