For the week of July 10, 2003
Gifts through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program totaled a little more
than $15 million last month, an increase of almost $315,000 (2.1 percent from
the previous June. Nine months into the Southern Baptist Convention’s fiscal
year, gifts total $139 million, an increase of $574,558 (0.4 percent) from the
same time last year. The total also stands about $6.3 million (4.8 percent)
ahead of budget at this time. Meanwhile, designated gifts totaled $19.9 million
last month, an increase of more than $5.4 million (37.3 percent) from the previous
June. For the year, designated gifts total $149.4 million, a decrease of more
than $8.1 million (5.2 percent) from the same time last year.
Right to discriminate?
President George Bush has released a position paper stating that faith-based
groups that receive federal funds to provide social services should be able
to discriminate in their hiring. The document outlines the administration’s
intention to seek clarification of current law and grant faith-based groups
the right to hire only those of their own faith – even if the groups receive
federal money. Religious groups and churches enjoy that right under current
law. But the question of whether the right extends to those groups and churches
that receive federal funds has been a thorny one. Debate on it largely has stalled
implementation of Bush’s faith-based initiative. He implemented much of the
initiative by executive order, including an explicit order to allow discrimination
by religious groups in the program. However, executive orders can be overturned
by future presidents. Thus, Bush is making clear that he believes the right
to discriminate should be dealt with in law. However, he faces opposition. Some
religious leaders say the move violates the separation of church and state.
Others oppose the idea as a setback for civil rights. And at least one member
of Congress has introduced a measure to repeal the Bush executive order granting
the right to discriminate.
Members of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship recently approved a $19.7 million
budget for 2003-4, even while acknowledging they do not expect to be able to
fund that mark. Indeed, for the second year in a row, fellowship expenditures
will exceed revenues – by about $650,000 this year alone. Revenue this year
is expected to reach about $15 million, with the deficit to be made up out of
reserves. Fellowship Coordinator Daniel Vestal acknowledged the organization
could not appoint new missionaries this year except for a pair of gifts to be
disbursed over a several-year period – totaling $9 million dollars. However,
despite the gifts, fellowship leaders recommended several cost-cutting moves,
including that missionaries begin to prioritize work and identify areas where
funding can be delayed or terminated and that staff growth be halted and attrition
used to eliminate staff positions. Leaders also announced plans to scale back
or close its two regional resource centers. Action on the budget came during
the fellowship’s annual gathering, which recorded a registration of 4,357.
Did you know?
This year alone, Camper on Missions volunteers have given 315,520 hours to
ministry and recorded 580 professions of faith during their efforts.
Mission board finances
The Southern Baptist International Mission Board spent nearly $37 million more
in 2002 than it received in income, the treasurer of the agency reported. Treasurer
David Steverson recently told board trustees that reserve funds had been tapped
to pay the bills in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The $37 million drawdown in 2002 covered
13 percent of total expenditures for the year, he said. “Clearly, we cannot
continue to sustain such a large gap between income and expenses,” Steverson
noted. “We are fortunate in that we had reserve funds that could be drawn upon
to support our work in 2002.” Steverson said the board had tapped reserves “some”
in 2000, “more” in 2001 and for “significant amounts” in 2002. “We need to keep
in mind that when we spend reserve funds, it not only is reflected in a reduction
in our total assets, but it also reduces investment income available to be budgeted
in future years,” he said. Despite deficit spending, Steverson said the board
has something to show for its investment – record numbers of missionaries, overseas
baptisms, churches, outreach groups and such. But the treasurer also warned
that the board must make significant adjustments to prepare for the future and
that the current pattern of spending is not sustainable for a longer term.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill aimed at shutting down
illegal Internet gambling sites operating outside the United States. The House
passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act (H.R. 2143) by
a 319-104 margin. The measure would prohibit the use of credit cards, checks,
electronic fund transfers and other bank instruments for Internet gambling.
Under the proposal, financial institutions would be responsible for blocking
payments for such wagering. The virtual casinos operate out of the reach of
federal and state regulators, allowing Americans citizens – including young
people – to bet on a variety of online games from their homes. Five years ago,
there were fewer than 50 such sites. Now, there are about 2,000 that may garner
as much as $4 billion in revenue this year. The Southern Baptist Ethics and
Religious Liberty Commission has voiced support for the measure, which still
must be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Southern Baptist volunteers are beginning to make some headway in helping Iraqis
rebuild their country. A team of students from Southwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary arrived in northern Iraq the first week of June to partner with the
Jordanian Baptist Society on three projects – remodeling a school auditorium,
laying groundwork for a women’s literacy training project and installing computers
in an Internet café. Southern Baptists who have given to the International Mission
Board’s Iraq relief fund have made all the rebuilding projects possible. “It’s
going to take time, and it’s going to take a lot of effort,” one observer said.
“It’s also going to take Southern Baptists like these students who are willing
to come here and stand in the gap and share the love of Jesus Christ. But the
results will have an eternal impact.”
A mentally-impaired rape victim who is seven months pregnant will be permitted
to give birth, a Florida judge has ruled. The judge approved a court-appointed
guardian’s report that carrying the baby to term and giving birth is in the
“best interest” of the 22-year-old woman. Two sonograms have indicated the unborn
child is healthy, the guardian report indicated. The guardian could have recommended
an abortion if the health or life of the woman had been endangered. The woman
has the mental ability of a preschool child and suffers from cerebral palsy
and autism. She was raped while living in a group home. A similar case in the
Miami area produced a different result in May. Doctors there performed a court-authorized
abortion on a mentally-impaired rape victim who was six months pregnant.
A federal judge has rejected Norma McCorvey’s attempt to reverse the U.S. Supreme
Court’s 1973 ruling on her lawsuit that legalized abortion throughout the country.
The judge ruled last month that McCorvey’s petition to reopen the case did not
come within a “reasonable time.” McCorvey was “Jane Roe” in the Roe v. Wade
opinion 30 years ago. In his eight-page order, the judge said a court rule that
applies to such petitions measures “reasonable time” in weeks or months, not
in decades. “Thirty years is manifestly not a reasonable time,” he said. In
January 1973, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to overturn state laws prohibiting
abortion. In combination with the Doe v. Bolton opinion released at the same
time, the justices’ action had the effect of permitting abortion for any reason
throughout all nine months of pregnancy. However, after working for an abortion
rights organization, McCorvey became a Christian and a pro-lifer in the 1990s.
She since has expressed regret for her 1973 lawsuit.
Following the requests of several homosexual employees and an investor, Wal-Mart
has amended its anti-discrimination policy to protect homosexual employees.
The nation’s largest private employer has sent to its 3,500 stores to inform
them of the changes. The new policy states, in part, “We affirm our commitment
and pledge our support to equal opportunity employment for all qualified persons,
regardless of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability
or status as a veteran or sexual orientation.” With Wal-Mart’s move, nine of
the 10 largest Fortune 500 companies now have anti-discrimination policies protecting
homosexuals. The one company to abstain is Exxon Mobil. In addition, 318 of
the Fortune 500 companies have anti-discrimination policies favorable to homosexuals.
“It’s the right thing to do for our employees,” a Wal-Mart spokesperson said.
“We want all of our associates to feel they are valued and treated with respect
– no exceptions. And it’s the right thing to do for our business.” Wal-Mart
still does not provide coverage for domestic partners of employees, something
197 of Fortune 500 companies do.