The Cooperative Program Instituted in the Southern Baptist Convention

Time Period
1925
Description
After the Northern Baptist Convention centralized control over its mission and educational agencies in 1907, the Southern Baptists launched its own consolidation effort. Begun in 1919, the Seventy Five Million Campaign was a five-year effort to increase giving by suggesting an appropriate contribution for each individual church to give to the denomination. Although this created controversy due to its breach of church autonomy, the campaign helped the SBC raise nearly as much money for its mission agencies as it had during the previous 74 years. Pleased with its success, the SBC's executives, converted the temporary fundraising campaign into a permanent feature by creating the Cooperative Program in 1925. Since then, the Cooperative Program has raised more than $16 billion, funding the SBC's six seminaries and thousands of its foreign and domestic missionaries.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
Narrative
From its origins in the Triennial Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has given priority to missions work. After the Northern Baptist Convention centralized control over its mission and educational agencies in 1907 for the sake of efficiency, the Southern Baptists planned to follow suit. In 1919, the SBC launched the Seventy Five Million Campaign, a five-year effort to exponentially increase denominational giving. Prior to the Campaign, seminaries, mission boards, and other denominational agencies had to appeal directly to local churches by placing ads in religious periodicals and sending representatives to ask for funds. Starting in 1919, the SBC began to send each church an annual letter suggesting its appropriate contribution, which the congregation would send to the denomination to then be funneled to the various agencies.

Critics of the Campaign, including fundamentalist pastor J. Frank Norris, saw it as a very un-Baptist violation of congregational autonomy. Norris called it a "top-heavy, ecclesiastical, dominating, tyrannical, conscienceless machine." When the Campaign went ahead anyway, Norris joined with fundamentalist Northern Baptists like William Bell Riley to form the Baptist Bible Union in 1923. In response, the Texas state convention kicked Norris out of the SBC in 1924. Other outraged Baptists left as well, forming a splinter denomination that would eventually become the Baptist Bible Fellowship, which today claims some 1.2 million members.

Despite the controversy, the Campaign received $96 million in pledges. Five years later, after a southern agricultural depression, only $58 million was in hand. Still, in just five years, the SBC had raised nearly as much money for its mission agencies as it had during the previous 74 years. The SBC's executives, including George Washington Truett, counted that a success and decided to turn the temporary fundraising drive into a permanent feature by creating the Cooperative Program in 1925. Since then, the Cooperative Program has raised more than $16 billion, funding the SBC's six seminaries and thousands of its foreign and domestic missionaries.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other Timeline Event Entries
Baptist Family: Other Timeline Biography Entries

Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Biographies
Riley, William Bell
Truett, George Washington
Norris, John Frank
Photographs

75 Million Campaign leaders- Hathi Trust
Source(s)
Hankins, Barry, 1996. God's Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press.
Web Source
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA02/harris/sbc/75mill.html
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University

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