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Williams upholds persistent prayer, honors women at Black fellowship’s 30th year

Larry D. Young, a messenger from Spangle Banner Church in Pace, Miss., listens to the business plan at the National African American Fellowship business meeting June 13 in New Orleans. Photo by Josselyn Guillen

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — New York Pastor Frank Williams calls it a “ministry of annoyance,” the commitment to keep troubling God in prayer, no matter the need.

He used the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8 to exhort prayer as the priority in life, preaching his final sermon as president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

“The whole point of this parable is to instill in His followers a way of thinking that readies their minds to face difficulties, hardships and injustice without losing heart or giving up. Jesus is also clear that in order for this to be the case, we need to pray always about all things,” Williams said. “Prayer is the strategy before a strategy. If you strategize before you pray, you have not yet begun to strategize.”

The parable also gives a picture of a woman successfully troubling a justice system that is broken by injustice. Judges were known for corruption fueled by bribes, Williams said, an incentive the widow was in no position to offer.

“Women can trouble the system,” Williams said. “Why did Jesus give us this parable? Jesus gave us this parable. Jesus told this story. He chose the content with intentionality. A woman troubled this judge, which represented the system, and thus troubled the system.”

Williams, pastor of both Bronx Baptist Church and Wake Eden Community Baptist Church, both in New York, preached his sermon at the George Liele Mission Banquet.

Jesus Himself troubled the system, Williams said.

“Jesus would walk into a synagogue on the Sabbath day and glean from the Word of God, and then call someone from the audience and say, ‘Step forth. … And He would heal on the Sabbath,” Williams said. “That was not allowed, but Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

“Jesus would walk into a synagogue and He would see those who had turned worship into profit rather than prophetic,” Williams said. “They were led by their pockets and not by the Spirit, and He would tip over the tables and trouble their system. … Jesus troubled the status quo, all that they were used to.”

The parable was set in a time when it was status quo to ignore women, Williams said, but he presented himself as a man who benefitted from the instruction and care of resilient women who taught him how to fear God.

“My mother told me when she was pregnant with me walking around the house, she said, ‘God, if you give me a healthy son, I will raise him up to serve You.’ Resilient women, they are women of faith. They are women who teach us to fear God. Resilient women, strong women, raised me. They taught me how to fear God.”

Business Meeting

In its business meeting June 12 at 4 p.m. at the convention center, NAAF unanimously elected a new slate of officers presented to members as a recommendation from NAAF’s board.

NAAF’s new president is Greg Perkins, lead pastor of The View Church in Menifee, Calif., and NAAF’s immediate past director for the Western Region of the U.S.

Williams previously told Baptist Press he would serve an additional year, but announced during NAAF’s business meeting that extending his time of service would require an amendment to NAAF’s constitution, which stipulates a maximum of two one-year consecutive terms for president and vice president. Aimed at improving continuity in NAAF’s work, NAAF members unanimously approved by a voice vote an amendment to the constitution to allow three consecutive one-year terms for presidents and vice presidents. A second affirmative vote at the group’s 2024 annual meeting is required for the change to take place. Williams will transition to an at-large member of NAAF.

“When someone is serving for two years,” Williams said at NAAF’s business meeting on behalf of the board, “the implementation process of the vision or the work that they’re doing takes longer than just two one-year terms. … Someone can choose to serve only two one-year terms, but there are instances where a third term is a valuable asset to have and to be able to do so.”

Completing the slate of officers are vice president Jerome Coleman, pastor the First Baptist Church of Crestmont in Willow Grove, Pa.; secretary Kevin Moss, senior pastor of Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., and president of the Oklahoma African American Fellowship; treasurer John Rollins, returning for a second term, senior pastor of Simeon Baptist Church in Antioch, Tenn.; and historian Lyman Alexander, who retired in 2020 as director of missions of the former East Bay Baptist Association in Albany, Calif.

Regional directors are Steven Beckham, southwestern region, pastor of First Community Antioch Baptist Church in Lutcher, La.; Emory Berry, southern region, founding pastor of The Favor Church, Atlanta; Kenneth Curry, western region, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Yorba Linda, Calif.; Reginald Fletcher, interim, central region, pastor of Living Word Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Ind.; Horacio Hall, eastern region, lead pastor of Faithway Baptist Church, Chesapeake, Va.; and Adrian Taylor, mid-southern region, senior pastor of Spring Hill Church, Gainesville, Fla.

In other business, NAAF announced its incorporation as a nonprofit religious organization, changed its fiscal year to coincide with the SBC fiscal year, and announced the creation of a network for the wives of senior pastors. Leading the women’s initiative are Kim Hardy, a Bible teacher, author and wife of Dexter Hardy, founding pastor of Lifepoint Church in Marietta, Ga.; and Peggy Alexander, a Christian education director and wife of Lyman Alexander.

Recognitions, grants

At its banquet, NAAF honored Robert Wilson upon his retirement after 19 years as NAAF historian, honored former NAAF presidents, passed the gavel to newly elected president Perkins, and recognized members of the newly formed pastors’ wives network.

NAAF presented educational grants to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary students Terrica White, earning a dual master’s degree in church and community ministries and social work; Montray Wyatt, enrolling this fall in an NOBTS doctoral program; and Jordan Curry, a third-year student majoring in Christian ministry.

NAAF Sunday worship service

NAAF held its annual worship service June 11 at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. Host pastor Fred Luter, the lone African American to have served as SBC president, preached the sermon.

Luter preached on “The Other Side of Ministry,” taking his text from Psalm 34:19 and emphasizing that tribulations befall the righteous.

“In just a few short verses, in just a few short Scriptures, in just a matter of minutes,” Luter said, contrasting the beginning of the Psalm with verse 19, “David has gone from divine preservation to human persecution.”

Luter exhorted pastors to read the end of the Psalm, where David declares the Lord’s deliverance. Like a good James Bond film, Luter said, the victory of the righteous is “in the script.”