NEW YORK (BP) – Eight ethnic fellowships representing about 12,000 Southern Baptist congregations have affirmed the appointment of Willie McLaurin as the interim president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
McLaurin is the first African American to serve as CEO of a Southern Baptist entity in SBC history.
Spearheaded by the near 4,000- congregation National African American Fellowship of the SBC, the statement affirms McLaurin’s appointment, thanks the EC for his selection and encourages Southern Baptists moving forward.
“In affirming this selection, although it is an interim appointment, we encourage all Southern Baptists to unite in celebrating this historic moment of Dr. McLaurin becoming the first non-Anglo to serve as president of an SBC entity,” the statement reads. “Dr. McLaurin has the qualifications, experience, knowledge and respect among pastors and leaders to lead the SBC Executive Committee at this time.
“We also want to express our appreciation to the current … trustees of the SBC Executive Committee, under the leadership of Rolland Slade, who have exercised skillful and peaceable guidance over the past several months during this very difficult period.”
NAAF President Frank Williams said McLaurin’s appointment is a win for all Southern Baptist ethnic fellowships.
“Dr. McLaurin’s appointment represents for the SBC the kind of historic moment that shifts the paradigm,” Williams said. “As president of NAAF, I felt that such a moment did not just belongs to Blacks, but that we needed to share this moment with other non-Anglo fellowship groups, who have their own stories, but whose journeys have collided with ours, and together we can stand alongside our white brothers and sisters and celebrate this moment.
“Even if someone may not wholeheartedly agree with the appointment like we do, we can all celebrate this historic moment. It is evidence of yet another victory over past sins. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. I strongly believe that people of color are uniquely primed to inspire hope, inform the culture, and impact the kingdom. We are here for this.”
McLaurin, who was appointed Feb. 1 after serving as EC vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization, thanked the ethnically diverse leaders for their support.
“The statement of affirmation from our SBC-affiliated ethnic fellowships is both encouraging and humbling,” McLaurin said. “The churches represented by the ethnic fellowships make up 22.3 percent of our churches that are ethnically and racially diverse in the Southern Baptist Convention. For such a time as this, the Lord is putting on display the diversity of the nations in our convention.
“During this interim season, my hope and desire is that more churches will lock arms together as we pursue being reconciled to God and then to each other. The strength of the Southern Baptist Convention will be made manifest when our focus is on winning the world to Jesus. May this historic moment be written upon the tablets of our hearts and provide hope for the future.”
Ramon Medina, president of the SBC Hispanic Council, praised McLaurin’s understanding of Southern Baptist diversity. About 3,400 Southern Baptist churches and missions are majority Hispanic.
“Dr. Willie is a qualified leader who loves Southern Baptists,” Medina said, “brings diversity to the position and knows the best way to support the diverse groups comprising Southern Baptists.” Medina also serves as SBC second vice president.
James Kang, executive director of the near-900-congregation Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, praised McLaurin for his “excellent work” in connecting ethnic churches to the SBC.
“He and Peter Yanes (SBC EC executive director of Asian American relations and mobilization) have valued our churches and heard our voice,” Kang said. “His leadership and his love for the greater Kingdom of God will make a difference in our SBC churches.”
Paul Kim, a Korean American who founded the Asian-American Fellowship of the SBC, said McLaurin will help unite Southern Baptists.
“His leadership will unite the entire Southern Baptist family in trust and unity at this current time,” Kim said, “as we move forward to fulfill the Great Commission with the Great Commandments in love of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Others endorsing the statement are the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the United States and Canada, comprising more than 270 churches in the U.S. and Canada, represented by executive director Amos Lee; the Fellowship of Native American Christians, comprising 431 congregations and led by executive director Gary Hawkins; the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America, comprising about 175 congregations and headed by president Felix Sermon; the 146-congregation Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America, represented by executive director Christian Phan; and Hre Mang, president of the newly organized Myanmar Churches Fellowship of about 90 congregations.
NAAF President Frank Williams and Executive Director Dennis Michell spearheaded the drafting of the statement. Longtime Southern Baptist Hispanic mobilizer Bob Sena also endorsed the statement, included below.
“STATEMENT OF AFFIRMATION, THANKS and ENCOURAGEMENT to SOUTHERN BAPTISTS
We, the leaders of our respective SBC affiliated Ethnic Fellowships, which represent more than 12,000 congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention, congratulate Dr. Willie McLaurin who was selected to serve as the Interim President/CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
In affirming this selection, although it is an interim appointment, we encourage all Southern Baptists to unite in celebrating this historic moment of Dr. McLaurin becoming the first non-Anglo to serve as President of an SBC entity. Dr. McLaurin has the qualifications, experience, knowledge and respect among pastors and leaders to lead the SBC Executive Committee at this time.
We also want to express our appreciation to the current members of the Trustees of the SBC Executive Committee, under the leadership of Rolland Slade, who have exercised skillful and peaceable guidance over the past several months during this very difficult period.
We call on all Southern Baptists to enthusiastically affirm the biblical principles stated in Revelation 7:9-10 and I Corinthians 12:12-30 that unite and bind us together, which enable us to celebrate the richness of the diversity in the body of Christ to the glory of God!”