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African American leaders discuss ‘separatist’ comment, take no

ATLANTA (BP)–After electing officers, adopting a budget and agreeing on objectives for the year, the Southern Baptist African American Fellowship discussed a reported statement that they are a separatist organization.
Richard Lee, a staff member of the Illinois Baptist State Association, told the 78 pastors and wives attending the June 14 session that a Southern Baptist leader had asked him “why I would be going to that ‘separatist’ meeting.”
Lee later said the comment may have alluded to the fact that the fellowship was meeting in the Georgia World Congress Center while a session of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference was being held in the Georgia Dome.
After a time of discussion, no action was taken.
Winston Rudolph, president of the Florida African American Fellowship and pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, Pompano Beach, said the leader should be “ashamed of himself” and more careful about “speaking off the cuff,” but he attributed the remark to a “national perception” about ethnic organizations.
George McCalep, the fellowship’s second vice president and pastor of Greenforest Community Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga., said, “Black folks meet and it is a conspiracy. White folks meet and it’s a committee. We can move on. We are not going to change this.”
Joseph W. Lyles, the fellowship’s president and pastor of Fort Foote Baptist Church, Fort Washington, Md., said, “As we work and grow, it will become more obvious we are not a separatist group. We are part of the Southern Baptist Convention and we are here to be involved. Our time does not end at 2 p.m. today when the luncheon is over. We are blessed to have impacted the convention in a very positive way.”
In earlier business, the fellowship tripled its 1999-2000 budget to $15,000 and adopted a series of objectives which included:
— Communicate with every church in the fellowship at least twice yearly.
— Promote a better understanding of African Americans among all Southern Baptists.
— Insure more inclusion of African Americans in Southern Baptist life.
— Promote fellowship members to be involved in Southern Baptist mission efforts.
— Work to prepare and elect African American leaders as trustees of SBC agencies such as the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources and the Annuity Board.
Fellowship members also elected officers and board members to serve three-year terms which begin immediately.
They are: historian, Robert Franklin, Greater Fellowship Baptist Church, St. Louis; members at large, Samuel Simpson, Bronx Baptist Church and Wake-Eden Baptist Community Baptist Church, Bronx, N.Y., Willie McPherson, Sandtown Baptist Church, Atlanta, and Robert Anderson, Colonial Baptist Church, Randallstown, Md.
Officers serving terms that will continue are president, Lyles; first vice president, McCalep; second vice president, Elroy Barber, Westside Baptist Church, Hollywood, Fla.; secretary, Frankie Harvey, Emmanuel Baptist Church, San Jose, Calif.; and treasurer, Leon Johnson, Bread of Life Baptist Church, Chicago.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan