This past week my family and I have been blessed to attend the 53rd Annual Session of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, held this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Each day and night we have been blessed with powerful, soul stirring preaching, compelling testimonies, conscious and heart convicting dialogues regarding social justice issues and marvelous fellowship among the people of God!
It has been approximately 27 years since I’ve attended the PNBC convention. This year, we decided to attend not only for fellowship, but for networking purposes. Several things have been encouraging to me not only spiritually, but as a female pastor. There appears to be a movement towards increasing the level of acceptance and participation of women clergy. Although no woman has been nominated or elected for the position of president or 1st, 2nd or 3rd Vice President, women are being included in other leadership roles, throughout the denomination…still miles to go, but a good start. While the convention should be much further along, they certainly are more advanced than 27 years ago!
Social Justice issues (specifically race relations, economic injustices, voter rights, etc.) have always been at the forefront of the PNBC Agenda. Under the direction of outgoing PNBC President, Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., that has not changed. Special guests this week included Mr. Tracey Martin (father of slain youth, Trayvon Martin), discussing the inequities and racism involved in the “Stand Your Ground” laws. We applauded Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton (Trayvon's Mother) for resisting the temptation to retaliate with hatred, and instead rose to "a higher level," establishing the Trayvon Martin Foundation, with a view towards encouraging youth to follow positive role models such as pastors, educators, doctors, etc., and to have God in their lives. Rev. Dr. Bernice King (daughter of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) addressed the youth of the convention for Youth Night. In her powerful, dramatic and moving message, she declared,
“I had over a thousand reasons to hate…father assassinated when I was 5, uncle found mysteriously drowned after he’d just taught me how to swim, grandmother shot dead in the church…I had a thousand reasons to hate, but I had a mother who didn’t hold grudges and lived out what It means to forgive. The best thing we can do for our children is be an example.”
In addition to Worship, Christian Education and an emphasis upon Christian youth development, national and international humanitarian efforts have been a focus. The Convention supports a number of missions in Haiti, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, national disaster relief and various educational institutions across the nation. It has strongly supported the Affordable Care Act and has participated in assisting individuals with signing up.
May there always be “voices crying in the wilderness,” speaking truth to power without shame or acquiescence.
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, hope and perseverance,