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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Silent Exodus

The Florida Baptist Witness reports in it's May 1 issue that 16% of all “cooperating” Florida Baptist Churches did not bother to send in their ACP (Annual Church Profile) for 2007.

According to the Florida Baptist Convention these Non-reporting churches skew the ACP's lackluster results... “With 16 percent of their congregations not reporting, Florida Baptist churches overall recorded a decrease in baptisms, total members, as well as Sunday School attendance and enrollment in 2007, according to statistics compiled in the Annual Church Profile.”

“Baptisms reported by Florida churches decreased to 32,928 in 2007” thats 533 or 1.59% less than reported in 2006...

But let not your heart be troubled... all is well in Jacksonville... the Florida Baptist Convention under the leadership of Dr. John Sullivan is a healthy, vibrant, and growing missions organization... this “apparent” downturn can be explained... here is what Jacksonville is saying.

Warning – if “Spin” makes you sick then you need to set down.

Jacksonville's official line is “Skewing the statewide numbers are 387 Florida Baptist congregations or 16 percent – which did not provide ACP reports to their associations.”

Well I for one feel much better about the current health and future direction of the Florida Baptist Convention after hearing their excuse that 16% or 387 Florida Baptist Congregations did not send in their ACP. What does that say about the state of cooperation in the Florida Baptist Convention. As I have previously reported 25% of all Florida Baptist Churches gave $0 to the Cooperative Program in 2007 and now 16% will not even give their statistics to the convention.

But as I said all is well... no need to get worried that all the overbearing fundamentalism that has reared it's ugly head in Jacksonville this last year (Anti-Calvinism mailings and the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation to include only Baptist who hold to a total abstinence form alcohol conviction) is having a negative impact on the Florida Baptist Convention.

In response to 16% of the Florida Baptist Congregations not sending in their ACP last year the Florida Baptist Convention under the leadership of John Sullivan has decided that what is needed is to narrow the parameters of cooperation even more... Don Hepburn, director of the Convention's Public Relations Division says “This is why we have established a Florida Baptist State Convention bylaw that requires cooperating churches to provide a statistical summary.”

Did you get that all you “Autonomous” Florida Baptist Congregations? ... Send in your ACP or you are out of the convention!

I think the Florida Baptist Convention is about to get it's feelings hurt when they realize next year that many of these churches no longer care to cooperate with the Fundamentalist Baptist Convention of Florida... Without a split in the State Convention, without anyone leading a rebellion, without any great fan fair or press coverage... “a silent Exodus is taking place in the Florida Baptist Convention”.

Grace Always,

Greg Alford

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greg, it is great to see you back in the blogging world. You said, “a silent Exodus is taking place in the Florida Baptist Convention”, but I not so sure this is the case. I seems to me that the silence being heard by the convention is because the concerns of many are falling on deaf ears...but then again it is hard to listen and talk at the same time!

I am hearing of more and more churches who no longer consider it prudent to support endeavors that are so obviously contrary to their theological convictions. It is one thing to cooperate with something that wants to cooperate, but a completely different story when that thing is openly hostile to your convictions.

When you draw a line in the Floridian sands, don't be surprised when it results in some deciding to take their shovels and buckets and build their own castle on the other side. Jacksonville is not the only beach in Florida.

Anonymous said...

Bro Greg,

As a pastor here in the state of Florida, I would have to disagree with you that an ‘exodus’ in taking place. You have made several arguments that I would have to question.

1. You said, “As I have previously reported 25% of all Florida Baptist Churches gave $0 to the Cooperative Program in 2007 and now 16% will not even give their statistics to the convention.”
How can you say with certainty that these churches intentionally withheld their ACP’s because of the reasons you mention later? To say they “will not even give” gives the idea of purposeful intent.

2. You said, “But as I said all is well... no need to get worried that all the overbearing fundamentalism that has reared it's ugly head in Jacksonville this last year (Anti-Calvinism mailings and the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation to include only Baptist who hold to a total abstinence form alcohol conviction) is having a negative impact on the Florida Baptist Convention.” I have commented on this before. You are linking the reason these churches did not give to their ACP’s is because they either did not approve of the mailing of Dr. Vines’ sermon on Calvinism, or they did not approve of the SBOM’s decision regarding alcohol and leadership in the FBC. Is it possible this argument is made because you are personally affected by the Calvinism argument?

3. You also said, “Don Hepburn, director of the Convention's Public Relations Division says “This is why we have established a Florida Baptist State Convention bylaw that requires cooperating churches to provide a statistical summary.”

Did you get that all you “Autonomous” Florida Baptist Congregations? ... Send in your ACP or you are out of the convention!”

Are you serious? I don’t mean that with any disrespect. I am interested in the conversation. Has it been said or written anywhere that if you don’t send in your ACP, you will have to leave the convention? If so, please refer me to the place.

