A welcoming and affirming Florida congregation deeply rooted in social justice has joined the Alliance of Baptists.
The Church of the Beatitudes, located in Saint Petersburg, Fla., is one of the newest Alliance congregational partners. Established in 1962 as the first American Baptist Churches USA congregation in Florida, the church and its members have a long history of community engagement and justice work, which is still actively lived out today.
“We are joining the Alliance because the Alliance holds the same values that the Church of the Beatitudes holds,” said Phil Miller-Evans, the church’s pastor. “In a time when other Baptist affiliations are not clear or are holding onto discriminatory hiring practices, the Church of the Beatitudes wishes to associate clearly with Baptists that share our values of being ‘a welcoming, affirming, diverse, progressive, non-judgmental community of faith.’”
Over the years the church has lived out those values in various other ways – from awarding scholarships to help students go to college beginning in the 1960s, to establishing Micah Center of Pinellas County Inc. in 2013 as a mission outreach to those who are under-employed.
In 2007 the congregation became heavily involved in issues around homelessness, and Miller-Evans incorporated and wrote the founding documents for Family Promise of Pinellas County Inc., a multi-congregational non-profit providing temporary housing for families who have become homeless and helping them get re-employed, housed and established.
Miller-Evans said joining the Alliance also is significant in that it helps “strengthen ties of shared ministry with our sister fellowship, Redeeming Church.” The Church of the Beatitudes began its relationship with Redeeming Church, also an Alliance congregational partner, in March of 2017.
Led by Adam Gray, Redeeming Church has a commitment to reaching LGBTQ+ members of the community and Millennials separated from religious life.
“Those values were in line with the values of the Church of the Beatitudes and our holding high the four fragile freedoms of Baptist life” – Bible freedom, soul freedom, church freedom and religious freedom – Miller-Evans said.
Toya Richards is communications specialist for the Alliance of Baptists.