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CBF Grapples With Budget Shortfall

Gifts of $9 million from an anonymous donor will enable the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to continue to appoint new missionaries next year despite budget shortfalls.

Participants in last week’s CBF General Assembly approved a basic budget of $17.1 million for the 2003-2004 fiscal year, to be supplemented by an additional $2.64 million in designated gifts. The bulk of that designated money derives from a $5 million gift received in April and a $4 million gift received the previous year, both to be disbursed over a four-year period.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Without the special gifts, the CBF would be unable to appoint any new missionaries during the next 12 months, said CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal. The anonymous gifts also made possible the appointment of 15 short-term and career missionaries at the CBF General Assembly June 27 in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Charlotte, N.C.
 
“We are not appointing any new missionaries, except for those that are funded by designated gifts,” Vestal told the CBF Coordinating Council Wednesday. He re-emphasized that point at Friday’s General Assembly commissioning service.
 
“Honestly, we could not be here tonight without the support of a generous donor,” Vestal told the assembly.
 
Total giving to the CBF increased this year, but undesignated gifts did not meet budget goals, Vestal reported to the Coordinating Council.
 
The CBF is projected to end its current fiscal year today with a $650,000 shortfall in undesignated receipts over expenditures, even while keeping expenditures at 85 percent of budget. That budget shortfall will be covered by drawing from reserve funds, said finance committee chairman Philip Wise, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas.
 
Total income for the year is projected to reach about $15 million, said CBF chief financial officer Jim Strawn. That’s short of a basic budget goal of $18.2 million.
 
The CBF’s budget woes mirror national trends in other religious bodies, noted outgoing moderator Phill Martin, a layman and member of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. “This is not a phenomenon CBF is dealing with. This is a phenomenon faith-based organizations are dealing with.”
 
The shortfall, various CBF officials explained, stems from a collision of two primary forces–optimistic budgeting and tough economic times.
 
Vestal told the CBF Coordinating Council 241 churches gave to the CBF for the first time in the last six months. About 25 of those first-time givers are Hispanic churches, and about 115 are from Texas, he added.
 
That is one of many signs that things are going well in the CBF, despite the budget challenge, Martin told the General Assembly.
 
“Things really are great with CBF, but there is one thing that is of concern. … Our corporate vision and dreams for CBF are greater than our commitment to funding,” he reported.
 
For example, Martin said, 130 people are exploring a call to missionary service with CBF. “We are uncertain about being able to add to our numbers. That is not in keeping with our vision.”
 
“Funding is not an easy question or subject,” Martin added. “If we are to continue to say things are great at CBF, we must all pay attention to funding of national CBF.”
 
The funding challenge portends changes for other areas of CBF life beyond missions.
 
CBF staff will receive no salary increases in the new fiscal year. That’s the second year of flat compensation for the CBF’s coordinators, the corps of top-level division directors.
 
The CBF’s partner entities also face reduced financial support (see accompanying story).
 
Also as part of budget-cutting measures, the CBF will scale back its two regional resource centers–one in Dallas and one in Raleigh, N.C.
 
In the 2003-04 fiscal year, the CBF has budgeted its largest single share of undesignated money for global missions, $9.63 million. That will be supplemented by $2.02 million in designated funding and will support 149 short-term and career missionaries, partnership missions with local churches, missions administration and church starting.
 
Other budget areas include $2.33 million for administration, $2.1 million for leadership development, $1.02 million for communications and marketing, $984,579 for building community and networking, $663,063 for faith formation and $375,000 for the General Assembly.
 
A total of 4,005 people registered for this year’s General Assembly, held June 26-28 at Charlotte Convention Center, CBF officials said.
 
Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Baptist Standard.