Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director Thomas Hammond speaks to church leaders in this file photo.
By ROGER ALFORD
The Christian Index
DULUTH, Ga. – Churches shouldn’t allow the public relations crisis facing the Southern Baptist Convention to detract from their central mission of taking the gospel to the nations, the head of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board told key leaders in a series of Zoom calls on Monday.
“Now is the time to lean in and help right the ship,” said W. Thomas Hammond Jr., speaking to members of the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee and associational missionaries in the calls. “The SBC is not perfect, but she is still the best at strengthening churches and sending missionaries around the world.”
Hammond scheduled the Zoom calls to try to ease tensions among some Georgia pastors frustrated with the prolonged public debate over how best to proceed with an investigation into the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse complaints.
“When you handle these matters in a public forum the way we do, it does get messy because people do have opinions, thoughts, and it can be very upsetting,” Hammond said. “We’re seeing a variety of reactions from churches. Some have said they want to change their Cooperative Program giving. Some have said they want to continue giving to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and some specific SBC entities, and some have said they’re thinking about pulling out of the SBC altogether.”
In the Zoom calls, Hammond said the Cooperative Program remains the best means for funding the work of missionaries serving all over the world, and he asked Executive Committee members and associational missionaries to keep people in their spheres of influence reminded of that.
“We don’t want to lose churches,” Hammond said. “We know we’re better together. We just need to stay together and work through these problems. The SBC is a big family. Like every family, we have disagreements from time to time. Prayerfully, we’ll work through these matters in a way that strengthens us and brings us together.”
Hammond and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff are encouraging churches to continue giving through traditional Cooperative Program channels.
“By doing so, all our entities are funded in a way that allows the greatest impact,” he said. “However, if a pastor or church wishes to change their giving in a way that funds some SBC entities and not others, they have the option to do that. Every church in the SBC can choose to do what it wishes related to how they give to SBC entities.”
A longstanding practice in Georgia allows churches to exclude up to two SBC entities from receiving money they give to the Cooperative Program and still have all the money counted toward the Cooperative Program by the state convention.
If a church has questions about the Cooperative Program or if they want to change their giving, they should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hammond encouraged the Georgia leaders to pray for the SBC, to continue to support the Cooperative Program and to speak boldly about its benefits.
“It is still the greatest missions sending fund in history,” he said. “We need all the parts to be our strongest. We need our state conventions to walk alongside our pastors and churches. We need our universities and seminaries to train the next generation of leaders. And we need our missions sending agencies to continue doing the great work they do.”
Hammond also called for Georgia Baptists to walk in unity, as Christ instructed. “Be patient with one another, be kind, guard our tongues, speak in ways that build one another up,” he said. “Reach out and encourage other leaders to stay the course. Now is not a time to drift away or make rash decisions about not supporting CP.”
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