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African American Fellowship plans ‘Witness’ events

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“Witness For My Lord” will be the theme for the opening night of the June 19-20 meeting of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, preceding the SBC’s June 21-22 annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

“Witness” is a theme with a dual meaning, said Robert Anderson, outgoing president of the fellowship and pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md.

“Our Scripture is John 9:25 – ‘One thing I know; I was blind and now I see,'” Anderson said. “It will have in it the evangelistic emphasis and we will recognize those who have been a witness for the Lord over many years of faithful service.”

Several hundred people are expected to participate in the fellowship’s gatherings, in part because of efforts to build participation in the pre-SBC Crossover Nashville evangelistic outreach.

“We would like to especially encourage all African American Southern Baptists to join us on Saturday [June 18], when there will be a massive door-to-door effort in winning people to Christ,” Anderson said. “More than 25 percent of the people who live in Nashville are African American. It is right and just for us to show up in force to participate in this life-changing opportunity.”

The fellowship’s opening session, at 5 p.m. June 19, will be a worship service at Simeon Baptist Church in Nashville, where Elgia (Jay) Wells is pastor.

“When guests come in town you want to be friendly,” Wells said. “We’re happy to be hosting the African American Fellowship. It’s an honor for our church.”

About 120 people worship each Sunday at Simeon Baptist, where Wells has been pastor since 1992. Wells also is a pastoral ministries specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. Simeon Baptist is located about 18 miles southeast of downtown Nashville, at 3808 Parks Retreat Drive in Antioch, Tenn.

The Simeon Baptist Choir, under the direction of minister of music Jonathan Hamby, will lead in praise and worship during the service.

The name “National African American Fellowship” will be voted on for a second time, as per its constitution, at NAAF’s 2005 business session, scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at the downtown Hilton Inn and Suites.

Anderson said there are two reasons for the name change that adds “National” to the fellowship’s former name.

“It was to throw the net so all will know we’re part of a unit,” Anderson said. “We have African American fellowships across the States and we wanted to communicate we are one, to encourage one another and to share information and ministry ideas so we all can be more effective in our service for Christ.”

The addition of the word “National” also serves as a distinction, to separate the national body from the many statewide fellowship groups, Anderson said.

Reports will be presented from each of the statewide fellowships and regional directors during the business session, and new officers will be elected. Current officers include Anderson; Mark A. Croston Sr., pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., vice president; Frankie Harvey, laywoman at Nacogdoches (Texas) Bible Fellowship, secretary; and Leon Johnson, pastor at Bread of Life Baptist Church in Chicago, treasurer.

A 6 p.m. banquet June 20 at the Hilton Inn and Suites will open the Monday evening celebration, with the theme of “Honoring the Faithful Witness.” Sid Smith, executive director of the African American Denominational Servants Network and longtime director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s African American ministries division, will be honored, Anderson said. Smith has announced his retirement for later this year.

“Dr. Smith has certainly maintained if not raised the standard of excellence in terms of Christian education that’s been pertinent, relevant and constructive to African American churches and Southern Baptist churches in general,” Anderson said. “He’s a man of the Word and a dedicated follower of Christ who has lived an exemplary and devoutly Christian life.”

About 3,000 churches across the SBC worship in an African American context.

“We are excited about this coming meeting in Nashville because of the big emphasis on evangelism,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to see a lot of people saved.

“We’re also excited about the future of NAAF and also being able to encourage one another and recognize faithful service,” Anderson continued. “Hopefully we’ll all be inspired to go back to where we live and be a better witness for Christ.”