On November 6, I released a statement to Baptist Press announcing a study to determine the feasibilty of making it possible for SBC entities to invest reserve funds with GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Simultaneously I notified O. S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone, presidents of all SBC entities and auxiliary, state Baptist executive directors, and state Baptist foundation presidents that the staff of the SBC Executive Committee and the Southern Baptist Foundation, along with SBC attorneys, were being asked to conduct the study. The study will focus upon the question, "Would the SBC be best served if SBC entities could transfer reserve funds to GuideStone for institutional investment management?"
Obviously the study group will consult with GuideStone executives and attorneys. This will assure that any forthcoming recommendation will be in accord with the policies of GuideStone and the SBC, federal regulations, and corporate law.
Presently within the SBC the Southern Baptist Foundation has the exclusive assignment to manage investment funds for SBC entities. GuideStone already has the right to co-sign a cooperative agreement with the Foundation to manage reserve funds of SBC entities on the basis that both parties will mutually benefit. However, the Southern Baptist Convention has not assigned it the right to offer unilateral services to SBC entities without a cooperative agreement. I am asking that the study test the following hypothesis:
That the Southern Baptist Convention would be best served if GuideStone could provide
institutional investment services to an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention
(meaning an entity listed in SBC Bylaw 14) without negotiating a cooperative agreement
with the Southern Baptist Foundation.
If the hypothesis is shown to be a solid proposal, the Southern Baptist Foundation, a subsidiary of the SBC Executive Committee, will continue also to have the right to manage intitutional funds of SBC entities. At present most SBC entities engage secular investment firms to manage their reserve funds. In recent years, several Southern Baptist entities have inquired about the possibility of moving their reserve funds to GuideStone for management of these monies. For several years, I have weighed the pros and cons.
In recent months I concluded that if permitting GuideStone to manage investment funds for SBC entities would encourage adminstrations and trustees of convention entities to invest within the Southern Baptist family rather than engage secular firms, it would be positive for the entire convention. I am confident SBC entities would trust GuideStone implicitly, entity leaders would have an opportunity to enter into good faith negotiations about management fees with the largest financial service organization in the convention, and Southern Baptist ministers and missionaries could benefit if GuideStone's income increased sufficiently to lower fees paid for management of individual retirement funds.
As I stated to Baptist Press, "I believe this study will show that with only a slight modification to current ministry assignments, there will be little or no reason for our entities to enlist secular management for the investment of funds that come to SBC entities through the Cooperative Program, missions offerings, and designated gifts of faithful Southern Baptists."
My prayer is that this gesture will serve as one example of an inititative taken by one entity of the convention that could well benefit all other entities and the entire convention. After 14 years in my position with the Executive Committee I am more convinced than ever that this type of spirit is what our forefathers envisioned when they believed God was leading them to base our work on a cooperative model. They envisioned a convention wherein individuals, churches, and denominational organizations could and would work together cooperatively, in a cooperative spirit, for the sake of cooperative missions, supported by the Cooperative Program.
The cooperative concept binds us together for all the right reasons and its core characteristic is the voluntary will of churches and their members to join a network (the convention) of other like-minded Baptists ecclesiologically, missiologically, doctrinally, and pragmatically. It appears to me that the cooperative concept is eroding within our convention. If the cooperative methodology that has been such a powerful undepinning to our missions enterprise were to collapse, the effect would be as devastating to the convention as the collapse of capitalism would be to the United States of America. Hopefully, in the coming years we can see a measure of cooperation among Southern Baptists that exceeds our most visionary expectations. You ask, "How can you be hopeful when cooperation within the convention may be at its lowest ebb in decades? The answer is found in Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus through the ages, world without end. Amen."