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Fla. adopts task force report, 50/50 goal

BRANDON, Fla. (BP)–Messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention overwhelmingly approved the recommendations of the Imagine If Great Commission Resurgence Task Force which included a recommendation to move within to a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds with the Southern Baptist Convention within 4-7 years.

The task force report, of which CP distribution was one recommendation, was the most highly anticipated item of business during the Nov. 8-9 meeting at First Baptist Church in Brandon where messengers also elected a new president and approved recommendations to sell Florida Baptist Convention-owned properties.

Six recommendations were approved in one vote after messengers easily rejected a motion requesting separate debate and votes on each recommendation.

The 28-member Imagine If Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was created at the 2009 FBSC annual meeting, which authorized John Cross, FBSC president, to appoint the group to study how Florida Baptists could be more effective and efficient in fulfilling Jesus’ missions mandate.

The IIGCRTF report parallels the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report adopted in June by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando.

John Cross, outgoing FBSC president, challenged Florida Baptists to support the IIGCR report.

Cross, pastor of South Biscayne Church in North Port, repeatedly urged in his address to messengers to repeat after him the mantra, “transition for the mission,” citing God taking on humanity in His Son, Jesus Christ, as the ultimate example.

During the 25-minute debate, which followed a 50-minute presentation by seven members of the task force, only the recommendation to move to the 50/50 CP distribution was discussed by messengers. In the end, a small number of messengers voted against the report.

Rob Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Church in Boca Raton, said the church supports six short-term missionaries, gives 8 percent of its offerings through the Cooperative Program and 2 percent to its association — and that despite the economy “God continues to bless.”

Noting a number of Florida Baptist Convention initiatives led by convention personnel that his church has been involved in throughout the years, such as peer learning groups and individual training for small group Bible studies, Taylor said the church “has significantly benefitted from [this] cooperative effort of support.”

Taylor questioned whether a “thorough” assessment was made by the task force of the impact of changes in Cooperative Program giving distribution to the “ministry effectiveness of the Florida Baptist Convention.”

“If so, where is that reflected in this report? And if not, wouldn’t it be prudent to do so before the convention is asked to adopt this plan?” Taylor asked. “Stated simply, with all things being equal, if all churches do not or cannot increase their CP giving, what will a 10 percent reduction, totaling millions of dollars, do to convention staff and their ability to minister throughout the state and at the convention office?”

Task Force member Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, replied.

“The truth is that we don’t know exactly how this is going to work itself out,” Scroggins said. “But the recommendation on 50/50 is about setting priorities, about the amount of money that stays in the state versus what goes outside the state. So we are leaving it up to the State Board of Missions and the state office to figure out what it means.”

Messengers elected David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, as the 2011 Florida Baptist State Convention president. Running unopposed, he was nominated by Troy Gramling, pastor of Potential Church (formerly Flamingo Road) in Cooper City.

Saying Uth has a “heart for God,” Gramling credited the 53-year-old pastor with “the ability to draw people together.”

Joel Breidenbaugh, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sweetwater in Longwood, was elected without opposition as first vice president as was Jack Roland, chairman of the deacons at First Baptist Church in Ocala and a member of the Florida Baptist State Board of Missions, as second vice president.

In miscellaneous business, messengers approved a resolution proposed by Rodney Baker, pastor of Hopeful Baptist Church in Lake City, which expressed dissatisfaction with LifeWay Christian Stores for its continued distribution of the movie “The Blind Side,” which he said has “explicit profanity” and takes God’s name in vain.

Messengers also authorized a 2011 Cooperative Program budget of $31,700,000, the lowest recommended budget since 2001. The budget will send 40 percent to Southern Baptist causes and divide 60 percent among Florida Baptist causes.

In a belt-tightening measure, messengers also approved the State Board of Missions-initiated proposed sale of Blue Springs Conference Center in Marianna and the Florida Baptist Convention Baptist Building in Jacksonville. The Blue Springs facility center, one of two owned by Florida Baptists, has operated in a deficit for the past decade. The 50-year-old Baptist Building is in need of extensive repairs and is too large for the convention staff, many of whom have been disbursed throughout the state.

The 15-year anniversary of the partnership of the Florida Baptist Convention and Confraternite Missioniare Baptiste d’Haiti was celebrated as messengers voiced excitement for Florida Baptists’ relief and recovery efforts in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Prior to the meeting, churches in the Tampa Bay Baptist Association sponsored “Crossover Tampa Bay” which included block parties, a baseball clinic with MLB players affiliated with the New York Yankees, student evangelism and strength teams in 20 locations. A total of 6,984 people attended the events where the Gospel was presented 101 times in one-on-one situations, resulting in 689 professions of faith and 275 prospects. The baseball clinic itself garnered 105 professions of faith.

The 2011 Florida Baptist State Convention will be Nov. 14-15 in greater Fort Lauderdale at the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs.
Compiled by Barbara Denman, director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention, with reporting by James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, and Joni B. Hannigan, managing editor of the Witness.

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