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Fla. Baptist resolution underscores ‘covenant commitment’ of marriage

PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP)–Messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention delivered a strong pro-family statement and elected a Tampa pastor as president during the convention’s Nov. 11-12 annual meeting in Pensacola.

A highlight of the two-day meeting was the address by Jack Graham, president of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention. Referencing the convention’s theme, “Embrace God’s Heart,” Graham urged Florida Baptists onward in evangelism and missions service. “What we need is to embrace the heart of God for the generation and for the nations.”

The Dallas-area pastor commended Florida Baptists for their commitment to spreading the gospel message. “I thank God for your commitment to the Word of God. You are an example to the entire Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “I am thankful and grateful for the unity in this convention and your focus on reaching people for Christ.”

The meeting drew 1,933 in attendance, including 1,273 messengers.

A resolution on the family was initiated by State Board of Missions President Tommy Green as a “proactive rather than reactive stance.” The statement will be used by Florida Baptists’ lobbyist/representative to influence pro-family legislation, Green said.

The statement reads, “The family results from marriage, which is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

It adds that “traditional Christian values of marriage and family are under constant attack from materialism, secular humanism, substance abuse and rebellion against authority,” all of which have “contributed to the decline and disruption of family relationships.”

The resolution also called Florida Baptists to support legislation, organizations and ministries that “uphold the biblical standards of God concerning moral, marriage and family values.”

The resolution is a “declaration based on the truth and absolute authority of the Bible,” Green said. “The family is not the invention of mankind, but a gracious gift from God.”

As believers seeking to “embrace God’s heart, we absolutely affirm the sanctity of human life, the sacred covenant of marriage and the singular teaching of Scripture that biblical marriage is joining one man to one woman.”

Messengers elected Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., to a one-year term as president of the convention, encompassing 1 million members in 2,500 churches. Green, pastor of the church located east of Tampa since 1996, has served as president of Florida Baptists’ State Board of Missions since 2000 and has served on various associational, state and national committees.

Green was nominated to be the 2002-03 president of the Florida Baptist State Convention by Tom Biles, director of missions for Tampa Bay Baptist Association. He is eligible for re-election for another one-year term next year. No one else was nominated for the post.

Green succeeds Dwayne Mercer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oviedo, as president of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

Elected as first vice president was Richard Ledgister, pastor of the Sierra Norwood Calvary Baptist Church in Miami, a congregation composed primarily of persons from the Caribbean Islands and South America. Ledgister, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, is the first Caribbean islander to be elected as an officer of the Florida Baptist State Convention. His election was uncontested.

Randy Knepper, a businessman from Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, was chosen as second vice president. He was nominated by his pastor Ted Traylor and ran uncontested for the post.

Ron Hobbs, minister of music at Ocala’s College Park Baptist Church, was re-elected as recording secretary.

Messengers approved a $35,236,888 Cooperative Program budget for 2003. The budget will continue to be divided between Florida Baptist Convention causes, at 51.75 percent; Southern Baptist Convention causes, 40 percent; church pastoral aid, 5 percent; and church annuity program, 3.25 percent.

Messengers also approved a constitutional amendment that allows the convention president to be eligible to serve a second one-year term as president.

The culmination of a 23-year state-to-state partnership with the State Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey was observed. David Waltz, Penn/South Jersey executive director-treasurer, expressed appreciation to Florida Baptists for their mission involvement. Noting that Florida Baptists sent automobiles, millions of dollars and thousands of mission volunteers to the state, Waltz said their efforts helped grow the infant state convention into adulthood. “Those investments have yielded rich dividends” as the Penn/South Jersey convention became one of the fastest-growing conventions in the Southern Baptist Convention, he said.

The 2003 Florida Baptist State Convention will meet Nov. 10-11 in Tampa.

    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.

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