Roanoke hosts Virginia Baptist State Convention

Spirits high as 149th session convenes at Hotel Roanoke

Rev. Dr. Thurman O. Echols, Jr.
Rev. Dr. Thurman O. Echols, Jr.

by S. Rotan Hale

Nothing fortifies the soul of area Baptists like the Virginia Baptist State Convention (VBSC). The 149th Annual Session convened May 9-12 at Hotel Roanoke for 3-days of informative workshops, meetings, banquets, unique vendors and some of the most uplifting sermons imaginable.

“The Black church is the only organism that allows us to set our own agenda and chart our own coarse in terms of accomplishments and traditions,” said organization president Dr. Thurman O. Echols, Jr.

The renowned clergyman presently serves in his 2nd term as president and is in his 40th year as pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Axton, VA.

He is a man that has dedicated his life to the ministry and considers the Black church as quintessentially the “key element” of the Black experience.

“Most of our leaders, people who have made significant contributions to our race grew up through or near the Black church. Scores of institutions started from the Black Church and many of them have fallen but the church is still alive.”

“If the Black church ever dissolves, then I hope to be gone on to Glory because I don’t want to be here if that be the case,” he added.

Dr. Echols spoke briefly about the hard times many Historical Black Colleges and Universities and other Black institutions have fallen under.

“St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, VA and Bishop College, Marshall, TX should have never closed down,” he notes. “We have to be vigilant and supportive of our institutions because if we don’t, no one will.”

Placing great emphasis on the critical need for HBCUs he said, “Although we now are able to attend other institutions, we still need HBCUs simply because predominantly White schools will not accept so many of us at one time. Frankly they only want to recruit our best minds and/or athletes. However we should never forget the bridge (i.e. HBCUs) that brought us where we are today.”

Honorees (from left, front row): Rev. Dr. Jack Wilson, Aaron Glenn, Cynthia Forrest, Vice Mayor Anita Price, Rev. Luther Allen, III, Rev. Terry Moore and Rev. Dr. E.T. Burton. Back row: Quentina Enoch, Tim Otey, Mayor Sherman Lea, Donald Barrow, Rev. Dr. Paul Johnson, Rev. Dr. Melvin Blackwell, Rev. Corey Taylor, Rev. Charles Calloway and Deacon William Graves. All pose Thursday, May 12 at the Virginia Baptist State Convention held at Hotel Roanoke.
Honorees (from left, front row): Rev. Dr. Jack Wilson, Aaron Glenn, Cynthia Forrest, Vice Mayor Anita Price, Rev. Luther Allen, III, Rev. Terry Moore and Rev. Dr. E.T. Burton. Back row: Quentina Enoch, Tim Otey, Mayor Sherman Lea, Donald Barrow, Rev. Dr. Paul Johnson, Rev. Dr. Melvin Blackwell, Rev. Corey Taylor, Rev. Charles Calloway and Deacon William Graves. All pose Thursday, May 12 at the Virginia Baptist State Convention held at Hotel Roanoke.

One of the highlights of the convention was the People’s Award Luncheon at which 16 individuals were recognized.

Honored were: Rev. Dr. Melvin  Blackwell, Distinguished Service Award; Rev. Dr. Jack Wilson, Lifetime Achievement Award; Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, John H. Foster, Political Achievement Award and Vice Mayor Anita Price, Robert J.N. Jones Community Service Award.

Also honored were: Rev. Dr. E.T. Burton, Humanitarian Award; Donald Barrows, (Optima Health), Corporate Business Award; Rev. Dr. Paul Johnson, President’s Special Award; Rev. Dr. Charles Calloway, Moderator of the Year; Rev. Corey Taylor, Pastor of the Year; Rev. Terry Moore, Assoc. Minister of the Year; Deacon William Graves, Diaconate of the Year; James Martin and Tim Otey Trustees of the Year; Cynthia Forrest, Church Staff Member of the Year; Rev. Luther Allen, III, Christian Educator of the Year; Aaron Glenn, Youth of the Year and Quentina Enoch, Minister of Music of the Year.

Rev. Dr. John Kinney
Rev. Dr. John Kinney

Of the many who delivered presentations was Rev. Dr. John Kinney, Dean of Samuel DeWitt Proctor Theological School who opened his dynamic address with the question, “Since Jesus’ mission was not to condemn the world, (but to save it) then why do we spend so much time condemning it.”

Stressing the fact that we as people “preach the message of condemnation… instead of salvation,” Dr. Kenny contended, “the reason we preach condemnation is because it promotes us and gives us status.”

In accordance with the convention’s theme, “Exhortation to know Christ, Pressing Toward the Mark” he further explained that “in order to know God fully and to know Jesus you’ve got to declare that you don’t know.”

“The greatest threat to knowing God and Jesus are the people who know God to well already… and the greatest sin may be their certainty,” he said.

His message was incredibly refreshing and spoke directly to many who–considering themselves anointed–are simply guided by ego, arrogance and a crippling understanding that they “know God.”

During his uplifting presentation, Dr. Kenny floored the house with a soul-stirring rant that was an extremely knowledgeable and extensive display of facts that outlined his point that “everything in creation is dynamic (in motion).”

He broke down the human connection to the universe and posed the big question, “if everything is constantly moving, then why is the church standing still.”

Powerful messengers as Dr. Kenny, Dr. Echols and others who keep vital organizations as the VBSC thriving over the years, brilliantly sharpen the spiritual focus of willing souls in need of periodical adjustment. They are the very generals that lead us as we fight the good fight particularly through such unusually turbulent times as currently exist.

The VBSC, was established in Zion Baptist Church, Portsmouth, VA in 1867 and is listed as the oldest African American Baptist organization.

There is unequivocally nothing greater than the soulful enrichment amassed at the VBSC. Such conferences and conveners are a true testament to the significance of spiritual inculcation that if given a chance, will ultimately serve as a shield and an elevator to the supreme understanding that we are all one.