The Woman's Missionary Union has always been the backbone of missions both globally and domestically in Southern Baptist life. It is a little known fact that the WMU legally owns the name and the right to use both the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, but WMU never sees a dollar of the money collected through Southern Baptists who give to our Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong Offerings. The monies collected through these offerings are always sent directly to either the International Mission Board or the North American Mission Board. These two organizations thrive because the Woman's Missionary Union leads the way in the promotion of their respective missions offerings. Historically, the WMU has never backed away from their passion to see Southern Baptists involved in missions both through the prayer and financial support, and through mission mobilization.
The Woman's Missionary Union has always been there for Southern Baptists. During the Great Depression, Southern Baptists nearly lost the Home Mission Board to bankruptcy. It was the WMU who stepped into the gap and bailed Southern Baptists out of the embarrassment of losing the Home Mission Board. The WMU has been at the heart of our Southern Baptist missionary efforts. Until last year, the International Mission Board provided the WMU with a sizable monetary gift as a means of showing them gratitude for their support. That gift was eliminated last year, and this is the first year that WMU has had to make up the difference. Though the WMU said nothing publicly when the IMB announced that they would no longer be giving monetary support to WMU, there was a sense that the next year would be tough.
Day before yesterday, the employees of the Woman's Missionary Union were called to a meeting to announce difficult but preemptive measures that were being taken due to the economic down turn. The WMU is short two million dollars in revenue. The executive director of the WMU, Wanda Lee, is working very hard to keep all of the WMU's employees in place, not wanting to lay anyone off. To accomplish this, the employees of the WMU are having to take what amounts to a four week furlough, spread out over an eight month period, without pay. Obviously, these furloughs hit Southern Baptists employed by the WMU pretty hard. But my concern is not so much for individual employees as what it says about the SBC if we do not do something to help the agency that promotes our mission efforts.
During the difficult times of controversy in the SBC, the WMU has at times been caught in the middle, yet it has struggled to quietly maintain their place of influence in missions. Not one time has the WMU ever wavered from their original purpose and intent--to remain faithful to God and to Southern Baptists in keeping missions on the front burner.
I imagine the WMU will not publicly wave a flag, asking for Southern Baptists to step into the gap for them. However, in my opinion, this is a true test for those of us identified as Southern Baptists. Will we now turn our backs on WMU when they are at a low point, financially? The WMU's intention is to forge ahead so that Southern Baptists will continue to keep their focus upon the lost people of the world. Is it not time for Southern Baptists to stand in the gap for an old friend, who has proven itself over and over to be faithful to cooperative missions?
I call upon the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, as well as all of our Southern Baptist agencies to place the WMU within their annual budgets in appreciation for the support these agencies receive through the Woman's Missionary Union. I also call upon our 45,000 Southern Baptist churches to consider placing financial support for the WMU within our local church budgets.
It's best to never to bite the hand that feeds us.
In His Grace,