ALPHARETTA, Ga. — A new role created by the North American
Mission Board (NAMB) will help the entity maintain a strong focus on minority
ministry needs and facilitate leadership opportunities for minorities
throughout Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
NAMB president Kevin Ezell created the role of presidential ambassador for ethnic
church relations shortly after messengers at the SBC
in Phoenix voted to approve a
recommendation citing the “need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion
of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist
Ezell has named Ken Weathersby to fill the role.
“I think messengers sent a clear signal in Phoenix
that they want to see a broader spectrum of ethnic involvement in the SBC,”
Ezell said. “This new role will help facilitate that.”
Weathersby most recently served as associate vice president for ethnic
mobilization at NAMB. He has previously served in leadership positions in NAMB’s
church planting and evangelism areas as well. He has also served in an
evangelism leadership role with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and pastored
churches in Baton Rouge, La.,
“All of us need to be doing whatever it takes — as our president, Kevin Ezell,
says — to reach all peoples,” Weathersby said. “So I’m asking ‘How can we
strengthen what we’re doing? How can we plant more churches? How can we show we
value everyone and that we all need to work cooperatively?’”
Weathersby’s role will be fully funded by NAMB, but he will spend part of his
time working with the SBC Executive
Committee as it seeks to implement recommendations made by the Executive
Committee’s ethnic study workgroup regarding ethnic involvement in SBC
Based on a motion presented at the 2009 SBC
annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.,
the Executive Committee workgroup examined “how ethnic churches and ethnic
church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC
through cooperative partnership on the national level.”
On Feb. 22, the Executive Committee approved a 10-part recommendation that was
presented at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in June. Messengers
voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recommendations that asked for greater
accountability regarding increased diversity in leadership and participation of
ethnics in the SBC.
“I am so excited about this joint endeavor with NAMB in which we will encourage
our ethnic brothers and sisters to new levels of cooperation and mission
involvement,” said Frank Page, president and CEO of the Executive Committee.
“Ken Weathersby is a dear friend and a man whom I respect deeply,” Page said. “He
is uniquely qualified for this position and I will enjoy every moment of
working with him.
“Having worked with him at the North American Mission Board, I know his heart
and his ability. This is a win-win for Southern Baptists!”
Weathersby says a key part of his role will be to forge and strengthen
relationships with Southern Baptist ethnic fellowships. He hopes that will lead
to more ethnic involvement in SBC life.
“As we have more involvement, hopefully we will have more ownership,” Weathersby
said. “That includes responsibility and accountability. Promoting our missions
offerings and the Cooperative Program and holding up the value of our
missionaries — all of these are part of our responsibilities.”
Since NAMB’s formation in 1997, the entity has led Southern Baptists to place
an emphasis on ethnic church planting. More than half of all SBC
churches planted or affiliated with the SBC
since 1997 have been African-American or ethnic.
“NAMB will not take a step back from ethnic church planting,” Ezell said. “At
the same time, we are asking our ethnic churches to take a step up in
supporting the Cooperative Program and our missions offerings.”
Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist
Church in Cambridge,
Mass., made the motion in 2009 which called
on the SBC to study how ethnic churches and
leaders could play a larger role in SBC
Kim said he was “very pleased” to hear of the creation of the new position and
Weathersby’s appointment to it. He said it “demonstrates a commitment from the SBC”
to the historic “Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation” document signed by
entity leaders, state executives and ethnic fellowship leaders at the Executive
Committee meeting June 13 and presented to messengers during the Executive
Committee report at the SBC annual meeting.
“It will be the beginning of a journey … to work together as equal partners
for His kingdom to strengthen our beloved denomination, which has a rich
spiritual heritage in its history rooted on the bedrock of missions,” Kim said.
With NAMB’s new Send North America church planting focus and IMB’s new
assignment to assist in reaching people groups in North America,
Weathersby believes the timing of his new role is opportune.
“It’s an appropriate time for Southern Baptists to continue to highlight the
importance of reaching all people with the Gospel and having all ethnic
representation in the convention,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ebert is vice president for communications at the North
American Mission Board.)