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Mike Tatem of Lake City disagreed. “We have been mandated by the churches to go to 50/50 split,” he said. “The implication of the mandate of the churches is to have a smaller, leaner, more effective Convention doing the work of what we are called to do.”
“Listening to the pastors that really want this to happen, they want the Convention to do less with less,” Tatem noted. “They are not going to give until the Convention bleeds. I know that it hurts when we cut.”
“We talk about why churches aren’t giving, if we go back and say we need to revise the 50/50 we are going to lose a whole lot of prospective donors because they will see the same product in the area of missions being put out there that we have always put out there,” Tatem said. “That is possibly part of the concern in the reduction of giving.”
Tatem referred to earlier comments made by Sullivan that despite the cut in the workforce, Florida Baptists still lead the SBC in baptisms and church planting. Even with a “reduced budget of 10 million and 30 percent of staff, we are still that effective. How much more out there can be cut so we are still 50/50?”
Mark Coleman of Davie expressed concern “if we give the Convention an indication or smell,” that the Board was reconsidering the 50/50 split, it “would create a distrust” which would “affect the confidence of the churches” and create a “potential division.”
Clayton Cloer of Orlando cautioned the Board from making “a knee jerk reaction.”
Citing statistics provided by the Florida Baptist Convention staff, he noted that 2,050 Florida Baptist churches gave through the Cooperative Program in 2012, compared to 2013 in the prior year, an increase of 37 churches.
Also, he said, 829 churches or 42 percent increased their giving in 2012, while 58 percent decreased their giving. Churches showing a decrease, he explained, could have actually increased their percentage giving but because of fallen receipts in their own struggling churches, their total giving is less.
“We are basing it on the assumption people aren’t stepping up. There may be in fact 829 churches that are stepping up and it could be these other 1,100 churches that are on decline is because their total church budget is on decline to begin with.”
The reconsideration of the 50/50 split, he said will “cost us great momentum, I think, hurt and trust among the whole convention because we have said in almost a unified vote that we were going to move toward 50/50.” The reconsideration of the 50/50 split, he said will “cost us great momentum, I think, hurt and trust among the whole convention because we have said in almost a unified vote that we were going to move toward 50/50.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, the Board agreed to reconsider the overage distribution; but the amendment to address the 50/50 split failed—39 opposed; 28 in favor.
Addressing the Board, Sullivan added, “I hope that no one has the misunderstanding that this Board, this staff or this executive director is opposed to going to 50/50 in Cooperative Program giving. You have misunderstood if you believe that I think there is anything other than movement toward the 50/50 process.”
But Sullivan noted that while some additional budget revisions may be necessary “if we continue in the current situation, 50/50 is still the goal.”
Following the debate, the Board adopted a recommendation to express appreciation and pray for Sullivan as he “makes difficult administrative
decisions to balance diminishing budget resources against the growing mission priorities in Florida.”
The Board also affirmed the work of the Convention and State Convention agencies and commended “them for keeping their commitment to their ministry tasks during these economically challenging times.”
The Board members also made a commitment to a time of urgent prayer and fasting during this “critical moment in Florida Baptist life.”
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