NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention is reporting an increase in church giving to national and international mission programs in the last fiscal year.

Giving to the Cooperative Program rose by more than $5 million between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007, to $205.7 million, Baptist Press reported Monday.

Donations to the program have become a central issue in the 16.3 million-member Protestant group. Many smaller Southern Baptist churches see the Cooperative Program as a crucial collective effort for the denomination and the best way for them to carry out missionary and evangelistic work. Pressure has been building on larger Southern Baptist congregations — and all churches — to give more.

The money comes from individual donors, churches, state conventions and fellowships.