By Jeff Brumley
Ruben Ortiz has a passion for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that goes beyond issues of polity and shared spiritual values. For him, the connections are personal and deeply emotional and were solidified in 2009.
That was the year Ortiz’ father, Ruben Ortiz-Columbie, was jailed by the Communist government in their native Cuba. Ortiz said he’ll never forget the support he and his family received from CBF’s Rob Nash and Bo Prosser.
“They were there for my father when he was in prison,” said Ortiz, the pastor at La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Deltona, a Fellowship church in Deltona, Fla. “I have a lot to say thanks for to CBF.”
Ortiz will get his chance beginning when he becomes moderator of CBF Florida and the Caribbean on Jan. 1.
Coordinator Ray Johnson said Ortiz will have his work cut out for him as the state organization has financial and cultural challenges to meet head-on in 2014. And there are pressing needs to move CBF-Florida and its members into the age of diversity, Johnson said. Johnson said the pastor has already proven himself by helping forge deeper ties between CBF-Florida and Baptists in Cuba.
Ortiz will lead an effort to promote diversity in worship and missions among Florida and Caribbean Baptist congregations. “Number one, it will help deepen our relationship with Hispanic churches and number two, it will help our primarily Anglo churches relate to Hispanics who are already members of their congregations or who they have ministries with,” Johnson added.
In an interview and through e-mail, Ortiz shared about the events of his life that have led him to leadership in the Fellowship.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Santiago de Cuba, Eastern Cuba, in 1972.
Where you raised in a church-going family?
I was raised in a Baptist family. I’m a third-generation Baptist from the Eastern Baptist Convention (ABC background) in the eastern region of Cuba.
When and how did you first sense your calling into ministry?
I always had that sense of a calling since I was a teenager. It was in camps and retreats that I received that personal call.
How did you find CBF?
In 2006, in a lonely time in ministry, I was feeling unsupported by my denomination (I had been pastoring First Hispanic Baptist Deltona for four years) and looking for a group with the Christ-like view of missions and Christian fellowship. I saw The Fellowship web page and I called. … Twenty-four hours later I receive a visit from Florida CBF… What a Fellowship I found!
Is CBF actually relevant to Hispanic Christians?
CBF understands the need of meeting the ministerial demands of a fast-growing and well-experienced Hispanic Christian population. Hispanics have a strong religious background from our countries and CBF is not just supporting missions in our Hispanic countries but is also opening ministry opportunities here for us, respecting our cultural needs. Now in Florida, we have a first Hispanic moderator and we hope soon a Hispanic assistance coordinator.
What are the biggest tasks and challenges for CBF-FLA in 2014?
Be a true voice about true diversity, how to practically be this diversity. Including the Hispanic churches in the church planting and become a model for the rest of the Fellowship. Reach out for Hispanics not just in U.S. but also create connections with regional Baptist movements in Latin America.