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Awards & a heart for inclusion highlight African American session

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Awards presented at the annual meeting of the African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention June 10 in New Orleans lauded the service and achievements of several of its leaders.

The fellowship — which consists of members of the SBC’s 2,000 predominantly African American congregations — meets each year in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Robert Wilson, pastor at Sandtown Baptist Church in Atlanta, received the fellowship’s Outstanding Leadership Award for his leadership in challenging members of African American churches “to go beyond their church to reach lost souls,” said the fellowship’s president, Joseph Lyles, as he presented the award to Wilson.

Wilson also received a Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board for his leadership in the development of an African American department at NAMB. Wilson served at NAMB and its predecessor, the Home Mission Board, from 1994-2000.

Willie Jordan received a NAMB Churches Planting Churches award. He is pastor at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Harvey, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and is former pastor at Sandtown Baptist in Atlanta.

Joseph and Catherine Jeter of Philadelphia received the Willie Simmons Award from the International Mission Board for 36 years promoting career missions for African Americans. Mary Tinsley of California and Frankie Harvey of Texas also received Willie Simmons Awards for their years of service and for teaching African Americans to go beyond their comfort zone and do volunteer missions.

Awards and milestones first presented at the annual meeting of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network June 9 were announced again at the larger fellowship venue:

Jim Culp, retiring this year as black church development division director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, received from the network its most prestigious honor, the Emmanuel McCall Award for outstanding service as a Southern Baptist denominational servant.

Gary Frost was recognized as NAMB’s first African American vice president — of Strategic Focus Cities. Lawrence Smith was recognized as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s first African American vice president — of communications.

James Gailliard, pastor of the inner-city Word Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, received NAMB’s Church Planter of the Year award. In the 12 months since the church was started, 94 people have been baptized; another 40 await baptism. Gailliard has started six Sunday school classes, a new member’s class, pastor’s class and a women’s ministries group.

During the African American Fellowship’s business session, a revision of its constitution was unanimously approved. The fellowship’s bank balance is $3,193.35; members passed a $21,050 budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year.

George McCalep of Georgia was elected president; Robert Anderson of Maryland, vice president; Frankie Harvey of Texas, secretary; Leon Johnson of Illinois, treasurer; Robert Franklin of Missouri, historian; and Michael Thompson of Ohio, parliamentarian.

Four men were named regional directors for the fellowship, each in a different time zone: Phil Davis of North Carolina, Willie Jordan of Illinois, Manning Perkins of Colorado and E.W. McCall of California.

Three men were elected as members at large of the African American Fellowship: Lee T. Wesley of Louisiana; Steven Harnet of Maryland; and Bob Baker of Virginia.

“I believe if we keep working together it will have a positive impact,” Lyles, pastor of Fort Foote Baptist Church, Fort Washington, Md., said during the business session to encourage African American Southern Baptists to continue to work harmoniously with Anglo Southern Baptists.

“We have a lot to offer,” he said, listing insight, impact, expertise, energy and excitement. “We’re coming with our sleeves rolled up rather than our hands held out.”

The goal of the African American Fellowship, like that of the Southern Baptist Convention, is to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ, Lyle said. “Since we’re all God’s chosen, we want the [Southern Baptist] Convention to reflect that,” Lyles said. “It’s going to be a long journey to bring the convention to more inclusion, but we’re on our way.”

Leon Johnson, pastor at Bread of Life Community Church in Chicago, spoke during a break in the session about the formation of the African American Southern Baptist Fellowship in 1993 and its effect on the denomination.

“We are sensitizing some African Americans to Southern Baptist life, and we are sensitizing some Southern Baptists to African American life,” Johnson said.

Incoming President George McCalep spoke during the break of goals for his term of service. “My major focus is the whole matter of inclusiveness,” McCalep said. “We need to get all the African American congregations involved in the [African American] Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention.” Achievement of the goals set out in the fellowship’s revised constitution is paramount, he added.

In his final address as president, Joseph Lyles spoke during the dinner session from Revelation 5:1-10 on Christ as the worthy Lamb of God.

“In spite of how well our ministries are going, none of us is worthy to be serving God,” Lyles reminded his listeners. He spoke of God’s omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, and of the unity of the Bible: Genesis 22 asks where is the lamb?; John 12:9 orders, Behold the lamb; and Revelation 5 proclaims, Worthy is the lamb.

“God is worthy of our praise,” Lyles preached. “We should come to worship prepared to praise God, and to pray.”