Plan C report criticized
June 13 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Plan C report criticized | Friday, June 13, 2003

Friday, June 13, 2003

Plan C report criticized

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The report of the Plan C Study Committee is flawed because it fails to acknowledge inconsistencies between the Baptist State Convention (BSC) constitution and the existence of Plan C, according to Tim Rogers, who first called for the committee to be established at the BSC's annual meeting last November.

The committee reported its findings to the General Board on May 20, concluding that Plan C does not violate the constitution. The General Board approved the report with no questions and only one dissenting vote, as reported in the June 7 issue of the Biblical Recorder.

Plan C is one of four "Cooperative Missions" giving options spelled out in the BSC budget process. It is the only one that includes no direct funding for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), though it does fund state mission enterprises that are carried out in cooperation with the SBC. Partnership missions, church starts, and international ministries all interface with the International Mission Board or the North American Mission Board.

Churches giving through any of the approved plans may also "negative designate" up to three budget items, including the SBC. That allowance, which has been in place for decades, was first introduced when some conservative churches sought a way to exclude Wake Forest University from their Cooperative Program gifts.

In a guest column, Rogers says the committee rebuffed his request to meet with them and further explain why he believes Plan C is inconsistent with the BSC constitution. He says the committee's finding that Plan C "does not violate" the constitution is a different matter than whether it is "consistent" with the purposes of the constitution, and that the committee did not consider the full constitution.

The committee report addresses "consistency" in its first paragraph, stating that the vote of messengers at each year's annual convention expresses a decision about whether the proposed budget being considered is consistent with the purposes of the BSC. "Therefore," the report says, "the issue of consistency is best left to the convention as a whole."

Committee chair Charles Page told the Recorder the committee did not feel that Plan C was contrary to the constitution, but "ultimately, it rests with the state convention in November."

Committee member Paul Stam, an Apex attorney who has served for several years as one of the BSC's co-parliamentarians, said "Consistency is in the eye of the beholder and something the Convention has to decide year to year." Stam said one element of consistency is whether something violates the constitution. "No provision of the constitution or bylaws was ignored," he said. "I personally looked at all of them."

"From a parliamentary procedure, we could not rule on anything except whether it violated the constitution," said Tom Dimmock, a Raleigh lawyer and committee member who shares parliamentarian responsibilities with Stam. "Consistency is decided every year by the Convention."

Rogers contends that "Cooperative Program" is a trademark of the SBC, and cites a 1928 cooperative agreement between the SBC and the state conventions, in which the states agreed to collect funds for the SBC.

Since the BSC constitution calls for BSC messengers to be from churches that support the Cooperative Program, he says, a giving plan that excludes the SBC is inconsistent with the constitution, and churches that send no funds to the SBC should not qualify to send messengers.

A search of registered trademarks listed in Web sites for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the state of Tennessee did not return "Cooperative Program" as a registered trademark.

The document approved by the SBC in 1928 includes the statement "This arrangement, however, is not an essential in Baptist organization, but is made simply as a matter of convenience and economy, and may be changed at any time."

The study committee's report agreed that the BSC constitution includes "to cooperate with the work of the Southern Baptist Convention" as one of the Convention's several purposes, but concluded that "It is neither logically nor legally necessary that each action of the Baptist State Convention fulfill each purpose of the Convention in order for the action to be in furtherance of the multiple purposes of the Convention."

Rogers questioned whether that statement indicated the rendering of a legal opinion.

"Yes it was," said Dimmock. "That's why there were parliamentarians and lawyers on the committee. How do you rule on the constitution and it not be a legal opinion?"

Dimmock acknowledged that Article IV of the bylaws assigns to the General Board the responsibility of setting the percentage of funds to the Convention's various causes, including the SBC. "They can choose to designate nothing," he said.

In practice, each state convention develops its own version of Cooperative Program giving, directing how funds received from the churches will be spent, including the amount forwarded to the SBC. The BSC's primary budget officer, Tom Womble, confirmed that the BSC has traditionally assumed it is the state's responsibility to choose the direction of Cooperative Program gifts from BSC churches.

For the past several years, the annual budget proposal has been labeled "Cooperative Missions Budget," but the term "Cooperative Program" also remains in use to reflect language in the constitution. All four convention-approved giving plans are considered "Cooperative Program" giving and qualify churches for messengers to the state convention, Womble said.

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6/13/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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