After a century of separatism; four historic churches emerged in the SBC
Jan 28, 2003

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Blacks in the SBC

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (FBW)-Today, there are about 4,000 African American congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention, according to Sid Smith, the director of the African American Ministries Division at the Florida Baptist Convention.

In all, perhaps 1.1 million people of African descent call themselves Southern Baptist, but it has only been in the past several decades that Kingdom growth has caught up after nearly a century of separatism in the SBC. When the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845, about one-third of the members were of African heritage, said Smith. But by 1900 most Black Southern Baptists had found alternative membership in Black Baptist bodies. Few churches were integrated between 1865 and 1965. The first four African American congregations to join the Southern Baptist Convention after nearly a century of separatism are:

  • Greater Friendship Baptist Church, Anchorage, Alaska-Leon D. May was called in 1997 as the 11th pastor of Greater Friendship which voted to affiliate with Southern Baptists in 1951. About 150 people attend Sunday morning worship. May was elected president of the Alaska Baptist Convention during its annual meeting in August.
  • Community Baptist Church, Santa Rosa, Calif.-They joined the SBC in 1951. James Coffee has been pastor for 43 years. Approximately 400 people attend Sunday morning services.
  • 19th Street Baptist Church, Austin, Texas-Harold Branch led the church to the SBC in 1954. He later led St. John Baptist Church in Corpus Christi to join with the SBC. Before his 1988 retirement, Branch was vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and a member of the SBC's Foreign Mission Board [now the IMB]. 19th St. Baptist continues as a part of the National Baptist Convention with about 200 people.
  • Ebenezer Third Baptist Church, Austin, Texas was the third Baptist church started there. The first was First Baptist; it started First Baptist Church-Colored. A split perhaps 130 years ago over a piano - resulted in Ebenezer Baptist Church. Robert Rowe led the congregation in 1954 to affiliate with the SBC. Marvin C. Griffin has been pastor at Ebenezer Third Austin since 1969. About 350 people attend worship. The church's economic development center for faith-based ministry has about $1 million in assets.

For related coverage, see Blacks in the SBC Archive

Related Coverage:

Blacks in the SBC

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