FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–Florida Baptists elected the first African American as convention president in a southern state during their Nov. 16-18 meeting at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward County Convention Center.
The Florida convention also hosted an International Mission Board appointment service in which the largest-ever number of missionaries — 90 — were sent forth. It also was the first such service in conjunction with a state convention meeting.
Elroy Barber, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Hollywood, was unanimously elected president of the convention and given a standing ovation by messengers.
Barber was nominated by Dan Southerland, pastor of Flamingo Road Baptist Church, Fort Lauderdale, who cited the 53-year-old pastor’s leadership of a 250-member church that has sponsored 18 mission churches. Last year he served as the convention’s first vice president, and his participation in Florida Baptist life has included serving as moderator of the Gulf Stream Baptist Association, president of the state’s African American fellowship and a member of the state board of missions.
Others elected were layman Wayne Goff, First Baptist Church, Port Charlotte, first vice president; Jerry Stone, pastor of the West Orange Baptist Church, Oakland, second vice president; and Ron Hobbs, minister of music at College Park Baptist Church in Ocala, recording secretary.
The most moving memory of the meeting came as the 90 IMB missionary appointees walked down the aisle of the convention center and gave one-minute inspirational testimonies about their call to international missions. IMB President Jerry Rankin, whose only daughter and son-in-law were among those appointed, delivered the charge to the new missionaries.
The convention approved a plan to pray for 777 days leading into the Third Millenium which officially begins Jan. 1, 2001. Intercessory prayer focus during the meeting highlighted Florida-born international missionaries.
John and Nancy Sullivan were honored for his 10 years of service as executive director-treasurer of the Florida convention. A reception in their honor following the Monday night session drew hundreds of people to greet the couple.
A number of business matters were transacted with no discussion, including a nearly $27.9 million Cooperative Program budget, which will continue to send 40 percent to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes and retain 60 percent for Florida Baptist missions and ministries.
Messengers also approved the merger of the Jacksonville Baptist Children’s Home with Florida Baptist Family Ministries, a state convention agency. The only resolution presented was one of appreciation to the host city.
Although not discussed at the meeting, the convention’s state board of missions, in a May 22 meeting, continued its work toward developing procedures for a “church-at-large” affiliation with the convention. The board approved two documents designed to determine the doctrinal stance of congregations requesting at-large designation — a “Commitment of Cooperation” form and a “Doctrinal Review.” At-large designations involve churches that choose not to affiliation with a local association, with final approval by messengers at a convention annual meeting required, according to convention officials.
Registered attendance for the November annual meeting stood at 1,225 messengers and 571 visitors for a total of 1,796. However, convention officials believe many visitors did not register. During the commissioning service, more than 1,800 people were counted. Although the attendance was lower than when the convention is held in other areas of the state, a great ethnic diversity was represented.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 15-17 in Orlando.
Art Toalston contributed to this article.