NAMB president Kevin Ezell created the role of Presidential Ambassador for Ethnic Church Relations shortly after messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix voted to approve a recommendation citing the "need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life."
Ezell has named Ken Weathersby to fill the role.
"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. "This new role will help facilitate that."
Weathersby most recently served as associate vice president for ethnic mobilization at NAMB. He has previously served in leadership positions in NAMB's church planting and evangelism areas as well. He has also served in an evangelism leadership role with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and pastored churches in Baton Rouge, La., and Cincinnati.
"All of us need to be doing whatever it takes -- as our president, Kevin Ezell, says -- to reach all peoples," Weathersby said. "So I'm asking 'How can we strengthen what we're doing? How can we plant more churches? How can we show we value everyone and that we all need to work cooperatively?'"
Weathersby's role will be fully funded by NAMB, but he will spend part of his time working with the SBC Executive Committee as it seeks to implement recommendations made by the Executive Committee's ethnic study workgroup regarding ethnic involvement in SBC life.
Based on a motion presented at the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., the Executive Committee workgroup 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."
On Feb. 22, the Executive Committee approved a 10-part recommendation that was presented at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in June. Messengers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recommendations that asked for greater accountability regarding increased diversity in leadership and participation of ethnics in the SBC.
"I am so excited about this joint endeavor with NAMB in which we will encourage our ethnic brothers and sisters to new levels of cooperation and mission involvement," said Frank Page, president and CEO of the Executive Committee.
"Ken Weathersby is a dear friend and a man whom I respect deeply," Page said. "He is uniquely qualified for this position and I will enjoy every moment of working with him.
"Having worked with him at the North American Mission Board, I know his heart and his ability. This is a win-win for Southern Baptists!"
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's formation in 1997, the entity has led Southern Baptists to place an emphasis on ethnic church planting. More than half of all SBC churches planted or affiliated with the SBC since 1997 have been African-American or ethnic.
"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."
Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., made the motion in 2009 which called on the SBC to study how ethnic churches and leaders could play a larger role in SBC life.
Kim said he was "very pleased" to hear of the creation of the new position and Weathersby's appointment to it. He said it "demonstrates a commitment from the SBC" to the historic "Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation" document signed by entity leaders, state executives and ethnic fellowship leaders at the Executive Committee meeting June 13 and presented to messengers during the Executive Committee report at the SBC annual meeting.
"It will be the beginning of a journey ... to work together as equal partners for His kingdom to strengthen our beloved denomination, which has a rich spiritual heritage in its history rooted on the bedrock of missions," Kim said.
With NAMB's new Send North America church planting focus and IMB's new 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.
Mike Ebert is vice president for communications at the North American Mission Board.
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