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African American fellowship’s new name aims to ‘keep the vision high’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A new name and new president garnered the attention of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention June 19-20.

So did the retirement of a longtime leader and the passing of the gavel by the outgoing president during the two-day gathering prior to the SBC’s June 21-22 annual meeting at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in downtown Nashville, Tenn.

“By putting ‘National’ in our name, we clarify who we are … and keep the vision high,” the outgoing president, Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., said.

Mark Croston, pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., was elected president, with Winston W. Rudolph, pastor of The Abyssinian Baptist Church of Christ in Pompano Beach, Fla., as the new vice president.

Sid Smith, a 40-year veteran of denominational service, was honored during a June 20 banquet at the downtown Hilton. Earlier in the year he announced his retirement as director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s African American Ministries division.

“It is an honor for us to recognize a man God has used in Southern Baptist life and especially its African American constituency for more than 40 years,” Anderson said at the banquet. “[Smith’] faithful service, loyalty to the convention and quiet and godly passion for Christ — for these reasons and more, we honor him.”

The meeting began with a Sunday evening worship service at Simeon Baptist Church in Antioch, Tenn., a Nashville suburb.

Guest speaker Anthony (Tony) Payton, pastor of Come As You Are Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., explained why “the caged bird sings.” Preaching from Philippians, Payton said a caged bird sings because God created it to sing, regardless of its circumstances. It has a purpose and a pattern.

Just as his mother was unable to sew a shirt correctly without sticking to a pattern, Payton continued, Christians must stick to the pattern of Christ.

Payton warned against materialism as he spoke of the prize that comes not from possessions or other trappings of worldly success — such as big numbers of people in Sunday morning services — but from being all God has in mind.

“You can have a whole lot of folks and not have the folks God wants you to have,” Payton said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to whether you and I glorify God.”

People with God’s power get God’s work done, Payton concluded. They “sing” regardless of the “cage” they might be in.

During the Monday afternoon business session, a $27,000 annual budget was approved.

Other officers elected included Frankie Harvey, a member of Nacogdoches (Texas) Baptist Fellowship, secretary; Leon Johnson, pastor of Bread of Life Baptist Church, Chicago, treasurer; Wayne Chaney Jr., pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Long Beach, Calif., parliamentarian; and Robert Wilson, pastor of SandTown Baptist Church, Atlanta, historian.

Also elected were Stephen Hardnett, pastor of New Christian Baptist Bible Church, Baltimore, eastern regional director; Willie Jordan, pastor of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, Harvey, Ill., central regional director; William Johnson, pastor of Enoch Baptist Church, Omaha, Neb., mountain regional director; and E.W. McCall Sr., pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, La Puente, Calif., western regional director.

The business meeting also included reports from several states and regions on the growth and development of churches that worship in African American and Caribbean contexts.

A church start in Harlem, on the north end of Manhattan, is designed to be a “core” church that is expected to start about a dozen other churches, including four more core churches.

Across Metro New York, the success last summer of a school painting project in the Bronx has led to six new school painting projects this summer for Southern Baptists.

An African American church in Maryland started a Filipino church, which is starting a Hispanic church.

Several cities in Michigan — including Saginaw, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids — have no African American Southern Baptist work. The Michigan African American Fellowship plans to start some, using a six-part strategy developed by the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.