Archive for September, 2007

A view of Venezuela

September 26, 2007

In honor of the BGCT’s newly agreed upon partnership with Venezuelan Baptists, here are some sights from Veneuzuela — http://www.flickr.com/photos/93228721@N00/sets/72157600136603272/

Click here for the slideshow option — http://www.flickr.com/photos/93228721@N00/sets/72157600136603272/.

What a beautiful country and wonderful people.

Final thoughts from meeting

September 25, 2007

John Hall and I have tried to blog some of the basic highlights from today’s meeting, and I hope it was been helpful to Texas Baptists. Hundreds of you have checked in.

This blog report, however, was not a complete report. John and I were juggling other responsibilities as we did it. I hope you will check our main BGCT web site and the Baptist Standard for more formalized journalistic reports. There are advantages to blog reports such as this, but the quickness with which they are done also causes shortcomings in reporting.

I hope that all who have read these reports will pray for the work of Texas Baptists together through the BGCT and through our individual churches. We have a great kingdom mission before us, and that should inspire all of us to continued effort.

General questions and discusion

September 25, 2007

During this time, I have the pleasure of getting a microphone to member who wish to speak. I will do this a bit by memory and include a written report from Charles Wade.

A question was asked regarding the New Baptist Covenant Celebration that will be held in Atlanta next January. Dr. Wade responded that the BGCT’s involvement in this is based on our membership in the North American Baptist Fellowship, which is the key supporter of this meeting.

He also was asked about the situation regarding church starting funds provided to Weslaco First Baptist Church. Dr. Wade gave the following report to the full board that he had given to the Missions and Ministry Committee on Monday:

Report on BGCT Funding of Missions at Weslaco First Baptist Church

BGCT Executive Board – September 24, 2007

By Charles Wade

Questions have been raised about the use of BGCT church starting funds by First Baptist Church of Weslaco while Jonathan Becker was their pastor. As a result, the BGCT staff has been involved the past two weeks in determining the details of our funding of various efforts at Weslaco First.

In June 2005, the BGCT entered into an agreement with Weslaco First that we thought was clear and understood by the church. It called for the church to begin a new work called The Family Fellowship that would start as a new worship service at the church and develop into a fully autonomous congregation, the second English-speaking BGCT church in Weslaco. The covenant indicated Weslaco First had approved the new work during a church conference, but that apparently never occurred. As a result, it appears the church did not clearly understand the intended purpose of the funds or of the new service itself.

Based on discussions last week at Weslaco First, it appears most of the funds ($26,550) sent to First Baptist for The Family Fellowship were paid by the church to Jonathan Becker, who was pastor of both the sponsoring church and the intended new church. This was later listed by Pastor Becker as a “salary subsidy” from the BGCT, but it was never so designated by the BGCT and monthly reports from The Family Fellowship did not indicate a pastor salary was being paid. As a result, the BGCT staff was not aware of this at the time. Also, so-called salary subsidy amounts listed by Pastor Becker ($46,000 over a three-year period) exceed both the amount of money actually given to support The Family Fellowship and the duration of those gifts. It is appropriate for BGCT church starting funds to be used to help pay the salary of a new church pastor, but the BGCT does not do so directly. The BGCT provides funds to churches, and then those monies are distributed according to the budget for the new congregation.

It appears the BGCT staff functioned within the policy guidelines in effect at the time, except in one instance. There was a signed covenant, required meetings were held, monthly reports were received from the church, and those reports indicate the BGCT’s portion of the budget did not exceed 50 percent. The BGCT staff did, however, authorize payment of more funds for the new work than was approved by the BGCT Missions Funding Committee ($26,550 as opposed to the approved $21,000).

The covenant was ended in June 2006 after Pastor Becker failed to meet with the BGCT church starter, and a final monthly payment was made in July 2006. One more gift for The Family Fellowship ($3,000 on Sept. 13, 2006) was made after Pastor Becker came to Dallas to visit with me. The pastor sought more financial help for The Family Fellowship and two other new works started by Weslaco First since he was anticipating a call to another church and felt Weslaco First needed that help to complete the phase-out of BGCT support and give the three churches the help they needed to survive during the transition. I took Pastor Becker to Abe Zabaneh, who directed the BGCT’s church starting efforts at the time, and asked Mr. Zabaneh to listen to Pastor Becker’s concerns and see what could be done. The final check ($3,000 for The Family Fellowship and $1,000 each for the other two church starts) was subsequently written. I was not aware until a few days ago that $2,800 of that money was paid by Weslaco First to Pastor Becker. Apparently, the church was paying Pastor Becker out of these mission funds to be the pastor of the new mission start meeting in the same building.

