- Diana Chandler
Black pastors forming new state fellowships, pastors’ wives network
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention will announce three new state fellowships and a support network for the wives of senior pastors ahead of the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
Wives of senior pastors face unique challenges that NAAF is poised to help them address, NAAF leaders told Baptist Press.
“There is an unmet need and an opportunity to encourage and support the wives of senior pastors,” NAAF Executive Director Dennis Mitchell said, “by helping them to develop a support system. The hope is that just as we have NAAF state fellowships, that wherever we have a state fellowship there can be a first ladies’ support system.”
NAAF at-large board members Kim Hardy, a Bible teacher, author and wife of Dexter Hardy, founding pastor of Lifepoint Church in Marietta, Ga.; and Peggy Alexander, a Christian education director and wife of former East Bay Baptist Association (San Leandro, Calif.) Director of Missions Lyman Alexander, will lead the initiative.
New state fellowships are in varying stages of development in North Carolina, Alabama and Arizona, Mitchell said, applauding respective state convention executive directors for their support.
NAAF events in advance of the SBC annual meeting kick off with a worship service June 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, 8282 I-10 Service Rd. in New Orleans, where host pastor Fred Luter will preach. NAAF will honor Luter, past NAAF presidents and retiring NAAF historian Robert Wilson and others at the worship service.
The worship service will mark the 30th anniversary of the gathering that spurred NAAF’s formation, Mitchell said, and will kick off a yearlong recognition of NAAF’s 2024 30th anniversary.
“June, 30 years ago at Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston, that was the first gathering of a fellowship that one year later would officially become NAAF,” Mitchell said. “Our 30th anniversary, technically, will be June of 2024. That’s when NAAF was formally established. However, we’re going to kick off a yearlong 30th anniversary celebration in New Orleans, an entire year celebrating 30 years, culminating in June of 2024.”
“Moving Forward Together” will be the theme of the combined celebrations of the first fellowship and the formal establishment of the group.
The theme, Williams said, “is an emphasis on our legacy churches and pastors, with our emerging leaders and pastors and with church planters. There’s the sense here that NAAF wants to really chart a course forward that includes these ministry leaders.”
NAAF will further honor Luter by attending the Fred Luter Jr. Student Center Dedication Ceremony and Celebration June 14 from 6-9 p.m. at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), 3939 Gentilly Blvd. in New Orleans.
“Dr. Luter has been a faithful servant and pastor in New Orleans and beyond,” Williams said. “His work has impacted the Southern Baptist Convention nationally as a former SBC president. He has touched many of our lives personally, pastorally. And Dr. Luter’s record and character speak volumes to us, especially during our time today.
“The honor of having the student center named after him is a reflection of that kind of faithfulness and that kind of character and that kind of service for the glory of God.”
NOBTS trustees approved at their April 2022 meeting the renovation and renaming of the student center to honor Luter as part of a $12 million campus renovation.
In its business meeting June 12 from 4-6 p.m. in rooms 201-202 of the convention center, NAAF will elect new officers including a vice president, secretary and parliamentarian. Current President Frank Williams will remain in his post, serving a third year, as NAAF works to establish a greater sense of continuity in its administration.
The business meeting is billed as an opportunity for pastors to focus on upcoming initiatives and plans to empower African American churches, leaders, and planters for the work of the Great Commission through resources, networking, and more.
Hardy and Alexander will lead the wives of senior pastors in an organizational meeting during the business meeting time slot, NAAF leaders said, with a meeting location being finalized.
NAAF will present its annual George Liele Missions Banquet June 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Mosaic Room of the convention center. Williams will preach the banquet sermon at the event named in honor of America’s first missionary and raising money to fund missions. Tickets, $65 each, are available here.
With Wilson’s retirement after serving nearly two decades as NAAF historian, Lyman Alexander of California will assume that role, Mitchell said.
In addition to the three new state fellowships, NAAF has fellowships in Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland-Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, according to naaftogether.org.
NAAF represents and serves pastors of about 4,000 majority African American Southern Baptist churches and missions, collaborating with SBC entities and humanitarian and advocacy groups in its work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.