Southern Baptist leaders have applauded vigorously President George W. Bush’s commitment to giving faith a prominent role in the White House, especially through faith-based initiatives.
Some have spoken in glowing terms about Bush’s support for “armies of compassion.” Others have frequently criticized government programs designed to address poverty issues, expressing the conviction that church organizations could do a more effective job.
Yet the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board has backed away from Christian social services.
NAMB cut five social ministries positions to allow for five new positions involving “more direct evangelism,” according to the Baptist Standard.
“As a result of the changes, NAMB will no longer have any staff member solely devoted to immigration ministries and will be left with only one national missionary assigned to work nationwide training literacy missions workers,” wrote Mark Wingfield in a Sept. 18 article for the Baptist Standard.
The new positions involve Internet evangelism, welfare-to-work initiatives, women’s evangelism and prayer evangelism, according to the article.
“In the current year, NAMB allocated $3.69 million–less than 3 percent of its $129.5 million budget–to Christian social ministries, which it now calls ‘ministry evangelism,” wrote Wingfield. “By comparison, $17.3 million is budgeted this year for evangelism, and $25.3 million is budgeted for church starting.”
NAMB’s $3.69 million budget for Christian social ministries is one-fourth the amount allocated for Christian social ministries by the Home Mission Board during its final year, according to the article.
“It does signal a change in priorities,” said Marty King, director of convention relations, in the article. “Does it mean that with less attention (social ministries and interfaith witness) will have a lower priority? Probably true. But it does not mean that they are not important.”