E-Mail To A Friend
Printer-Friendly Article
Share Your Views
Subscribe To The Witness

State Board creates task force to study convention

Sullivan recommends action in response to GCR


FBC photo by Barbara Denman

SCANNING Ted Traylor of Pensacola, right, and Ronnie Lawrence of Okeechobee read through the Florida Baptist Witness during Executive Editor James A. Smith’s report.

Click on image for related coverage

HIALEAH (FBW)—The State Board of Missions voted unanimously May 29 to create a task force to study the Florida Baptist Convention in response to the growing discussion in Southern Baptist life about a “Great Commission Resurgence.”

The action came in response to a 322-word statement by John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, which included a suggestion to assemble the current and former Florida Baptist State Convention presidents who still live in Florida as a task force.

The State Board of Missions met for the first time at the Florida Baptist Convention’s new South Florida Urban Center in Hialeah, recently renovated property that was transferred to the Convention by First Baptist Church in Hialeah, which continues to meet at the property.

FBC photo by Barbara Denman

HANDSHAKE John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, left, expresses appreciation to Gary Morris, chairman of deacons at First Baptist Church of Hialeah.

Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., issued the “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence” declaration in late April, a 10-point statement outlining steps Southern Baptists should consider to re-ignite commitment to Jesus’ missionary mandate to His disciples.

Although the GCR declaration (available for review at www.GreatCommissionResurgence.com) boasts 3,000 signatories as of June 1, some Southern Baptist leaders, including many state convention executives, have expressed concern about Article IX, “A Commitment to a More Effective Structure.” The article, which has been revised twice since its April 27 release, calls for a streamlining of the denomination.

In a May 13 interview with Florida Baptist Witness, Hunt confirmed a motion will be offered at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, June 23-24, to establish a task force to study GCR and make recommendations to the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando.

FBC photo by Barbara Denman

PRAYER SUPPORT Hayes Davis of Port Orange, standing left, prays for Bill Bunkley, Convention’s legislative consultant, center, following Bunkley’s report to the Program Committee.

(A package of articles about the Great Commission Resurgence can be found on Florida Baptist Witness Web site, www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.)

Concerning the “great deal of discussion” about GCR, Sullivan made six points in his statement: (1) affirming the “principles” of the declaration, which he has communicated to Hunt and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and principal author of the declaration; (2) noting he will be meeting soon with Hunt to “address concerns” he has about the declaration and to “assist in the implementation;” (3) noting he has not signed the document and will not “until I have had an opportunity to address my concerns;” (4) expressing his “daily prayer” that signing GCR will not be made a “test of fellowship;” (5) noting it’s his “heart to be the very best, most efficient, deliberately dynamic and missional state convention” in the SBC and “good stewards of all resources entrusted to us;” (6) noting he will not be “defensive of the work of the Florida Baptist Convention, but to review for more effective missions, evange-lism and strengthening churches is not a problem. We need to set the pace.”

FBC photo by Barbara Denman

PRESIDING Board president Don McLaughlin of Tallahassee studies Board documents.

Sullivan concluded by suggesting the “sitting president and all former presidents of the Florida Baptist State Convention for the last 20 years who are still serving in Florida to become a Task Force to review every facet of the convention and bring recommendations back to the State Board of Missions for further discussion and recommendation to the Florida Baptist State Convention.”

(Sullivan’s statement can be read in its entirety on page three.)

Elaborating on his prepared statement, Sullivan noted the referenced meeting with Hunt will occur on June 8, without naming the location, and will include eight state convention executive directors. He also said the task force would likely meet sometime during the summer and would likely require only a two-day meeting.

Asked by State Board member Steve Harness, pastor of The Crossroads Church, New Port Richey, if he would be willing to discuss his concerns, Sullivan underscored again the implementation of GCR.

FBC photo by Barbara Denman

SBOM MEETING Enjoying a break from the rain on a bench outside of the new South Florida Urban Center in Hialeah, site of the State Board of Missions meeting, Erik Erskine of Havana reviews Board materials.

“I do not think Baptist polity should be negated,” noting the Southern Baptist Convention does not have the authority to study other Baptist bodies, like state conventions.

“I just need some answers for myself,” Sullivan added.

State Board member Juan Sanchez, a layman from Sebring, asked Sullivan if he would elaborate on his statement about GCR not being a test of fellowship.

“If your conscience allows you to sign it and mine does not, that should not be a test of fellowship,” Sullivan explained.

John Holloway, State Board member from Greater Orlando Baptist Association and executive pastor of First Baptist Church of Sweetwater in Longwood, asked Sullivan about dialogue he has had with other state executives about GCR.

Sullivan said he has participated in one conference call with eight state convention executive directors and noted the same group would participate in the June 8 meeting with Hunt.

State Board member Randy Kuhn, pastor of Howard Carlisle Baptist Church in Panama City, affirmed Sullivan’s task force suggestion, but added, “I’d like to voice the idea that I don’t care about changing bureaucracy” because doing such will not “win America” to Christ.

Don McLaughlin, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Tallahassee, noted that he signed the GCR declaration, but not in his capacity as president of the State Board of Missions.

Barbara Denman, director of communications of the Florida Baptist Convention, contributed to this report.

FBC photo by Barbara Denman

SBOM MEETING Listening to reports are, from left, Board members Steve Moore of Port St. Lucie, Randy Alonso of Lake Panasoffkee and Arlene Keeley of Fort Myers.