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Florida messengers add new BFM to tenets in convention’s bylaws

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention updated their bylaws on Baptist cooperation by including the new Baptist Faith and Message as one of the tenets of faith for the Florida Baptist State Convention.

The action was taken during the convention’s Nov. 13-14 annual meeting in Daytona Beach.

The existing bylaws had referenced the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and provided churches with the flexibility to retain previously adopted statements of faith that “parallel the tenets of our historical Baptist faith, as theological framework.”

Convention messengers updated the bylaws to reference the Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June and otherwise retained all other wording of the existing bylaws, including that which allowed church flexibility.

Discussion focused on a parallel recommendation related to the criterion for a person’s service as a trustee on boards of the Florida Baptist State Convention. This recommendation concerning trustee service was the only recommendation that would have named the Baptist Faith and Message as the sole tenet of faith for the Florida Baptist State Convention.

Gregory Champagne, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brooksville, spoke against naming the Baptist Faith and Message in the bylaws, saying that it “bypasses a step” of messengers considering the new BFM as their confessional statement “on it own merits” before considering whether to include it in their bylaws.

Ray Johnson, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Miami, said it was important for churches to maintain flexibility to adopt other versions of the Baptist Faith and Message and still have full participation in the state convention. Riverside Baptist gives 20 percent of its budget to the Cooperative Program amounting to $150,000 a year and affirms the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, Johnson said. “How am I a different Southern Baptist?” from those who affirm the 2000 version, he asked.

Executive Director-Treasurer John Sullivan, speaking to the recommendation, said, “Do I agree with every word in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message? No. But I do agree with most of it. My opinion is that most Florida Baptists agree with most of what the 2000 statement says. It is not an infallible document, nor could it be.

“It defines the theological framework for a body of Baptist believers. It is not a litmus test. It is not creedal. It is a framework. Every Baptist individual must define themselves theologically.”

Charles Wimberly, a messenger from First Baptist Church, Fort Walton Beach, contended the Baptist Faith and Message was too exclusive of different viewpoints, including the exclusion of women pastors. Describing himself as a longtime Southern Baptist, Wimberly said this exclusion was a sore point for him because his daughter is a pastor.

When speaking to the recommendation, Sullivan said, “If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of narrowing the scope of biblical theology, not broadening it. I have no desire to have a theological position broad enough to condone what the Bible does not affirm as truth.”

Craig Sherouse, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Lakeland, amended the recommendation pertaining to trustees to include language used in the previous recommendations which would allow persons nominated to serve in elected positions to subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message or “any other declaration of faith which parallels the tenets of our historic Baptist faith, as the theological framework.”

The amendment passed with no discussion by nearly a 3-2 majority. The recommendation, with the amendment, was approved overwhelmingly without discussion.

The 1,482 registered messengers approved resolutions in support of the stand of the Boy Scouts of America against allowing homosexuals to serve within their organization and in appreciation to Don Hepburn and the public relations staff for planning the state convention meeting.

State convention messengers approved recommendations that dissolved two standing committees — the Committee on Resolutions and the Committee on Time, Place and Preacher — choosing for the Committee on Order of Business to handle such duties.

A 2001 Cooperative Program budget of $32,407,103 also was approved, an increase of 8.21 over the current budget, with 40 percent to continue to be forwarded to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.

Messengers also approved a missions partnership with the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists for 2002-2004 and commended First Baptist Church of Orlando and pastor Jim Henry for being the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program Church of the Decade, 1990-1999. First Baptist Church of Orlando has given $9.5 million to the Cooperative Program in the past decade, about $1 million a year, more than any other Southern Baptist church in history.

Two pastors and a Hispanic layperson were elected to lead the convention for the coming year. Elected as president was Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland. Under Dennis’ leadership since 1996, the church has grown to a congregation of nearly 4,500 members with an average weekly worship attendance of 2,200. In 1998, the church purchased the 400,000 square foot Lakeland Mall, located on 32 acres, where they now worship and are in the process of renovating.

Randy Crowe, pastor of First Baptist Church, New Smyrna Beach, was elected as first vice president. Hispanic layperson Edward Zarate, a member of Betania Baptist Church, Homestead, was elected as second vice president. Zarate, a former Mexican migrant, is now an insurance agent. Fellow Hispanic Juan Sanchez of Sebring, the outgoing second vice president, nominated him for the office. Ron Hobbs, minister of music for College Road Baptist Church, Ocala, was re-elected as recording secretary.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 12-13 in Lakeland.

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  • Barbara Denman & Staff