The Pen

Planned With Excellence? On Missions, Money, Planned Parenthood, and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board

Adjective LAW
adjective: fungible
(of goods contracted for without an individual specimen being specified) able to replace or be replaced by another identical item; mutually interchangeable.
“money is fungible—money that is raised for one purpose can easily be used for another”

Money is fungible.

Planned Parenthood performed 320,000 abortions in 2015.  At the same time, Planned Parenthood was the recipient of nearly $500,000,000 of federal funding from the United States government.  This was done at the objection of thousands of Christian taxpayers who did not want their tax dollars used to help fund abortion.  Those who defend the practice of funding Planned Parenthood with federal tax dollars have argued that the federal money given to Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortions, but for a variety of other services provided by the organization.  In other words, the money to fund Planned Parenthood’s abortion procedures came from non-Federal Government sources while Federal Government money was earmarked for other, non-objectionable services.  However, since money is fungible, this argument in defense of federally funding Planned Parenthood is specious.  Since Planned Parenthood has millions of government grant dollars to subsidize its non-abortion services, it can use its unrestricted and less-restricted funding to help defray the costs of  (or reduce the price it charges for) its abortion services.  US Congressman Paul Ryan, a pro-life politician from Wisconsin, is well aware of what Planned Parenthood’s ongoing federal funding allows it to do.  Ryan recently told the audience of a CNN Town hall, “We don’t want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider… money’s fungible, and it effectively floats these organizations…. You don’t have these controversies by funding health centers.”  Christian voters aren’t fooled.  Funding Planned Parenthood helps it to murder children.  Now, what in the world does this have to do with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board?

From an abortion standpoint, nothing.  The Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) adamantly opposes abortion.  Elective abortion is murder and one who supports its legality, its funding, or Planned Parenthood would be a rare find among Georgia Baptists.  Murder is forbidden by the Ten Commandments in the Bible.  Planned Parenthood is evil and the GBMB doesn’t support it.  So, where does the GBMB come into this discussion?  It comes in when considering the fungibility of money, medical missions, and the GBMB’s Gwinnet County Headquarters. 

In March of 2015, I published an article  titled, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Baptist: Creflo Dollar and Robert White” which described, with pictures from inside the building, the lavishness and unnecessary expense of this building.  Although scores of Georgia Baptist pastors were already aware of the offensive opulence of the GBMB headquarters, many pew-sitting Georgia Baptists were not. The reaction I’ve seen from otherwise ignorant pew-sitting Baptists who have seen these pictures has been strong. One observer on social media labeled the GBMB headquarters a “Baptist Vatican.”  I have been told that GBMB personnel are embarrassed to bring missionaries, who often live in spartan conditions and struggle for support, on site at GBMB headquarters. The purported cost of the headquarters building is reported differently from different sources but my pastor informed me that the price tag of the building was upwards of $45,000,000.  For an office building for a Christian missions organization, this price tag is staggering. 

“Everyone who comes through this building talks about what a beautiful design it is and how it appears that every detail has been planned with excellence.” Robert White

According to GBMB Executive Director, J. Robert White, the GBMB’s palatial headquarters and its ornate murals were not paid for by the Cooperative Program giving of Georgia Baptist churches. Its construction was funded from other sources, including the incursion of millions of dollars in debt. So, should Georgia Baptists who, through the Cooperative Program, collectively provide the GBMB millions of dollars intended for missions be concerned about the cost of the building? After all, according to J. Robert White, Cooperative Program dollars did not pay for the construction of the headquarters. Well, is money fungible?  If the Georgia Baptist Convention were not propped up by Cooperative Program funding, could it have been able to construct such a massive building at such a massive cost?  Would it have had to construct a smaller, less luxurious, and arguably more God-honoring headquarters?  What would Paul Ryan say? He’d likely say money is fungible. The Cooperative Program didn’t pay for that building but it was a part of the pot of money managed by J. Robert White and the GBMB that paid for all their other expenditures. The nature of that unnecessarily expensive building indicates that J. Robert White and the other GBMB leaders responsible for its construction are, plainly, incompetent. The GBMB is intended to partner with Georgia Baptist Churches to fulfill the great commission.  It’s okay that the GBMB has a building. It is not okay that is has that building.  Any argument that Cooperative Program money did not pay for the GBMB headquarters falls flat. It remains that money is fungible and that J. Robert White and GBMB leaders have proven themselves poor stewards of the resources of Georgia Baptists. Furthermore, the cost to heat, cool, light, and clean a building of that size almost certainly comes out of the operating budget of the GBMB.  Aren’t such administrative expenses funded by the Cooperative Program?  Whether their funding comes through Cooperative Program giving or other donations, the actions of the GBMB leadership have proven the folly of entrusting it with any large amount of money.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Luke 16:10

J. Robert White

When considering a large amount of money, medical missions comes into play.  For the construction of its massive building of massive expense, the GBMB incurred massive debt.  This debt was paid off in March of 2015 through a gift from the Georgia Baptist Healthcare Ministry Foundation.  The amount of the debt payoff was upwards of $25,000,000.  According to Baptist blogger William Thornton, the Healthcare Ministry foundation is “easily the biggest pot of money around connected to Georgia Baptists. Various significant grants have been made annually to a variety of causes including pregnancy care centers, medical and dental clinics, counseling services and others. This year’s grants totaled $3,256,924.”  In other words, money that could have been spent on medical missions was spent paying off the debt of a massive and, quite frankly, embarrassing headquarters.  J. Robert White gave all the credit for this action to God, proclaiming, “This is something that God has done…We had a plan to pay the debt and we were faithful to that plan, but God had a better plan.”  Logically implicit in White’s statement is the notion that anyone who has a problem with the way the medical fund was spent can place the blame on God, not him.  Not only is GBMB leadership plainly incompetent, it is plainly claiming that God was behind their enormous and unwise spend all along. 

Planned Parenthood spends its fungible “medical” money on abortion.  Georgia Baptist leadership spent its fungible “medical” money on paying of the debt of its ostentatious headquarters.  But it’s not as if the GBMB breaks the 10 Commandments is it?  Planned Parenthood uses its fungible money to murder.  What about the GBMB?  Well, it doesn’t murder anyone; in fact, it stands steadfastly against doing so.  There are, however, 10 commandments.  “Do not murder” is just one of them.  Here is another:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.”Exodus 20:4

“The Convention (now Mission Board) also wanted its new headquarters to represent the Baptist Church within the community. From site planning to building details, the architecture of the new headquarters makes symbolic reference to the Baptist faith.” Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart Design Firm

Unlike the pagan cultures around them, God-fearing ancient Israelites did not make idols of their God.  God is Spirit and making a likeness of him was forbidden.  Ancient Jews were afraid to so much as pronounce God’s name wrong.  In the GBMB headquarters there is on the ceiling, above a replica of the 10 Commandments, what appears to be a likeness of God the Father.  Professional Christian theologians, administrators, and missionaries walk under this image every day.  Cooperative Program giving helps them to do it.  How much of that money did your church give?

Money is fungible.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

 *Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant