by Robert Earl Houston
The Lord has called one of his faithful pastors/preachers in the nation, the Rev. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, Sr., pastor emeritus of the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and former Vice President of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International.
Dr. Hartsfield made scholarship look easily. He was profoundly deep, a lettered man of great conviction, while retaining a common touch. He was a rare pastor – having served the same congregation during two different tenures and passing the reigns of the church to his son, Wallace, Jr. He was a fixture for many years of preaching at the NBCAI, including the main worship hour and at many late night services. He was a one of a kind preacher/pastor.
On a personal note, I had been called to my first congregation, the Greater St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, of Portland, Oregon in 1989, at the tender age of 28. The Church sent out letters all over the country making the announcement and Dr. Hartsfield was among those who sent a congratulatory letter to a young pastor along with $100 (which is worth $208 today). It meant the world to me.
The photo that is attached with this article is one that I took of him during the 2017 Annual Session of NBCAI in Louisville, Kentucky. He was in a wheelchair, but just as gregarious, friendly, cracking jokes, and as several of us were seated in the atrium, he made several stops, especially to greet young pastors and preachers. His generosity toward young pastors and preachers was legendary. I had the joy of bumping into him at a restaurant in Louisville and while he was in line, I was able to have the privilege of paying for his meal – in a small way to repay for the kindness that he extended to me 28 years prior. He was grateful and I was glad – it was my way of saying “thank you” in a tangible way.
He was great friends of my father in the ministry, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers and his colleague, the late Dr. E.C. Wilder of Portland. He conducted revivals for years in Portland and was one of the city’s favorite preachers along with Pastors E. Edward Jones, Brady Blade, P.S. Wilkerson, E.V. Hill, Hayward Wiggins, Samuel H. Smith, Sr., and others.
Praying for the Hartsfield family along with the Metropolitan Church family and the city of Kansas City as they mourn the loss of a giant whose voice has been hushed.
UPDATE: Greetings to all we wish to announce the Homegoing Services information for Rev. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield. Wednesday, February 5, the body will lie in repose from 12:00pm-7:00pm at the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church 2310 East Linwood Boulevard, Community Night Service, Thursday, February 6, at 6:30pm at the Macedonia Baptist Church 1700 East Linwood Boulevard. Service of Celebration Friday, February 7 at 11:00 am at Macedonia Baptist Church, visitation 8am-11am, with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Beta Lambda Chapter service at 10:15am. Please send condolences to the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church or Duane E. Harvey Funeral Directors. Services under the direction of Duane E. Harvey Funeral Directors.
Dr. Willie T. Snead, Sr., B.S., Mace, M.Div., D.D., D. Lit., President Emeritus of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, went home to be with the Lord on Saturday, November 14, 2015 after a brief illness in Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Snead was the founder and pastor of the Greater Temple of God Christian Fellowship for almost 50 years. He was one of a handful of pastors in the history of California that held three leadership positions in three levels – Moderator of the Pacific Missionary Baptist District Association, President of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention and National President.
For years he hosted a Radio Broadcast in the Los Angeles area and preached throughout the United States.
He established the church in July 1967. His church growth program and radio broadcast “Faith To Live By” added many souls to the Lord, and touched thousands of lives throughout Los Angeles and nearby communities.
He held a bachelor of science degree in business administration from California Baptist University in Riverside, California; a master of divinity degree and master of arts degree in Christian Education from Golden Gate Theological Seminary – Mill Valley, California. Recipient of Doctorate Degree, Reed Christian College – Western Theological Seminary in Los Angeles, California. Recipient of Doctor of Letters in Religion, St. Stephens Educational Bible College – Los Angeles, California. Recipient of Doctor of Humane Letters, Liberty Baptist College – Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Dr. Snead accepted Christ at the age of nine. You can find his name in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges for 1989-90. He also holds such titles as Pastor of the Year, Moderator of the Year, Religious Broadcast of the Year (two consecutive years) from the ACC News Pauline Awards. Numerous commendations from government officials, to name a few Governor of California, California State Congress, California State Assembly, City of Los Angeles Councilmen, County of Los Angeles Supervisors.
Dr. Snead is a lifetime member of the NAACP Los Angeles (Watts) Chapter. former Board Member of Congress of National Black Churches (CNBC). former Vice Chairman Board of Directors – Southern California Affiliate of CNBC. COPS – Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department; Police Booster Club; former Ambassador for The Union Rescue Mission. Former Co-Chairman for the California Committee for Environmental Justice (went on Environmental Justice fact finding mission to Louisiana with Vice President Al Gore’s team).
Dr. E. Wayne Gaddis, President of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, has forwarded the following information:
“Services for Dr. W.T. Snead, Sr., Former President of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, our friend and brother, have been announced as follows:
Local Homegoing Services:
Monday, November 23, 2015:
(Services held at Greater Temple of God Christian Fellowship,
Greater Temple of God, 1404 East Firestone Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90013. Church Phone: (323) 582-7344)
Dr. Snead’s Body will lie in state, 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (PST)
Services begin at 7:00 p.m. and are under the direction of the Pacific Missionary Baptist District Association, Dr. Rodney Howard, Moderator and the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Dr. E. Wayne Gaddis, President.
TUESDAY, November 24, 2015:
(Services held at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 4269 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90037, Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr., Pastor. Church Phone: (323) 846-1950)
Dr. Snead’s Body will lie in state, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (PST)
The NATIONAL HOMEGOING SERVICE for Dr. W.T. Snead, Sr. will begin at 10:00 a.m. His son, Rev. W. Terrell Snead, II, pastor of the Worship Center Community Church, will deliver the eulogy.
A special Hotel Room block has been created. If anyone wants a standard room it will be $99.00at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, 6101 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Telephone: (310) 642-1111. Deadline to make reservations for this special rate is Wednesday, November 18, 2015.
When calling, please identify yourself as making a reservation under the Dr Snead Room Block to receive the special rate.”
Please watch this page, any updated information will be posted here.
by Robert Earl Houston
Two California Baptist State Conventions, which split as a result of the turmoil in the National Baptist Convention of America and the creation of National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, have agreed to an historic reunification effective in October.
The reunification brings together the California Missionary Baptist State Convention (CMBSC) and the California United Baptist State Convention (CUBSC). Both conventions were as one until the untimely split in 1991 which resulted in the creation of CUBSC. Now, the conventions have agreed to re-unify as one California Missionary Baptist State Convention.
The reunification was initiated by the CUBSC president, Dr. J. Roy Morrison and along with his General Secretary, Dr. Hubbard, they presented their proposal to Dr. E. Wayne Gaddis and the California Missionary Baptist State Convention. Dr. Gaddis stated, “I think it is a God-sent move. I would rather see us come together rather than to be in splinters. Our convention is excited. The other convention is excited. John 17:21 where Jesus says “Let them be as one, as we are one” is an answer to our prayers.”
The CMBSC and CUBSC voted today, January 28, 2015 to begin the process of reunification, which will take affect in October 2015, contingent upon CUBSC meeting certain conditions. The reunited convention will become dually-aligned with both the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America and the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., International.
Dr. Gaddis will serve as President and an election will be held in October which will complete the reunification process by filling several positions in the cabinet. This will bring the roll of the Convention to over 250 congregations which will make the CMBSC the largest African-American Baptist State Convention west of Texas. The CMBSC website can be found at www.cmbsc.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ADDITIONAL INFORMATION was added courtesy of Dr. J. Roy Morrison.
# # #
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
After months of campaigning across the nation in various conventions, the Presidential offices of the four major conventions has been filled after spirited campaigning.
Elected to serve are:
Dr. James C. Perkins, pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan was elected as the President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. in their annual session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Perkins previously served as the First Vice President and succeeds Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.
