NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Southern Baptist Convention entities have issued their first reports in response to historic measures adopted a year ago to improve accountability in the inclusion of ethnic minorities in SBC life.
All SBC entities submitted reports for the Executive Committee’s February meeting about their ministries, including the involvement of ethnic churches and church leaders in entity activities in response to the 12-part recommendation adopted by messengers to the 2011 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
Also, SBC President Fred Luter has been provided input, as the recommendations require, for giving attention “to appointing individuals who represent the diversity” within the SBC.
Luter, as SBC president, also is asked to report the total number of appointees he selects for the committees under his purview that represent the ethnic diversity within Southern Baptist life and to encourage the selection of annual meeting program personalities by the Committee on Order of Business to reflect that diversity.
The SBC Executive Committee’s communications workgroup monitors the SBC’s progress in ethnic diversity, although neither specific goals nor quotas are set.
Luter has the responsibility to appoint members of four committees (Committee on Committees, Resolutions, Credentials and Tellers) comprising about 115 people, with appointments due on varying dates ranging from 30 to 75 days prior to the 2013 annual meeting, June 11-12 in Houston.
Of the 114 various committee members outgoing President Bryant Wright appointed in the months before his term ended, eight are African American, five are Asian, three are Hispanic and one is Native American, giving ethnic minorities a near 15 percent representation.
Synopses of ethnic diversity information from the SBC’s entities follow.
Executive Committee: The EC completed a two-year study in February 2011 of how ethnic churches and leaders can participate more fully in SBC life, the results of which led to passage of the historic measures for tracking accountability. The EC has worked with the North American Mission Board to establish ethnic-focused positions and groups, including a presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations and Hispanic and African American advisory councils. The Executive Committee also has extended the ethnic reach of Baptist Press through a broader freelance writer base and an expanded Spanish-language version of the online news service.
International Mission Board: The IMB’s Church and Partner Services Office has three departments that relate to African American, Hispanic and Korean American churches. The IMB has several ethnic trustees and staff members and several hundred ethnic missionaries, and it hosts events in majority-ethnic churches and communities.
North American Mission Board: Through its Send North America strategy, NAMB has introduced church-planting pastors to several ethnic groups, including Polish, Brazilian, Haitian, Romanian, African, Jewish, Mainland Chinese and African American. NAMB in concert with the Executive Committee appointed Ken Weathersby, an African American, as the presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations.
LifeWay Christian Resources: LifeWay reported it is “constantly alert to opportunities that present ways to help spiritually transform all peoples from all cultures and backgrounds by offering biblical solutions for life.” These include the Church Resources Division’s evangelism and discipleship resources in 20 languages and extensive products for ethnic churches and leaders sold at 165 LifeWay Christian Stores in the U.S. and online.
LifeWay’s B&H Publishing Group publishes or licenses products in more than 25 languages and is the world’s largest commercial publisher of Spanish Bibles. LifeWay Research helps churches understand and engage individuals of many ethnicities, utilizing multiple languages in analyzing primary research. At LifeWay’s Technology Division, Bible translations in all languages are available online. LifeWay employs “hundreds of members of minorities and regularly attends minority job/career fairs for minority groups, and advertises for particular ethnic minorities on the Internet and through mailings to individuals and churches,” the entity reported.
GuideStone Financial Resources: GuideStone said it is actively working to attract ethnic churches and their leaders to participate in and partner with its programs, maintaining websites in Spanish and Korean and a call center that can assist callers in more than 100 languages. GuideStone’s resources are printed in a variety of languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese and French Haitian. Guidestone also highlighted two of “several” minorities employed in management.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: The ERLC focuses on human rights and immigration issues, “where racial and ethnic peoples are most often the center of debate,” the ERLC said. The commission has honored ethnic minorities with its distinguished service and religious liberty awards and has published the Internet site www.erlc.com/race.
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary: GGBTS reported an ethnically diverse campus with ethnic students, faculty, staff, trustees and ministry leaders. Its 2010-11 student body was 36.3 percent white, 21.4 percent Hispanic, 19.4 percent African American and 12.6 percent Asian American, among others. Korean, Indian, Canadian and African Americans are among faculty and the seminary reported it enjoys relationships with a diversity of church leaders.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: MBTS offers leadership development programs targeting Lao, Hispanic and Korean students. The seminary reaches its African American neighbors through African American church emphasis programs and evangelism teams.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: NOBTS serves a diverse student population and includes ethnic minorities in its fulltime and adjunct faculty. The seminary partners with various churches and the majority-African American National Baptist Convention to offer certificates in African American church planting and offers certificate and undergraduate programs at prisons in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia where ethnic minorities are prevalent.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: SEBTS “has been making active efforts to increase the participation of ethnic church and church leaders in the life [of] the seminary. While major percentage gains have not been seen, SEBTS is seeing growth in the ethnic student population,” the seminary reported. Inviting ethnic minorities to speak at chapel services and actively seeking qualified professors for faculty positions were reported.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: SBTS “proactively seeks to hire faculty and administrative staff from diverse ethnic backgrounds,” the seminary reported, and has recommended names of ethnic leaders to the SBC Committee on Nominations when invited to do so. The seminary works to attract students from various ethnicities and offers instruction and graduate supervision in Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: SWBTS reported that it employs an ethnically diverse faculty. The seminary reaches a diverse audience through its annual picnic attended by multiple ethnic churches and groups, and by inviting ethnic church leaders to speak at seminary events.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.