SBC pastors launching leadership institute to benefit black churches

Pastor Bernard Fuller preaching at New Song Church and Ministries of Lanham, Maryland.
Pastor Bernard Fuller preaching at New Song Church and Ministries of Lanham, Maryland. | Screengrab: YouTube/Dallas Theological Seminary

A Southern Baptist Convention entity that focuses on the interests of historically African American congregations in Maryland and Delaware will soon create a leadership institute.

The African American Fellowship of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware plans to launch the George Liele Leadership Institute in January, with classes slated to begin in September.

The goal of the institute will be to provide affordable church leadership training for churches in Maryland and Delaware, being open to all ethnicities, but will focus on helping to equip predominantly African American churches.  

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Pastor Bernard Fuller, member of the institute’s planning committee, told Baptist Press last week that the institute is an example of championing black representation in the SBC.

“In Southern Baptist history, we have a lot of role models but we don’t have a lot of African American role models we have embraced historically that have had international impact,” Fuller told BP.

“And one of those individuals is George Liele, whom we’ve overlooked many years and haven’t brought to the forefront. George Liele is a great example because he fulfills everything we exist for.”

Fuller emphasized to BP that the new institute is “multicultural” and will be “an equipping institute in every area,” with the goal of equipping “disciples to make disciples.”

“Our passion is discipleship and we believe that a great commitment to the Great Commander who gave us the Great Commandments and the Great Commission will result in great results,” he continued.

The institute is named after George Liele, a former slave from Virginia who was ordained a Baptist minister in 1775 and then became a notable missionary to Jamaica after the American Revolution.

In 2020, the SBC Executive Committee voted to make every first Sunday in February be observed on the SBC calendar as George Liele Church Planting, Evangelism and Missions Day.

Pastor Marshal Ausberry, the leader of the SBC National African American Fellowship, which boasts approximately 4,000 pastors as members, celebrated the committee’s vote.

“If I use a basketball term, he was a triple threat, an evangelist, a missionary and church planter. All done under extremely difficult circumstances,” stated Ausberry at the time. “If George Liele had a basketball jersey I think we would all be wearing it. He rightfully stands along with the missionary giants (Adonirum) Judson and (William) Carey.”

Founded in the Antebellum Era by slave owners, the SBC has pursued efforts to own up to its historic support for slavery, which included issuing an apology to African Americans in 1995.

In December 2018, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Louisville, Kentucky, released a report detailing its history of racism as part of an endeavor to recognize its past moral failings on race issues.

“The history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is intertwined with the history of American slavery and the commitment to white supremacy which supported it. Slavery left its mark on the seminary just as it did upon the American nation as a whole,” stated the report.

“The belief in white supremacy that undergirded slavery also undergirded new forms of racial oppression. The seminary’s leaders long shared that belief and therefore failed to combat effectively the injustices stemming from it.”

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