More than 35,000 black Baptists gathered in New Orleans for the annual meeting of the “country’s largest black organization”: the National Baptist Convention USA (NBCUSA). The yearly gathering, which featured several high profile speakers including the Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, was largely a mix of politics, business and praise within the “Black Baptist world.”
The most important part of the 124th annual gathering of the NBCUSA was on Thursday, Sept 9, 2004, during which the denomination’s incumbent president, Dr. William J. Shaw, was re-elected to serve another five-year term.
Dr. Shaw, a minister from Philadelphia, PA, entered the highest position in the NBC’s board in 1999, at the peak of the financial scandal that erupted within the denomination. Shaw’s predecessor, Rev. Henry Lyons, looted the convention of millions of dollars and served nearly five years in prison for grand theft and racketeering.
The unofficial count indicated that Shaw received 68% of the vote over his opponent, Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson of Mt. Vernon, New York.
"We have a victory, and we have much to do...This victory was not only a show of support from the Convention, but an affirmation from God,” said Shaw, pledging to further rehabilitate the convention.
Shaw gave up his $100,000 annual salary to “determine his commitment to service” at the wake of the scandal. Since then, Shaw has overseen the creation of new financial controls to ensure “greater transparency and accountability” in the church, and pulled the 7-million-member denomination out of its $3 million debt during his first term.
Dr. Julius Scruggs, Vice President-at-Large for the organization praised the reelection, calling it a “victory.”
"Thank God for the victory and the opportunity to work with Dr. Shaw and bring to fruition the initiatives he's already begun and develop more as the Holy Spirit leads,” said Scruggs.
Meanwhile, the same day, Senator John Kerry addressed the Convention, setting his hopes on the faithful to help win in the presidential race. According to Shaw, the Convention had not asked Kerry to speak because it would complicate the denomination’s own presidential election. However, the Kerry campaign requested for speaking time; the NBCUSA ultimately acceded to the request.
The majority of Kerry’s speech was dedicated to pointing out the “wrong choices” in the Bush campaign, rather than listing his own initiatives.
“Of all George Bush's wrong choices, the most catastrophic one is the mess he's made in Iraq,” he said. “It is clear: For four years, George W. Bush may have talked about compassion, but he's walked right by. He's seen people in need, but he's crossed over to the other side of the street.”
“That's W. Wrong choices, wrong direction, wrong leadership for America,” he quirked.
Conclusively, Kerry alluded to “those who want to divide us into red states and blue states,” saying that he was not one of “those.”
“Not me. I want to unite us as one America - red, white and blue. With your help, we will set a new direction for America.”
The Convention, which began on the 7th of September, closed on Friday night with a worship event.