Southern Baptists consider restructuring amid decline

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Giving to Southern Baptist missions is at a historic low. Church membership fell in 2008, and baptisms are at their lowest level since 1987.

Leaders of the nation's largest Protestant denomination, which was founded in Augusta, hope to reverse course with a proposal to streamline and restructure the Southern Baptist Convention. It's up for a vote today at the start of the Southern Baptists' annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Early drafts of the proposal accused the church of having grown into a "bloated bureaucracy." The language was revised, but the document still retains calls to re-examine church structure and more faithfully manage the money given to it.

Giving to the church has fallen, which could eventually stagnate baptisms and membership, said the Rev. Bill Harrell, of Abilene Baptist Church, a former chairman of the convention's executive committee.

Churches such as Berea Baptist in Grovetown are giving less to the Cooperative Program than ever before. The program was created in 1925 to funnel money from churches to Southern Baptist missions worldwide.

Last year, Berea gave just 2 percent of its undesignated offerings to the fund, giving the remainder directly to seminaries and mission agencies. Three or four years ago, Berea Baptist gave 11 percent to the program.

"We're a very small church, and we have to be careful about how we give," said the Rev. Bert Daniel, the church's pastor. "There was a concern that we wouldn't know just how much money was going to missions."

While giving has fallen, the Georgia Baptist Convention still donates more to the program than any other state convention, about $20.1 million in 2008.

It's not clear how the structure of the convention or the Cooperative Program could change because the proposal contains few details, the Rev. Harrell said.

If the proposal is approved, denomination President Johnny Hunt, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., will appoint a task force to study the convention's structure and use of funds. Those findings would be presented at next year's meeting in Orlando, Fla.

"It's not as easy to restructure as people think it will be," the Rev. Harrell said. "The agencies of the Southern Baptist Church are autonomous. The convention can't tell the state what to do, and the state can't tell the church what to do. One thing is clear though, and that's that the SBC could stand a little weight loss."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.

READ THE DOCUMENT

Read the full text of the restructuring proposal, Toward A Great Commission Resurgence, at www.greatcommissionresurgence.com.

HUCKABEE SPEAKS ON IRAN PROTESTS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- God is hearing the voices of protesters in Iran, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told Southern Baptist pastors Monday.
"God help us if we do not hear their voices" and stand with them, said the former Arkansas governor, who is an ordained Baptist minister.

Mr. Huckabee later said that the U.S. should push for an investigation of the disputed election in Iran and push to allow media outlets into Iran to report on the unrest.
In his speech, he repeated his staunch opposition to abortion and gay marriage. After his speech, Mr. Huckabee grabbed a guitar and performed a hymn with a band on stage.

Southern Baptists are gathering in Louisville for their convention, which begins today.

-- Associated Press

Comments (17) Add comment
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ironpurps
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ironpurps 06/23/09 - 07:03 am
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The Southern Baptist church

The Southern Baptist church is a great instiution but needs to add actual biblical worship to their churches. 3 songs from the 1700's and a 15 minute sermonette isn't changing the folks. Institute Old Testament worship, invite the spirit of God into your service, release the gifts of tongues as was given to the disciples. Let the river flow! God Bless!

El Guapo
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El Guapo 06/23/09 - 07:32 am
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Maybe if they had a little

Maybe if they had a little drinking and dancing..... oops...

andywarhol
0
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andywarhol 06/23/09 - 07:33 am
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I come from a Catholic

I come from a Catholic upbringing and have been to many Baptist churches by invitation. I've walked out on two of them. Once they sang...and sang....and sang....and sang. Nothing was read from the bible after the first hour so I was out the door. The other time they said everyone hold up your money, now face each other (so we can see who is giving) so we can bless the money. Then an usher had the nerve to block the door and say I cannot leave until after the offering. Long story short, he moved out the darn way.

Native007
4
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Native007 06/23/09 - 08:12 am
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I am of Catholic upbringing

I am of Catholic upbringing as well. While our masses are boring they are the same across the world. From my experience with 2 Baptist churches in my area I have no desire to go back due to the concert atomosphere and watching as much of the leadership did not practice what they preached. Just my experience though, I'm confident I've only seen one side of the story.

aaa
2
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aaa 06/23/09 - 08:16 am
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I have no idea what kind of

I have no idea what kind of Baptist church you guys visited, but obviously not mainstream - maybe you're confusing other denominations or just repeating old, tired stereotypes. Visit Warren, West Acres, Westside, or even First Baptist. Many Baptist churches have great contemporary worship services - Warren has 4 services every Sunday, overflowing. The songs are definitely not 1700's renditions but are quite stirring and led by many of the youth - electric guitars, full drum set, violin, electric piano, and various other ensembles. The music is great! And the sermons don't start one hour into the service - maybe you guys have watched too many of the old movies and are baseing your judgement on some "old time tent revival". Andy, come on - you really think any of us would believe that an usher would block the door until after the offering? Yea, right - get real. I invite all of you critics to visit any of the above churches - I frequent Warren and find it very much up-to-date and energetic. I have also visited Catholic & Lutheran churches - talk about delaying the onset of the sermon: All of that standing - up and down, up and down - and the music - borrowed from the funeral home!

