Special to B&R
MEMPHIS — More than 60 former staff members, trustees, and volunteers of the Brotherhood Commission gathered July 29 for a reunion. 2017 marks 20 years since the demise of the Southern Baptist Convention agency.
Some of the attendees came from as far as Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia for the event, which was a celebration of the ministry of the organization, which made Memphis its home for 59 of its 94-years of existence. In 1997, it was folded into other entities of the SBC, and disbanded. Most of its functions and ministries went to the newly formed North American Mission Board (NAMB).
As an agency of the SBC, the Brotherhood Commission developed programs of work involving men and boys in missions. Brotherhood work began as a national organization of Southern Baptists in 1907 in Richmond, Va., as the Layman’s Missionary Movement. The name was changed in 1926 to the Baptist Brotherhood of the South. In 1938, its headquarters were moved to Memphis, and in 1950 it assumed its final name, the Brotherhood Commission.
The Brotherhood Commission is the former home of mission education programs Royal Ambassadors (RAs), Pioneers, Baptist Men, disaster relief (DR), the National Fellowship of Baptists in Missions, and in later years, World Changers.
Reunion activities included a tour of the former Brotherhood building located in Midtown Memphis, a reception at Germantown Baptist Church, a reading of Brotherhood staff who have died and greetings from those who could not attend. Jim Burton of Alpharetta, Ga., who has ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), who could not travel, connected with former colleagues via Skype.
In remarks to attendees, former Brotherhood Commission president James D. “Jim” Williams said it was “hard to believe” it has been 20 years since the demise of the agency.
“Surely we all join in giving thanks for the 94-year history of the Brotherhood Commission and most of all for the countless number of people whose lives were touched through the programs and services of the Commission,” he said.
Williams said the uniqueness of the Brotherhood Commission was embodied in its trustees, state programs leaders, volunteer involvement, and its staff. At the time of the agency’s demise, he said 70,000 Brotherhood volunteers were involved in SBC missions, and that enrollment and participation in Brotherhood programs was at an all-time high of 750,000.
Williams concluded by thanking staff for making the Brotherhood ministry special.
“If I was a cheerleader I would shout a loud cheer for you and all the staff that served our Lord throughout the 94 years of our history.”
— Tim Yarbough and Bill Bangham are former employees of the Southern Baptist Brotherhood Commission.