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African American meeting to explore key concerns

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–“Critical Issues” for African Americans in Southern Baptist life will be addressed during the 13th annual meeting of what now is known as the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Held in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting, NAAF’s two-day event will open with a worship service at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at Immanuel Baptist Church, 2432 High Point Road in Greensboro, N.C., where Russ Reaves is pastor.

Eddie Scott, pastor of Christian Bible Fellowship in New Orleans, is scheduled to bring the annual sermon. Scott, one of many pastors displaced last September by Hurricane Katrina and breached levees and floodwalls, is expected to talk about the region-wide devastation, Southern Baptists’ response and the continuing need for volunteers to help in New Orleans’ rebuilding; and the resurrection of the 10-year-old church he pastors.

“It’s an exciting time to be part of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Mark Croston, NAAF president and pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va. “A lot of great things are going on in SBC life and we’re right in the midst of all of it.

“I think the annual meeting will be inspirational,” Croston continued. “It’s a great opportunity for us as African Americans in the Southern Baptist Convention to get together, know each other and make sure we’re aware of all that’s going on.”

NAAF’s Monday session will start at 4 p.m. with a business meeting in the Meadowbrook Room on Level 3 of the Sheraton Hotel, 3121 High Point Road at Interstate 40 in Greensboro.

A report from the North American Mission Board’s task force on African Americans is expected, as is word that LifeWay Christian Resources plans to create a similar task force in August to meet its specific needs.

“It’s an exciting time because [the SBC entities] are seeing the need to take a sensitive look at what’s happening in the African American population so they can be better equipped to advance the Kingdom,” said Croston, who chaired the NAMB task force.

LifeWay, meanwhile, “is looking at the marketplace: How do we expand our reach in this particular market?” the pastor said.

Also on Monday afternoon, the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servant’s Network is scheduled to make a presentation on critical issues facing African Americans in the SBC. Dennis Mitchell, network president and director of the strategic readiness team at the North American Mission Board, spoke informally at last year’s network meeting on the need to train blacks with a potential for leadership to fill denominational openings as they occur.

Mitchell spoke then of the “urgency of time” and the importance to African Americans and all members of the SBC that African Americans be among the denomination’s decision-makers.

“It makes a difference when you’re at the table,” Mitchell said then.

The annual NAAF banquet is to begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday, again in the Sheraton’s Meadowbrook Room. In addition to the president’s keynote address, awards and greetings from SBC entities, the evening’s activities will include a special presentation by LifeWay.

“I think LifeWay really wants to be more sensitive to the issues that confront African Americans,” Croston said. “They want to do a better job of meeting the needs of African American pastors and churches.”

About 130 people are expected to participate in NAAF’s annual meeting, the president said.

“NAAF’s purpose is to provide an opportunity for fellowship, information and direction for African American churches that are active participants in the SBC, and to provide insights and support to convention entities as they do work among African Americans.

“Our goal is Kingdom growth,” Croston continued. “When President Bobby Welch said ‘Everyone Can’ [be a part of reaching 1 millions baptisms in the SBC], we believe that includes us, and we’re trying to do our part.”