"Imagine If" was the theme of the FBSC's 146th annual meeting Nov. 9-10 at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, which drew 895 registered messengers from 419 churches and 226 visitors. A crowd of least 1,200 -- including guests from the surrounding community -- attended the Tuesday closing session featuring contemporary recording artists New Song, Rush of Fools and BlueTree and the testimony of former missionary Carrie McDonnall.
The Great Commission task force motion was approved with only a handful of votes in opposition after messengers rejected an amendment that would have empowered the Committee on Nominations to appoint the group rather than the president. The vote on the amendment was not close enough for a ballot vote.
After the nearly 40-minute debate on the amendment and motion, the sponsors of the competing proposals -- David Uth of Orlando and Rodney Baker of Lake City -- joined with President John Cross for a time of prayer to show their unity in the desired outcome that Florida Baptists would be more effective in the Great Commission.
Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, presented the motion. Baker, pastor of Hopeful Baptist Church in Lake City, attempted to amend Uth's motion. At the end of the business session, both men stood on the platform with their arms across Cross' shoulders and Baker prayed for the men and the convention and that there would not be a day that passes that "we didn't tell someone about Jesus."
Earlier in the day, Cross, pastor of the South Biscayne Church in North Port, was re-elected without opposition for a second term as president. Also re-elected without opposition were Wayne Briant, pastor of Southside Baptist in Sarasota, first vice president; Gail Adams, layperson from First Baptist Church in Terra Ceia, second vice president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Okeechobee, recording secretary.
Convention officials said the threat of the hurricane likely dampened attendance as well as forced the cancellation of keynote speaker Ed Young Jr. A reception to honor long-term pastors serving the state also was cancelled and several program adjustments were made throughout the two-day meeting. The Monday night session was cut short to allow volunteers and messengers to travel before area bridges were closed due to high winds.
The storm came ashore in the early hours of the morning.
And despite Tuesday's blustery weather, hundreds of youth attended the heavily publicized concert and McDonnall's testimony.
The former IMB missionary along with her husband David and others went to Iraq to further humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country in 2003. Journeymen who had served previously, they had returned in spite of the dangers. "We were all five excited about what had taken place," she said. "We wanted to return there and invest our lives in theirs."
McDonnall, her husband, and three other international missionaries were ambushed by men with automatic weapons on a street in Mosul in northern Iraq in March 2004.
McDonnall and her husband were transported to a medical unit for emergency treatment, where the young woman underwent 10 hours of surgery before being transported back to the United States. When she awakened eight days later, she learned that her husband had died.
McDonnall spent about a month in the hospital and has since gone through numerous surgeries and extensive occupational and physical therapy. "It's a medical miracle that I'm here tonight," said the woman who is reminded of her experience every time she looks at her left hand, where she lost three fingers.
People ask her, she said, why she and her husband went into such a dangerous place for their mission work.
"The Lord clearly called us" to Iraq, she said. "We did not take the decision lightly."
She challenged those in attendance, "God is calling us to live our lives in a much different way." Saying that some believers are still "sitting with grave clothes on," she emphasized that "God's love compels us to go into the darkness of the world."
Following a call to commitment by FBSC President Cross, a number of spiritual decisions were made, including 12 professions of faith, seven rededications and 35 decisions to vocational ministry or mission service.
In convention business, messengers adopted a Cooperative Program budget for 2010 of $35,443,008, with 53.75 percent designated for Florida Baptist State Convention causes; 40 percent to Southern Baptist Convention causes; 2.75 percent for church planting assistance; and 3.50 percent to the church annuity program. Percentage distributions between Florida Baptist and SBC missions and ministries remain the same as the prior year.
The 2010 budgets represents less than a 1 percent increase over the 2009 actual budget of $35,150,000, which twice was trimmed and revised by the state board of missions from the $39.2 million budget approved at last year's annual meeting.
In other business, messengers approved state board of missions bylaw revisions to permit the board's administrative/personnel committee to act as an executive committee should the need arise.
In resolutions of appreciation, two retiring staff members were honored: Gary N. Nichols of the leadership and life development department, for 26 years of service, and William F. Montgomery of the convention's stewardship department, who served 11 years.
Prior to the convention meeting, Pensacola Bay Baptists sponsored Crossover 2010, offering sports outreach clinics, block parties, food distribution and a Hispanic festival that drew nearly 5,500 participants. The Gospel was presented nearly 1,400 times with 160 professions of faith.
Next year's FBSC annual meeting will be Nov. 8-9 in Tampa.
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention (www.flbaptist.org); Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness (www.goFBW.com).
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