State Board Hears Plans to Optimize Organization, Sends Letter to Governor

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Efforts to streamline the work of the Florida Baptist Convention for efficiency and effectiveness so more resources can be directed to fulfill the Great Commission took steps forward during the State Board of Missions meeting April 1 at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center.

During the meeting, the Board authorized the sale of the Baptist Building in Jacksonville (see related story); approved the distribution of nearly a million dollars in overages from the 2015 Cooperative Program budget; and approved a letter of appreciation to Florida Governor Rick Scott for signing into law House Bill 43, commonly referred to as the “Pastor Protection Act.”

Also, in this meeting Tommy Green, who was elected as executive director-treasurer in May 2015, announced a reworking of the Florida Baptist Committee on Nominations process by shifting to teleconferencing five regional meetings instead of holding one large statewide meeting—designed to “use technology to our advantage” saving travel and meeting expenses, Green said.

To begin the April 1 meeting, Green announced to the Board that Cooperative Program giving from Florida Baptist churches is $717,531 above budget for the first three months of the year. He told them that 51 percent of the quarterly budget overage will be advanced immediately to the Southern Baptist Convention, rather than delaying it until year’s end as had been the practice. The receipts are also $571,878 above the amount received during the first quarter of 2015.

Noting that the “Cooperative Program is fuel to the fire for global missions,” Green promised “we will not guilt pastors to give, we will not guilt churches to give–we want to challenge our churches to do what we can do together.”

The letter to Governor Scott offers an opportunity for Florida Baptists to express appreciation rather than criticism to the work of the legislature, said Kevin Goza of Apopka, chairman of the Denominational Practice and Polity Committee that presented the recommendation.

The letter’s content noted that “some in our society who would seek to curtail—or even do away with altogether—the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. These people would ignore the source of these rights, and take it upon themselves to stifle those with whom they do not agree.”

“As a result of this reality, we see the ‘Pastor Protection Act’ as a necessary confirmation that the state of Florida will continue to adhere to the supreme law of our land.”

The Board learned that giving by churches to the 2015 Florida Baptist Cooperative Program budget totaled $29,767,105, with a surplus of $967,105 over the $28.8 million budget. In keeping with the 2016 CP budget plan, 51 percent–or $500,000–in overages was sent to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program.

The remainder of the overage was allocated to several ministry areas and new projects including: Florida Baptist Convention Global Florida Ministry Fund, $100,000; Florida Baptist Convention EDT discretionary fund, $50,000; Florida Baptist Church Health/Life Conference, $34,605; Florida Baptist Cooperating Ministries, $102,500; Endowed Chair of Baptist History and Florida Baptist History, $50,000; Pastor’s death financial help, $50,000; 2017 annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention, $50,000; and assistance to complete a chapel at the Western Cuba Baptist Convention campground, $30,000.

The Board also approved the distribution of the 2015 Maguire State Mission Offering proceeds of $779,069, representing 65.09 percent of the offering goal of $1,197,000. The receipts from 712 churches signified a continuing decline in the number of participating churches and total giving.

Items set aside as priority items included: associational shared receipts, $30,605; promotion costs, $63,692; William J. Guess Church Site Fund, $300,000; and disaster relief and recovery ministry, $75,000.

In a related matter, the Board adopted a 2016 Maguire State Mission Offering goal of $830,000 that is more consistent with the historical receipts of the offering. The 2016 goal will no longer earmark priority items or shared receipts. Recipients of the 2016 offering include three international partnerships—Haiti, Eastern Cuba and Western Cuba; two North American partnerships—West Virginia and Montreal; and 11 ministries within the state of Florida.

During the Convention Properties report, the Board heard that Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center needs more than a million dollars to repair and replace infrastructure, furnishings and equipment to modernize the 50-year-old conference center, funding not readily available through Florida Baptist Convention sources.

At the Committee recommendation’s, the Board approved a plan to study the potential of changing the relationship of Lake Yale from an arm of the state convention to a cooperating ministry of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Such action would provide the center more independence and potential of finding alternate funding streams from outside donors.

In other action, the Board:

–began a process to explore the possibility of creating a partnership to assist in church planting and leadership development in the city of Montreal, Canada, a city of 6.7 million in population with less than one percent claiming to be spiritually saved;

–placed a hold on the marketing of Blue Springs Baptist Conference Center in Marianna to give the Baptist College of Florida, located in nearby Graceville, an opportunity to develop an usage plan for the property if it were deeded over to the college;

–approved an assistance program designed to financially aid families of senior pastors who die without life insurance, funded by $50,000 earmarked from 2015 Cooperative Program budget overages;

–elected John Voltaire to the newly created position of Haitian church catalyst, effective immediately (see related story); and

–learned of the resignation of Deris Coto, Hispanic church catalyst, effective April 30 and that Green plans to find a candidate to fill the position.

The next Board meeting will be held Aug. 25-26 at Lake Yale.

By Barbara Denman

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