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SBC DIGEST: Update on fraud case against Florida convention; Brewton-Parker receives $1.5M grant

Florida Baptist board hears update on financial fraud incident

By Margaret Colson/Florida Baptists

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a report on this week’s meeting of the Florida Baptist Convention’s State Board of Missions. The full report can be found here.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) – During its Aug. 24-25 meeting at the Baptist Building, the State Board of Missions heard a report from the subcommittee tasked with providing oversight and recommended next steps regarding the investigation into the financial fraud discovered by the Florida Baptist Convention in May of this year. Members of the subcommittee were Aaron Burgner, Darren Gaddis, Paul Purvis, Brian Stowe and Angel Turbeville.

The subcommittee worked with federal and state investigators, internal and external auditors and cyber forensics experts in their investigation into the more than $700,000 in funds stolen from the convention through cybertargeting.

The investigation revealed no criminal activity on the part of any Florida Baptist Convention staff person but instead concluded that the crime was the result of sophisticated cybertargeting by, at this point, unknown perpetrators. The subcommittee’s work culminated in the recommendation for strengthened financial protocols and ongoing training for convention staff.

Among the efforts to prevent such a crime from occurring in the future, the convention is exercising heightened awareness when carrying out financial duties, implementing appropriate data security controls, and completing the process to become accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The convention is still making efforts to recover the stolen funds.

Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Tommy Green acknowledged that, in his more than four decades of ministry, this is the first time he has dealt with a crime of this nature. “Everything we do is built on trust,” he said. “I’m sorry. We will move forward. We are better, and we’ll continue to get better.”

He has already seen, he said, that “churches are learning from the convention’s fraudulent experience.”

The convention recommends these best practices to help churches protect their financial assets:

  • Provide staff training on recognizing suspicious emails and other sophisticated cyberattacks.
  • Enable multifactor authentication logins when available.
  • Verbally verify any changes to payment instructions requested by a vendor related to accounts payable or an employee related to payroll.
  • Discuss with the church’s insurance agent the programs and levels of coverage available to help the church in the event of a cyberfraud experience.
  • Engage a cybersecurity professional to provide analysis of information technology infrastructure and security.

Brewton-Parker receives $1.5M U.S. grant for nursing instructional facility

By Brewton-Parker College Staff

MOUNT VERNON, Ga. (BP) – Brewton-Parker College has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to construct an 8,000-square-foot state-of-the-art nursing instructional facility on its campus. The facility will provide an opportunity for students to study in a simulated environment, adequately preparing them for the great demand for registered nurses in the area and across the state of Georgia.

The Economic Development Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, promotes competitiveness, job creation, and economic growth through regional collaboration. Their grant efforts support regional economic development strategies aimed at boosting innovation, entrepreneurship, and regional competitiveness, creating high-skill, living-wage jobs, attracting private investment, and strengthening industry clusters.

“Brewton-Parker College desires to meet the needs of our immediate community and surrounding area in helping to alleviate the acute shortage of nurses,” said college president Steven Echols. “This grant will make possible the construction of a much-needed facility for the training of nurses for years to come. We are deeply appreciative of the work of those at the EDA and the steadfast support of the Georgia U.S. Senators who together have made this grant a reality.”

The Economic Development Administration’s investment in the college’s nursing program contributes to improving healthcare outcomes and workforce development. As Brewton-Parker looks ahead to the second year, it remains steadfast in its commitment to equipping graduates with the skills needed to provide safe and compassionate patient-centered care that meets the healthcare needs of diverse populations while honoring Jesus Christ through their service.

Read the full story here.

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