GCR Task Force making 'enormous progress,' chairman Floyd says
"We made great, enormous progress today," Floyd told Baptist Press after adjourning the meeting, which was held in the Renaissance Hotel near Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. "We're wrestling; we're going through it. But the group has been great. Yesterday and today we ended with tremendous oneness, tremendous togetherness."
The 23-member task force heard reports from North American Mission Board leadership; Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research; and Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, Floyd said. The NAMB updates came from trustee chairman Tim Patterson; interim president Richard Harris; and Ted Traylor, chairman of the board's presidential search committee and GCR task force member.
That report was followed later in the day by Stetzer's presentation, which focused on church planting in North America. Stetzer had been co-chairman of a 24-member task force appointed by NAMB's then-president, Geoff Hammond, to "take a fresh look at how Southern Baptists should look at the Great Commission in times such as these" but that group dissolved after Hammond's resignation Aug. 11. After Stetzer completed the report, task force members discussed issues related to NAMB until they adjourned just before 11 p.m. Monday.
The Tuesday morning session opened with an address from the Executive Committee's Chapman, Floyd said.
"Dr. Chapman spoke to us about the status of the Executive Committee, what was on his heart, and then talked to us about some future thoughts about the SBC," Floyd explained. "Then we had a question and answer time with him. The rest of our day was talking about how to reach North America, the role of some of our denominational entities in that. We talked some, obviously, about the Executive Committee because Dr. Chapman had given us a report about the Executive Committee."
Chapman announced Sept. 21 that he will retire Sept. 30, 2010, after 18 years in the position.
Task force members engaged in "a lot of open dialogue" during their meeting, Floyd said.
"It was lively but never in the wrong spirit, by any means," Floyd said. "It's all about passion. There's passion about touching this nation. We want to reach North America for Christ; we want to see the world come to Christ. We believe God has given us the commission -- to our churches -- and our convention's role is to come alongside our churches to help them fulfill the Great Commission that was given to the churches. We want to see our convention serve our churches in a greater capacity, to help them do the commission Jesus has given them."
The issues before the task force are serious but not a matter of "good versus bad," Floyd added.
"We're wrestling through issues. These are not easy issues," he said. "I'm not sure there are any that are bad versus good, but good versus what's best to accomplish the vision of presenting the Gospel to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations.
"We've been asked and charged by the Southern Baptist Convention to find ways, to bring recommendations concerning how we can more faithfully and effectively fulfill the Great Commission together as Southern Baptists," Floyd added. "That's what our heart is, to try to do that together."
Floyd said the task force has notified Chapman's office that they intend to present a substantial report to the Feb. 22-23 Executive Committee meeting in Nashville.
"We're pretty committed that's when we're going to have our coming-out party," Floyd said. "Will we be bringing a once and for all final report? ... No, I don't think we're going to be able to get there at that point. Our goal would be to get what I would call the body of the report -- the things that would require cooperation and understanding of why we are doing what we want to do and this is what we want to do and how do we get there."
Prior to that February meeting, the task force plans to work on its report through a process of conference calls and e-mails, in addition to a Jan. 26-28 meeting at the Hotel Contessa in San Antonio, Texas, Floyd said. "And we may have to do something after that," he added.
Floyd expressed particular gratitude for the 5,800 people who have visited pray4gcr.com to register their intention to pray daily for the work of the task force.
"I want to thank all the people who have prayed for us," he said. I've gotten loads of e-mails from people saying, 'Praying for you.' We're really appreciative."
The task force also was grieving with member Frank Page, whose 32-year-old daughter, Melissa Page Strange, died Nov. 27, Floyd said.
"We were deeply concerned for Frank Page and his family. Our hearts are broken over that," Floyd said. "The whole GCR team is really grieving with him, praying with him, trying to stay in touch with him. We started off our meeting praying for their family because it started just moments after the funeral had concluded."
Page attended the Dec. 1 task force session, following the Nov. 30 funeral at First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., where Page was pastor until being named as vice president of the evangelization group at the North American Mission Board.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.