Historical Society to examine diversity among Baptists - Word&Way

Historical Society to examine diversity among Baptists

RICHMOND — Past and current diversity among Baptists will be examined at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society’s annual meeting, set for Tuesday, May 19, at First Baptist Church in Richmond.

“The Swirling Center: The Prospect of Diversity in the Church” is the theme of the meeting, which will focus especially on the inclusion of ethnic and language congregations among Baptists. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

Keynote speakers will include Emmanuel McCall and Loyd Allen, both of whom serve on the faculty of the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

McCall is well known among Virginia Baptists as the founder of the black church studies program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he taught from 1970-96.  He is a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance and has served as moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  He is the author of several books including his new memoir, When All God’s Children Get Together.

Allen is professor of church history at McAfee, where he focuses on Baptist heritage and Christian.  He is the author of a history of Baptists in Maryland and Delaware, as well as a book on faith development in crises entitled Crossroads in Christian Growth.

At the meeting, the Historical Society will honor the life and ministry of Phillip E. Rodgerson, who served on the Virginia Baptist Mission Board staff in the areas of evangelism, missions and ministries from 1966-93.  In his landmark study on “the Urban Corridor,” he informed Virginia Baptists on the coming growth and diversity over a large section of the Commonwealth.  He pioneered in encouraging the Baptist General Association of Virginia to be inclusive of persons regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or language.  He led in welcoming the first African-American Baptist churches to join the BGAV since the Civil War.  Today the BGAV includes many ethnic and language churches within its membership.

Earlier in the day, the Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies will have conducted a convocation on diversity.  Each year the Center sponsors a “think tank” convocation on some issue of interest to Baptists.  The diversity convocation will include invited participants representative of Virginia Baptist leadership and churches reflective of various ethnic backgrounds.  It is anticipated that a new covenant of understanding might emerge from the dialogue.

Key facilitators in the convocation besides McCall and Allen will include Jim Somerville, pastor of First Baptist in Richmond; Wayne Faison, team leader of the courageous churches team of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board: and Doug Hicks, professor of leadership studies and religion in the Jepson School of Leadership at the University of Richmond and author of a new book entitled With God on All Sides:  Leadership in a Devout and Diverse America.

The evening program is free and open to the public and churches are encouraged to bring groups.  For further information, contact the Historical Society/Heritage Center at (804) 289-8434 or at www.baptistheritage.org.

Fred Anderson is executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society.