Uth ‘persuaded’ Cross will appoint representative, missional GCR task force
Lake City pastor still ‘prayerfully considering’ alternative motion
Nov 6, 2009
By JAMES A. SMITH SR.

PENSACOLA (FBW)—Florida Baptists should follow the model of the Southern Baptist Convention and empower their president to appoint a task force to study how the Florida Baptist State Convention can be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission, David Uth told Florida Baptist Witness in a Nov. 5 e-mail interview.

Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, had not previously commented on the motion he intends to offer at the FBSC annual meeting in Pensacola, Nov. 9-10.

Meanwhile, Lake City pastor Rodney Baker is continuing to “prayerfully consider” offering an alternative approach to ask the FBSC Committee on Nominations to appoint a task force.

The Witness first reported about the prospective motion in its Oct. 29 issue, based on comments by FBSC President John Cross. Uth was not available to comment.

In June during the SBC annual meeting, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion offered by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to authorize President Johnny Hunt to appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

Chaired by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Hunt’s 23-member Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) has met three times, with the next meeting scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Atlanta.

Uth told the Witness, although the proposal has not yet been written, his prospective GCR-type motion will be “very similar” to the SBC motion, “with the intent that this Florida Baptist task force will accomplish for us on the state convention level what the Great Commission [Resurgence] Task Force is seeking to do at the national level.”

Since the SBC GCRTF was appointed by the SBC president, Uth believes Florida Baptists should empower their president to do the same.

“I believe the model that is working on a national level should be used here in our state,” he said, expressing confidence in the appointments Cross would make to the body.

Cross will be nominated for a second term as FBSC president in Pensacola. No other candidates had been declared as of Nov. 6.

Contacted by Florida Baptist Witness on Nov. 6, Rodney Baker, pastor of Hopeful Baptist Church in Lake City, said he is still “prayerfully considering” whether he will offer an alternative motion that would authorize the FBSC Committee on Nominations to appoint the task force, rather than the president, in order to ensure the group has a “broad representation.”

He added, “I am praying that God will guide the messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention to select His desired appointment process for a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to study how we can fulfill the Great Commission even more effectively in the state of Florida, the U.S. and the world.”

He declined to comment further.

Baker’s possible motion—or amendment to Uth’s motion—was first reported by the Witness on its website on Nov. 2 and in the Nov. 5 print edition.

Empowering the Committee on Nominations to appoint the task force, Baker said previously, may be better because of its “grassroots representation from every association across the state, along with President Cross and the other state officers who serve on the committee.”

Baker also said, “I agree with President Cross that there is a growing urgency at the grassroots level to reach the lost of the world and a GCR task force could discover Great Commission efforts that we need to sustain, stop and start.”

Baker, who commended Florida Baptists for leading the SBC with the most baptisms in 2008 showing an “ever growing Spirit-led obsession to reach more for Jesus,” also said the Committee on Nominations is a “broad representation of Florida Baptists in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, church style, evangelistic effectiveness, [and] cooperative giving.”

Uth told the Witness he does not believe the alternative method of selecting the task force is necessary because Cross “has already sought the counsel of many in putting together a list of possible GCR committee members.”

Among those consulted, Uth said, is John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.

Asked by the Witness on Nov. 6 if he would like to comment on the competing possible GCR motions, Sullivan declined to comment. He had previously declined to comment on the Uth/Cross motion.

Uth said, “All of us want the same thing: a task force of missionally minded Florida Baptists that represent ALL segments of age, gender, ethnicity, geographic region and size of church who share the desire to see the FBSC be more effective and efficient in the years ahead. I am persuaded the men and women our president will appoint are these kind of people.”

Speaking to the broader purpose of a Florida GCR task force, Uth said he hopes “Florida Baptists will lead the way nationally by offering some recommendations that will be responsive to what is happening both on the national level and in our local churches.”

Uth expressed a “great deal of respect” for Sullivan, adding, “There is no state convention more poised to respond to the changes that take place on a national level and I believe this task force will be able to make recommendations that make us more effective and more efficient in the days ahead.”

Acknowledging his church’s “long and wonderful history of supporting the work of the FBSC through the Cooperative Program,” Uth noted like Jesus’ teaching about the widow’s mite, other churches may be “at least as generous as us.”

Uth said, “First Baptist Orlando remains committed to the FBSC and I believe it is our responsibility to do as much as we can to help us be more effective and efficient in our Kingdom work. To whom much is given, much is required.”

He added, “Because God has allowed us to give at the level we have, I feel we have the responsibility to do as much as we can to help us be more effective and efficient in our Kingdom work. This is not a statement of a problem as much as it is an acknowledgement that it’s a different day in our state and in our world, and we cannot rely on our storied past but we must look beyond today and ask ourselves, ‘What if?’ Or, as our president has put it, ‘Imagine if!’”

According to 2009 Annual Church Profiles: FBC Orlando gave $962,000 through the Cooperative Program, 5.95 percent of undesignated receipts of $16.1 million; Baker’s Lake City congregation gave $65,003 in CP gifts, 5.65 percent of undesignated receipts of $1.1 million; and Cross’s congregation, South Biscayne Church in North Port, gave $20,000 in CP gifts, .98 percent of undesignated receipts of $2.031 million.

The nearly $1 million CP contribution for FBC Orlando continues to lead all Florida Baptist congregations in total CP gifts, according to Barbara Denman, director of communications of the Florida Baptist Convention. For all SBC churches, FBC Orlando gave the second highest in total gifts last year, according to John Kyle, SBC Executive Committee’s director of Cooperative Program development.

In a Nov. 4 e-mail sent to approximately 1,300 Florida Baptist pastors, Cross urged support for the Uth GCR motion, citing “sobering statistics” that indicate Florida Baptists are not keeping pace in reaching the Sunshine State’s “population boom.”

Cross asked, “If reaching the lost is truly our mission, how successful have we been? Are there reasons we are falling behind in reaching our state? Are we willing to ask hard questions that may lead us to be more effective and efficient in fulfilling the Great Commission here in Florida and globally?”

In the e-mail, Cross pledged to appoint a task force of “broad representation” if he is given the opportunity of choosing what he called an “Imagine If … Great Commission Task Force.”

Such a task force would be diverse in representation, but a “common thread” will be persons who have a “missional mindset” from “missional churches,” Cross said.

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