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NAAF president elected to 3rd term

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–It’s a pivotal time in the life of the National African American Fellowship, members agreed during their annual two-session meeting June 11, which takes place in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

NAAF members decided to suspend the rules and re-elect President Mark Croston, pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., to an unprecedented third term.

In both his years in office, Croston has been deeply involved in two recently completed task forces that looked at African American ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention, said E.W. McCall Sr., NAAF nominating committee chairman. It would strengthen the implementation of the task force recommendations if Croston were elected to a third term, McCall told those in attendance.

McCall said the nominating committee had sought out another nominee, but the individual subsequently withdrew his name.

Croston, meanwhile, apparently had solidified plans to conclude his presidency with a rousing message for spiritual leadership.

At the June 11 meeting, by the time Croston concluded his challenge on spiritual leadership, the crowd was on its feet, giving Croston “a witness” -– as it is called in the African American ministry context -– to the truth of his words about living in faith, stepping out on faith and not quitting until the task is done, because that’s what God expects of those He calls His own.

The excitement had been building all day, from the afternoon business session when reports were given to the evening banquet when tribute was given to George O. McCalep Jr., pastor of the Atlanta-area Greenforest Community Baptist Church who died just before Christmas 2006. Appreciation also was expressed to Frankie Harvey, who is concluding 10 years of service as NAAF secretary.

Elected as officers in addition to Croston were Michael Pigg, pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Atlanta as vice president; Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., secretary; Leon Johnson, pastor of Bread of Life Baptist Church in Chicago, treasurer; K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, parliamentarian; and Robert Wilson of Atlanta, historian.

NAAF uses time zones to determine borders for its four regions: Stephen Hardnett, pastor of New Christian Bible Baptist Church in Baltimore, is director of the eastern region; Roscoe Belton, pastor of Middlebelt Baptist Church in Inkster, Mich., central region; E.W. McCall Sr., pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in LaPuente, Calif., Pacific region. The mountain region director position remains vacant. Wayne Chaney, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Long Beach, Calif., is symposium coordinator.

Ken Weathersby, senior director of the North American Mission Board’s equipping division, recounted summary points developed by NAMB’s 12-member African American Task Force, which was commissioned in January 2006 and completed its work in September 2006.

“We have broadened the idea of who an African American is to include other black races with diasporic links to Africa, such as Caribbean, Jamaican and others,” Weathersby said. “This is in keeping with definitions by other studies of people groups.”

The first goal of the NAMB African American Task Force is a call to baptize at least 50,000 people annually in churches that minister in an African American context and to baptize at least 200,000 by 2010.

“This represents more than a 50 percent increase in annual reported baptisms,” Weathersby said.

In 2005, there were 3,190 African American congregations within the SBC. The new goal is to plant 450 churches a year and to have at least 5,000 churches by 2010. This would involve 900 churches engaged in planting new churches.

Other goals involve equipping leaders, sending out more than 50,000 African Americans on short-term mission projects over the next five years (a 100 percent increase) and 800 career missions and chaplain personnel.

The NAMB task force also suggested an African American director be appointed to oversee the implementation of African American strategies.

John Kramp, director of LifeWay Christian Resources’ church resources division, explained the results of LifeWay’s African American Task Force, which recently completed its work. Kramp said he has developed a budget for next year to include various ways LifeWay can better serve its African American constituency.

Elgia (Jay) Wells, a 19-year LifeWay employee, now director of black church development, said he had never seen such a solid commitment to a plan of action as what he has seen as a result of LifeWay’s African American task force.

“This will be decided by October,” Kramp said to NAFF members. “Pray about it. Pray for it. Bathe it in prayer.”