I’m a student of National Baptist history. I have been national baptist (African-American baptist) since I joined the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in 1972 and began attending conventions under my pastor, Rev. Sylvester McCullumn. At that time there were three major conventions – the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBCUSA), the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA), and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC).
At that time in Oregon it was predominately an NBCA area. Dr. J. Carl Sams of Jacksonville, FL was the National President. There was only one church in our area that was NBCUSA and that was Mt. Sinai Community Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. L.L. Ransom, who had two sons that I became classmates with (Ronnie and Donnie) at Jefferson High School. There were no PNBC (and to this day, there are still no) churches in Portland.
Since that time two major developments have occurred. NBCA split in 1989 in Dallas, TX when the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (NMBCA) was formed to support the R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation in Nashville and the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship was formed in 1993 in New Orleans and for the first time, Baptist pastors adopted the usage of the titles, “Bishop” and “Overseer” and under Bishop Paul Sylvester Morton’s leadership became an overnight sensation.
However, it’s now some 20 years from the last reformation was formed and I’m wondering aloud do we really need four traditional baptist conventions (not counting Full Gospel). I think it’s time to consider consolidation of the conventions.
Let me explain – NMBCA, NBCUSA and NBCA are basically the same convention structure in three different houses. They are traditional in their approach and structure and although “National” is in their name, each convention overlaps and some of them have stronghold areas – for example, NMBCA is strong in California, Oklahoma, Washington and Texas. NBCUSA is strong in Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alabama, Mississippi and New York. NBCA is strong in Illinois, Florida, Texas, Washington, Oregon. You get the idea.
The truth of the matter is that African-American baptists would benefit from a stronger, unified two convention solution. Congresses are dropping in attendance. Convention attendance is dropping. But we have resources and college institutions that could benefit from a stronger structure.
Those three conventions could become a powerhouse – a real NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION, INTERNATIONAL, INC. They are brethren knit from the same cloth and the combined resources could be tremendous. The problem in bringing these three conventions together is going to be with the publishing of their materials – but I think a business like approach can be reached and something could be worked out.
The PNBC is different for a variety of reasons. First, the Convention has a commitment to governmental affairs, women equality, education and civil rights that the other conventions don’t share a zeal for. PNBC’s headquarters is less than 5 miles than the White House, they embrace new ideals and again, embrace women in ministry which is not the case in the other three conventions. PNBC should still exist for those reasons and should serve as the prophetic voice of national baptist life.
Which would then mean we would have THREE NATIONAL BODIES – National Baptist Convention, International, Inc. headquartered in Nashville; Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. headquartered in Washington, DC; and Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, headquartered in New Orleans/Atlanta.
Also, consideration should be made that all three bodies would work cooperatively together in the area of Foreign Missions and give their support to the Lott Carey Mission Convention.
Well, a preacher can dream . . . but nobody thought that we would ever have a Joint Board Meeting of NMBCA, NBCA, NBCUSA, and PNBC – and that happened twice in my lifetime.