The North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF) is moving forward with new leadership following a meeting in Vancouver July 7.
Elijah Brown was elected to succeed George Bullard as executive director of NABF, an organization of more than 30 Baptist organizations and institutions in North America. Bullard is strategic director of the Columbia Partnership, a consulting firm that works with churches and other religious organizations. He has served in the part-time position since August 1, 2007.
In recognizing Bullard’s leadership, John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and former president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), praised Bullard for bringing the organization a sense of identity and purpose, shaping a method of collaboration for disaster relief efforts, and leading in other initiatives, such as the New Baptist Covenant. In addition, Upton said, “We must express gratitude for the person you gave us in yourself.” Upton offered a resolution of appreciation, which participants voted to affirm.
Brown, a former professor of religion and missions at East Texas Baptist University, serves as executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a human rights organization advancing religious freedom as a universal right around the world.
Brown spoke of attending the 2005 BWA World Congress in Birmingham, England as a “transformative experience and re-centering moment” that led him to ongoing involvement in the BWA. Brown spoke of many troubles in the world and various challenges before the church, encouraging participants to “live into those realities.”
“We are a network well positioned to continue as a powerful witness calling forth a Christ-centered vision of justice,” Brown said, one that depends on everyone working together to “get involved in mission and justice, empowering emerging leaders as we lean into the future.”
Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr., long time pastor of the Greater St. Mary’s Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was elected to a two-year term as NABF president. Tolbert, who also serves as president of the National Baptist Convention of America International, succeeds Jim Hill, executive director of ChurchNet.
Vice Presidents include Jeremy Bell, executive minister of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada; Trisha Miller Manarin, coordinator of Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; and Albert Reyes, president of Buckner International. Robert Cochran, executive director of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, serves as treasurer.
Representatives of fifteen different Baptist groups and institutions participated in the meeting, in which Lauren Bethell, an American Baptist missionary living in the Netherlands, highlighted concerns about human trafficking, especially as it relates to forced prostitution. Human trafficking was designated by NABF as a strategic focus of concern for 2016.
Bethell, who received the BWA Human Rights Award in 2005 for her pioneering work with victims in Thailand and elsewhere, said human trafficking grows from vulnerability that leads to exploitation. Contributing vulnerabilities include poverty, especially in cultures where girls are expected to provide for their parents; child sexual abuse; and insecurities that lead girls to be susceptible to predators who gain their trust and lead them into prostitution.
Bethell urged participants to learn more about the problem of human trafficking, to surround their efforts with prayer, and to develop an action plan for confronting the issue in their own contexts, being willing to “show up, be there with the women, and pound on the doors of government.”