European Baptists: A Just Support Model for All
B r i s t o l – Despite very different living conditions among its member churches in East and West, European Baptists have a just support model in place for financing the work of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), says the Norwegian Jan Saethre (Skien), Chairperson of the EBF-Finance Committee. Each of its 53 member unions is now requested to participate in the financing of EBF-work according to the economic situation and membership numbers in the respective country. The Baptists of Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan are consequently expected to contribute only one cent per member annually, while the Swiss are expected to make the highest donation of all: one Euro per member annually. An earlier model, in which each union was expected, regardless of economic conditions, to contribute one German Mark per member, was not realised. It was also not appropriate, according to Jan Saethre. The new model leads to the member-strong unions such as Great Britain and Germany paying the largest portion – 71.000 and 46.000 Euro respectively – of the annual budget of 244.000 Euro. Very troubling to Jan Saethre is the fact that 20 unions do not contribute financially at all to mutual, European projects. The primary concern thereby is not the size of that contribution, but rather the awareness of mutual responsibility. He expressed satisfaction that the 21.000 Baptists of Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, had contributed 68 Euro during the past year.
The Executive Committee resolved that every union receiving money under the EBF mission project for native missionaries (Indigenous Missionary Project, IMP) will from now on be required to contribute to the EBF. The EBF is using donations from Western Europe and the USA to support 40 native church planters in 16 countries, ex Soviet Union republics and in the Middle East. Their support is cut in half after three years. The ultimate goal is that these new congregations will be capable after five years to cover their own expenses and to finance its pastor on a part- or full-time basis. At the Bristol sessions it was decided to accept 13 new church planters into the project during the current year.
During an open discussion, the General-Director of the Baptist Union of Scotland, William G. Slack (Glasgow), explained the Scottish practice devised for members unwilling to donate. If a local Baptist congregation does not pay at least one-third of the officially-stipulated amount, its delegates lose the right to vote at the annual members’ assembly. Slack suggested that the EBF institute a similar policy. Yet this proposal did not come to a vote.
The EBF-Executive Committee also resolved to recommend to the EBF Council to close the BRE (Baptist Response Europe) aid programme at the end of 2006. It is to be replaced by a new relief programme called European Baptist Aid, scheduled to begin its work in 2007. BRE has helped finance the work of EBF unions in the former East bloc. It is intended that EBAid instead be active in crisis situations globally. It was emphasised that no church buildings will be financed.