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First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale Suspended from ECFA Pending Review

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The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has suspended the membership of First Baptist Church (FBC) of Fort Lauderdale while it reviews the church for compliance with Standard 4.

Standard 4, which relates to use of resources and compliance with the law, reads: “Every organization shall exercise the appropriate management and controls necessary to provide reasonable assurance that all of the organization’s operations are carried out and resources are used in a responsible manner and in conformity with applicable laws and regulations, such conformity taking into account biblical mandates.”

All organizations accredited by ECFA must comply with its “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship.”

Jake Lapp, ECFA’s vice president of member accountability, verified that FBC Fort Lauderdale is being reviewed while its membership is suspended. It has been a member of ECFA since 2013.

“First Baptist Fort Lauderdale certainly understands ECFA’s review, and we aren’t surprised by the review given the sustained campaign of unsupported and unsubstantiated public criticism we have endured these last three years,” Steve Blount, the executive director of ministry services, wrote in reply to a MinistryWatch inquiry.

The controversies that have roiled the church body have varied over the last three years. In 2020, an advocacy group claimed they fired Pastor James Welch over his canceling of the very popular long-running Christmas pageant and what they called a “toxic environment.” However, Welch remains the pastor of the church.

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Eventually a lawsuit between the dissidents and the church leadership emerged and was ordered to arbitration. On top of it, a dispute over the sale of church property arose.

“First Baptist Fort Lauderdale has been working with and continues to work with ECFA to address any concerns they may have,” Blount added.

ECFA conducts a formal compliance review when a serious concern related to noncompliance arises. In that situation, the ECFA staff investigates “the necessary details to help determine whether the member is in compliance with the standards.”

As a result of the review, the ECFA Board may “suspend or terminate an organization’s membership for unresolved compliance issues.”

Lapp did not reply to MinistryWatch inquiries about the length of the review process nor the impetus for the review.

 

March 14, 2023 Update: The ECFA terminated the membership of First Baptist Fort Lauderdale for failure to comply with Standard 4.

 

Main photo: Photo by Edwin Marchan / First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale / Google Earth

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.

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