State Board celebrates movement of God throughout Florida

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Brian Stowe, State Board of MissionsCelebrating the movement of God throughout Florida, Brian Stowe, president of the State Board of Missions, stated, “What the Lord loves, we should love. How the Lord acts, we should act. What the Lord does, we should do.”

Focusing on Luke 15 as he spoke to Board members April 8 in Jacksonville, Stowe emphasized three scriptural truths: “One is an important number. Diligence is an important characteristic. Longing is an important practice.”

“It is amazing how God is working all across this state,” he concluded.

During the State Board of Missions meeting, celebration was the overriding theme, with Tommy Green, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer, stating, “We are celebrating what God is allowing us to be a part of.”

Paul Purvis, Florida Baptist State Convention president, agreed, saying, “It’s a really great thing to be a Florida Baptist. We have so much taking place among Florida Baptists.”

Financial snapshot

Florida Baptists’ financial report revealed that the convention received a total of $30,775,364 toward the 2021 Florida Baptist Convention Program Budget, exceeding the budget goal by $2,275,364, including a gift of $1,345,691 from the estate of dedicated Baptists, Richard and Marilyn Placzek, who at the time of their deaths were members of Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.

Of the overage, 51% was forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, for a total of $15,695,436 in 2021 gifts.

Board members approved a distribution of $975,000 from the net cash surplus as follows: $100,000 to the capital improvement fund; $250,000 to COVID emergency loan forgiveness; $75,000 to the Challenge 2025 gathering in 2023; $60,000 to Hispanic, Haitian and Black multicultural events; $300,000 to disaster relief church assistance fund; $40,000 to disaster relief equipment and $150,000 to associational ministry investment, with the remaining net cash surplus being maintained in the convention’s operating reserve accounts.

“The more God gives, the more we want to do,” Green said.

Additionally, Board members learned that the year-to-date total for Florida Baptist Cooperative Program budget receipts is $151,194 above projections.

The Board approved a distribution of $245,500 from the CP Endowment Fund, established in 2000 to create an income stream to supplement CP giving, to the convention’s 2022 CP budget.

Green said, “We are at the healthiest place financially right now in the history of the Florida Baptist Convention than we’ve ever been.”

Rick Wheeler, president and CEO, Florida Baptist Financial Services, reported on the sale of the Florida Baptist Retirement Center in Vero Beach, which had been authorized by the Board in 2021, and the launch of the Florida Baptist Retired Shepherd’s Fund to help retired pastors, spouses and widows. In 2022, the fund will provide a 13th check to MissionDignity recipients.

State Board of Missions, Rick Wheeler, Tommy GreenWheeler also announced inaugural distributions from the Florida One Fund, providing a combined total of $438,160 in 2022 toward church planting, disaster relief, theological education, and foster and adoption ministry, with the FBSC matching theological education scholarship funds.

Wheeler stated that he wants the organization he leads to “be a pacesetter in generosity and stewardship.”

Green affirmed the growing partnership between the FBSC and FBFS, stating, “This is a demonstration of a new day in Florida Baptist life.”

After reporting that $637,113 was received for the 2021 Maguire State Mission Offering, the Board recommended a 2022 MSMO goal of $820,000, earmarked exclusively for the Florida Send Network. Florida Baptists are moving toward a Challenge 2025 goal of $1 million in 2025.

Denominational matters

In response to a motion adopted by messengers at the 2021 FBSC annual meeting for the State Board of Missions to study options for the annual meeting to occur “online” if it could not occur in-person, the Board approved a recommendation for the FBSC to codify the process used in 2020 when the annual meeting could not be held in person because of pandemic restrictions. The denominational committee of the board evaluated three distinct options to satisfy the need for continuity of operations of the convention in the event the annual meeting could not be held. These options included a written correspondence format, an online format and memorialization of the plan enacted in 2020. In the future if anything were to prevent the annual meeting from occurring in-person, the process would be in place for the convention to continue to operate with the State Board of Missions serving as the convention ad interim.

The recommendation requires an amendment to the FBSC Constitution Articles 11, 13 and 14, which will be voted on during two consecutive FBSC Annual Meetings. Additionally, the recommendation requires an amendment to FBSC Bylaw 11, “Time, Place and Preacher,” and the adoption of a new FBSC Bylaw 12, “Continuing Operation When Annual Meeting Is Postponed or Cancelled.” Messengers gathering in November for the FBSC Annual Meeting at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola will receive this recommendation for their consideration.

Board members granted provisional church-at-large status to New Visions Community Church of Lauderhill and Living Hope Church of Sarasota, with final approval to be given at the November 2022 FSBC Annual Meeting in Pensacola.

Other business

Paul Purvis, State Board of MissionsPurvis reported that the eight-person special committee tasked with examining policies and procedures governing sexual abuse allegation reporting, survivor care and prevention within the convention has contracted with a firm to conduct the policy review.

The creation of the committee was overwhelmingly authorized by FBSC messengers during the Nov. 10, 2021, annual meeting in Lakeland at the request of the State Board of Missions. A final report on this review will be presented by the special committee to messengers at the annual meeting in November 2022.

The Board approved a recommendation to revise convention employee personnel policies, allowing qualified Board-elected retirees access to participate in a Medicare supplemental healthcare insurance policy, with the convention providing financial contributions toward the cost of the premium.

The Board also approved a recommendation for the FBSC to withdraw fellowship from Freedom Church in Vero Beach after receiving confirmed information regarding the church’s recently called pastor, which disqualified him from serving. A report will be brought at the November 2022 FBSC Annual Meeting.

The Board learned that 145 churches from six regions received church planting and revitalization funding during the first two months of 2022, with a total of $2 million earmarked for this emphasis in 2022. A total of $18,605 was provided in financial assistance for 54 pastors January-February 2022.

New CP videos and promotion materials in English, French Creole and Spanish were highlighted during the meeting and are available for Florida Baptist churches to use.

Tommy GreenIn his closing challenge to Board members, Green stated, “Irreducible minimization yields optimum maximization.”

He said, “We are a blessed people. Our focus must align with the Great Commission and Great Commandment.

“I don’t know why God has given us so much, but I want to make sure that no one can look at this generation and say that we wasted it.”

The State Board of Missions will next meet Aug. 25-26 at the Baptist Building in Jacksonville.

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