State Board celebrates/looks to future

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JACKSONVILLE–An atmosphere of celebration and looking to the future permeated the Spring 2023 meeting of the Florida Baptist State Board of Missions in Jacksonville.

Aaron Burgner, State Board of Missions president, encouraged Florida Baptists to “keep working” as he focused on Luke 19:11-13. “Jesus is King,” Burgner proclaimed. The King, he said, has given us all the same resources while “He is away,” just as the king in the parable provided resources to his servants. Believers today have the resources of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Florida Baptists “have good reason to engage,” he continued, because we have been changed, have been commanded and have a fertile field. Burgner, senior pastor of Lakes Church in Lakeland, concluded that the hope of Florida Baptists and all believers is that the King is returning.

During the State Board of Missions meeting, Tommy Green, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer, proclaimed that the work of Florida Baptists is “unfinished,” as he focused on 2 Timothy 4:24. Calling on Florida Baptists to “rejoice in what God is doing everywhere,” he also focused on how to strengthen the work of the church in the present and future. There is a critical need for partnership, he said, explaining, “Isolation is never healthy for your church or your personal ministry.” Further, there is a critical nature of purpose. “Sometimes we need to show up and show up big,” he said, giving all for the glory of God. Finally, there is a critical necessity of priority, stating, “We must come together because the work is unfinished.”

Paul Purvis, Florida Baptist State Convention president, called on State Board members to focus on the kingdom of God: “We must do everything we can to help others experience the kingdom of God … to help others experience the joy of kingdom living … to expand the kingdom.” Purvis, senior pastor of Mission Hill Church in Tampa, announced the theme of the Nov. 12-14, 2023, Florida Baptist State Convention Annual Meeting at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz will be “It’s Still the Kingdom.”

Financial snapshot

Florida Baptists’ financial report revealed that the Convention received a total of $29,180,689 toward the 2022 Florida Baptist Convention Cooperative Program budget. Of the total receipts, 51% was forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee for distribution denomination-wide, and 49% was retained in Florida.

Board members learned that the year-to-date total for Florida Baptist CP budget receipts is $169,816 above projections. Additionally, during the first two months of 2023, Florida Baptists have given $4,363,974 in designated gifts.

The Board approved a distribution of 4% from the CP Endowment Fund, established in 2000 to create an income stream to supplement CP giving, to the convention’s 2023 CP budget.

After reporting that $939,238 was received for the 2022 Maguire State Mission Offering, the Board recommended a 2023 goal of $880,000, earmarked exclusively for the Florida Send Network for church planting. Florida Baptists are moving toward a Challenge 2025 goal of $1 million for the Maguire State Mission Offering in 2025.

The Board learned that a total of $27,817 was provided in financial assistance for 59 pastors January-February 2023.

Denominational matters

During the meeting, Florida Baptists’ State Board of Missions, acting ad interim on behalf of the Florida Baptist State Convention, unanimously approved a resolution March 31 expressing deep concern with the utilization of Guidepost Solutions or its subsidiary Faith Based Solutions in Southern Baptists’ sexual abuse response initiative.

The Board also approved a recommendation for the Florida Baptist State Convention to establish an affiliate relationship with the Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention “for the primary purpose of training/resourcing Florida Baptist churches in the areas of child protection, abuse prevention and response.”

The affiliate relationship with ECAP is a “very positive and proactive step to help churches excel in abuse prevention,” said Green.

Personnel changes

Patrick Coats
Patrick Coats, East region catalyst

The State Board of Missions approved numerous personnel changes, including new catalysts for the North and East regions of Florida. Following the March 31 retirement of Craig Culbreth as East region catalyst, the Board approved naming Patrick Coats to fill the position. Coats has served as Black multicultural church catalyst for Florida Baptists since 2017 in addition to serving in numerous other ministerial roles in Florida for close to 20 years. In anticipation of the retirement of North region catalyst Gary Townsend on June 30, 2023, the Board approved Florida Baptist pastor Phillip Herrington to assume the role. Herrington has served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Live Oak since 2005 and served the church as associate pastor of students and children 2000-2005.

Additionally, the Board approved the transition of the Board-elected positions of Black multicultural catalyst to a consultant/contract position, with Erik Cummings named to the role. Cummings will continue to serve as pastor of New Life Church in Carol City. The Board also welcomed Pablito Lucas to serve as Florida Baptists’ Asian-American multicultural consultant. Lucas will continue to serve as pastor of Philippine International Christian Fellowship in Lakeland. The Board also approved renaming the Hispanic and Haitian church catalyst positions to Hispanic and Haitian multicultural catalysts.

Other business

Phillip Herrington
Phillip Herrington, upcoming North region catalyst

Board members learned that the Florida Baptist Convention signed on to an amicus brief with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops in support of Florida’s current 15-week abortion ban which is being challenged in the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Legislature is currently considering a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks gestation.

The Board approved the recommendation to change the official name of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes to One More Child. The name change requires affirmative votes by messengers at two consecutive Florida Baptist annual meetings.

The State Board of Missions will next meet Aug. 24-25 at the Baptist Building in Jacksonville.

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