The Coordinating Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on Wednesday approved a one-time contribution of $30,000 to the Baptist Center for Ethics to make up a funding shortfall.
Emmanuel McCall, head of the council's Building Community and Networking Initiative Team, recommended the contribution at a council meeting on the eve of the June 30-July 1 CBF General Assembly in Grapevine, Texas.
McCall, retired pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in College Park, Ga., told council members that Robert Parham, BCE's executive director, has been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer and because of his illness fund-raising efforts for BCE have been greatly curtailed.
"In light of our emphasis on being the presence of Christ, we recommend making a one-time contribution of $30,000 to the Baptist Center for Ethics," McCall said, quoted in a CBF news release. "And by relieving Dr. Parham of this stress, we could aid in his recovery."
Parham, 51, founded the Nashville-based BCE in 1991 and its first executive director. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia in March. He is in remission, but will undergo treatment for the next year.
In an editorial June 8, Parham told readers of EthicsDaily.com that his prolonged illness has hindered him in "one of my primary jobs—ensuring the financial health of the organization."
Five months into the budget year, Parham said, BCE needed to raise $30,000 to get into the black.
Congregational Life Coordinator Bo Prosser said the grant was a joint response initiated by CBF staff and the initiative team both to "understanding that a partner was struggling and needed some support" and "the quality of work the BCE continues to share with the movement."
"We say we are to be the presence of Christ," Prosser said. "This was an opportunity for us to model that for the movement. It's the right thing to do."
McCall told the Coordinating Council that neither Parham nor any members of the BCE board of directors asked for any contributions.
"He [Parham] asked me to convey to you his gratitude for all of the prayers, e-mails and notes of support," McCall said. "He is in remission and working to regain his strength. He hopes to be back full-time very soon."
Finance Committee Chair Nelson Rodriguez called it a "special situation."
"With $4 million reserves, it would not have a financial effect on us," said Rodriguez, a member or Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. "It is a good gesture for a partner who has been very good to us."
Prosser said all levels of CBF leadership were "in complete agreement" about the funding.
"I personally think it's really affirmation for Robert, but also for the quality of work [BCE] is doing," Prosser said.
Parham said he is "exceedingly grateful for the Coordinating Council's recommendation."
"I appreciate Emmanuel McCall and Bo Prosser's initiative to lead the council in helping BCE regain and maintain a sound financial footing," Parham said. "This special and unexpectedly generous gift is yet another testimony to the faithfulness of moderate Baptists to the biblical witness' call for those who contribute to do so with 'liberality.' As CBF would expect and want, BCE will be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us."
In other business, the Coordinating Council adopted an amended Partnership Study Committee report, which for the first time defines in writing how the Fellowship relates to partners.
In addition to earlier revisions increasing a funding cap from 20 percent of any partner's budget upward to 25 percent and increasing the number of CBF "identity partner" theology schools to "up to six," a new amendment clarified that free-press partners would not be required to "promote" the Fellowship.
According to a report by Baptists Today editor John Pierce, the amendment clarifies that CBF "holds the highest regard for the tenets and high standards of journalism, including a free press … and in no way expects [press organizations] to violate their professional mandates in Fellowship news coverage."
The amendment, which applies to Associated Baptist Press, Baptist Center for Ethics and Baptists Today, does ask those organizations to disclose their CBF funding when appropriate.
Though it is not required to do so, the Coordinating Council voted unanimously to send the report to the General Assembly for a vote of affirmation. Part of the rationale, said CBF Moderator Bob Setzer, is to "achieve greater buy-in by the larger Fellowship movement."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.