Diversity is growing in the Southern Baptist Convention, and steps have been made in the direction of unity and representation, said leaders of the National African American Fellowship — but more growth is still needed.
And more African American church planters also are needed to effectively reach North America for Christ, NAAF leaders said at their meeting June 14 in Nashville.
During his executive director’s report, Dennis Mitchell said that in 1990, the SBC only had 1,007 African American congregations, but in 2018, it had 3,920, and now it has well over 4,000.
Mitchell said they only want that number to keep growing. During the meeting, NAAF announced a new church planting initiative with the North American Mission Board.
Greg Perkins, lead pastor of the View Church, Menifee, California, said NAAF has entered into a strategic partnership with the Send Network.
The goal, he said, is to “plant churches everywhere for everyone.”
“The partnership will identify and support African American planters called to plant SBC churches in underserved African American communities throughout North America,” Perkins said.
He — along with Kason Branch, lead pastor of Creekstone Church, Keller, Texas, and Steve Canter, regional director for the Northeast and staff liaison for Send Network, will provide leadership to the effort. The goal is to plant churches geared toward African Americans in six strategic locations anchored by a partnering pastor who will serve as the sending pastor, Perkins said.
They are looking for church planters currently. Anyone interested can contact Branch at email@example.com.
“In underserved areas, there’s a whole segment of our society that’s going unreached,” Branch said. “We want to not only reach them but also make sure these church planters have contextualized training.”
During the NAAF meeting, President Marshal Ausberry also addressed a “kerfuffle” that caused several some African American churches to leave the convention in late 2020 when Southern Baptist seminary presidents came out with a statement on Critical Race Theory.
The statement said “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.” Some African American pastors pulled out of the SBC after this statement was issued.
Ausberry said that “no one” he knows “fully embraces all of CRT.”
NAAF’s “issue was the inclusion of the words ‘any version’ thereof,’” he said, and he noted that NAAF talked with the seminary presidents about their viewpoint.
‘Tell our stories’
“To tell our stories of what it’s like to be black in America, that’s so important — that’s the aspect that we were pushing for, that we can’t deny our stories of how we faced racism, effectively from birth,” said Ausberry, who is senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Virginia. “But some outgrowth of that has been that because it was made public in our conventions, the other entity heads and their people have really reached out to the National African American Fellowship. Before they have issued statements, they consult with us, and before they publicize certain materials, they’ll ask us for our review and critique.”
Those leaders have taken the initiative to reach out to NAAF, which is “a blessing,” Ausberry said. “So we see some good things have come out of this discussion as well.”
During the meeting, diversity was celebrated in places such as the leadership of GuideStone, where Renée Trewick serves as chairman of the board, and in the creation of the new annual George Liele Church Planting, Evangelism and Missions Day. The day, set on the first Sunday of February, honors the African American missions hero.
The fellowship also heard about new Cooperative Program promotional videos and other resources that feature ethnic minorities.
NAAF also elected new officers — Frank Williams, senior pastor of Bronx Baptist Church and Wake Eden Community Baptist Church, both in New York, as the new president; Bucas Sterling III, senior pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as vice president; Kevin James, senior pastor of New Creation Bible Fellowship in Tracy, California, as secretary; and John Rollins Sr., senior pastor of Simeon Baptist Church in Antioch, Tennessee, as treasurer.