Florida Baptists display unity, embrace diversity

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP) -- More than 2,200 attendees joined together at the Florida Baptist State Convention in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 11-12 to proclaim they were united as "One Family Gathering."

Miami-area pastor Erik Cummings, reelected to a second term as president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, concludes the Florida Baptist State Convention meeting in prayer, flanked by (from left) Randy Huckabee, Dade City, recording secretary; Vanessa Rodriguez-Cardona, Winter Garden, second vice-president; Mike Wiggins, Milton, first vice present, and Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
Submitted photo
"We have played and danced with this issue rather than lamenting and mourning before the Lord," said Tommy Green, Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) executive director-treasurer, during the Nov. 11 opening session. "But tonight we are not divided, we are not segregated. We are a family and we come as one.

"Tonight, the world around us declares division and hatred," Green said. "Tonight, we declare in the name of Jesus Christ unity and love. Tonight, we will change the national conversation and make the Gospel of Jesus Christ the primary focus as we come together with different faces and races."

Only a little while earlier, those in attendance representing numerous nationalities and races gathered arm-in-arm in prayer to ask for God's blessings on the state's pastors and wives, churches, veterans, nations, and the lostness of the world.

Green asked those in attendance to recite Psalm 133:1-3 aloud and in unison in each of their own heart languages. "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," they recounted.

The meeting drew 2,241 persons -- 1,180 messengers and 1,061 visitors -- representing 531 Florida Baptist churches.

FBSC president Erik Cummings, pastor of the New Life Baptist Church in Carol City, was unanimously reelected to a second term as president after his nomination by Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater. No one else was nominated. Following his election, Cummings received a standing ovation from those in attendance.

In his presidential address, Cummings sounded a clarion call for unity for the purpose of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. "If we are to reach our 'one' person for Christ, we have to be one within these walls," Cummings said, referring to the Southern Baptist evangelistic initiative "Who's Your One?" "There is power in being united."

Cummings has served New Life Baptist Church the past 17 years and was president of the 2017 Florida Baptist Pastors Conference. He also served as secretary and parliamentarian of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as moderator for the Miami Baptist Association.

During the Florida Baptist State Convention meeting Nov. 11-12 in Orlando, numerous nationalities and races gathered arm in arm in prayer to ask for God's blessings on the state's pastors and wives, churches, veterans and nations, and the lostness of the world.
Submitted photo
He will serve alongside Mike Wiggins, pastor of Pine Terrace Baptist Church in Milton, who was reelected to a second term as first vice present; Vanessa Rodriguez-Cardona, a real estate agent and wife of bivocational pastor Jose Cardona of Templo Biblico Bautista in Winter Garden, second vice-president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dade City, reelected as recording secretary.

Other speakers during the two-day event were SBC President J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area; Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; and Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, spoke at the Florida Baptist Pastors' Conference.

Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church for the past 28 years, preached the historic convention sermon, saying "one soul matters. Jesus Christ has populated heaven one soul at a time. And it matters that we reach out to just that one soul."

Business

During the business session, messengers approved a $30 million Florida Cooperative Program budget for 2020 that will designate 51 percent of all receipts to the Southern Baptist national and international causes, and 49 percent to missions and ministries of the Florida Baptist Convention.

The $30 million CP budget is an amount identical to the 2019 budget and represents the same percentage distribution between national and state ministries. Receipts over budget will be forwarded 100 percent to the SBC.

Messengers also welcomed 58 new cooperating churches, planted between Sept. 1, 2018 and Oct. 15, 2019, that represent 17 associations within the state.

In other business, messengers authorized the sale of the Blue Springs campus of the Baptist College of Florida and a parcel of property at Lake Yale Conference Center.

No resolutions were introduced or considered.

Challenge 2025

During his address, Green set a vision for Florida Baptists for the next five years. "Challenge 2025" will spur Florida Baptists to attain a new level of commitment to reach the state with the Gospel. Initiatives included are:

-- increase church plants to 75 per year and church revitalizations to 100 per year;

-- baptize 30,000 new believers each year;

-- expand mission engagements to involve 12,000 Florida Baptists annually;

-- increase annual giving through the Cooperative Program to $33 million from $30 million, and

-- elevate gifts to the Maguire State Mission Offering to $1 million

Accomplishing such will require a Kingdom mindset, Green said. But he believes "we're going to see God do miracles."

The FBSC will meet again Nov. 9-10, 2020 at the Church at the Mall in Lakeland.

Barbara Denman is communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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