Dr. Samuel Tolbert, pastor of the Greater St. Mary Baptist Church of Lake Charles, Louisiana was elected as the President of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International in their annual Family Fest session in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Tolbert previously served as General Secretary and succeeds Dr. Stephen John Thurston.
Dr. Nehemiah Davis, pastor of the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas was re-elected as the President of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America in their annual session in Houston, Texas.
Dr. Jerry Young, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi was elected President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in their annual session in New Orleans, Louisiana.
by Robert Earl Houston
In this wonderful nation of ours there are over 300,000,000 people who live here. There are 50 states, over 3,100 counties, over 30,000 cities. There are four major traditional baptist conventions, each claiming over 1,000,000 members. There are easily at least one state baptist convention in each state, some have as many as 4 or more. There are hundreds of district associations, state conventions, district congresses, state congresses, general associations, national conventions, local/state/national fellowships, and on and on and on.
So why is it that we only utilize a handful of preachers to speak at these events?
No one will dare say it, but in the hallway of most of our conventions, the same faces and names appear on the program year after year after year. Surely by now there should be some new faces and voices emerging from the diaspora of the African-American church experience. However, it’s the same people preaching conventions all over the nation – basically utilizing the same five sermons – and frankly, it’s tiring.
Our General Association of Baptists in Kentucky had invited a minister to be our guest speaker this year and he fell ill and was unable to be here. Our State Moderator and his wife were on the way to Cancun, Mexico when he received the news – a little less than 3 weeks away from the annual session. After consulting with a friend and praying over it, he selected Reverend Cory Ramont Morris. A minister that most of us in Kentucky had never heard before. However, by the end of the week, he became the talk of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Great theological mind. Young but seasoned. A rare ability to connect with the old, the middle aged, and the young. Tremendous delivery. Friendly and approachable. Not haughty and not stuck up. And yes, a close that could easily be construed as one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory. Outstanding scriptural approach and exegesis. Teaching while preaching.
And we LOVED it.
Maybe our problem is that we look to the stars of the church rather than to the Hills (from whence cometh our help) – and instead of considering those who are solid in the faith, upcoming, and striving pastors – we get the same old soup in a new bowl with all gravy and no meat. My former pastor, Bishop Darryl S. Brister used to say “all you need is one moment of exposure to change your life.” There are a plethora of ministers who if just given the opportunity to be programmed, you may discover what all the fuss is about in their local communities.
Case in point. A West Virginia pentecostal pastor has been attending a Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma for years and gets the opportunity to meet the host. One year, one of the speakers can’t make it, and the host calls him and asks him, at the last minute to fill in. The minister preaches a dynamic sermon and most people had never heard of him. The conference is televised and the owner of the world’s largest Christian television network sees his presentation, picks up the phone, calls him, and brings him to his network studios, and launches him into preaching history. The host was Bishop Carlton Pearson. The event was Azusa. The network owner was Paul Crouch. And that West Virginia minister, who admitted that at one point he was the pastor, musician, usher and janitor, is named Thomas Dexter (T.D.) Jakes.
Because he was given a chance.
I was the recipient of opportunities. Outside of my home church, people like Dr. O.B. Williams, Dr. J.A. Boles, Dr. S.M. Lockridge, Dr. Ray Williams, Dr. H.F. Dean, Dr. Willie T. Snead, Dr. Melvin Wade, Dr. R.C. Williams, Sr., Dr. Clyde E. Gaines, Dr. A.E. Reid, Dr. A. Russell Awkard, Dr. Bernard Crayton, Dr. C.B. Akins, Dr. Walter Parrish, III, and others GAVE ME A CHANCE. They took a chance and gave me opportunity to preach or serve in conventions – even when I was pastoring a storefront church and pastoring for free because the church was not in position to pay me; even when I was pastoring a church and I had to make it to the conventions on my own dime; even when I was fighting for my pastoral life and the storms were raging at full blast; and even at the church of my dreams – I have been the recipient of an opportunity.
I’ve preached for state conventions in Oregon/Washington/Idaho; Kentucky; California; North Carolina.
I’ve preached for district associations in Oregon, California, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
I’ve preached for city-wide revivals in Newark, NJ, Gary, IN, Albuquerque, NM and other places.
I’ve preached in Revival or for special occasions literally around the nation.
Because I was given a chance. Maybe before the next leader of a group invites Rev. Dr. So and So or Bishop So and So or the Pastor who is pastoring the large church over in the next state or many the denominational leader who you know really can’t preach, but has a big name.
There are gifted young pastors, middle aged pastors, even elderly pastors who have never been given the opportunity to preach because they didn’t graduate from a certain school or they didn’t have the opportunity to complete college or they had a family to support and sat under the feet of their pastor or college was not for them – and yet they minister faithfully, biblically and with integrity. They are in every state – just waiting for a chance.
I’ve always prayed, Lord, if I ever get in the position to help someone else up, please help me to do so. I wonder what would happen if our conventions do today what they use to do in yesterday and give an opportunity to young preachers like E.V. Hill, Melvin Wade, Stephen Thurston, A.L. Bowman, Sandy Ray, C.L. Franklin, Jasper Williams, E. Edward Jones – and other young pastors who were given the opportunity to preach nationally at a young age.
When our session in Lexington closed after hearing a session that will live in the annals of history of this 149 year old institution. The name of Corey Ramont Morris will stand in the hearts of minds of the delegates that trusted their Moderator to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. We didn’t know him then. But we know and appreciate him now.
Give somebody else a chance.
YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
As previously noted, the election season of most of the traditional National Baptist Conventions is about to converge upon us beginning with the Presidential election of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International next week in Memphis, Tennessee.
The NBCAI will be first; Then in August, the Progressive National Baptist Convention will meet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to elect a new president for a two year term; Then in September in New Orleans, Louisiana, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. will elect a new president. Then in 2015, (if memory serves me right), the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America will vote.
The campaigns are in full-gear. I have a few observations after listening to some discussions and it boils down to one simple question:
“What happens if you lose?“
I would love to hear, for once in my lifetime, the losing candidate of a national baptist election to say these words: “I want to congratulate the winner and assure him and the convention of my loyal support.”
Unfortunately, in recent convention history a phenomenon has developed negatively. Let’s walk through it. I’ll use my name as an example, but remember, I have NEVER ran for National Office (and have no desire to):
Dr. Robert Earl Houston decides to run for national president. I then assemble a campaign team, including a campaign director, meet with various state leaders, raise (or borrow) money, then devote myself to running, showing up in various venues, and then conduct a campaign that may not be holy and always ethical. I may have to utilize some “bulldogs” in the trenches to try to deter, destroy and defeat the integrity of either the sitting president or those who are candidates as well – and yet be at arms’ length enough away that if my campaign gets called on it, I can say “I didn’t say that.”
Of course, I have to have a slogan. Let’s see . . . How about “Robert Earl for Prez” – that’s catching. I need a marketing strategy, website . . . oh yeah, gotta raise more money, because the cost of running for a national office can reach six figures. I have to make sure my wardrobe looks “presidential.” Gotta have a media team – to reach out to the younger pastors and to look hip (even though a national convention has not had a president under 40 since PNBC did so in the EARLY 1980’s) to this newer generation, I need a media coordinator, a “twitter-er,” a web designer, videographer, photographer, and maybe I need to release a “fresh rhema word” everyday to draw in younger preachers, because you know younger preachers value flash over ethics.
Then the day of the election comes and the delegates cast their votes. I make sure that the photographer takes the photo of me emerging from the voting station. I’m going to walk the hallways all day and prepare for the announcement along with my team. Of course, they are going to surround me at the microphone, current leadership be damned.
The announcement comes. My palms are sweaty, I step out just for a second so I can look great at the announcement. I sit there and then the announcement is made . . . I just lost.
Damn. After all that work, energy – matter of fact, I raised more money in running than the national convention raised in foreign mission giving and home mission combined. My slate of officers, where I promised some of the pastors intricate roles in the Houston administration, is now history. And I am pissed off that the collective convention could not see the vision that I saw for leadership. They’d rather choose the one who won by a legitimate vote instead of the one who had the great campaign, multi-media, twitter, instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube (after all of those commercials I authorized).
So, I get up, and signal for everyone following me to walk out of the hallway and we are not coming back. Let’s see how they do without me and all of the churches and pastors who have committed to me. Let’s see how much money they raise now. Let’s see how many mission projects get funded now. Resurrection of Bishop College? Won’t happen now. Because when we leave, nobody will come to the convention. The convention will be a hollow shell. And the new President and his campaign staff and convention leadership can all go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. I might even meet with my supporters later this week and maybe we’ll form a new convention or call it a conference or fellowship. THE END.
Even though the story is fictional, the reality is that this scenario lurks in the background and histories of all four conventions. Yes, it can happen in National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. Yes, it can happen in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Yes, it can happen in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and yes, it can happen in the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. The truth of the matter is this – it has happened before and God help us if it happens again.
What any losing candidate should do is:
a. Swallow your pride and congratulate the winner, (shake hands, hug) immediately, on stage. Right now!
b. Ask to address the audience after the winner speaks and say to the body:
“Brother President elect. I ran for the office because I wanted to see substantive change in our Convention. However, I yield to the will of God, who has spoken through these voting delegates. I am disappointed, but above everything, I am a called man of God who understands that a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. Therefore, I want this convention and this President to know that we are not nor never been enemies. We are brothers who met somewhere at the cross. And I want all my supporters and delegates to stand and as the late Dr. A. Louis Patterson would say “Appreciatively applaud OUR president – I said OUR president. And we aren’t going anywhere. We shall support you and your vision for this convention, to be the best of our abilities.”
c. And the winner needs to consider utilizing people who supported the losing candidate in positions as well. Winning a convention and going to war with a segment of the convention doesn’t make sense. There are gifted people who supported other candidates – it doesn’t mean that just because they didn’t vote for you that they are less gifted or won’t support you as well.
Otherwise, we will not have to worry about the government or Southern Baptist or Full Gospel or American Baptist or GUF destroying us – we’ll do a fine job all by yourselves.
YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME
Why aren’t I excited?
In the history of African-American baptists this is the closest thing to a Super Bowl – the changing of the guard in all four major conventions within a short period of time.
This year, there are contested elections in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. will be electing a new chieftain, apparently without any opposition. And the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America will soon begin their process of elections within the next few months.
I should be giddy; I should be interested and involved; I should be watching with great interest.
So, why aren’t I excited?
I’ve come to the conclusion that the paradigm of our National Conventions are in great need of prayerful examination. Little has changed since the historic NBC/NBCA split of 1915. Basically the same structures are in place: There are women missionary unions (which are dying all over the country in favor of “women ministries” or localized names for ministries for the women); Most churches have some type of men’s work, but on a national level, it’s dying. Oddly, the largest auxiliaries in most of our churches, music ministry, are largely ignored in most of the conventions.
In most of the conventions, the Presidency is held by, what I believe, are godly men who love the Lord. However, they are shepherding conventions that are not stuck because of the infusion of new leadership, they are stuck because the constituency is just not there.
Let’s look at it. In order to be a participating member, the average convention will ask for at least $1,000 of annual representation. However, to get to the convention, with airfare ridiculously high and hotels that are making major profits for a room that, if you go to the convention to be active as a delegate you won’t spend more than 8 hours in the room. If the room is $200 per night, that means you are paying $25 per hour to stay in that said room (8 hours) – or consider it like this – you are paying the hotelier $8.50 per hour NOT to stay in your room.
Airfares are ridiculously high. All of the national conventions are losing members in the Western United States because of the $500-$800 round trip airfare to fly from Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Orange County, etc. to go to the Midwest and Southern United States where most of our national meetings are held.
Many pastors struggle with asking a congregation to send them to the convention under these uncertain financial times. In this age of technology, is there really a need for a “Board Meeting?” In these times, is it really necessary to conduct business like we’re stuck in 1915. Why do we need a board of over 50 people to decide the work of a convention? Why is it that when you come to a convention you’ll hear either preachers who are not affiliated with your convention (which means there is a loss of support) or it’s the same one or two preachers who preach every year?
I told a joke once about a Board Meeting where a national president was presiding to make out a program. He said, “XYZ, do you want to preach?” the minister responded: “Yes sir, brother president.” “ABC, do you want to preach?” the minister responded: “Yes sir, brother president.” “DEF, do you want to preach?” the minister responded: “Yes sir, brother president.” “All right, we have made out our program, the Lord is pleased.”
I’m not sure.
What has happened to our conventions? I think we need to look at a few things:
a. Conferences are killing the conventions. Whether it’s a preaching conference or a family conference (i.e., MegaFest) – they are now being populated by the same folk that used to go to National Baptist Conventions. I went to the Pastors’ Conference sponsored by Bishop T.D. Jakes, and I ran into so many PNBC, NMBCA, NBCA, and NBCUSA pastors, that I’ve served with for years. The same is to be said of the preaching conferences that EQUIP pastors to do their most vital task – preach the word.
b. Conventions are no longer THE PLACE to hear great, challenging preaching. Before the advent of YouTube, you HAD TO go to the Conventions to hear the best in black preaching. Very few ministers were on or could afford national TV exposure in that day – so if you wanted to hear Caeser A.W. Clark, E.K. Bailey, E. Edward Jones, Stephen Thurston, Melvin Wade, P.S. Wilkerson, John H. Jackson, Gardner Taylor, and others – you had to go to the Conventions. But now, I can hear Freddie Haynes in the privacy of my church office. I can hear Paul Sylvester Morton while I’m flying on an airplane. I can hear Charles Booth via CD or DVD. Our greatest preachers are not being heard when you come to the Convention. Why is that???
c. Conventions are burning out those who support it. I’ve been in conventions since my pastor, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers, MADE ME go to the Convention and I went to NBCA meetings in Denver and San Francisco. I’ve had the privilege of working on the staff of several national presidents and conventions. Even on a conference or two. But you begin to notice something: the workers aren’t coming back. When I grew up in NBCA, the Secretaries served for 20, 30, 40 years. The staff rarely, if ever, changed. Younger pastors manned the Secretary tables or were brought along and mentored in areas of the convention that interested them. But now, there is such a change because new presidents supply new staffers – and the old staffers stay home.
d. This is going to be painful – but we don’t need all of these Conventions and Congresses. We really don’t. We have, as of this writing, four major Black African-American Baptist Conventions, not counting those who are in Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, the Global United Fellowship, Free Will Baptists, etc. We are stretched way too thin. By the time you have a District Association and Congress/Institute, a State Convention and Congress/Institute, a Regional Convention and Congress/Institute, a National Convention and Congress/Institute – you have financially tapped out your resources by giving to EIGHT DIFFERENT GROUPS. Most churches are cutting back or eliminating their participation not because they don’t recognize the historical significance of the convention, but literally the toll financially is too high.
e. The Presidential elections are depressing instead of exciting. I was from an era when Presidents rarely changed. It provided stability. However, there is, in my opinion, a spirit of rebellion that has permeated our elections. If Candidate A wins, Candidate B and all of his people stop supporting. It’s like winning a boxing match, but you lose some of your teeth and your eye. You can still function, but not look you could have. The personal attacks on leaders is so out of bounds. Run for the office, not trying to kill the person in office with slander and innuendo. This era of suggestion, innuendo . . . The Tea Party could be given a run for it’s money by how we conduct elections. Someone once said it takes about $100,000.00 to run for President of a convention. I don’t mind an election, as long as we remember that we’re brothers and sisters from the same cloth.
So what can be done to engender my enthusiasm or the enthusiasm of those like me? I’m not sure. But in economic times like these, some consolidation should be on the table. The world will not end if a Board Meeting were cancelled. The world would not end if two conventions could reunite (my personal plea for this would be the National Baptist Convention of America and National Missionary Baptist Convention). The world will not end if we pooled our resources for a named objective (i.e., Resurrection of Bishop College). The world will not end if we could look at the dias and see Vice Presidents or Presidents under 60 years old or General Secretaries in their 30s and 40s. The world will not end if we took advantage of the rapidly changing technologies and instead of going to the convention, let the convention come to you.
The world will not end if all of the conventions gave directly to Lott Carey and let that group manage our monies for missions. The world will not end if a Board of Directors were only 7 people strong instead of 100 people weak. The world will not end if the Pastor’s Conference went from preaching at me to teaching me techniques of how to preach when I get home. The world not end if we stop the parade of vendors who tell trinkets and bring in vendors who sell resources.
The world will not end if the Conventions went regionals and held group meetings every 2 or 4 years nationally. The world will not end if the Convention elected a Chief Operating Officer or some one well versed in Administration to run the conventions between meetings. The world will not end if a Convention made a bold move and held its annual session or board meeting on a cruise ship . The world would not end if it was completely electronic and we dispensed with the lanyards in favor of wrist bands. The world will not end if the President doesn’t speak every year. The world will not end if the Convention reached out to the West Coast and the Northeast Coast, instead of ignoring them. The world will not end if the Convention hired several psychologists and counselors and created a “safe space” for pastors and/or their wives to go for some type of private counseling.
Oh well, I could dream . . .
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
This morning when I rose, thankful to God to see another day, I had an announcement in my e-mail concerning the organization of a new group that was forming. It is the third such notice I’ve received in the past three weeks and unfortunately, split happens.
When I began in ministry in the 1970s, there were just (for Baptists) three major baptist conventions – the National Baptist Convention, USA., Inc. (NBCUSA), the National Baptist Convention of America (called “The Boyd Convention” or NBCA) and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Incorporated (PNBC). Each convention was distinctive – the NBCUSA was the largest and numerically a powerhouse with members throughout the nation, especially strong in the east and north. The NBCA was strong in the south and was making strides in missions and evangelism. The PNBC was “the thinking man’s convention” where many of the baptist educators and social crusaders made their denominational home.
Churches and Pastors identified rapidly with one of the three. NBCUSA and NBCA met the first week of September, religiously and PNBC met in August, although there was a sizeable percentage that were “dually aligned” with PNBC and one of the other two conventions. Convention halls were packed. Schools were benefitted (although in retrospect it wasn’t strong as it should have been). Properties were purchased or developed in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and other parts of the country.
However, today there is a plethora of “national bodies” or fellowships or partnerships or ecclesiastical groups that have been borne out of conflict, burden, personal vendettas, election fall outs – and the end result is that we are in a time of where conventions increasingly no longer matter, enthusiasm for said conventions is waning and it’s becoming a game of political leapfrog (hopping from one group to the next) for a generation of preachers – which leads to the next generation of pastors and preachers rebuking all of it because of all the disunity.
State bodies are not exempt. District or City bodies are not exempt. It is a spirit of division that has taken hold in the black baptist community and if you tick off the wrong person, a “reformation” will be formed with cassocks and titular hats to replace cooperation, trust and team building.
