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Newspaper names Jim Henry ‘Floridian of the Year’

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Florida pastor Jim Henry was named “Floridian of the Year” by the editorial board of The Orlando Sentinel. Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, was featured in a Jan. 5 article in the Florida newspaper’s “Insight” section.

Henry was described in the article as a “man of reason in trying times” and a “consummate conciliator.”

Manning Pynn, the Sentinel’s editorial page editor, said the award is given annually to an individual “who has contributed the most” to the state. Previous years’ recipients include U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno; business exec and prison reformer Jack Eckerd; and Mary Wiley, who founded Florida’s first chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Pynn said reasons for Henry’s selection included his national prominence as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1994-96; his leadership in efforts to reach out to the African American community; his recent selection by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher to a State Department panel on religious persecution; and his role in the SBC’s addressing of differences with the Walt Disney Company. In the latter situation, Pynn said, Henry didn’t take sides, but “acted as a peacemaker.”

“I was stunned and overwhelmed that I would be chosen when there are so many others more deserving,” Henry told the Florida Baptist Witness.

“It is an honor that belongs to Jesus Christ alone. His is the glory,” he said. “I pray that I will be faithful to honor him in any opportunities that may come my way through this.”

He added, “I believe it to be an affirmation of the positive impact that the faith of God’s people can have in the life of their communities that benefits all citizens.”

Henry told the Sentinel he believes God “comes to us redemptively and reconciling. He doesn’t come angrily. He comes to help us, to show us love. … If you can do that without compromising principle, that’s the best way. I found through the years in dealing with people, in the church and outside the church, I’ve tried to do that.”

Henry, 59, moved to Orlando in 1977. He helped First Baptist grow to a congregation of 10,000 members and in 1985 led the church in a move to a new $43 million, 120-acre campus.

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  • Shari Schubert