By Jeff Brumley
About 20,000 delegates are expected in Atlanta Sept. 3-7 for the 132nd annual session of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the oldest and largest of the historically African-American Baptist denominations.
Unlike some other Baptist groups, the delegates won’t be using the five-day gathering to vote on denominational business, but rather as a giant spiritual development opportunity.
“Basically we are empowering the delegates to strengthen their Christian walk and journey through education and worship services,” said Brenda Eason, the planner and director of operations for NBC-USA’s Georgia body, the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia. Eason explained that convention business is conducted at the mid-winter board meeting in January. Still, the Sept. 3-7 event generates a lot of energy around other causes. An NAACP voter-registration project “This is My Vote” rally and press conference is scheduled for Labor Day.
Participants will include NBC-USA President Julius Scruggs and leaders from the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention and National Baptist Convention of America.
The organization founded in 1880 has known its share of controversy in the past. In the late 1990s its leader at the time, the charismatic Henry Lyons, faced a number of corruption charges and spent five years in prison.
The denomination has clearly moved on from the scandal. Its website shows strong commitment to disaster relief, international missions and social justice work. It also is a participant in the New Baptist Covenant II movement. The convention bills itself as the largest and oldest African-American Christian body with 7.5 million members.
Eason said the denomination also has churches in the Bahamas.
A milestone to be celebrated in Atlanta is 50 years of excellence in mission work by the denomination’s Women’s Department, she said.