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WRAP-UP: Fla. Baptists adopt alcohol abst. policy

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Messengers at the 146th Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting overwhelmingly approved a bylaw revision requiring all trustee nominees to “agree to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs.”

With the theme, “We Are Better Together,” the meeting was attended by 1,258 messengers and 736 visitors Nov. 12-13 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The bylaw revision on alcohol abstention — proposed by the Florida State Board of Missions and which passed with few dissenting votes — amended an existing bylaw stipulating that nominees must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, be a member in a Cooperative Program-giving church for at least one year, demonstrate good stewardship and support the Baptist Faith and Message. Persons nominated for leadership roles are required to sign a document stating their support of the statement.

The abstinence provision resulted from a pledge announced by John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, at the convention’s 2006 annual meeting in Fort Myers. Reacting to a prolonged debate at the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., over the use of beverage alcohol, Sullivan said he was “embarrassed” by the protracted discussion and wanted to clarify Florida Baptists’ position on the issue.

Messengers approved a 2008 budget which anticipates $41,023,077 in Cooperative Program giving from the convention’s churches, down .03 percent from the current budget. The budget will continue to allocate 60 percent of CP gifts for Florida Baptist ministries and 40 percent to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.

Joel Breidenbaugh, pastor of CornerStone Baptist Church in Panama City Beach, urged Florida Baptists to adopt what he described as the 50/50 split between the national and state allocations as intended when the Cooperative Program was created. But the 60/40 budget plan was approved with only his dissenting vote.

Breidenbaugh, also a State Board of Missions member, later offered a motion asking the board to study Cooperative Program giving and move toward increasing national funding over the next five years.

Speaking to his motion, Breidenbaugh explained that while “we are a great mission state and we need to be doing more here, there are also some 5 billion lost people in the rest of the world.”

“I would simply ask if we can’t move toward increasing percentages to reach the world in addition to our state with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said, noting the “historical precedent set by the intent of the Cooperative Program” for missions. Doing so, he added, would set a great example for other state conventions.

Messengers referred the motion to the board for consideration.

Messengers elected by acclamation Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, for a second one-year term as president; Elbert Nasworthy, pastor of Myrtle Lake Baptist Church in Land O’ Lakes, as first vice president; Jim Brown, a member of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, as second vice president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Okeechobee, as recording secretary.

Jerry Nash, a messenger from Cornerstone Baptist Church in High Springs, objected to a recommendation by the state board of missions to accept three churches to affiliate with the convention through an at-large status. Nash, voicing concern about one of the three churches, said the motion is “contrary to the spirit of cooperation and doctrinal integrity.”

Wayne Briant, state board of missions president, told Nash and messengers he appreciated the concern but noted that each church had been through “an extensive credentialing processing.” Briant urged messengers to support the board’s recommendation. The recommendation was passed with about 25 percent of the messengers raising their hands to vote against the recommendation to receive the churches at large.

The only other motion introduced during the meeting, presented by Caroline McKeithen of Antioch Baptist Church in Live Oak, asked the convention to develop resources, materials and training to equip local churches to minister to widows of all ages. The resolution was referred to the convention’s staff for study.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 in Lakeland.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness newspaper.

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