Ken Weathersby, who began serving as vice president for Convention advancement with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee on April 1, continues a collaborative partnership begun in 2011 between the North American Mission Board and the Executive Committee to reach all Americans with the Gospel.
Weathersby, who became the first African American to hold an EC vice presidential position, most recently served as presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations with NAMB, a position created by NAMB president Kevin Ezell shortly after messengers at the 2011 SBC annual meeting adopted a twelve-part recommendation citing the “need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
Based on a motion presented at the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, the Executive Committee examined “how ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level.”
Following a two-year study, which discovered that almost 20 percent of churches that cooperate with the SBC are non-Anglo, SBC messengers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recommendation that asked for greater accountability regarding increased racial and ethnic diversity in leadership and participation of individuals of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in the SBC.
“I think messengers sent a clear signal in Phoenix that they want to see a broader spectrum of ethnic involvement in the SBC,” Ezell said when he created the position of presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations. “This new role will help facilitate that.”
At Ezell’s initiative, Weathersby’s role with NAMB was begun as an intentional partnership with the SBC Executive Committee. Though fully funded by NAMB, Weathersby began working closely with Frank S. Page, president of the Executive Committee, seeking to implement the SBC recommendations regarding broader ethnic involvement in SBC life. NAMB will continue to provide partial funding for Weathersby in his new position with the EC, 50 percent the first year and 25 percent the second year, with the EC assuming full responsibility after that.
During the past two years, Weathersby has worked closely with the Executive Committee to identify members for three advisory councils Page has named—the Hispanic Advisory Council in 2011, the African American Advisory Council in 2012, and the Asian American Advisory Council in 2013.
Each council is a three-year initiative established by Page and Ezell in an ongoing effort to engage the many faces of the SBC in meaningful dialogue about how Southern Baptists can work together as full and equal partners in the harvest. The chief aim of the councils is to help the EC, NAMB, and other SBC entity leaders understand the perspectives that Hispanic, African American, and Asian American Southern Baptists bring to the common task of reaching the United States and the nations with the Gospel.
Representative of the regions of the country and reflecting a wide range of cultural diversity, Hispanic council members represent Southern Baptists from Cuba, Central America, South America, Mexico, and Spain. Asian council members represent Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Lao, and Vietnamese churches. African American council members represent inner city churches from major metropolitan centers in the Northeast, Midwest, South, Southwest, and Far West, as well as churches in suburban and rural areas of the country.
In his new role Weathersby will work to increase ethnic participation and grow relationships with a variety of other demographic subsets within the SBC such as young ministers and pastors of small churches and mega-churches, along with overseeing the EC’s Global Evangelical Relations ministry.
Page said Weathersby is a friend who will bring a wealth of expertise to the office.
“Dr. Ken Weathersby brings a level of experience that will be beneficial to the Executive Committee and to our Convention,” Page said. “Ken is a friend and a man who is trusted and respected across our Convention. We thank God for this new addition to our EC staff.”
Weathersby held a series of leadership roles at NAMB, including associate vice president for multi-ethnic mobilization, vice president for the church planting group, senior strategist for the evangelization group, and senior director of the church planting group’s equipping team.
Weathersby in 1999 was the first African American pastor to hold a full-time associate professorship at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was director of the seminary’s Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting and director of the Nehemiah Project, which steered seminary graduates into church planting.
In the mid-1990s, Weathersby served the Tennessee Baptist Convention as evangelism specialist, team leader for evangelism strategies, and director of the black church extension and multihousing office. Prior to that, he planted two churches in Alabama and Ohio before he started and served as pastor of Douglas Avenue Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from 1989 to 1993.
The Black Denominational Servants Network honored Weathersby in 2012 for his denominational service with the Kennedy Boyce Award, named for the first two African American pastors to align with the Convention in 1953. The National African American Fellowship in 2009 honored him with the “Best Friend of Pastors” award for his work in facilitating relationships between the SBC and black pastors.
Weathersby says a key part of his role will be to forge and strengthen relationships with Southern Baptist ethnic fellowships. He hopes that will lead to more ethnic involvement in SBC life.
“As we have more involvement, hopefully we will have more ownership,” Weathersby said. “That includes responsibility and accountability. Promoting our missions offerings and the Cooperative Program and holding up the value of our missionaries—all of these are part of our responsibilities.”
Since NAMB was formed in 1997, it has led Southern Baptists to place an emphasis on ethnic church planting. More than half of all new congregations that have been planted or have chosen to cooperate with the Convention since 1997 have been African-American or other non-Anglo congregations.
“NAMB will not take a step back from ethnic church planting,” Ezell said. “At the same time, we are asking our ethnic churches to take a step up in supporting the Cooperative Program and our missions offerings.”
With NAMB’s Send North America church planting focus and IMB’s assignment to assist in reaching people groups in North America, Weathersby believes the timing of his new role is opportune.
“It’s an appropriate time for Southern Baptists to continue to highlight the importance of reaching all people with the Gospel and having all ethnic representation in the Convention,” he said.
Compiled by Roger S. Oldham. Mike Ebert and Diana Chandler contributed to this report.