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Fellowship seeks racial reconciliation

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Racial reconciliation is his agenda, James Dixon, incoming president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, said at the group’s gathering June 14 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.

“I’m discontented with the church I’m at because I’m preaching to folk who look like me, and I’m not preparing for the place I’m going to,” Dixon said, referring to heaven. He has been pastor for 17 years of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.

“God wants us to bring about a unified body not only in the United States but in the world. Racism — until we deal with that, the Kingdom of God is hindered,” Dixon said. “I’m looking at God to do some amazing things to get people together.”

The NAAF annual meeting and banquet also honored three stalwarts: Elgia “Jay” Wells, David Cornelius and Emmanuel McCall. Officers were elected and reports were heard from representatives of SBC entities and from Joseph Gaston, president of the National Fellowship of SBC Haitian Churches USA/Canada. Three of the nominees for SBC president also addressed the fellowship.

Wells, of LifeWay Christian Resources, received the Friend of Pastors award, established last year by NAAF to honor individuals who have had a longtime, significant impact on pastors.

“He influences all the work at LifeWay,” said Selma Richards, vice president of the leadership team at LifeWay. “For 21 years he’s shown great strength and great resolve. Jay led in the development of the new ‘You’ urban curriculum. We have run out in both of the last two issues, which tells us it’s being very well received.”

Virginia pastor Mark Croston presented the award to Wells.

“The well is deep,” Croston said. “Jay has a deep, quiet strength, deep creative thinking — deep with a committed life. He has a clear passion for educating and discipling people. He’s a well of fresh ideas,” Croston said.

Two other men were honored at the meeting: David Cornelius of the International Mission Board and Emmanuel McCall, who taught most of the African Americans who today are in leadership positions in the SBC, said NAAF President Michael Pigg, pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

Cornelius has announced plans to “move into another area of ministry” after serving with the IMB for 21 years.

“Because of David Cornelius’ untiring efforts, there is a rising number of African American churches going on mission trips,” Pigg said. “We want to celebrate that. He’s been blowing the trumpet for missions.”

McCall, first African American to hold a national leadership role in the SBC, served for 23 years with the Home Mission Board, now the North American Mission Board. Today he is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and pastor of Fellowship Group Baptist Church in East Point, Ga.

New officers for two-year terms included Dixon as president; A.B. Vines as vice president; Mark Croston as treasurer; Bryon Day as secretary; K. Marshall Williams as parliamentarian; Robert Wilson as historian; Brian King as east region director; Roscoe Belton as central region director; and John Wells as west region director.

Vines is pastor of New Seasons Baptist Church in Spring Valley, Calif.; Croston is pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va.; Day is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md.; Williams is pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia; Wilson is pastor of Sandtown Baptist Church in Atlanta; King is pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia; Belton is pastor of Middlebelt Baptist Church in Inkster, Mich.; and Wells is pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Temecula, Calif.

NAAF’s $4,665 budget is unchanged from last year, Croston said.

Three candidates for SBC president introduced themselves to NAAF: Jimmy Jackson of Alabama; Bryan Wright of Georgia and Ted Traylor of Florida. Wright was elected president the next day by messengers to the SBC annual meeting.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, an affiliate newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.