Native007
4
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Native007 06/23/09 - 08:34 am
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Standing tall: The Catholic

Standing tall: The Catholic mass is boring. I totally agree. But it is universal and has been minorly changed throughout the decades. My main issue with the 2 Baptist churches I went to were the people. Granted this was a few years ago, I noticed a lot of hypocrites that lead two different lives. Now coming from a Catholic the first place the mind goes is to the Molester Priests that we have had to deal with on our end. So in light of that I guess no religion is perfect.

hurlyburly11
0
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hurlyburly11 06/23/09 - 09:20 am
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Thank God for Martin Luthor

Thank God for Martin Luthor !!!!And not to mention King Henry VIII...... :O)

77777
0
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77777 06/23/09 - 11:04 am
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Just my opinion...If the

Just my opinion...If the Baptists would focus more on sharing the immeasurable love that God has for us, and less on condemning those who don't believe EXACTLY as they do, then I feel that they could reach and minister more effectively to far more people. Instead of constructing massive monuments to themselves, maybe put more money into community outreach programs. They need to get off of their high-horse, and humble themselves in the nature of Christ. Based on my experience, not hear-say, I have been wronged and back-stabbed by more Bible thumping Baptists than any other religious denomination. Stop thumping on the Bible, as though it gives one the authority to judge, and open and read the bounty of wisdom within its pages. God bless one and all....even those who are other denominations. :)

Niko Mahs
83
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Niko Mahs 06/23/09 - 11:37 am
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Any organized religion is

Any organized religion is nothing more than a business. If you do not live in fear, then you really do not need organized religion.

Native007
4
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Native007 06/23/09 - 01:30 pm
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Niko: I wouldn't say that any

Niko: I wouldn't say that any organized religion is a business. In catholicism the priests live in poverty with only basic necessities. It is a non-profit. Organized religion can reach far wider that a non organized religion.

7777: I agree with your first 3 sentences.

dani
13
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dani 06/23/09 - 01:36 pm
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Rev Harrell of Abilene

Rev Harrell of Abilene Baptist in Martinez preaches the Bible. Some folks don't like his strict adherence to the Word, but he is a great teacher and we members appreciate him. Tune in to Channel 8 at 7:00AM Sunday mornings. You won't be disappointed..

AAQueen
18
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AAQueen 06/23/09 - 01:41 pm
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Native007 from a fellow

Native007 from a fellow Catholic all I have to say is AMEN

augnewsgirl09
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augnewsgirl09 06/23/09 - 02:11 pm
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Niko: Why do you need to

Niko: Why do you need to live in fear to take part in an organized religion?

BarstoolDreamer
19
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BarstoolDreamer 06/23/09 - 02:48 pm
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I love as denominational

I love as denominational smack down!

hurlyburly11
0
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hurlyburly11 06/23/09 - 03:23 pm
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LOL.!! bow down you idiots

LOL.!! bow down you idiots and kiss the ring !!!!!

shaftmaster
0
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shaftmaster 06/23/09 - 03:34 pm
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Organized Religion = $$$

Organized Religion = $$$ Making Machine!!!! The perfect business where the smoothest talker gets paid and also gets tremendous tax breaks!!!!!

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 06/23/09 - 03:43 pm
0
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I left a Southern Baptist
Unpublished

I left a Southern Baptist church several years ago. It was my first church because my parents never took me to church. I left because the congregation was largely uneducated (not academically, but Biblically) and the Pastor showed no intention of implementing programs of educating the people according to the scriptures. If you were to ask the common congregant a simple Biblical question, I doubt they could answer it. Most just went because it's what they were used to or what they thought was the right thing to do. It was all a bunch of fluff. The preaching did not explain the Bible, mostly story telling and pleading for people to give money to the church. It was only a year after I left for a Presbyterian church that the Southern Baptist church split over the pastor's wife's marital unfaithfulness. Go figure.

hurlyburly11
0
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hurlyburly11 06/23/09 - 03:57 pm
0
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Queenie..study your History

Queenie..study your History and look at what the catholic church has done to humanity,,,better they were all burned....thank God in Heaven for the reformers...we bow to no man on Earth and kiss no sloppy ring !!

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