Overall Conclusions of the Executive Director:

Efforts of Weslaco First and Pastor Becker to expand God’s Kingdom by starting new churches have my applause. According to the church’s stated vision, The Family Fellowship appeared to be a worthy endeavor.

I do, however, have serious concerns with what was done. My primary concern is that the church apparently was not aware of the vision articulated by the pastor in his proposal to the BGCT church starting staff and to the BGCT Missions Funding Committee. Furthermore, to our knowledge there was no accountability to a missions committee or finance committee as to how the mission funds contributed by the BGCT would be disbursed.

We have contacted the firm that performs our internal audits and asked them to look into this matter in order for us to further evaluate our processes and procedures. We expect this to begin within the week, and a report will be given during the next Executive Board meeting stating any findings and recommendations that result from this study. Also, if any issues of illegality are discovered, we will pursue appropriate action.

This situation with Weslaco First occurred before our new church guidelines were put into place. Those new guidelines already are helping us to establish better processes for starting churches. Of course, we are always trying to improve; and as a result of the particulars discovered in the Weslaco situation, I have instructed our Finance and Accounting office to include with every check that goes to a sponsoring church a statement in which we clearly state each time the purpose and expected use of the funds.

We will do everything possible to solidify the integrity of the system while at the same time seeking to encourage ever increasing efforts in starting new churches.

Audit Committee report

September 25, 2007

Harold Richardson reports that the committee received two reports from internal audit firm. The first report had to do with events and their planning and execution. The major finding: No consistency in planning and performance of them. There is both centralized and decentralized planning. Staff basically agreed with the recommendations and agreed to implement them. They agreed to work to bring these about in steps.

Second report was a little more technical and dealt with database administration. Part of the problem was the input not being monitored. Looking at installing a new system. The responses of management not necessarily positive that we would do this right away. Committee instructed staff to implement them as soon as possible.

An internal audit is never popular with an organization’s staff; however, the internal auditors said they had very good cooperation from the BGCT staff.

BSM strategic planning

September 25, 2007

Recommendation to appoint a BSM Strategic Planning Team. “This task force will develop a strategy for buildings and local budget support for the Baptist Student Ministries in Texas. The group will be composed of 9 people who will bring a report to the May 2008 Institutional Committee with recommendations for a 5 year strategic plan involving finances related to buildings, local budget funding and group to oversee buildings and local budget funding.

Approved.

BCFS special agreement

September 25, 2007

Baptist Child and Family Services has sought a special agreement by which to relate to the BGCT. One substantive change: Convention will elect one-third of trustees and board elect two-thirds; all must be Baptists. Not the first special agreement; Buckner also.

Venezuela partnership

September 25, 2007

Recommendation to begin partnership with La Convencion Nacional Bautista de Venezuela.

Ron Gunter: This is the first new partnership brought to this new board. Our partnership office working with Venezuela Baptists for about a year to develop this potential partnership. Would be for three years and may be continued beyond that time.

Approved.

Venezuelan Baptists leaders will be at annual meeting in Amarillo.

Hispanic Education Task Force

September 25, 2007

The Missions and Ministry Committee is bringing a recommendation that a full-time staff position for a BGCT Hispanic Education Advocate be created beginning no later than January 2008. “This person would lead in implementation of a strategy of response to Hispanic educational opportunities that involves BGCT related institutions, associations, and churches. It is suggested that this person be Hispanic and bilingual.”

Also proposed that the task force meet once more and that an ongoing Hispanic Education Advisory Group be formed.

Private funds will be sought after to pay for these recommendations.

No comments

Approved. I didn’t see any opposition.

Missions Funding Group

September 25, 2007

Anna Marie Edgemon from the Missions Funding Group was asked about the new church starting guidelines. She said, “This new procedure is light years ahead of where we were in new missions funding.” She affirmed the work of Paul Atkinson and Gus Reyes of the BGCT staff for their good communication with the MFG.

Messenger formula

September 25, 2007

Randall Scott presented a proposal that will allow smaller, very supportive churches to send more messengers to the Annual Meeting. I do not have the details on this.

Steve Vernon: I’m not opposed to this but don’t know much about it. Concerned how might affect ethnic churches. Steve moved that we refer this back to the Administrative Support Committee in order to study this more with staff help.

Randall is not opposed to referral. Said he’s tried to look at it for three years and has discussed it with Charles Wade. He just doesn’t want this issue to get lost.

Referral back to committee approved with some opposition.


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