CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship reported higher spending than revenue for two consecutive years during the CBF Coordinating Council, June 25. The finance committee, in delivering the report, also recommended lowering its contributions to partner organizations, cutting missionary budgets, and halting the call for new missionary appointments.
While the revenue for the CBF for the 2002/2003 fiscal year neared $15 million, it was still at a deficit of more than $650,000. Nearly half of the revenue was generated by a $5 million anonymous gift and a $2 million grant to fund clergy education and leadership development from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.
According to Philip Wise, chairman of the Coordinating Council finance committee, the 18 percent deficit came from overly optimistic budget projections in conjunction with the slump in the U.S. economy.
"What happened basically was that our revenue stream flattened out," Wise said. "And we all know about the economy and what's happened in our national economy, and that's simply impacted us. And what we've tried to do both in terms of the staff and the finance committee is to, without hurting any of our programming and continuing to provide the ministries to support our missionaries, look at our expenditures to try to contain them as much as possible."
The Chairman of the Budget Priorities Task Force, Chuck Moates, projected continuing budget woes for the 2003/2004 year. However, according to Moates, CBF leaders have no plans to revise the 2003/2004 budget because of time constraints.
"At this point we do not think it is reasonable to expect -- based on what has happened since our February meeting when we voted on this budget -- it is not reasonable to expect that we are going to be able to give that budget," he said.
"The cost and time factor of bringing the whole Coordinating Council together again did not seem to be a wise thing to do in light of this situation. Secondly, and also just the timing of it ... We did not feel comfortable bringing to you a revised budget only hours before the General Assembly starts with nothing that we can have in print," he said.
Instead, the committee offered several recommendations on how the CBF can curb expenditures, such as prioritizing missionaries, halting staff growth and using a percentage of designated gifts to cover administrative costs.
Despite the Cassandran projections, the CBF Moderator Phill Martin said the CBF churches should not be disheartened.
"It's been a little assurance to me that it is not just an issue of 'if we could have only managed more carefully' we would have seen this coming and [been] able to have taken care of it," Martin said. "Almost every major denomination, the Missouri Synod Lutheran, ELCA, American Baptists, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, have dealt with the same kind of budget constraints and controls."
Nonetheless, CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal remarked, "We are behind in budget and going to have to address that. We're going to have to deal with it."