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Haitian pastors establish new ethnic fellowship, elect leaders

Miami pastor Keny Felix, elected inaugural president of the Southern Baptist Convention National Haitian Fellowship, preaches at Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church, his pastorate. There are around 500 Haitian Southern Baptist churches in the U.S. (Screen capture)

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – When Miami pastor Keny Felix reads of the great multitude in Revelation 7:9, he envisions a certain beauty.

“In that passage, I see some brothers wearing Afros,” he said, “just as with other brothers with long hair, and sisters.”

Felix, senior pastor of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church, is the inaugural president of the Southern Baptist Convention National Haitian Fellowship, organized at the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting and representing about 500 Haitian churches.

“We’re excited to move forward in helping all of these pastors and churches to connect, to definitely participate more actively in SBC life,” Felix said, “but also to bring resources to bear to assist churches in fulfilling the task that the Lord has given us, to meet the unique needs of Haitian American churches, while ensuring that when it comes to our evangelistic outreach, it is definitely indeed to all nations, as the Lord expects of us.”

About 30 Haitian pastors, together with some of the members of their congregations, gathered at First Haitian Baptist Church of Gretna in conjunction with this year’s annual meeting in New Orleans, representing a tenfold increase in attendance at the SBC 2022 Annual Meeting, said John Voltaire, Florida Baptist Convention Haitian American Catalyst.

“Their role is basically to mobilize the Haitian pastors and strengthen the team,” Voltaire said, “and next year when we go to Indiana (2024 SBC Annual Meeting) we’ll have a larger group.”

Felix, born in Guadeloupe to Baptist missionaries St. Louis and Nazette Felix, sees great missional value in cooperative engagement among Haitian pastors and the greater Southern Baptist family. Already, he has worked with the Florida Haitian Fellowship in strengthening Baptist congregations in Haiti, and appreciates that multilingual Haitian pastors are additionally beneficial in missions to French-speaking countries.

“We’re seeing how the multiple resources that are present in Haitian churches can be utilized to reach the world for Christ and impact various communities,” Felix said. “Florida has worked closely with the Fellowship of Baptist Churches in Haiti, one, to increase theological education; two, to bring humanitarian relief, particularly after the recent disasters we’ve had, and also just to overall strengthen the churches there in Haiti by working collaboratively with pastors in Haiti.”

Felix’s parents served 11 years as missionaries through the Evangelical Baptist Mission of Haiti, with his father now serving as pastor emeritus of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church.

Felix expressed excitement in leading the Haitian fellowship.

Haiti brings a rich legacy to the SBC, he said. Haiti was the first liberated Black republic in the world and the second liberated republic in the Western Hemisphere, following the U.S.

“We know the role of Haitians even in the history of the United States, when we talk about New Orleans, when we talk about the Louisiana Purchase and the impact, also, Haitians have had on the United States through the centuries,” Felix said. “So, to have a vibrant Haitian American community that is yet again diverse, is definitely affirming that we are part of the fiber of the United States that really is a country of immigrants.”

The U.S. is “a country of diverse individuals from diverse lands, and so therefore, we should have the same opportunities that are affordable to other groups as well, affordable to Christian organizations, Christian churches as well,” he said, “and definitely as part of the SBC.

“I believe we have the opportunity to continue to impact (the U.S.),” Felix said, “in joining with our African American brothers and sisters, and other multiethnic congregations to really allow this Convention to represent what Jesus intended when He said to reach all nations. All nations are certainly here, and we have the unique opportunity to show what that can look like.”