Story updated 11:30 a.m. Dec. 3, 2015
MARIETTA — Georgia Baptists’ growing African-American Fellowship will be considered for a seat on the Executive Committee following a vote of messengers during the annual Convention meeting Nov. 10.
That’s when messengers accepted a recommendation to consider ammending the Convention’s constitution to allow the group to have one seat on the Committee.
The Fellowship’s current president would be the individual to hold the seat.
Jean Ward, who pastors East Atlanta Church, serves as president of the group and made the motion for the additional seat to be allotted to the group. He is in the second year of a two-year term.
The Order of Business Committee, upon receiving Ward’s motion, recommended the following substitute which passed on the vote by messengers:
“The President of the African American Fellowship, Pastor Jean L. Ward, moves that Article VI Section 1 of the Constitution of the Baptist Convention of the state of Georgia be amended to provide that the African American Fellowship of the Georgia Baptist Convention representing all African American churches within the Georgia Baptist Convention be allotted one seat on the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee. This seat on the Executive Committee shall be held by the President of the African American Fellowship. This person shall be a member of a cooperating Georgia Baptist church in good standing.”
After this motion was addressed and approved by the convention, a second motion was made.
“The Order of Business Committee recommends this motion be referred to the Executive Committee and that they in turn report to the 2016 meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention in Savannah.”
Ward, following the vote, hailed the possible amendment as opening the door for greater diversity within the Convention.
“We have about 83 churches statewide in small towns and large cities statewide, and continue to grow. We are already working closely with four associations … Augusta with Dwayne Boudreaux, Atlanta Metro with Joel Harrison, Stone Mountain with Larry Cheek, and Southwest Atlanta with Bernard Miller,” he explained.
The Atlanta native has led the church at 196 Savannah St. for nearly three years. It has 48 members.
More voices at the table
“For there to be change at the GBC there need to be more voices at the table. Many African-Americans do not feel that they have a voice and this historic vote will give them that voice … the voice to know they are part of the larger Baptist family in Georgia.
“It’s one thing to sit on the porch, its another to set at the table,” he added.
Ward said that African-American churches “are not as one-dimensional” as many Anglos (Caucasians) believe. They are multi-dimensional just like Anglo churches … and are not cookie-cutter churches just like Anglo churches are not cookie-cutter churches. Each has its own distinct identity.
“By having a voice on the Executive Committee we will be able to show how Georgia Baptists can do a better job of reaching different African-American communities. And, just as important, other ethnic groups will see this as opening doors for greater inclusiveness and participation,” he noted.
Growing CP support
Ward believes bringing more African-American congregations into the GBC network will help grow Cooperative Program support.
The Fellowship is looking forward to participating in African-American Day at the Missions and Ministry Center on March 10. The meeting, formerly for new pastors in Georgia, is being expanded to any African-American pastor.
On May 13-14 the group will sponsor The Man Conference at the Toccoa Conference Center. Formerly a national gathering, the event is now being held on the state level.
The conference will focus on fellowship and networking among African-American pastors and feature classes and workshops on fatherhood, leadership, discipleship, and developing parenting skills. That networking will provide avenues where the pastors will learn about what the GBC offers African-American churches and how to become more involved.
“We want to use this two-way opportunity to bring non-Georgia Baptist congregations into the GBC. Once they know the quality of resources that are at their disposal, they will be much more interested,” he said.
Ward and his wife, Latoya, have one daughter, Jael.