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First SBC Black History Seminar

Jun 09, 2003 11:21 AM EDT

PHOENIX –the inaugural seminar on the Southern Baptist Convention’s African American history will begin June 14, at the Bethesda Community Baptist Church in Phoenix. The seminar will be presented again during meeting of the African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, June 15-16 and the SBC's annual meeting June 17-18, both in Phoenix.



"We are pleased to welcome everyone in town for the annual meetings to this seminar," said Roy Cotton, president of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network and one of five event co-chairmen.



The five-hour seminar is a compilation of several 4-5 minute presentations plus a dinner. Presentations slated for the seminar are: “Why African American Southern Baptist history matters," by Kevin Smith, a Ph.D. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the program's co-chairs; "Fifty Years of Progress in the African American Southern Baptist Community," presented by Smith; "The Past, Present and Future of Greater Friendship Baptist Church, the First Black Southern Baptist Church in the 21st Century," presented by the Alaska church's pastor, Leon May; "History of the African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention," presented by George McCalep, the fellowship's current president and pastor of Greenforest Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga; "History of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network," presented by Cotton, who is the Dallas/Fort Worth regional consultant in the Baptist General Convention of Texas' church starting division; "Achieving Leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention," by E.W. McCall Sr., second vice president of the SBC and pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif.; "African American Baptist History: Sources for Research," by Bill Sumners, director of the SBC Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, Tenn.



"It will be a time of stimulating discussion that will help us all to better understand the partnership of African Americans in the Southern Baptist Convention," Cotton said. "Together we are serving God and working for Kingdom growth."



The first issue of the 75 page Journal of African American Southern Baptist History will be distributed at the seminar. The Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network, the seminar’s organizer, will incur all costs undertaken for the journal. After the first free issue, the journal will be published annually by the network and available by subscription, Smith said.



The annual meeting of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 15, at Bethesda Community Baptist in Phoenix, to be concluded with an awards dinner. The next morning, the annual meeting of the African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention will open with a worship service at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the same location. The seminar and the conventions are open to all denominational workers interested in participating.



"One of the distinctives of the network is that we are starting to get members who are not black," Smith said. Sumners is one. "Anybody involved in working with blacks in the Southern Baptist community is invited to join, and since the program assignment of [each person in denominational service] is to work with everybody, all denominational workers -- associational, state and agency -- are welcome."



"It is important to be aware of African American Southern Baptist history so that the entire story of the world's largest multicultural denomination will be known," Smith said. "It is reported that at the time of the organization of the convention in 1845, there were at least 100,000 African Americans in the churches that constituted the convention.



"Because of neglect on the part of the denominational historical system, the presence and contributions of the African American Southern Baptist community have been inadvertently omitted," Smith continued. "It is time for the SBC to correct this tragic omission. If we do not do so now, history will not be kind to our generation."



Cotton concurred. "We have the expertise today to preserve, collect, transmit and write the history of contemporary African American Southern Baptists," he said. "That is what this history project is all about."




By Pauline J.