It is obvious that you are not happy with the Florida Baptist Convention. I just have one question. Do you have any positive suggestions to remedy the perceived problems you see?

Steven

G. Alford said...

Anonymous #1

You may be right that much of the silence is because the concerns of many are falling on deaf ears... And I guess this may be why many are disillusioned and simply do not care what Jacksonville thinks anymore.

“Jacksonville is not the only beach in Florida”... Dude that is priceless!

G. Alford said...

Steven

1. I did not say that all these congregations have the same reason for not sending in their ACP's. But do you think they just got lost in the mail? Regardless of the reason (and yes I can assure you that some of them are “Directly related” to the actions of Jacksonville this past year) the fact remains that they did not think it important to send one in. And I can assure you it is not because Jacksonville did not pull out all the stops to get them to send their ACP's in... I was contacted no less than four (4) times by local and state employees asking me to send in my ACP.

2. Yes!

3. Yes I am serious... and yes apparently they are to. I give you the exact quote as it appeared in the May 1 issue of the Florida Baptist Witness... “This is why we have established a Florida Baptist State Convention Bylaw the requires cooperating churches to provide a statistical summary”. I think this is fairly plain language... If you do not send in your ACP you will not be considered a “cooperating church”... and thereby loose all privileges of participation. But by all means don't take my word for it, call Jacksonville and ask them directly what this new Bylaw means... and if it does not mean what I have indicated then ask them why it was passed then. I will await your reply.

4. Other than parking a Big U-haul in front of the Jacksonville office... No I do not have any suggestions. I take that back, you will need several U-hauls parked in front of the Jacksonville office.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for referring me to that issue of the witness. I must have missed that part, and will reread. I guess part of the problem I am having understanding is this. Why not just send in your ACP? If you are a cooperating SBC church, why would you not? My position would be as long as you intend on cooperating, provide the statistical date for your church. If I understand right, you have said you did not send in your ACP, does that have to do with reason #2 above?

Steven

G. Alford said...

Steven

You said “Why not just send in your ACP? If you are a cooperating SBC church, why would you not?” That's exactly the point I am trying to get across (however poorly worded)... In increasing numbers these churches (for what ever reason) are not cooperating with the Florida Baptist Convention, and for their PR department to say that the conventions poor numbers is just due to poor reporting by the churches is simply Dishonest.

Yes my not sending in my ACP or giving to the Cooperative Program (which Jacksonville keeps 60% of) is directly related to #2 above (among several other offenses).

We no longer care to be a “cooperating church” in the Florida Baptist Convention and welcome them to remove our name and the names of the other 387 Baptist churches in the state of Florida that are currently on their rolls and not cooperating. It will be interesting to see if they actually remove anyone from their list of churches (I am betting not) as their numbers would go down and that might not look good and require even more “Spin” to try and explain.

Anonymous said...

Bro. Greg,

It is very sad that so many churches
are not sending info to the FBC, BUT if the FBC would take the time to listen instead of pass a resolution to punish those churches who do not send info, THEN there may be some progress made to make these churches feel a part of the FBC again. It is the ol' "do as I tell you to do" mentality. It will just make things worse, not better. To quote an old folk song, "When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn."

WP IMB M on LOA

G. Alford said...

WP IMB M on LOA

I think you have touched on the heart of the issue… “what authority does any convention have to tell the churches what they should or must do?”

The Florida Baptist Convention is not a church and has no authority what so ever over the churches… What it is (well what our forefathers intended it to be) is a Para-Church organization created to help the churches partner together for the furtherance of the Gospel. In other words Jacksonville was created to serve the churches of Florida not the other way around.

Paul W. Foltz DD said...

Big Government/ Big taxes. If the ACP is now required to stay in the FBC, it is nothing more than a tax.

Away with anything and anybody dictating to the local church. This is a clear violation of A Baptist Distinctive; The Independence and self governing of the local church.

Anonymous said...

I find it very disenhartening that so many today are calling themselves "Calvinists." I think we are treading on dangerous ground when we begin aliging ourselves with a man's teachings rather than Christ's.

G. Alford said...

Dear Anonymous…

You slipped that comment in on me… I shall have to check these older posts more often.

The Apostle Paul said “follow me as I follow Christ” (Greg’s paraphrase)… Those who call themselves Calvinists today follow the teachings of Calvin, but only as far as Calvin’s teachings follow the teaching of Christ… The finial authority in all matters of life and faith for the Calvinist is the Word of God and never the opinions of man.

The label: “Calvinist” is only shorthand for someone who believes in the Sovereignty of God, and the Sufficiency of the Scriptures… I suppose it would be easier to just call them Biblical Christians, but that would not help much as everyone (and falsely might I add) makes that claim.