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First African American president leads Fla. convention to applaud diversity

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The diversity of the Florida Baptist State Convention was recognized and celebrated during the 138th annual meeting Nov. 15-17 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
That diversity was acknowledged by the Orange County Commission, which proclaimed Tuesday as “Elroy Barber Day,” saluting his presidency as a sign of the “wider vision of cultural inclusivity” of the Florida convention. Barber became the first African American to be elected president of an old-line state convention last year and presided at this year’s meeting.
“Clearly this celebrates the demise of bigotry at the highest level. It is an incandescent step in the demise of social bigotry,” the proclamation read. “Other Baptist state conventions in Florida have responded with an unprecedented desire for cooperation as their trust level in the Florida Baptist Convention has escalated as a result of encountering a president of color.” At the end of the reading of the proclamation, messengers and visitors gave a standing ovation to Barber, pastor of the West Side Baptist Church in Hollywood.
That diversity was also reflected throughout the meeting with the theme, “We Will Be God’s People.” A Hispanic layman, Juan Sanchez, was elected as second vice president. African American and Hispanics choirs, soloists and praise teams provided music. Times of corporate prayers were offered in Korean, French Creole and Portuguese. Nearly one-third of all Florida Baptist churches are language or African American congregations.
Bible study was led by Emmanuel McCall, senior pastor of a leading African American congregation in the Atlanta area, Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in College Park. Convention speakers included Sam Simpson, an African American pastor from the Bronx in New York City, and Frank Moreno, the Florida convention’s Hispanic and international church-planting director.
Ken Alford, pastor of the Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, was elected president of the Florida convention, with 53.5 percent or 322 votes, during the Tuesday morning session over Wayne Goff, a layman from First Baptist Church, Port Charlotte, who garnered 46.5 percent or 279 votes. Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola and a former convention president, nominated Alford, while Frank Whitaker, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lake Wales, nominated Goff, who served as the convention’s 1999 first vice president.
Nominated for first vice president were Jerry Stone, pastor of the West Orange Baptist Church in Oakland and current second vice president, and Lee Sheppard, pastor of Celebration Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Sheppard, who served as president of this year’s pastors’ conference prior to the annual convention meeting, was elected with 347 votes for 55 percent of the vote.
Layman Juan Sanchez, a member of Sunridge Baptist Church in Sebring was elected second vice president. A native of Puerto Rico, Sanchez, an accountant, and his family came to know Christ through Florida Baptist church-planting efforts.
The 1,554 registered convention messengers approved a record Cooperative Program budget for year 2000 of $29,949,544, a 7.18 percent increase over the current year. The budget will continue to allocate 40 percent to Southern Baptist Convention causes; 51.75 percent to Florida Baptist Convention causes; 5 percent to church pastoral aid; and 3.25 percent to the Church Annuity Program.
In other action, the messengers approved a name change for Florida Baptist Family Ministries to its original name, “Florida Baptist Children’s Home” and for the title of the Florida Baptist Witness “managing editor” to “executive editor.”
Messengers also approved a recommendation that the convention’s state board of missions institute a conflict of interest policy. The board’s president, Tim Patterson, assured messengers the policy was not developed because of a past problem or anticipation of such a problem. “We want to be above reproach to reflect the integrity of the Christian life,” Patterson said.
Resolutions approved urged Florida Baptists to stand firm against the proliferation of gambling, referencing the decision to increase the state’s lottery drawings to twice a week; the increase of violence in society; and the persecution of Christians around the world. The gambling resolution also commended Alabama and South Carolina Baptists for their successful fight to halt state-operated gambling. Other resolutions encouraged all Florida Baptists to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program and to participate in Crossover Orlando prior to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando next June.
The Florida convention’s 2000 meeting will be Nov. 13-15 in Daytona Beach.

    About the Author

  • Barbara Denman
    Barbara Denman is communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Barbara Denman ›