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NAAF hopeful in historic SBC election

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Attendance at the National African American Fellowship’s annual meeting will break records as the Southern Baptist Convention seems poised to elect its first black president, NAAF President James Dixon Jr. predicts.

Up to 1,000 messengers may be in attendance for NAAF’s various sessions June 16-20 in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting June 19-20, said Dixon, senior pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.

“Because this is a historic moment in the SBC, as far as electing a black president, our numbers are going to be large,” Dixon said. “I’m optimistic.”

Dixon’s optimism stems from the nomination of Fred Luter of New Orleans for SBC president. Luter, who to date is unopposed, would be the first African American to hold the post. He currently is the SBC’s first vice president.

“We’ve been praying on it for years. I never thought I would live long enough to see it come to pass,” Dixon said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction. This will be a great, great act on [the SBC’s] part.”

Luter’s anticipated election would be a healthy moment for the SBC, Dixon said, helping dispel a myth that the SBC is not ethnically inclusive in leadership. Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, has accepted Dixon’s invitation to preach at NAAF’s annual banquet, Tuesday, June 19 from 6:30–9:30 p.m. in rooms 220-221 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Dixon will forgo the customary final presidential address in view of Luter’s sermon.

“Changing: Lives, Communities, the World” is NAAF’s conference theme, by design, the same theme for this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference. NAAF will encourage messengers to impact their communities and the world by working to change individual lives.

“It will challenge our churches to be intentional about making disciples. That’s the only way we’re going to affect our churches,” Dixon said. “That’s the only way we’re going to affect our community.” He said NAAF will focus specifically on promoting healthy families as the catalyst for community improvement.

Joining Luter at the annual banquet will be leaders of several SBC entities and its one auxiliary, whom Dixon has invited to make remarks. Already expected to attend are presidents of the SBC Executive Committee, Frank Page; LifeWay Christian Resources, Thom Rainer; Guidestone Financial Resources, O.S. Hawkins; and the North American Mission Board, Kevin Ezell.

Ken Winter, an International Mission Board vice president; Wanda Lee, executive director and treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union; David Lee, executive director of the Maryland/Delaware Convention, and David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, also have accepted invitations, Dixon said.

Jeffery Friend, pastor of Suburban Baptist Church, 10501 Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans and host of the June 17 NAAF worship and fellowship at 6:30 p.m., will preach during that service.

NAAF, at its annual meeting, will present its new strategic plan, Dixon said, as well as affirm new officers and regional directors, adopt changes to the NAAF constitution and policies, and renew and rekindle fellowships with new and less active members.

New officers, selected at NAAF’s March board meeting, are president A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church, Spring Valley, Calif.; vice president K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church, Philadelphia; treasurer Mark A. Croston Sr., pastor of East End Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va., and secretary Byron Day, pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Laurel, Md. The business meeting is slated for Monday, June 18, from 4–6 p.m. in room 222 of the convention center. Dixon expects NAAF to confirm as regional leaders Brian King, East; Roscoe Belton, Midwest, and Garland Moore, Mountain. The West region’s leadership post is currently vacant.

Dixon described this year’s theme emphasizing healthy lives — a building block to healthy families — as dear to his heart.

“I strive within my own family to make sure my family is healthy,” said Dixon, married 40 years to his childhood sweetheart, Dessie. The two have four children and 11 grandchildren.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.