September 29, 1999

National Baptist Convention's
new head called reformer

___By Adelle Banks
___Religion News Service
___TAMPA, Fla. (RNS)--William Shaw, new president-elect of the National Baptist Convention USA, has pledged to enact internal reforms in the scandal-scarred church and said God would create a "new day" for the prominent African-American denomination.
___"The convention has come to a point where we've been wrestling in the night," said Shaw, who has been pastor of White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia for the past 43 years. "Our wrestling in the night has been an effort to come to grips with our past. ... I'm convicted God can give us a new day."
___Shaw, who will be inaugurated in January, will serve a five-year term. He succeeds Henry Lyons, who resigned and went to prison in March on charges of grand theft and racketeering.
___By a margin of 200 votes, Shaw came out on top of a field of 11 candidates, most of whom campaigned as reformers.
___After days of aggressive campaigning, with delegates wearing T-shirts and buttons declaring their candidates of choice, Baptists gathered in the Ice Palace Arena and rose to their feet to cheer on Shaw as he preached his first sermon as their leader.
___Stewart Cureton, who acted as president for the six months since Lyons' resignation, said all of the candidates now support Shaw.
___Shaw has called for a period of fasting and prayer by church members during the transition period and said he plans to have an audit conducted to determine the state of the denomination's financial affairs.
___Shaw preached his first sermon at age 11 and was ordained at age 17. At his Philadelphia church, he has established community outreach programs, including an after-school program teaching children math and science, and a substance abuse ministry.
___Lawrence Hood Jr., an associate minister at St. Paul Baptist Church in West Chester, Pa., said Shaw, the former president of the Pennsylvania Baptist State Convention, helped turn around the financial problems of that organization.
___"He's a very compassionate person," Hood said. "He wants to put Christ back at the center of the convention."
___During a candidates' forum earlier in the week, Shaw had pointed to a convention banner and noted it included the president and general secretary's names but did not include the name of Jesus.
___"If we gather in his name, we ought not be ashamed to gather under his name and his name ought to be bigger than our names," he said, drawing cheers.


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