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State Board elects church planting missionary, explores partnership with Eastern Cuba

By Barbara Denman

February 20, 2013

LEESBURG—(FBC) During its Feb. 7 meeting at Lake Baptist Conference Center, the State Board of Missions elected a church planting missionary and laid groundwork for a partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention.

In other action, the 99-member Board struggled with a budget deficit for 2012 (see related story), adopted a $1 million goal for the 2013 Maguire State Mission Offering and learned of the default on the sale of Blue Springs Baptist Conference Center.

Jeffrey Powell of High Springs was employed in the newly created position of church planting missionary for the Panhandle area. The position, underwritten in part by the North American Mission Board, will focus on the emerging growth opportunities in the Panhandle and strengthen the Convention’s church planting strategy.

A native of Morgan City, La., Powell, 38, has served as pastor of the Fellowship Church in High Springs since April 2007. Prior to that he was an itinerant missionary in New Orleans where he planted the Destiny Place Church and served several Louisiana churches in Metairie, Turkey Creek and Eunice.

Powell received the bachelor of arts degree from Louisiana College in Pineville in 1998 and the master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2002. He will assume his position effective immediately

In other personnel action, the Board eliminated two vacant Board elected staff positions: team strategist of the Collegiate Ministry Team and Baptist campus minister at Florida A&M University.

The partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention (Convencion Bautista de Cuba Oriental), is expected to be similar to the 17-year partnership Florida Baptists have had with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention. The Eastern Convention is based in Santiago, while the Western Convention in based in Havana.

In January, a team of state staff, accompanied by two Florida-based International Missions Board missionaries, met with 14 members of the Eastern Cuba Convention to learn of needs of the churches and resources Florida Baptists could offer.

The state staff found the Cuba Convention, composed of 339 churches and 321 pastors, to be committed and passionate leaders with a heart for evangelism, church planting and theological education, said Craig Culbreth, lead strategist of the Convention’s Missional Support Group who traveled with the team.

A subsequent letter from Joel Luis Dupont, executive president of the Eastern Convention, invited Florida Baptists to continue to pursue the development of the partnership.

In authorization given by the Board, Convention staff will continue to explore the partnership with the purpose of a defined agreement.

The Board adopted a one million dollar goal for the 2013 Maguire State Mission Offering to benefit 22 ministries that underwrite evangelistic, church starting and compassionate ministry and mission activities developed by the Convention program staff.

Recipients of the annual statewide offering taken in September include new churches, partnership missions projects, mission outreach ministries, developing believers through camps and student evangelism outreach.

Board members learned that receipts for the 2012 Maguire State Mission Offering fell well below the one million dollar goal. A total of $846,204 was given by 816 contributing churches, which was $36,628 or four percent less than the $882,832 received in 2011 and only 84.6 percent of the goal. The distribution of $38,016 in offering proceeds as associational shared receipts was authorized for18 participating associations that met or exceeded their offering goals.

The default on the purchase of Blue Springs Baptist Conference Center in Marianna followed non-payment of a lease agreement with the Spirit and In Truth Church of God in Christ of Bonifay. The $13,000 per month lease agreement, approved by the Board in September, 2012, provided a purchase option for the church. Yet despite meeting in the facility for four months, the church only paid $5,500 towards the rent.

During this meeting, the Board agreed for the Convention to place the Marianna property back on the real estate market for a possible sale and for the conference center to operate during the summer of 2013 to generate additional operating income from the facility. By accommodating summer camps and events, the months of June, July and August are the busiest times for the conference center which will remain closed during the remainder of the year.

The Board also heard a status report from Convention staff who serve as regional coordinators in the Convention’s efforts to regionalize the state into five geographical regions for enhanced church planting endeavors and ministry programming.

Among other items approved was the sale of land on the Convention’s Jacksonville property where the Baptist Building is located to the State of Florida’s Department of Transportation. The sliver of land, totaling approximately 103 feet of property, will be used in the construction of the I-95 Overland Bridge.

Also, the DOT will receive a permanent easement to the Convention’s property, totaling approximately 2,411 square feet and a temporary construction easement totaling approximately 4,920 square feet of on the property. The property sale and easement fees will net the Convention $457,166.

The Board’s next scheduled meeting is May 30-31 at Lake Yale Conference Center.

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