National African American Preaching Conference at Truett Seminary Emphasizes the Legacy Behind Preaching

September 25, 2019

The National African American Preaching Conference will honor the legacy of preaching in the African American pulpit and feature several influential preachers, including Dr. Charlie Dates, senior pastor at Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Truett Seminary)

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-3321
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by Cerenity Austin, student newswriter, Baylor University Media and Public Relations

WACO, Texas (Sept. 24, 2019) — Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary will present the inaugural national African American Preaching Conference, “Black Preaching at the Intersection of the Academy and Ministry,” in honor of the powerful voice, message and historic impact of the African American pulpit. The event will be held Sept. 24-26 at Truett Seminary, 1100 S. Third St., on the Baylor campus.

The conference is sponsored by The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, named after Kyle Lake, a Baylor and Truett Seminary graduate whose ministry lives on through the Center that prepares seminary students to be effective preachers.

Historic Significance

The subtheme of the conference, “The Pulpit Meets the Academy - The Liberating Voice of Black Preaching in America,” carries a historic significance as 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia.

This theme will be reflected in the nationally noted proclaimers, plenary session speakers and workshops rooted in the rich resources of Baylor University and Truett Seminary. Informed by the theological seminary, inspired by anointed preaching, enlivened by choral praise and shaped by a steering committee of 30 African American leaders, this conference will present a singular emphasis.

“The anniversary of slavery in America is a major liberating factor that has shaped the experience of preaching today,” said the Rev. Dr. Joel Gregory, professor of preaching, The George W. Truett Endowed Chair of Preaching and Evangelism and director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching. “The conference is a great opportunity to be exposed to the power and authenticity of African American preaching.”

Scholars in Ministry

The conference will host several prominent African American scholars in ministry from all over the country.

Featured speakers will be:

  • Dr. William H. Curtis, senior pastor, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Dr. Charlie Dates, senior pastor, Progressive Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • Dr. Phillip Pointer, senior pastor, Saint Mark Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • Dr. Ralph Douglas West, senior pastor, The Church Without Walls, Houston, Texas.

Plenary speakers are:
  • Dr. Wanda Bolton-Davis, executive director, Victorious Disciples Ministries Inc., Cedar Hill, Texas.
  • Dr. Carolyn Ann Knight, founder and president of "Can Do!" Ministries, Smyrna, Georgia.
  • Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, senior pastor, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, Memphis, Tennessee.

*Dr. Charles Booth, senior pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, was scheduled to speak at the 2019 conference but passed away on Saturday, March 23, after a battle with cancer. We give thanks for Dr. Booth’s life and ministry and pray for his family and friends during this difficult time.

In addition to the speakers, many African American pastors have played an important role behind the scenes serving as the Conference Ministerial Steering Committee.

“This conference has been designed by 30 African American ministers for their peers,” Gregory said. “It will feature some of the most noted proclaimers in the nation at each preaching session.”

The conference will be held over three days, which each are marked by song, proclamation and response. In addition, a luncheon will the Rev. Dr. Joe S. Ratliff, pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston, who was chosen unanimously by the steering committee to receive the Legacy Award. In brief breakout sessions, experts from Baylor University will address the “Five Things Your Church Needs to Know” about accounting, law, public health, social work and social media.

Although online registration has closed, walk-up registration and ticket purchasing will be available from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24. For information on costs, parking and lodging, visit the George W. Truett Theological Seminary website or call 254-710-6874.


“The African American Preaching Conference provides a place for the seminary to hear voices of church leaders and for the development of ideas to pour beyond the conference into the classroom,” said Shawn Boyd, program coordinator for the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching and grant coordinator for the Lilly Endowment Preaching Grant. “The conference preachers and lecturers will cite sources and viewpoints that will help form extend the bibliography, worldview and practices of the ministers who are being trained at Baylor.”

Conference organizers hope to cultivate a sense of cultural diversity on Baylor’s campus and encourage engagement with individuals who may not have similar cultural backgrounds but share a common faith.

“We also hope there is a spirit of reciprocity, that the conviction of lifelong learning and continued sharpening of the minister and church will be reinvigorated for conference attendees,” Boyd said. “Truett hopes to be a place where the Kingdom of God is strengthened through intentional training of those that feel a call to serve.”

“The Compassion Experience”

During the conference and outside of the Truett Seminary, Compassion International – a leading organization in child sponsorship – will present “The Compassion Experience,” a 2,000-square-foot virtual reality trailer. The free exhibit will allow attendees to take an immersive, interactive journey through the true stories of children living in developing countries like the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. Each child’s story starts in poverty but ends in hope.

“Compassion International in many ways serves as the hands and feet of Christ,” said Boyd. “The Compassion Experience allows the world to shrink down for 20-minute tour. You are transported to a place that is not familiar in a setting and strife that might be difficult to comprehend and shows you how the organization walks with people as partners.”

Over the course of three days, Compassion International hopes to accommodate approximately 3,000 visitors.

“Many of the problems of this world are unimaginable, and the Compassion Experience brings some of those struggles to life,” Boyd said. “Not only can participants begin to imagine the brokenness but how to address brokenness.”

For more information, visit the Compassion Experience website.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary is an orthodox, evangelical school in the historic Baptist tradition that equips God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Truett Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Theological Studies and Doctor of Ministry. The MACM and MTS degrees also can be completed at the seminary’s Houston campus. In addition, Truett Seminary offers joint degrees: M.Div./M.S.W. and M.T.S./M.S.W. with the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, M.Div./M.B.A. with the Hankamer School of Business, M.Div./J.D. with Baylor Law School, M.Div./M.M. with the School of Music and M.Div./M.S.Ed. or M.Div./M.A. with the School of Education. Visit to learn more.


The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching is named for Kyle Lake, a 1997 Truett Seminary graduate who died while pastoring Waco's University Baptist Church. His dynamic, creative and effective ministry as a preacher continues to impact many people. Through the generosity of his parents, David and Shirley Lake, in helping to establish the Center, Kyle's influence will be felt for generations to come. The center aims to provide the best possible preparation for our seminary students as well as continuing education in preaching to pastors and others in ministry. Furthermore, all programs are made available at a minimal charge to students in order to provide the greatest access to these exceptional services.