When NBCA split in 1988-1989, I had just been called to my first church in Portland, Oregon and I remember the pain of not being able to see my friends that I “grew up with” in the conventions since my teenage years. It was an ugly, needless split and the division lines were not blurred, they were sharp. I remember saying to my pastor “why does the convention have to split?” He simply said, “split happens.” In those two words, they were both analytical and prophetic.
What can stop the hemorrhaging? I believe three things:
a. It’s going to take a meeting of the minds and some acceptance of either other’s differences. To tell the truth, we all complained, rightly so, about the divisiveness of the Tea Party, but they may have gotten some of their training from watching how we as baptists operate. We need common goals – saving Bishop College should have been the clarion call that kept three bodies together. We missed a golden moment.
b. A Moses. The Black Baptist Church needs a Moses. Someone who can, by the strength of the Lord and a strong personality, to pull us together. The patron saints of the Church are resting in the couch of nature’s night. Who will be the next generation of leaders that want to see Pastors and Churches come together as a tool for good and social justice, instead of being pacified with a Conference that meets in a Super 8 Hotel conference room that holds 50 people and declaring “we’re worldwide.”
c. It’s going to take some failure. Some of these groups, honestly need to fail. There needs to be some serious assessment and then foreclosure of some of these groups who have started out so that the Baptist Church can come home. Is being a Bishop worth tearing up a group that was feeding the hungry? Is being an Adjutant to the Ninth Presiding Elder of a 40 church “International and World Wide” fellowship worth destroying years of fellowship on the local level?
I am 53. Most of my years are now behind me and I’m starting to feel like Dr. Gardner Taylor used to feel. Dr. Taylor had the desire to see all the of the Baptist Conventions meet jointly one time before his death (thank God it did happen and Dr. Taylor is still alive). My desire is greater, I don’t want us just to come together. I want us to stay together, to break a spiritual curse.
by Robert Earl Houston
It is customary at the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. that when the Nominating Committee comes forth, they always present the prognosis of elections. “Next year, 55% of our elected officers will change.” It helps the convention to prepare for the turnover. I’ve come to say that within the next year, it is possible that all four of our traditional national baptist conventions AND the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship will change leadership.
NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION, USA, INC.
Dr. Julius Scruggs of Alabama was elected President in 2009 and several ministers have declared or exploring runs to challenge him in 2013, if he decides to seek re-election. The election will be held at their annual session in New Orleans in 2014.
NATIONAL MISSIONARY BAPTIST CONVENTION OF AMERICA
The NMBCA has actually been operating without a President since the death of Dr. C.C. Robertson of Dallas. In a controversial move, the Executive Board decided to postpone the election until the annual session next month in San Antonio. The current Vice President, Dr. Nehemiah Davis, is acting president and is being challenged for the post by Rev. Dale Jay Sanders, Sr. and Dr. Samuel H. Smith, Sr. of Louisiana and Texas, respectively.
PROGRESSIVE NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION
Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr. is the current, tenured President and will complete his two terms in 2014. As of this writing, the only declared candidate is Dr. James C. Perkins of Detroit. At least four men are running for the office of 2nd Vice President including a layman. Their election will be in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION OF AMERICA, INC. INTERNATIONAL
Dr. Stephen John Thurston of Chicago, IL has served since 2003 and will lead the convention into Memphis for the 2014 annual session. At present there is at least several declared candidates: Dr. Samuel Tolbert of Louisiana, which means that for the first time in NBCA history, a President will seek re-election against a Vice President; and Dr. George Brooks of Nashville, who has served as Congress President.
FULL GOSPEL BAPTIST CHURCH FELLOWSHIP
Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr., who is now the leader with more tenure than all four of the traditional convention presidents combined, has lead FGBCF since 1994, meaning that he has 19 years of leadership. He recently announced the name of his successor – Bishop Joseph Warren Walker of Nashville, who will begin his tenure in 2015.
It will be interesting watching developments of this passing of the torches.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.