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Black network broadens scope

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Members of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network made key changes to their organization when they met June 13 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.

About 40 people took part in a meal prepared by the host church, Kingsway Baptist Church in Orlando. The late Sid Smith, a key leader in the black servants network, was remembered fondly. Smith died in April 2009.

“This is the first year without Sid, and he did everything,” said Jeffrey Curtis, the network’s president. “This was his baby.”

The members this year did away with the role of an executive director; are having their publication, The Journal of African-American Southern Baptist History, privately published; moved presentation of their annual awards to Black Church Week, which this year is July 19-23 at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center; and widened their membership base.

“The executive director was a position created to keep Sid in the loop and continue to draw on his wisdom and expertise, which were invaluable,” said Curtis, who was elected as president for a two-year term last year.

Smith directed the establishment of the journal and was editor of its first seven annual volumes. The journal this year will focus on spiritual formation in the black church and next year on leadership in the black church.

“The journal has been confined primarily to the African American church in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Curtis said. “We have a lot to offer the broader evangelical world, so the journal will be available online on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, and it will be converted into e-reader form for Kindle and other electronic readers.”

The black servants network is working with CrossBooks, an imprint of LifeWay Christian Resources, in the publication of the journal.

The network in previous years ranged from 100 to 200 possible members — those serving in denominational roles at the associational, state and national level. Members this year broadened the criteria to include anyone who receives funding from an SBC entity, which includes church planters across the United States. That brought the membership pool up to perhaps 800, Curtis said.

Among reports heard this year by the Black Servants Network were David Cornelius from the International Mission Board, Ron Fairley from the North American Mission Board and Elgia “Jay” Wells from LifeWay.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, affiliate newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.