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Servants Network creates orientation guide

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–An orientation guide for churches new to the Southern Baptist Convention was introduced during the 10th annual meeting of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network June 10 in San Antonio.

“It’s the first of its kind since the mid-1980s,” Chris McNairy, a NAMB strategy coordinator in the western United States, said of the orientation guide.

The spiral-bound “A Southern Baptist Convention Orientation for the African American Ministry Context” explains the SBC from an African American context to those new to the convention or interested in it. It is to be available electronically and updated regularly at the Servants’ Network website.

“Chris has provided a tool to help churches grow in their embracing of the positives about the modern Southern Baptist Convention,” Sid Smith, executive director of the Servants’ Network, wrote in the orientation’s foreword.

“McNairy has provided in a nutshell a comprehensive synopsis of culturally specific issues of concern to Black Southern Baptists…. It is timely, meets a great need, and will have enormous impact on the churches that use it,” Smith wrote.

The orientation guide explains how churches, associations, state conventions and the denominational entities cooperatively fit together and how churches that minister in an African American context are part of that cooperation.

Members and guests of the Servants’ Network each received a copy of the orientation and the fifth edition of The Journal of African American Southern Baptist History published by the network.

Articles in the journal this year reflect three centuries of Southern Baptist life, including “Early African American Pioneers” (19th century), “An Overview of Church Planting in the Black Community” (20th century) and articles on several individuals who have played key roles in African Americans’ involvement in the SBC: W.W. Colley, Nelson G. Merry and William Davis.

During the meeting, held at San Antonio’s Macedonia Baptist Church, McNairy also reported on a website to be unveiled in July at Black Church Week and an electronic newsletter to start later this year.

Harold T. Branch, a pioneer in starting Sunday Schools, received the group’s Hall of Servanthood award for his groundbreaking ministry over the last 55 years.

Among his long list of accomplishments, Branch in one six-month period started 104 Sunday Schools in African American churches. But his story starts long before that.

Branch is credited as being the first black Southern Baptist pastor in Texas and in the South and the first black to be elected as a Southern Baptist Convention vice president.

“He was Sid Smith’s mentor, and Sid Smith has been our mentor,” outgoing Network President Dennis Mitchell, director of NAMB’s strategic readiness team.

E.W. McCall Sr., pastor of St. Stephens Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif., received an appreciation award for his lifetime of denominational service. McCall has served in numerous associational, state and national positions, including SBC second vice president. He is the current chairman of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees in Mill Valley, Calif.

“I am more optimistic and excited about this committee than I ever have been before,” said Ken Ellis, manager of multiethnic and cross-cultural evangelism for the North American Mission Board and incoming president of the Servants Network. Ellis told those in attendance the organization had been consolidated into four committees: executive, nominating, communication and the history project.

In the business meeting, officers were elected as a slate. In addition to Ellis as president, Dexter Hardy of Michigan was elected vice president; Jeffrey Curtis of California, treasurer; Willie McLauren of Tennessee, parliamentarian; and Ervin McWilson of Pennsylvania, secretary.

About 160 people of African American heritage serve in the Southern Baptist Convention through their association, state convention or SBC entity. The purpose of the Servants Network, established in 1997, is information sharing, mentoring and fellowship.