Thursday, September 13, 2007

Setting the Record Straight on Transformation Ministries

Recently there have been a number of rumors floating around the southwest about the dire straights facing newly created Transformation Ministries. As a new member of the board, these questions are more than a little existentially relevant for me. Today was our board meeting in Covina. For the benefit of the readership of His Barking Dog, here are the facts learned at today's meeting . . .

* "We have never had such a good balance sheet in the nearly ten years I have been here" (David Gregory, Chief Financial Officer).

* Currently TM is running at 91% of budget (Steve Roblee, Minister of Mission Advancement).

* How many giving churches of record have we lost since the withdrawal? 52 fewer congregations are giving to Trans Min than gave to ABCPSW (Steve Roblee).

* When asked how many significant giving congregations have we lost since the withdrawal from the ABC, Steve Roblee replied: "Two." And one of them has reduced their contribution from $1,200/mo. to $300/mo.

* The first draft of the budget was unbalanced for 2008. However, this appears mainly due to the overly conservative budget assumptions utilized by the ever vigilant CFO. On the investment side alone, even a fairly pessemistic set of assumptions would remove the budget deficit, in and of itself! And, this was only a preliminary draft copy, not the budget to be presented to the board.

* Church giving has been "flat" for the last several years (Gregory). This sounds bad until you examine the "falling like a stone" statistics for most mainline denominations.
* With all of the discussions about how few congregations have formally "signed the covenant" of TM, it should be noted that only 21 have officially withdrawn from TM and been acted upon by the board, and three of those are withdrawing from the ABCUSA as well.

The last time I served on the board of this region was nearly two decades ago. At that time we were burning through our endowment at a dizzying pace. Now, even after the withdrawal from the ABC, TM has a stable budget and a growing endowment. As someone who is responsible for a $13 million budget in my own ministry, I can only marvel at the degree of turnaround under the humble and self-effacing Salico.

By the way, this week's newsletter for Atherton Baptist Homes announced an open meeting with Dr. Sam Chetti of the ABC of LA. He will be on the Atherton campus next Monday, September 17, at 2:30 p.m. to answer questions and to discuss some of the outreach to those desiring to remain loyal American Baptists.

Since most of the Baptists at Atherton (we have about 350 residents) belong to either the First Baptist Church of Alhambra across the street (which voted 99% to withdraw from ABC) or the First Baptist Church of Temple City (which elected to withdraw with a nearly 85% majority), Atherton might seem at first a strange venue for such a meeting. However, our board has declared that it intends to continue ministry to Baptists in our entire constituency regardless of whether they belong to the ABC of LA, Transformation Ministries, or the new ABC group in the southwest.

Dr. Chetti is always welcome on the Atherton campus. In fact, any Baptist readers within driving distance to 214 S. Atlantic, Alhambra, CA might want to drop by on Monday to learn what programs the ABC has to offer.

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