Started by African-American Baptists committed to foreign missions in Africa, the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention today is involved on six continents.

By Bob Allen

The Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention will launch a new pastors’ network to encourage ministerial self-care and share leading-edge ministry models at the group’s 115th annual session Aug. 13-17 in New Orleans.

The self-funded network is intended to build on a pastoral excellence program funded by a 2003 Lilly Endowment grant that concluded last year. Some 155 pastors engaged in a three-year development program designed to “broaden visions, build networks and deepen impacts,” said David Emmanuel Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the 3,500-church, 1.2 million-member convention based in Washington, D.C.

david goatley nabfGoatley, who has led the historic group founded in 1897 by African-American Baptists committed to foreign missionary work on the African continent, recently completed six years as president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional bodies comprising the Baptist World Alliance. He recently handed the leadership gavel to Jim Hill, executive director of Churchnet, also known as the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

“David is respected across national, theological and racial/ethnic lines,” said George Bullard, the North American Baptist Fellowship’s general secretary. “David’s consistent leadership has helped NABF to develop and mature as a North American organization.”

Bullard said the Lott Carey convention is in good hands as it embarks on 21st century initiatives including collaboration with the four principal African-American Baptist denominational groups to help rebuild Haiti and mission networks that today extend to Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe and both North and South America.

The 115-year-old convention draws its inspiration and name from the life of Lott Carey, a man born into slavery in Virginia in 1780. Carey made his profession of faith in Christ in 1807, purchased his freedom in 1813 and led the first Baptist missionaries to go to Africa from the United States in 1821. Its ministries include Lott Carey Mission School, with 750 students on two campuses in Liberia.

Also in Africa, Lott Carey supports a network of 50-plus churches and four schools in southern Nigeria; engages in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support programs and women’s empowerment programs in Ethiopia; and supports a network of 36 churches, two farms and a clinic in Kenya.

The convention also supported the recent launch of the Zimbabwe Theological Seminary in Southern Africa, which opened as a self-supporting school after the Zimbabwe Baptist Convention fired Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe principal Henry Mugabe for his opposition to changes in governing documents including required adherence to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Mugabe, who has taught adjunctively at several U.S. seminaries and theology schools aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, is scheduled to speak at the Lott Carey annual session during an Aug. 15 missions focus. He is listed on the program as a consultant to the new seminary.

The Lott Carey convention had been supporting Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe, which was started by Southern Baptists but began seeking additional sponsors after the SBC International Mission Board reduced funding of institutions in a reorientation of priorities in the 1990s.

In India, the Lott Carey convention supports three churches, provides education for more than 8,000 children, provides free medical care for more than 1,000 people suffering from leprosy or HIV, and provides ministry support for the rural poor and forest-dwelling tribal people who have been displaced.

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Lott Carey convention joined forces with the National Baptist Convention of America; National Baptist Convention, USA; National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; and Progressive National Baptist Convention to provide housing solutions for thousands of people in Haiti.

In Jamaica, the Lott Carey convention partners with Trinity Evangelical Ministries to provide skills training and work experience for young adults in the island nation with a high unemployment rate.

In North America, the Lott Carey convention has been actively engaged in disaster-response work. Following Hurricane Katrina, the convention operated six “resurrection centers” for 16 months to provide pastoral-care ministries, social-service support, mental counseling and child-development programs. Additionally, it provided coaching for 36 pastors and provided more than $330,000 in ministry grants to churches.

— With reporting by the North American Baptist Fellowship.