A memorable chorus from Cabaret holds that “Money makes the world go round, the world go round, the world go round — money makes the world go round, it makes the world go round.”
The song is not only repetitive, but wrong: the earth was spinning happily on its axis for billions of years before money was invented, and will do so long after we have gone extinct.
Money does, however, have the power to make a lot of things happen — including things that the world really needs.
One of those things is a healthy Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that is hitting on all cylinders.
Why? Because the world needs wholeness. The world needs social justice that honors human rights. The world needs religious freedom. The world needs an undistorted understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. The world needs more unity and less division — and that’s what the Baptist World Alliance is all about.
One might think, with the word “Baptist” in there, that the BWA would have little interest in those broader issues, but that’s not the case. The BWA does seek to connect, support, and empower Baptists around the world, especially in places where government pressure or local persecution makes it hard to be Baptist. But, the BWA has also held dialogues with Methodists, Mennonites, Anglicans, Lutherans, Reformed churches, and Roman Catholics. One needn’t surrender Baptist distinctives in order to promote mutual understanding and unity among Christians. BWA representatives have even had conversations with cooperative Muslim leaders, seeking avenues for promoting peace in our world.
BWA members also believe in helping folk who’ve been bowled over by earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and other natural or human-caused disasters. BWAid has been working with other groups in supporting relief and development efforts for years.
And that’s just a start. Through annual gatherings that bring Baptists together in various parts of the world, BWA commissions, committees, and task forces work on thorny issues of doctrinal questions, responsible evangelism, social justice, religious freedom, theological education, and other matters. I could say more, but that should be enough. The BWA doesn’t make the world go round, but it makes it a better place, and Lord knows we need that.
Various BWA work groups including the Executive Committee have been meeting at the BWA offices in Falls Church, VA, this week (March 6-8). Much of the discussion during the Executive Committee’s first session centered on finances — or to be more precise, the lack of finances.
When the BWA was formed in 1905, it relied entirely on contributions from member bodies for the support of its budget. Last year, less than half of contributions came from member bodies (either 25 percent or 40 percent, depending on what’s included in the calculations). Of the BWA’s 235 member bodies, only 100 or so sent financial support last year. The balance of contributions comes from individuals and churches. With declining finances of their own to worry about, many member bodies and churches have reduced or eliminated their giving.
The result is that the BWA is doing good work but bleeding red ink, with a deficit of $168,000 in 2016, on the heels of a $162,000 loss in 2015. Financial reserves and creative bookkeeping can only overcome so much, and for so long. The organization is already understaffed, and further cuts may be looming.
As a result, the finance committee has proposed a 2018 budget of just $1.87 million, nearly $340,000 less than the 2017 budget, which now appears more than overly optimistic. And that for an organization with a global reach.
One might suppose BWA could just tell member bodies to pay up or ship out, but that would be like churches ousting all the members who rarely contribute. Would that build community and support those on the margins? Most of the Baptist unions, conferences, conventions, and associations that make up the BWA are either very small or very poor: while it would be good all around for every group to give something, even an extensive campaign would probably see little gain from groups who have little to begin with.
Any number of ideas are being batted around as a means of raising funds, and some may prove to be helpful, but more likely in long term ways. What the BWA could really use right now is a big shot in the arm from some wealthy Baptists who have a global vision. I know there are some very wealthy Baptists around, people who care about this world and are capable of donating thousands or even millions of dollars. If only a few would be willing to include BWA in their annual giving, the crisis could be resolved and BWA could focus on strengthening those smaller bodies, rather than squeezing them for funds.
Could that person be you, or someone you know? Whether you can give $50, $50,000, or more, your support could make a real difference in the work of the Baptist World Alliance, and that work is making a positive difference around the globe.
All donations are tax-deductible. You can give online at this link; send your contributions to Baptist World Alliance, 405 N. Washington Street, Falls Church, VA 22046 USA; call 703-790-8980 and ask for someone who can talk to you about BWA’s needs and giving options, or email Kathe Traynham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Money in the bank doesn’t even earn interest these days: consider letting BWA put it to work for good and for God.