By Bob Allen
A Mississippi pastor defeated four other candidates to win election as president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. — the nation’s largest historically African-American denomination and second-largest Baptist group behind Southern Baptists.
Jerry Young, 63, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., succeeds Julius Scruggs, pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., who was elected to a five-year term in 2009.
Delegates to the 7.5 million-member convention’s 134th annual session — held Sept. 1-5 in New Orleans — chose Young, a sitting vice president and immediate past president of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi, over pastors R.B. Holmes of Jacksonville, Fla.; Clifford Jones of Charlotte, N.C.; Boise Kimber of New Haven, Conn.; and Randy Vaughn of Port Arthur, Texas.
Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church since 1980, earned both this master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Reformed Theological Seminary, a non-denominational seminary with multiple campuses associated with the “young, restless and reformed” movement promoting biblical inerrancy and Reformed, or Calvinistic, theology among evangelicals.
Ligon Duncan, an associate of Southern Baptist leaders including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler and Pastor Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, is chancellor and CEO of the seminary, with campuses in Jackson, Miss.; Orlando, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Washington, Houston and Memphis, Tenn.
Obama thanked National Baptists for supporting his My Brother’s Keeper initiative to empower young African-American males to succeed.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you at the National Baptist Convention for the good works that you do every single day as brothers and sisters in Christ,” Obama said. “For 128 years you’ve been bending the arc of the moral universe closer to justice by working to advance equality and opportunity and respect for all.”
“On some of the most urgent challenges of our history — from the fight for equal voting rights to giving all our children a chance at getting world-class education — you’ve been out in front, reminding us what’s right, pushing us to do better and to be better,” he said.
Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network and host of a show on MSNBC, sought allies for his efforts to shine a light on police practices in Ferguson, Mo., as well as other places where unarmed black men have been killed by police.
Sharpton said plans by the U.S. Justice Department to investigate civil rights in the St. Louis suburb following last month’s shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer came as the result of public pressure. He pointed out that Attorney General Eric Holder has family ties to one of the two black students turned away in 1963 when then-Gov. George Wallace famously stood in a schoolhouse doorway to block integration of the University of Alabama.
“Eric Holder is going into Ferguson as the first black attorney general of the United States, sent by the first black president of the United States,” Sharpton said. “We marched. We suffered. We went to jail. We elected an Obama, and they’re trying to take the vote back in many states around this country with voter ID and ending early voting.”
“But nobody gave us the right to vote,” Sharpton continued in video posted on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website showing an energized crowd. “We fought to get it. We’re going to fight to keep it. It was not a gift. It was earned with blood. It was earned with nights in jail.”
“We’ve come too far to turn around now,” said Sharpton, originally a Pentecostal preacher who was re-baptized as a Baptist in 1994. “We’ve got to stand up and hold up and not bow down. If we’re faithful over a few things, if we hold on through the night, God will make a way for his church.”