Number of Southern Baptist Churches Withholding Funds Over 2016 Election Disagreements is ‘Less Than Expected’

Rolland Slade
Rolland Slade

A committee established in February to study “the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds” concluded that fewer than two of every 1,000 Southern Baptist churches diverted CP funds during the past year.

“This percentage was lower than anticipated,” and reasons for diverting CP funds “varied as much as the number of churches identified,” according to the final report of the CP Study Committee, an ad hoc group created by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s CP Committee.

The study committee’s written report, which included 10 suggestions and encouragements for addressing future challenges to CP, was released Sept. 19 at an EC meeting in Nashville.

During the month preceding the study committee’s formation, Baptist Press reported on two specific churches that said they would escrow CP funds based on actions taken by specific SBC entities. Other churches had taken or were considering similar actions, according to reports received by the EC. The CP Committee cited such reports when it voted, in response to a member’s motion, to establish the study committee.

The study committee’s objective, CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade told BP, “was to find out why churches were either escrowing, withholding or designating CP funds. That was the first part. The second part was to come up with redemptive solutions for whatever those reasons were.”

The 13-member ad hoc committee received reports from executive directors of state Baptist conventions that 75 churches across the SBC “were withholding, designating or escrowing CP funds.” That total represented .0016 percent of Southern Baptist churches, the study committee stated.

“It was difficult to quantify the total of CP dollars being withheld or escrowed” by those 75 churches, according to the report.

Only 14 churches were “identified and confirmed” by the committee as “escrowing, designating or withholding funds.” Based on information from the SBC’s 2015 Annual Church Profile, those 14 churches were estimated to have diverted a total of about $1.5 million away from CP.

Total gifts through CP in 2015-16 eclipsed $475 million, according to the 2017 SBC Annual.

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SOURCE: David Roach 
Baptist Press