The National Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest African-American church group, will elect a new president next month in Memphis.
And for the first time in 20 years, Mount Vernon’s W. Franklyn Richardson won’t be running.
Richardson ran for the top job in the last THREE elections and came in second each time.
He was once vice president of the Convention and made it clear that it was a dream of his to lead the denomination, which has long been regarded as a sleeping giant of American religion. The Convention has something like 7.5 million members but makes little noise on the national scene.
As Westchesterites know, Richardson is a mover and shaker. I always felt that it would have been real interesting to see what he could do as a national leader.
But it was not to be. The Rev. William Shaw of Philadelphia, a respected, professorial minister, is finishing his second, five-year term.
The election will take place on Sept. 10.
The gathering of black Baptists is expected to draw a huge crowd, something like 30,000 people. As I was covering Richardson’s campaigns, I was fortunate to attend the Convention in New Orleans in 2004 (a year before Katrina) and in Tampa in 1999.
Since few reporters cover the Convention’s gatherings, I was repeatedly mistaken for a hotel employee at both locations.
I wrote my FaithBeat column a couple of weeks ago about the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson and other ministers in Mount Vernon committing themselves to slow the tide of violence in their city.
Their impetus: 15 murders in 15 months. All young black men.
They’re holding a “summit on violence” at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Richardson’s Grace Baptist Church.
And the Rev. W. Darin Moore, pastor of Greater Centennial AME Zion Church and president of the United Black Clergy of Westchester — which is co-sponsoring tomorrow’s summit — is calling the initiative the SOS Coalition.
For “save our seeds.”
Their theme: “Reach Out, Root Out and Lift Up.”
Moore puts it like this: “Any loss of life is painful, however, the recent incidents of violence which have resulted in an average of one black male killed each month, is a crisis that demands an immediate, systematic, coordinated community response. We are sobered by the fact that this will be a long and arduous process, yet we are heartened by the potential of this community. Mt. Vernon is a great city with enormous possibilities.”
The inauguration is less than two weeks away, and there will be lots of balls and parties in D.C.
One of them will be the African-American Church Inaugural Ball on Sunday, Jan. 18, at the Grand Hyatt Washington.
Numerous big-name church leaders will attend, including Rev. Gardner Taylor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker Sr., not to mention folks like Donna Brazile, Marian Wright Edelman, Earl Graves, Congressman John Lewis and Gen. Colin Powell.
The black church will be represented in Washington.
The executive producer of the event is Yonkers’ own Pernessa Seele, the founder/CEO of The Balm in Gilead, a non-profit group that for 19 years has been helping (and prodding) black churches to deal with HIV/AIDS in the black community.
It’s been a crusade for Seele (that’s her), who was an immunologist at Harlem Hospital during the late 1980s when she was overwhelmed by the extent of the AIDS crisis. She started The Balm in Gilead, against all odds really, and has become a truly influential and greatly respected figure in the African-American community — almost single-handedly forcing black churches to confront an issue many did not want to face.
She’s a hero to many.
Proceeds from the ball will benefit The Balm in Gilead.
Seele’s pastor is the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, who is serving as chairman of the ball.
And the Grace Baptist Church Choir will be among several performers.
I’ll be writing more about the ball next week.
The Rev. William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention USA — the largest black church group in the country — will be in New Rochelle tomorrow (July 12) to help Bethesda Baptist Church celebrate its 120th anniversary.
He’ll take part in a banquet at the church’s new Dr. C.M. Long Sr. Family Life Center.
It’s an interesting appearance because back in 1999, Bethesda’s veteran pastor, the Rev. Allen Paul Weaver Jr. (left), served as campaign manager for the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson when he ran for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention USA.
It was a tumultuous time for the Convention — which has about 5 million members — because its then-President, the Rev. Henry Lyons, had just been sentenced to prison for stealing money from the Convention. A slew of ministers were running to replace him and Mount Vernon’s Richardson was the big favorite.
But Philadelphia’s Shaw (right) won the presidency, nipping Richardson.
In 2004, Richardson challenged Shaw’s bid for re-election — but without Weaver at his side. Shaw won easily.
Shaw has been a low-key president, largely invisible in the mainstream media (I was surprised to see on the Convention’s website that he has spoken out about the Barack Obama/Jeremiah Wright flap). At 74, he is a respected leader whose legacy will likely be restoring internal credibility to the Convention.
And he’ll be side-by-side with Weaver at Bethesda Baptist tomorrow.
Mount Vernon’s Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson will lead hundreds of religious leaders from across the tri-state area tomorrow in a “pray-in” to protest the verdict in the Sean Bell trial.
Richardson, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, is national chairman of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, which is organizing the 3 p.m. pray-in at 125th Street and 3rd Avenue and several other locations, including NYC police headquarters.
Sharpton said Saturday that demonstrators would pray on their knees and then be arrested for civil disobedience.
The pray-in will be the start of a period of protest, Sharpton said.