State Board expresses overwhelming support of Convention’s new direction 51-49 split of CP budget called ‘epic’

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By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention
September 21, 2015

Tommy Green’s bold, ground-breaking reinvention of the Florida Baptist Convention to Reach Florida was met with overwhelming support by the State Board of Missions during its Sept. 18 meeting at Lake Yale Conference Center in Leesburg.

The historic decision to send more money away to support global missions than is kept in the state, and the reorganization and reduction of staff to make it more responsive to the needs of churches, were approved with little discussion and no dissenting votes.

Business transacted during the meeting fulfilled the vision Green outlined when he was elected as executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention May 29.

Included in his vision was the allocation of 51 percent of Cooperative Program gifts from Florida Baptist churches to the Southern Baptist Convention while retaining 49 percent for mission and ministries within the state. Florida is the first old-line state convention to follow through in sending at least 50 percent to national causes since the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence was approved in 2010.

“This is an epic moment,” said Board President Michael Tatem of Lake City, “And it will be just as epic when we take it to the Florida Baptist State Convention.” Final authorization of the budget rests with messengers attending the Nov. 9-10 meeting in Panama City.

The division of the proposed $29 million CP budget represents a 10 percent increase to Southern Baptist causes over the amount earmarked in the 2015 CP budget. It designates $14,790,000—or 51 percent–to the SBC and retains $14,210,000—or 49 percent—for ministry within the state. The amount earmarked to the SBC will result in an additional $1.49 million to the International Mission Board and $679,598 to the North American Mission Board.

Green addressed recent news of the IMB’s own financial crisis and the announcement that missionaries will be brought home from the field, “Our prayer now is that we will be able to keep more missionaries on the field,” he said.

The proposed 2016 budget reflects a $200,000 increase over the previous year’s budget and eliminates shared receipts and negotiated ministry funds that previously were set aside from the split between national and state causes

The budget designates at least a million dollars more for ministry within the state and $1.2 million for church planting assistance, designed to help plant new churches and another $800,000 to revitalize others. (A complete breakdown of the budget can be found in the Aug. 27 issue of the Florida Baptist Witness.)

Green stressed the Convention will return to a “Biblical approach in church planting,” with churches, not the state convention, planting churches. “We are not getting out of the church planting business,” Green stressed. “We are just changing the model.”

With the SBC percentage increase earmarked for 2016, Green said he believes churches will ramp up their CP giving. “51-49 is not our ending point. As CP money increases, we will continue widening the gap. This is our goal and this is our heart.”

To achieve the 51/49 split of CP funds, the Florida Convention reduced its staff by 47 percent—from 115 statewide fulltime and benefitted employees to 61 CP-funded positions. Four new employees were elected to fill newly created positions in the reorganizaton. (See related stories)

Also during the meeting, the Board installed Green in his new role. The installation moving night of worship, exhortation, challenge and installation of Dr. Tommy Green as our new Executive Director – Treasurer for Florida Baptist Convention. Impacting and memorable message brought by Dr. Chuck Kelley.The intallations service was filled with worship, exhortation, challenge and music led by the worship team of his former church, First Baptist of Brandon. A contingency from the congregation was there to honor their former pastor.

Charles “Chuck” Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, called on his former doctoral fellow to “be Christ-centered; church-burdened and courage-driven.”

Recent years have been filled with pitfalls for Southern Baptists, Kelley admitted. “This is not a time for wimps.” He said Green, however, is well prepared for the journey he will undertake in his new role.

He urged Florida Baptists to burn like a forest fire that “changes the countryside and reshapes everything in its path. We must have all of our churches burn with the power of the spirit of God.”

In response, Green promised “everything I do will be about the church.” He shared that while he never wanted to leave the pastorate of the local church, he is confident Florida Baptists are on a “wonderful edge of something significant. I believe God will use us to awaken the state of Florida with a revival like never before.”

“Our greatest days for the gospel are ahead.”

In a moving conclusion to the service, Board members surrounded Green and his wife, Karen, to lift them up in prayer.

The Board also approved 15 proposed revisions to various governing documents of the State Convention, State Board of Missions, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and Florida Baptist Financial Services.

Included were revisions related to the dissolution of the Church Site Plan and Church Site Committee, whose tasks were reassigned to the Board’s Loans Committee, effective Jan. 1.

The change in nomenclature identifying for the State Convention’s agencies and institutions—the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, Florida Baptist Financial Services, the Baptist College of Florida and the Florida Baptist Witness— as “cooperating ministries,” is intended to lessen potential legal ramifications,” said Kevin Goza of Apopka, chairman of the Board’s Denominational Polity and Practice Committee. But he added, the term cooperating ministries is “unifying and best describes the relationships.”

Other document revisions inserted adherence to The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 for the State Convention, Children’s Homes and Financial Services. The Baptist College of Florida is in the process of revising their governing documents with similar language.

The clarifying language was developed on advice of legal counsel in response to the moral and cultural wars and growing pressure by the federal government to force agencies and schools to no longer discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

The statement is expected to provide these agencies, now referred to as cooperating ministries, additional legal protection by defining it as a faith-based religious organization.

In other matters, the board:

  • learned that the proposed sale of Blue Springs Baptist Conference Center in Marianna fell through but remains on the market;
  • decreased to three and changed dates of State Board of Missions meetings for 2016 as a cost-savings measure;
  • approved the implementation of electronic distribution of State Board of Missions materials as a cost saving measure; and
  • approved a one year cooperative agreement between the Florida Baptist Convention and the Florida Baptist Witness.

The Board will next meet Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church in Panama City in conjunction with the Florida Baptist State Convention.

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