Charlotte Pastor Rev. Clifford Jones Sr. In Running for President of America’s Largest Black Religious Organization, National Baptist Convention USA

- Courtesy of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church The Rev. Clifford Jones Sr., left, of Charlotte's Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and the Rev. Larry West. Jones, from Charlotte's Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, is running for president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. West, of Mount Airy Baptist Church in Washington D.C., is Jones' running mate.
– Courtesy of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
The Rev. Clifford Jones Sr., left, of Charlotte’s Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and the Rev. Larry West. Jones, from Charlotte’s Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, is running for president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. West, of Mount Airy Baptist Church in Washington D.C., is Jones’ running mate.

His campaign to become the next president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. has all the trappings of a run for political office: slogans, nonstop travel and speech-making, even a running mate.

But ask the Rev. Clifford Jones Sr. of Charlotte – one of five candidates – why he is running to lead the country’s largest African-American religious organization, and he answers with a depth and passion far above the superficial stuff of most campaigning.

If elected Thursday in New Orleans, where the National Baptist Convention will hold its 134th annual gathering, the senior minister of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church said he will promote an evangelism that is “Christocentric” and “holistic.”

Translation: He wants this denomination of 7 million-plus members and 33,000 churches to be more active in social and economic issues, not just in the “isolated soul winning” that looks to save souls, one at a time, for heaven.

“That’s the easy thing,” said Jones. “A relationship with Christ should involve the transformation of one’s life (now) .… That means a ‘yes’ to become change agents for the poor and the powerless.”

It can also involve pushing for jobs, education and health care, Jones said, and casting a spotlight on disparities of wealth, pockets of racial prejudice and a diminished respect for human life.

“The role of the church is to understand what has happened in our culture,” he said.

In engaging the here and now, he said, the National Baptist Convention would be building on what its “founding mothers and fathers” accomplished.

Birthed in 1880, less than 20 years after the Emancipation Proclamation signaled the end of slavery, the convention started by building schools and colleges, encouraging entrepreneurs, and promoting solidarity among this newly free minority group.

“We led the charge,” said Jones, who turns 71 Monday. “Preachers were the first (African-Americans) to serve in government – both Congress and local offices, and the African-American Baptist church was always in the forefront of human rights – and not just civil rights.”

Barnstorming the country

Jones and the four other presidential contenders are seeking to succeed the Rev. Julius Scruggs of Huntsville, Ala., who is not running again after serving two five-year terms.

The other candidates come from Florida, Connecticut, Texas and Mississippi.

Jones, born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, has been senior minister at Friendship – one of Charlotte’s megachurches, with 8,600 members – since 1983.

Over the years, he has pastored some of Charlotte’s highest-profile political leaders, including former mayors – and still Friendship members – Harvey Gantt and Anthony Foxx.

A year ago, when Charlotte hosted the National Baptist Convention’s annual gathering, Jones became the last candidate to announce he was running.

Since then, he’s barnstormed the country, meeting with black Baptists and preaching in their pulpits. A sampling of where he’s been: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, New York, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington, D.C.

“I believe the Lord has prepared me for it,” Jones said of the top post. And he sounds bullish about his prospects.

“To some, I’m too liberal; to others, I’m too conservative,” he said. “I trust Providence – God and the people will speak. And once they speak, I will serve.”

Jones has a running mate: The Rev. Larry West, pastor of Mount Airy Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., is now chairman of the National Baptist Convention’s board of directors.

Like his rivals in the race, Jones also has a campaign website ( www.cjonesfornbcusainc.com) and a slogan: “Progressive-Practical-Principled . . ..When we know better, we do better. Our people deserve the best.”

And, for the record, all expenses are being paid with campaign contributions, not church funds, said Carolyn Mints, Jones’ campaign coordinator.

Repairing damaged image

SOURCE: Charlotte Observer – Tim Funk

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