BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Honoring George Liele, a former slave and the first North American missionary, is among initiatives the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention will pursue at its 2019 annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
NAAF will submit a resolution to add a George Liele Day to the SBC calendar and will ask SBC seminaries to consider creating Liele scholarships, NAAF President Marshal Ausberry told Baptist Press.
Evangelism, church planting, missions, continued outreach to Southern Baptists on the U.S. Virgin Islands, and greater opportunities in SBC life for African Americans are also among NAAF priorities in the coming year, said Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va.
Ausberry noted “major advancements in SBC life for African Americans,” including state convention presidencies and notable posts at SBC entities, but said “it is critical that the SBC presents openness toward all ethnic and racial groups in hiring and service.”
Recognizing Liele’s contributions, which predate those of Adoniram Judson and William Carey, will help diversify the SBC, Ausberry said. NAAF has named its 2019 banquet in Liele’s honor.
“These initiatives will help assimilate more African Americans into SBC life and help all SBC members appreciate that we must work together to reach the lost,” Ausberry said. “These initiatives are imperative to aspire young African American pastors to connect with the SBC.”
A 2012 SBC resolution formally recognizes Liele as the first overseas missionary from the U.S. Scholarships in his name could help train future African American missionaries, Ausberry said.
NAAF will hold its annual business meeting at 4 p.m. and its banquet at 6:30 p.m., both June 10 at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, 1101 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The business meeting’s devotional speaker will be Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, Ill., president of the Illinois Baptist State Association and a member of the SBC Executive Committee.
Promoting the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism outreach, collaborating with the North American Mission Board in church planting, and working with the International Mission Board (IMB) to increase church involvement in IMB-sponsored missions are avenues NAAF has tapped to achieve its goals.
“Most of our churches are fully engaged with missions, but not always with the IMB,” Ausberry said. “We want to work with the IMB leadership to uncover barriers that encumber engagement in IMB-related missions with an effort toward overcoming those barriers. Nevertheless, African American churches are fully engaged in missions.”
NAAF continues to encourage pastors to attend the annual Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, a LifeWay Christian Resources event in its 26th year. Slated for July 22–26 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C., the event is the largest gathering of Southern Baptist African American pastors, church leaders and families, offering training, development, worship, recreation and fellowship.
Current NAAF officers will retain their posts. In addition to Ausberry, officers are vice president Frank Williams, pastor of Wake Eden Baptist Church and Bronx Baptist Church, both in Bronx, N.Y.; secretary Bucas Sterling, pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md.; treasurer John Rollins, pastor of Simeon Baptist Church in Antioch, Tenn.; and historian Robert Wilson, pastor of Light of the Word Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Also retaining their posts are eastern regional director Jerome Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cresmont, Willow Grove, Pa.; central regional director Jeffery Friend, pastor of Suburban Baptist Church, New Orleans; mountain regional director Garland Moore, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Milan, N.M.; and western regional director Kevin James, pastor of New Creation Bible Fellowship in Tracy, Calif.
Retired pastor Dennis Mitchell continues as NAAF executive director.
NAAF banquet tickets are $50 each and available at naafsbc.org.