http://www.abpnews.com/www/1021.article Ronnie Floyd nomination sparks talk of weak SBC support, fire-truck baptistry By Greg Warner Published: May 11, 2006 SPRINGDALE, Ark. (ABP) -- News of the nomination of Arkansas megachurch pastor Ronnie Floyd to be the next Southern Baptist Convention president has brought new attention to his church's high-tech evangelism methods and lackluster financial support of the denomination he wants to lead. Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., is the choice of the convention's inerrantist leaders, who have controlled the presidency for almost three decades, usually without opposition. The presidency has been the key to gaining and retaining control of the 16 million-member denomination and its agencies. But Floyd's nomination, announced May 7, brought a lukewarm reception from many conservative Southern Baptists anxious to see a more open election process and more exemplary support of the Cooperative Program, the SBC's central ministry budget. A blue-ribbon SBC panel recently urged the election of officers who come from churches that contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program -- a standard few recent presidents have met. "First Baptist Springdale had nearly $12 million in undesignated receipts in 2005 and yet gave only $32,000 -- a mere 0.27 percent -- through the Cooperative Program," Florida pastor Michael Petty wrote May 11 in a guest editorial in the Florida Baptist Witness. "I do not see that as faithfulness and cooperation." The Springdale church and its satellite congregation, the Church at Pinnacle Hills, contributed a total of $32,000 to the CP last year, according to the SBC and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. That's about one-fourth of 1 percent of its undesignated receipts of $11,952,137 -- or one-40th of the goal set by the SBC's leaders. Another $189,000 was designated for Southern Baptist causes through the SBC allocation budget, said Springdale administrative assistant Sharon Damron. But that bypassed the Cooperative Program budgets at the state and national levels. The church reports total missions expenditures of $1,637,503, Damron said, which includes $63,777 for the SBC's special mission offerings. That total also includes funding for the church's extensive television ministry, she said. Floyd, one of Southern Baptists' most visible leaders in recent years, has served as president of the SBC Pastors' Conference, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and a member of the special committee that restructured the denominational agencies supported by the Cooperative Program. "… I do not believe we need to go to Greensboro and elect a president who does not demonstrate faithfulness to the convention he is being nominated to lead," wrote Petty, pastor of First Baptist Church of Marianna. Petty predicted a better nominee will emerge before the June 13-14 SBC meeting in Greensboro, N.C. "That's the point, there will be another candidate," added Benjamin Cole, a Texas pastor and leader of a loose network of young conservatives who recently issued a declaration of repentance calling for more openness from the SBC's leaders. "There is an unbelievable unrest about Ronnie Floyd's nomination," Cole told Associated Baptist Press. Cole and others said many conservatives are also upset about Springdale's evangelism techniques, such as the fire-truck baptistry that is part of its children's ministry. The unique baptistry, created by Disney designer Bruce Barry, is part of a $270,000 high-tech project for the church's children's worship area that includes video games, a light show, music videos and a bubble machine, according to Christianity Today. When a child is baptized in the fire-truck-shaped baptistry, sirens blare and confetti is fired out of cannons. "Putting a talking head in front of kids for an hour doesn't work," the children's minister told the magazine. "This is a visual generation. We need to use technology to the max." "This is blasphemous!" said SBC conservative leader Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, when told of the practice. In a May 9 interview with the Arkansas Baptist News, Floyd defended creative evangelism and urged Southern Baptists to become innovative in their strategies. “Our great gospel needs to be packaged in ways the culture can understand and receive,” he said, noting that baptisms in Southern Baptist churches continue to decline -- down 4 percent in 2005. “Relevance is more important than institutional loyalty,” he said, because taking the gospel to the whole world is more important than anything else Baptists do. He noted the denomination exists to serve the churches, not the other way around, and Southern Baptists must remain local-church centered. Floyd told the newspaper that, as president, he would emphasize spiritual renewal, which he identified as the SBC’s greatest need. “If elected president, I desperately want to lead us to spiritual renewal -- personally, one-on-one with Jesus and corporately within churches," he said. "We’ve got to come back to a mighty, fresh touch of God. Pastors need to proclaim it as never before. If we don’t see it happen, we will find ourselves in a desperate situation. We must love God first and take the Good News around the world.” In addition to spiritual renewal, Floyd said the other objectives he would bring to the office would be reinforcing the centrality of the local church within the SBC and reorienting the denomination toward the future. In explaining the vision he said persuaded him to be nominated, Floyd said, “I believe at this time I have no choice but to do this.” He said God put some things on his heart “to expand the life that I have left to advance the gospel across the world." “We need to clarify the mission -- taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to ends of the earth,” he said. “Everything else is secondary to that. … Missions is the only thing that can keep us together.” -- Charlie Warren of the Arkansas Baptist News contributed to this article.