By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Messengers, during the 2022 Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, Nov. 15, adopted an amendment to the Louisiana Baptist Convention Articles of Incorporation that allows a church to contribute solely to state causes and still be an LBC congregation.
Previously a church was required to support Southern Baptist causes to be considered “in friendly cooperation” with the LBC.
Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn, also speaking as a messenger from Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria, noted he was in favor of the change. Horn said the change is not about redefining the Cooperative Program.
“The Cooperative Program is not Louisiana Baptists’ definition,” he said. “It is the Southern Baptist Convention’s definition. So, we could not change the definition of the Cooperative Program. We are not seeking to do that with this particular article change. We are merely seeking to keep engaged the churches that have already made the decision and asked us not to send their gifts, through to us, to the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Horn said the move is not anti-SBC or anti-CP, but “a conviction that if somebody is giving to Louisiana Baptist Convention causes, they at least ought to be seated as messengers as we continue to keep them engaged” in the LBC.
In addition to keeping them engaged with the LBC, he said the LBC also will be encouraging them “to support Southern Baptist causes.”
“This is not money that is being kept solely by the Louisiana Baptist Convention,” Horn clarified. “This money is being distributed by our same ratio of giving to our Louisiana Baptist Convention partners such as (LCU) and the Children’s Home and all of our entities.”
Michael Linton, a messenger and pastor of First Baptist Church, Sulphur, spoke against the change.
“We are by our inception a convention of Southern Baptist churches,” he said. “We have been. This, while may be a slight decoupling, is a decoupling from the Southern Baptist Convention. If we vote for this, we become a convention of Southern Baptist Convention churches, independent Baptist churches, Baptistic churches who are non-denominational or who are part of a different denomination just because they only have to state they are Baptistic. I believe we are Southern Baptists. I’m a Louisiana Baptist because I’m a Southern Baptist, not the other way around. This is an unnecessary and unhelpful decoupling of our state convention from the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Shad Tibbs, a messenger and pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Trout, then spoke in favor of the change.
“I do understand what the brother is saying,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the time we live in and because some things that are taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention, my church and many more can’t support what is going on,” he said. “Therefore, if this change is not made, we can no longer be a part of Louisiana Baptists — and we want to continue to support what Louisiana Baptists are doing. Our hope is that in the future we can support the Southern Baptist Convention again. So, I speak in favor of this to allow us to continue to support the work of Louisiana Baptists.”
News reports indicate there is a growing trend among state Baptist convention congregations to defund SBC entities:
— Earlier this year, the Missouri Baptist Convention adopted a “Plan B” which allows churches to withhold funds from selected SBC entities without withdrawing from CP support altogether, according to the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newspaper, The Pathway. About 217 congregations were choosing to withhold funds from the SBC as late as Aug. 2.
— The Pathway also reported that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board (formerly the Georgia Baptist Convention) allows congregations to exclude up to two SBC entities and still be in friendly cooperation with the state convention. The Christian Index, the news journal of Georgia Baptists, reported that at the end of July more than 180 congregations in the state were bypassing the SBC and that “others have changed their allocations.”
— Meanwhile, Baptist Press, a division of the communications department of the SBC Executive Committee, has noted that “North Carolina, Wyoming and Oklahoma periodically forward church gifts to the [SBC] EC with some type of designation or restriction.”
The backlash against the SBC appears to be related to a number of developments at the national level, including: the SBC Executive Committee’s hiring of a pro-gay law firm, Bradley of Nashville, and the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force’s hiring of the pro-gay Guidepost Solutions, both in response to SBC messengers asking for an investigation of the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse accusations; the SBC EC’s waiver of attorney-client privilege and the subsequent departure of the SBC’s long-standing law firm; the abrupt departure of Ronnie Floyd as SBC EC president and CEO; and the SBC Credential Committee’s non-decision at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting on the issue of ordained women pastors.
Twenty-seven of about 1,600 Louisiana Baptist congregations have instructed that their cooperative missions and ministries contributions are to be used only in the state with none of their gifts to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The LBC Executive Board addressed the issue during a Sept. 27 meeting, adopting the now-approved amendment to the Louisiana Baptist Convention Articles of Incorporation. During the discussion then, Horn said this move would strive to “strike that balance of honoring their requests while at the same time continuing to promote the ideal that we are better together with our Southern Baptist partners.”