Baptist State Conventions Report Budget Deficits

The economic crisis has taken its toll on Americans rich and poor and Southern Baptist churches are no exception.

Baptist state conventions, which depend on local churches for support, are reporting shortcomings in their 2008 budget as they meet across the country this month for their annual state gatherings.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention, which met from Nov. 11 to 12, reported a $1.4 million deficit in the convention's budget, according to the Associated Baptist Press.

Executive director James Porch reported at the annual meeting that the Convention had received a total of $37,086,227 – a 3.67 percent shortfall behind its annual budget of $38.5 million.

Porch urged representatives as they return home to examine the "extravagances" in their lives and what they can cut back on so that they can "sacrifice by choice even more to God."

The fund shortage was even more dramatic for the Georgia Baptist Convention. It reported a deficit of more than five percent between what it received and its budget, $49 million versus $52 million, for its cooperative program – statewide and national programs that support a range of activities from foreign missionaries to hurricane relief.

"Every year, it seems like an adjustment needs to be made. We'll have to see how it pans out and what our churches will be able to commit to," said the Rev. Dan Spencer, a leader of the Georgia Baptist Convention, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Florida Baptist Convention is lacking more than $562,000 for its 2008 budget, according to the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper.

"It's just part of the national context right now," said the Rev. Willy Rice, outgoing state convention president, to Florida's The Ledger newspaper. "The convention is healthy. It's been well-managed, but what churches can give has impacted us. We have a hiring freeze and have consolidated some departments. We hope that'll get us through till things are better."

The state convention also reported static growth and fewer churches than previous years.

According to 2007 statistics, the latest figures available, the Florida convention had 2,203 churches, a drop from more than 2,850 in 2003.

In response to the hard economic times, the Baptist association in Mobile, Ala., is tightening its belt for 2009.

Alabama's Mobile Baptist Association approved a budget of $594,905, a reduction of over $13,000 compared to its 2008 budget, for the coming year.

The Mississippi Baptist Convention, however, is going against general logic and has approved an expanded 2009 budget. Next year's budget will be nearly $35 million, or an increase of about two percent, or $676,866, compared to 2008.

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