By Jennifer Davis Rash
The Alabama Baptist
Samford University’s unexpected decision to withdraw from state convention funding beginning in 2018 changed the landscape a bit for Alabama Baptists — assuming convention messengers approve the plan in November at the annual meeting.
First, the $3.5 million windfall coming out of a June decision by Samford officials allows Alabama Baptists to reach their goal of 50–50 parity with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) two years ahead of schedule.
Second, it pumps up the budgets for University of Mobile, Judson College in Marion and the Board of Aid.
And, third, the reduction provides for a more realistic budget plan — $37 million rather than the current year’s $40 million. The overall decrease in the budget comes from $3 million of what would have been in the Samford line item.
None of the other entities are losing any funds from the current year’s budget, but they aren’t gaining any either, except for the three mentioned above. Those increases were given from the remaining $551,231 left over from the Samford funding.
Numbers provided by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) indicate the state convention is on track to receive roughly $38 million in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts in 2017. This is $2 million shy of the approved numbers but in line with what was received in 2015 and 2016.
Alabama Baptist budget numbers have been trending downward since the Great Recession in 2008.
Record budgets of $46 million were approved in 2009 and 2010 but receipts came in drastically under budget — about $2.5 million shy in 2009 and more than $4.2 million below in 2010. Since then the annual budget proposals as well as the receipts coming in have decreased.
More ‘realistic’ budget
The current proposal to reduce the 2018 budget to $37 million will bring planning more in line with actual receipts, SBOM officials noted.
Any money coming in over the 2018 budget amount will be distributed to the various missions and ministries areas according to the existing allocation formula.
One adjustment made to the proposed budget is not an amount but where the amount is positioned, said SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance.
The allocation for GuideStone Financial Resources for the Church Retirement Plan and Mission Dignity was moved from the SBC Ministries section of the budget to the SBOM Ministries section.
Other adjustments are proposed in the SBOM Ministries section. The total remains the same but some reallocating of existing amounts provides an increase in the accounting and human resources line item of nearly $150,000.
Bobby DuBois, associate executive director of SBOM, said the reallocation is in anticipation of a 3 percent salary increase for SBOM full-time employees and an anticipated increase in medical insurance premiums.
“Part of the movement of resources (nearly $100,000) is due to an anticipated reduction in building operating costs associated with the new building,” he said.
Other reallocations are related to internal ministry and staffing adjustments between offices and to cover the loss of what GuideStone used to offer states in the form of financial offsets.
Of the five special offering goals, two received increases. The goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions was increased by $400,000 to $12 million. The goal for the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries was increased by $300,000 to $3 million.
CP divided 50–50
And as far as the 50–50 parity with SBC goes, “we didn’t think we would get there this soon,” Lance said. “We were looking at 2020 but we have arrived at this point.”
Alabama Baptists’ effort to make this move started in 2010 following the Great Commission Resurgence effort by top SBC leaders. State conventions were pressured to move toward what many termed a 50–50 split of CP dollars.
Some state conventions answered quickly, slicing and dicing many traditional state convention-funded ministries, programs and staff.
Others took a more methodical approach, such as how Lance led Alabama’s effort, moving more slowly toward parity.
The SBC allocation has been increasing annually since 2012 when it was 43 percent for SBC causes and 57 percent for Alabama Baptist State Convention (ABSC) causes.
A reduction of funds from the allocations for Samford, SBOM and The Baptist Foundation of Alabama in the 2015 budget helped launch the official move toward parity.
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