RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The first African American appointed to a full professorship at a Southern Baptist seminary was honored Aug. 2 with the fourth annual Black SBC Heritage Award.
T. Vaughn Walker, chairman of the black church studies department in the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., received the award at a banquet during Black Church Leadership Week, July 31-Aug. 4 at Ridgecrest (N.C.), a LifeWay Conference Center. Walker also directs the doctor of ministry and Ph.D. programs in black church studies at the seminary and is pastor of First Gethsemane Baptist Church in Louisville.
Walker joined the faculty of Southern Seminary in 1985 as WMU professor of Christian ministry.
A Southern Baptist since 1976, Walker also is a member of the National Baptist Convention.
“We are in a day when we shouldn’t beat up on each other. We need each other,” Walker said.
He expressed appreciation to Roy Honeycutt, president of Southern in 1985, for “taking a risk” to pursue faculty status for Walker.
“I told him if I came on board, I needed to be a full professor,” Walker said. When his name was presented for consideration, an Anglo trustee who had served as a deacon with Walker in an Oregon church spoke on his behalf.
“God has opened the doors and allowed me to serve,” he said.
In an earlier session on leadership challenges facing the black church in the 21st century, Walker said, “I really believe the challenge for the church — black, white, Hispanic or whatever — is the need for change. The model we have used does not work and has not worked for 50 years.”
Other issues identified by participants included:
— lack of males in African American churches.
— role of women in ministry.
— churches lacking a clear vision.
— servant leader mentality.
— need for a proactive rather than reactive approach to planning.
— demonstrating to young people the relevance of the church.
— willingness to take risks.
To address these and other issues requires strong leadership, Walker said.
“One of the paradigms of the black church has been strong pastoral leadership,” he said. “I believe that, but it should not be dictatorial but shared leadership. Everything can’t be done by the pastor.”
He cited actions churches should take to transform their ministry, beginning with establishing a sense of urgency. “It has to filter down through the entire church.”
In another area, churches must create and communicate a vision, Walker said. They must empower others to act on the vision. “Until people have a clear vision for where they’re going, they’re going everywhere.”
Also, he said, churches must continually institute new approaches to ministry. “They must have a process where change is allowed to continue.”
More than 1,400 people attended Black Church Leadership Week. Michigan led all states with more than 200 registrants, followed by Texas and Virginia, with 145 each. Among churches represented at the conference, Springhill Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit, Mich., sent 204 registrants.
Black Church Leadership Week was sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in cooperation with the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Woman’s Missionary Union and Annuity Board.