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Fla. Baptists send 51% of 2016 CP budget to SBC

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (BP) — Messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention approved a 2016 Cooperative Program budget of $29 million that will send 51 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention and retain 49 percent for missions and ministries in the state. 
“This epic, pacesetting decision will set a precedent in the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Michael Tatem, president of the State Board of Missions, after the vote drew no opposition. “We are doing what the Southern Baptist Convention was called to do in 1845 — to take the Gospel to the nations.”  
There were no dissenting votes from the 934 registered messengers attending the 154th annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention held Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church in Panama City. With the theme “Moving Forward,” Florida Baptists also welcomed J. Thomas Green as the 10th executive director-treasurer. 
The CP budget vote represents a shift in funding from the 2015 Cooperative Program budget that retained 59 percent in the state and sent 41 percent to the SBC.
In 2010 Florida Baptist messengers recommended the state divide its CP budget 50/50 between national and state missions. A seven-year plan was approved to move to the goal, but in five years, little movement was made toward achieving it.  
At the time of his election, Green said he intended to overhaul the convention’s Cooperative Program budget to send 51 percent to the SBC, leading the one million Florida Baptists to give away more than they keep. 
“Thank you, Dr. Green, for having the vision for doing what the state convention had wanted to do for a long time,” Tatem said. “For helping us achieve our goal and do the Great Commission.”
During the discussion before the vote, messenger Joel Breidenbaugh of Sweetwater First Baptist Church in Longwood voiced a similar comment, “Tommy Green, you’re an answer to prayer.” Breidenbaugh had urged the convention to go to a 50/50 split of CP funds as early as 2007 both as a State Board of Missions member and from the floor of the Florida Baptist State Convention. 
The only other comment before the vote was a question from Jeff May, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fort McCoy, who asked for clarification of a line item expenditure in the Florida budget. 
Even with the decrease in the Florida portion of the 2016 budget, Tatem assured messengers that the Florida Baptist cooperating ministries — The Baptist College of Florida, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, Florida Baptist Witness and Florida Baptist Financial Services — would receive the same or more money than 2015.  Also, Florida Baptists’ program budgets would receive a $750,000 increase in funding from the 2015 budget. 
During the opening sermon on Monday night, Green called the 51/49 division of funds only the beginning.
“In my heart, I am committed to continue to widen the gap as Cooperative Program monies increase. I am praying for the day when Florida Baptists will send 60 percent of Cooperative Program resources forward and effectively do our statewide ministry with 40 percent.”
Green stipulated that the convention will no longer “guilt” Florida’s 3,000 churches into giving more — noting that state conventions are the “gatekeepers” and “key to change.”
“This shift in the 2016 budget will mean over $2.9 million more released from our state to the Cooperative Program. Under our present funding formula our churches would have to increase Cooperative Program gifts by over $7 million to increase our gifts by $2.9 million.”
The 2016 adopted budget will earmark an additional $1,496,964 to the International Mission Board; $679,598 to the North American Mission Board; $660,809 to the six SBC seminaries; $49,205 to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and $95,424 to the SBC Executive Committee. 
“Can you imagine what this amount would be if multiplied over the state conventions of the Southern Baptist Convention?” Green asked.
James Peoples, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights, was elected without opposition to a second-year term as president of the Florida Baptist State Convention. He was nominated by Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, who called Peoples “one of the most cooperative, unifying leaders I have ever met.”
Traylor said Peoples is the ideal person to serve Florida Baptists in the transition period, “to take the administration of Dr. John Sullivan in one hand and the administration of Dr. Tommy Green in the other hand.” Sullivan retired as executive director-treasurer in February.
Calvin Carr, pastor of North Central Baptist Church in Gainesville, was elected without opposition to a second-year term as vice president; Boyd Bunting, a layperson from First Baptist Church in Panama City, was elected as second vice president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dade City, was elected recording secretary.     
In other business, messengers approved 21 revisions to governing documents of the convention, State Board of Missions, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, Florida Baptist Financial Services and The Baptist College of Florida. Most notably, these affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the theological foundation of each ministry; changed the nomenclature of the convention’s “agencies and institutions” to “cooperating ministries;” and dissolved the Church Site Plan and Church Site Committee, whose tasks were reassigned to the board’s Loans Committee, effective Jan. 1. 
The 2016 annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention will be held Nov. 14-15 at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater.

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  • Barbara Denman/Florida Baptist Convention