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‘It’s a new day’ leader says of African Americans in SBC

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The increase in the number of African American denominational workers over the last year was a significant accomplishment, said Sid Smith, executive director of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network.

“It’s a new day in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Smith said.

Smith delivered his report at the group’s annual gathering held June 10 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. Smith is executive director of the network and African American ministries division director of the Florida Baptist Convention.

“The churches are doing this,” noted Ken Weathersby, president of the network and manager of the African American church multiplication unit at the North American Mission Board. “The churches are calling out the called. The conventions — state and national — are responding. They continue to employ increasing numbers of African Americans in strategic positions.”

He explained after the meeting that African Americans’ history of successfully ministering in the inner city is adding a cutting edge to Southern Baptists’ incursion of the 50 urban areas where 50 percent of the nation’s population resides.

Two African Americans within the last year were named to denominational vice presidencies and one was elected executive director of a state convention. This increases the number of people in the Denominational Servants Network to more than 50.

Gary Frost was named the vice president of NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities outreach — the agency’s first African American vice president.

Lawrence Smith was named vice president of communications at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the institution’s first African American vice president.

Jeffrey Haggray, on June 4, was unanimously elected the first African American executive director of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

At least 30 African Americans serve as missionaries internationally. At the Denominational Servants Network awards dinner, Weathersby received the Presidential Appreciation Award in appreciation of his service during his 1999-2001 term.

Jim Culp, retiring this year as black church development division director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, received the network’s highest award, the Emmanuel McCall Award for outstanding service as a Southern Baptist denominational servant.

James Gailliard, pastor of the Word Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, received the Church Planter of the Year award. This year-old church has baptized more than 90 people. The congregation’s membership totaled 192 on its June 1 anniversary.

Others earning awards included Roy Cotton, Baptist General Convention of Texas; Roosevelt Morris, director of the new work department of the South Carolina Baptist Convention; Eugene Bryant, African American church planting director of the Florida Baptist Convention; and Chris McNairy, a NAMB national missionary in the area of multihousing church planting.

During a business session, a slate of officers for the next three-year term was unanimously elected: president, Roy Cotton, Texas; vice president, Roosevelt Morris, South Carolina; secretary, Eddie Jones, Oklahoma; treasurer, Josh Smith, Virgin Islands; and parliamentarian, Victor Ketchens, New York.

“We appreciate your service so much,” Weathersby said during his presidential address. “We are beginning to do something we’ve talked about for years. Let us remember the importance of prayer. We thank God for his blessing.”