By Elizabeth Young

The first Cooperative Program budget increase in five years was part of a proposed 2016 Arizona Southern Baptist Convention operating budget adopted by the Convention Council Sept. 22.

The $4,816,164 total operating budget will be considered by messengers at the AZSBC annual meeting at Stone Ridge Church, Yuma, Nov. 13.

The proposed $3,230,000 Cooperative Program budget is an increase of $50,000 over the 2015 budget and is the first increase since 2011. The budget increases by 1.5 percentage points — to 29 percent — the amount sent to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministries.

“Our Cooperative Program giving … through the end of August is up $58,000,” said David Johnson, AZSBC executive director. “Because of that increased giving, now we can give more away to share the gospel with the world. We can do more in Arizona to make disciples. We can do more … because churches are stepping up.”

The percentage increase represents another step in reaching the Centennial Vision goal of giving 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to missions outside Arizona through the SBC by 2028. It will be the second year for the SBC percentage to increase. With the 2015 budget, the percentage was raised 1.45 percentage points.

“This is the way the Centennial Vision is designed,” Johnson said. “As we grow in number of churches, as we grow in our missions giving and being generous, then we can grow as a convention to give more away and reach more people.”

The AZSBC portion of the Cooperative Program budget will be reduced by 1.5 percentage points to 58 percent, while percentages for the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Arizona Baptist Children’s Services will remain unchanged at 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

The council meeting was the first for a new Hispanic ministries team, which joins the missions, church life and church planting teams.

“This team will give special attention to reaching Hispanics in our state, which is a major emphasis of the Centennial Vision,” Johnson wrote in his council report.

The council accepted the recommendation of the AZSBC nominating committee and elected four new council members to fill expired terms: Daniel Martin, pastor of Tempe Christian Church, Tempe; Sergio Garcia, pastor of Ministerio Cristiana Nueva Esperanza, Sahuarita; Tracy Newcomb, children’s minister at Foothills Baptist Church, Yuma; and Jeremy Hatfield, pastor of The Church at Tubac, Tubac.

In March, the Convention Council approved a process for non-SBC churches to affiliate with the AZSBC without first affiliating with an association. The process calls for a church to be in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 statement of faith, affirm the Centennial Vision, give to the Cooperative Program and have the recommendation of a sponsoring AZSBC church.

With an affirmative vote of the council at the September meeting, Calvary Community Church, Phoenix, became the first to affiliate with the AZSBC under the new process. Stone Ridge Church, Yuma, is the sponsoring church.

In other action, the Convention Council:

–accepted the 2014 audit, which will be presented to messengers in November; and

–adopted a revised strategic cooperative agreement with the North American Mission Board.