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NAAF to aid 7 churches in Crossover

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Two longtime pastors will be honored during the June 8-9 meeting of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, while Mark Croston Sr. will recap his unprecedented three-year term as NAAF president.

But on Saturday, June 7, the NAAF is encouraging its members to participate in the Crossover Indianapolis by engaging in evangelistic outreach through seven local Southern Baptist churches that minister in an African American context.

“We’re encouraging our participants to get to Indianapolis early to participate in the Saturday Crossover activities,” Croston said. “This is one way we can join together in God’s Kingdom work.”

The NAAF, encompassing 4,500 African American churches in the SBC, meets each year in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting, slated for June 10-11 in the Indiana Convention Center.

“We would hope our convention would find constructive ways to respond to all the current issues the church is confronted with,” Croston said, specifically citing the idea of an open dialogue on race relations.

“We shouldn’t just pick some issues and be silent on others,” Croston said. “We live in such a media-driven society that the voice of Southern Baptists needs to be heard with consistency, clarity, conviction and conscience -– on all issues our people are confronted with.”

While the NAAF has no plans to support a candidate for president of the United States, Croston noted, “We support the process. We’re excited that people are thinking about this election and looking at the candidates. We as Christians must always be guided by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit as we seek God’s face for who He wants to be in leadership positions.

“The Bible says whoever gets there is placed there by Him, so we must consistently seek God’s face and be on God’s agenda to put in position those God has ordained to be there.”

In addition to Crossover, the NAAF is encouraging attendance at the SBC Pastors’ Conference on Sunday afternoon for the free premiere of “Fireproof,” a movie about marriage developed by Sherwood Pictures of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., producers of the 2006 “Facing the Giants” film that garnered national attention.

NAAF’s regular schedule will begin with worship at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 8, at Berean Bible Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in northeast Indianapolis. “We always try to find one of the local Southern Baptist churches that are cooperating with the convention,” said Croston, pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va.

Following music by the Berean Bible Church choir, the evening’s speaker will be T. Vaughn Walker, pastor of First Gethsemane Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

NAAF’s business session is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday, June 9, in Room 207 of the Indiana Convention Center. In addition to electing a new slate of officers, members will hear a report about a task force to be implemented by the International Mission Board to explore how the IMB can better serve the needs and involve the members of African American churches in international missions.

“We were desirous of these task forces, but waited on the agencies to convene them,” Croston said. “NAMB was first in January 2006. LifeWay started its in late August 2006. I think great things have happened as a result of these task forces. We’re excited at the opportunity to have this kind of dialogue with IMB as well.”

The afternoon’s speaker will be A.B. Vines, second vice president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of New Seasons Community Church in San Diego, a multicultural congregation born out of a declining Anglo congregation and a small black congregation.

NAAF’s annual evening banquet will begin at 6 p.m. Monday in Sagamore Ballrooms 6 and 7 in the convention center. The cost is $25 per person, and members are asked to send a check by June 1 to Tamara McBride, NAAF Banquet, P.O. Box 1834, Suffolk VA 23439.

Recording artist Gale Hall will minister through song and Croston will bring the president’s address.

The two longtime pastors to be honored are Leon Johnson and E.W. McCall, who retired at the end of 2007.

Johnson served 36 years as pastor of Bread of Life Baptist Church in Chicago and has been NAAF treasurer since 1996.

McCall served 38 years as pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb. A former second vice president of the SBC, he currently is chairman of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees. McCall has been an NAAF president and, since 1998, West Coast regional director for the fellowship.

Croston said NAAF has matured in its relationship with the SBC and its entities during the past three years. “We worked with NAMB and the state conventions to train 50 chaplains for disaster relief; they’re now all certified and ready for the field,” Croston noted as an example.

NAAF hosted a symposium at Southern Seminary in March 2007; another is planned for September 2008 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Their focus: “[T]o discuss some key issues that confront us as African Americans and those things we need to address in our churches and the world we live in,” Croston said. “The idea for the symposiums came from some of our youngest and newest pastors -– Wayne Chaney, A.B. Vines, Tyrone Barnett and Ryan Palmer, with Wayne being the real mover on it.”

“I’m just totally excited by what I’ve seen happen in our convention over these last several years and what I expect to be our convention’s future,” Croston said. “‘God is up to something’ is an old song. I’m excited that in this age of cynicism, skepticism and apostasy, we can still see God’s hand at work. All those willing to open their eyes and look can see God is up to something.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message and the Dakota Baptist newspapers.