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Black Servants report growth

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–The Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network showcased its steady growth during its 12th annual meeting and gave awards to several leaders June 8 at Gabriel Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

Sid Smith, the network’s executive director, underscored the multiple ways the organization has been growing.

About 250 African Americans are employed in the Southern Baptist Convention’s association, state/regional conventions and national entities -– up from about 90 in 1996, said Smith, who retired a year ago as director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s African American ministries division.

P. Dexter Hardy, African American ministry leader for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan and vice president of the network, described plans to provide mentoring and coaching conferences via Internet teleconferencing to address the oft-stated developmental needs of church members called to special service.

Others referred to the present and future opportunities for African Americans to serve denominationally. To that end, the network published in 2008 a “Professional Growth and Development Guide” that lists “Key Things” people should do to help or not hinder career opportunities.

The guide also lists “Seven Great Challenges for SBC Denominational Servants,” including the challenge of understanding one’s job description, budgeting, leadership and how the SBC works. Additionally, the guide addresses the challenge of handling issues of a personal, ethnic, agency, denominational, or Kingdom nature.

“Operation Total Encouragement” is a plan Smith said was initiated by the network over the last year with a goal of utilizing one person in every state/regional convention and SBC entity to be prepared to reach out to every denominational worker in his/her area. To date, OTE contact persons are in place in Florida, Michigan, Penn/Jersey, Texas, California and Louisiana, plus at several Southern Baptist entities, including LifeWay Christian Resources, North American Mission Board and International Mission Board as well as the Woman’s Missionary Union auxiliary to the SBC.

Elgia (Jay) Wells, LifeWay’s director of black church development, described new “urban” Sunday School curriculum developed as a result of a recommendation by LifeWay’s recent task force on African American needs. Titled “You,” the process-driven curriculum guides people to grow in their relationship with God and their Christian walk through Bible study, serving others and mission trips.

Chris McNairy, a strategic coordinator at NAMB -– who announced he is engaged to be married July 5 to Shawn Broussard -– reported that last year’s orientation guide for new employees has been updated and revised to delete dated references. McNairy said the network has made the guide available on its website at www.BlackDenominationalServants.org.

Also available on the website is the new sixth edition of The Journal of African American Southern Baptist History, published this year by the network in cooperation with the North American Mission Board.

Focusing on evangelism, articles in part one of the journal relay historical perspectives; part two, personal perspectives; and part three, specialized perspectives.

In its single item of business, the network voted to make its position of historian an elective office. New officers will be voted on during the July 21-25 Black Church Week at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. Until then, Ken Ellis will remain as president; Dexter Hardy, vice president; Jeffrey Curtis, treasurer; Alma Surrency, financial secretary; William McLaurin, parliamentarian; and Ervin McWilson Sr., secretary.

Several individuals received awards from the network during the meeting:

— Ken Weathersby, senior strategist for evangelism at NAMB who was president of the network from 1998-2000, received the “Agency Denominational Leadership Award.” Weathersby and others at various levels of the SBC developed the SBC’s new National Evangelism Initiative introduced at this year’s SBC annual meeting.

— John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, received the “Executive Denominational Leadership Award.” Sullivan’s award referred to his “bold courageous leadership in prioritizing African American ministry at the division level” and his record in developing a multicultural state Baptist convention.

— Karen Willoughby received an “Award of Excellence for Denominational Leadership in Journalism” for her coverage of African Americans that has appeared in Baptist Press over the last dozen years. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message and Dakota Baptist.

— Lincoln Bingham, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., received the Kennedy/Boyce Award because his efforts in racial reconciliation over more than 50 years “embodie[d] the characteristics of these two Southern Baptist pioneers.” The award is named for Charles Kennedy, pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Anchorage, Alaska, and Washington Boyce, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Santa Rosa, Calif., who led their churches to be the first predominantly African American churches in the 20th century to join the Southern Baptist Convention.
Released by Baptist Press.

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