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African American fellowship memorializes Gene Gibson

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Mildred Gibson of Chicago received at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist African American Fellowship several awards given posthumously to her husband, Eugene L. “Gene” Gibson, but they were small comfort.
“I miss him,” she said tearfully of the man who, at his March 10 death, was president of four denominational entities — the Illinois Baptist State Association, Southern Baptist African American Fellowship, Fellowship of State Convention Presidents and Southern Baptist Ethnic Presidents.
Several speakers echoed Mildred Gibson’s words at the gathering held June 8 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the June 9-11 Southern Baptist Convention. E.W. McCall of La Puente, Calif., a pastor and denominational leader, stomped his foot as he fought to gain control of his voice while speaking of the man who had helped him grow “as iron sharpens iron.”
Gibson, pastor of Mission of Faith Baptist Church in Chicago, was honored by the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Illinois State Association, Sunday School Board, Woman’s Missionary Union, Southern Baptist African American Fellowship and its sister organization, the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network.
Among the recognitions, Illinois plans at its annual meeting in November to establish a Gene Gibson state convention internship for African American college and seminary students, Executive Director Bob Wiley told the 150 people who gathered for the fellowship luncheon at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
During the business session of the fellowship, Elroy Barber, pastor at Westside International Baptist Church, Hollywood, Fla., was elected to a one-year term as second vice president. Barber is president of the Florida African American Fellowship and first vice president of the Florida Baptist Convention.
He joins officers elected in 1997 for two-year terms: Joseph W. Lyles, pastor at Fort Foote Baptist Church, Baltimore, Md., president, and George McCalep, Green Forest Community Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga., first vice president, both of whom moved up to their posts with Gibson’s death; Frankie Harvey, Emmanuel Baptist Church, San Jose, Calif, secretary; and Leon Johnson, Bread of Life Baptist Church, Chicago, treasurer.
Four people were elected as members at large: Willie L. Hinton Sr., West Mastin Lake Baptist Church, Huntsville, Ala.; James Kennedy, Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Flint, Mich.; John H. Davis Jr., Winewood Baptist Christian Fellowship, Birmingham, Ala.; and Willie L. Jorden, St. Marks Baptist Church, Harvey, Ill.
Some discussion took place concerning the connection of denominational workers with the African American Fellowship. As bylaws stand, denominational workers cannot vote, nominate or serve as officers.
“As pastors, we can deal with sensitive issues that denominational workers would not have the freedom to fully address,” Lyles explained after the business session. “We do want their valuable input.” A study group consisting of officers of both organizations was formed to clarify the bylaws.
Andrea Mullins, consultant with Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union, announced the appointment of Debra Berry, a member at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala., as liaison between WMU and the nation’s 2,100 Southern Baptist African American churches. Berry fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Margaret Perkins. Perkins will be honored at the 1999 meeting of the African American Fellowship in Atlanta.
Gary Frost, pastor for 15 years at Rising Star Baptist Church, Youngstown, Ohio, received the Willie B. Simmons award from the International Mission Board. Frost has led his church to minister the last four years on short-term mission assignments in Uganda.
African American churches are outpacing denominational statistics, reported Elgia Wells of the Sunday School Board. Using the ratio of membership to baptisms, he said in the SBC as a whole it takes 39 Southern Baptists to reach one person to accept Christ; but it takes only 18 African American Southern Baptists to reach one person.
The 1,271 churches that turned in an Annual Church Profile for 1997 reported a total of 19,710 baptisms, Wells added. He listed the top 10 African American churches in baptisms: New Christian Valley Church, South Holland, Ill. reported 786 baptisms for the 1996-97 church year; Grace Community Church, Fresno, Calif., 600; Hayward Palma Ceia, Hayward, Calif.: 418; Brookhollow Baptist Church, Houston, 350; St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, Harvey, Ill.: 345; Southwest Community Baptist Church, Houston, 324; Sweet Holy Spirit Church, Chicago, 260; Gary Tree of Life Church, Gary, Ind., 253; Brentwood Baptist Church, Houston, 204; and Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, La., 202.
Deliverance Baptist Church, Chattahoochee, Fla., where Darrell Britt is pastor, received the Sunday School Board’s black church development Christian education award for excellence in ministry. A mission congregation about two years old, Deliverance’s statistics indicate a church of outstanding quality, Wells said.