LEESBURG (FBC)—The State Board of Missions approved a historic partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention and a $30.5 million 2014 Cooperative Program budget that allocates an additional 1.5 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention during its quarterly meeting Sept. 20 at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg.
In other business, the Board was buoyed by reports that Cooperative Program gifts from Florida Baptist churches was $337,127 over budget needs through the end of August.
The Eastern Cuba partnership, modeled on the partnership Florida Baptists have had with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention since 1997, will focus on evangelism, church starting, church development and support ministries identified as needs by Eastern Cuba Baptists.
Florida Baptists will assume a role in Eastern Cuba that American Baptists once had, until they began pulling out in 1999. At that time, the SBC International Mission Board began sending its Florida-based missionaries in and out of the region. But in recent months, Eastern Cuban leaders asked Florida Baptists to consider a partnership similar to that of their Western Cuban brothers.
John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer, called the ECBC partnership “an unprecedented opportunity.” He explained that when Florida Baptists first partnered with Baptists in Western Cuba, the Cuban government allowed only a handful of mission projects. But because “we have built up a wonderful reputation,” the number has grown each year.
Four mission partnership projects are scheduled in Eastern Cuba in 2014; another 26 are scheduled for Western Cuba.
After the meeting, Tommy Green of Brandon called the new partnership “historic. Many teams from our church have been to Cuba,” he said.
“The opportunity to impact the entire island of Cuba is an historic open door for Florida Baptists. The partnership ministry we have in Haiti reflects the type of Gospel influence that we pray will be experienced in Cuba,” Green added.
The 2014 budget of $30.5 million, representing the lowest CP goal since year 2000, must be approved by messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention when they gather for the annual meeting Nov.11-12 in Jacksonville.
The 43 percent designated for the SBC is a 1.5 percent increase over the 41.5 percent allocated in 2013, continuing a commitment Florida Baptists made to send an even division—50 percent—of all CP receipts to the national convention by 2018. The 57 percent earmarked for Florida Baptist mission and ministry causes reflects a decrease in the amount retained in the state, which is projected to level off at 50 percent within the next four years.
The Board learned that while the Convention is cutting its budget and staff to send more money to the SBC, Florida Baptist churches are giving less through the Cooperative Program, with receipts decreasing from $39.7 million in 2007 to $31 million in 2012.
The 2014 budget includes a two percent salary increase for the Convention’s board elected staff and a three percent increase for the administrative-approved staff, the first salary increase in the past six years, Sullivan noted.
During the past six years, Sullivan explained, the cost of living inflation has increased by 15 percent, while salaries remained stagnant. He requested a higher percentage for administrative-approved staff, which includes secretaries, because many are single mothers who have been hit hard by the economic recession.
The Board also approved a three-pronged recommendation to examine the Convention’s budget, including the appointment of a committee to study the fiduciary responsibilities of the state convention as it relates to the 50/50 percentage split of CP receipts. The study will look at ministries currently being done at the Convention to determine if any can be assigned to other state convention entities; as well as future staff salaries increases.
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