The Florida Baptist Truth Project
In 1978, Ernest Reisinger and Fred Malone, who were then pastors of North Pompano Baptist Church in Florida, began the Boyce Project- a plan to distribute a copy of Abstract of Systematic Theology by James P. Boyce (founder of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) to each graduating student from all of the Southern Baptist seminaries. Thus, at the very time when men like Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler were doing the much-needed work to return organizational control of the Southern Baptist Convention to the desires of the average Southern Baptist (as most members of churches within the SBC were much more conservative than many denominational leaders in the decades previous to the Conservative Resurgence), Ernest Reisinger and Fred Malone were focused on a different, and, in many ways, more foundational issue; namely, that of theological reformation. The Boyce Project (in which my congregation, Kosmosdale Baptist Church, took part) eventually distributed over 12,000 copies of Boyce’s Abstract and had a direct impact on the theological understanding of many graduating students, such as Don Whitney, who received a copy of Abstract of Systematic Theology upon his graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979 and now teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as the Midwest Center for Theological Studies. Through the Boyce Project, Reisinger and Malone met other men, such as Baptist historian Tom Nettles, who were interested in returning the Southern Baptist Convention to its theological foundation, and the network that developed led to the first Southern Baptist Founders Conference in 1983. (This Founders Conference has continued annually ever since, with the most recent Conference- now referred to as the National Founders Conference- ending just last week, having been live-blogged by SBF’s own Timmy Brister.) The Southern Baptist Founders Conference, in turn, led to the formation of Founders Ministries.
Recently, Founders Ministries has continued their mission of promoting theological reformation within the SBC by initiating the Florida Baptist Truth Project. The goal of this Project is to distribute the DVD Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism to every pastor within the Florida Baptist Convention. The reason Florida Baptists are the focus of this Project is because earlier this summer Dr. John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, mailed out a sermon series on CD to every Florida Baptist congregation, which included a message entitled, “A Baptist and His Election: Calvinism.” This message was a direct assault on the Reformed (or “Calvinist”) understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation, a teaching held by early Southern Baptist leaders such as James P. Boyce, P.H. Mell, and John Dagg; a teaching that Founders Ministries considers to be a major key to theological reformation in the Southern Baptist Convention. In my view, the Florida Baptist Truth Project is the greatest opportunity to promote reformation in the SBC since the Boyce Project ended over two decades ago. Although I’m a poor seminary student, my wife and I have contributed to this Project, and I encourage anyone reading this to contribute as well. Find out how at the Amazing Grace DVD Project blog; simply scroll down to the first post.