Roland Pierce installed as first president of new Arizona African American Fellowship

By Irene A. Harkleroad | Nov 20, 2023

Roland Pierce (front row, third from right) is flanked by (from left) Mark Croston, national director of Black church ministries for Lifeway Christian Resources; David Johnson, AZMN executive director; Ray Jones, Union Institutional Baptist Church; Gregory Perkins, president of the National African American Fellowship, SBC; Anthony Franklin, pastor of Bethesda Community Church, Phoenix; Monty Patton, AZMN associate executive director; and David Wade, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, Mesa.

On Oct. 1, pastors and church members from across Arizona gathered at Broadway Missionary Baptist Church in Phoenix to celebrate a milestone event. The church was alive with excitement, new friendships and partnerships were forged and the course of African American churches in Arizona was changed forever.

It was the inaugural meeting of the Arizona African American Fellowship and installation of Roland Pierce, pastor of Broadway, as the first president. The new fellowship is part of the National African American Fellowship, SBC (NAAF), a fellowship of 4,000-plus predominantly African American churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“The ultimate goal is to spread the gospel across the state to everyone, but particularly, in this case, to African Americans,” Pierce said.

He has a big job ahead of him, but his plan is straightforward:

  • Start and build a fellowship among the state’s African American churches and people, getting the churches to know one another and begin to fellowship together.
  • Build a rapport among the brethren so basic needs can be identified in each church and addressed. A survey was conducted among church leaders, and Lifeway Christian Resources provided targeted classes at the annual Black Church Leadership and Family Conference this summer. This training helped leadership with some of those needs.
  • Garner support and determine potential leaders and future pastors. The goal is to plant churches and provide training and resources so they can effectively share the gospel within their communities.

“We want a clearly laid out plan,” Pierce said. “We want to know our targets, what we’re doing and who were trying to reach.”

Pierce is equipped with master’s degrees in educational counseling and educational administration. He is currently pursuing his master of divinity degree at Gateway Seminary.

Gregory Perkins (right), president of the National African American Fellowship, SBC, preaches at the installment service for Roland Pierce as the first president of the Arizona African American Fellowship.

“We have developed a small team that includes me, Anthony Franklin (Bethesda Community Church, Phoenix), Ray Jones (Union Institutional Baptist Church) and Brian Wright (The Citadel of Praise, Peoria),” Pierce said. “We will start the research and studies in some of the areas so we can make sure to not just go with zeal into those communities, but we go with insight as well.

“We are grateful for the Arizona Southern Baptists for their support in our efforts to spread the gospel. Those leaders have been a true blessing to us.”

Pierce will continue to serve a pastor of Broadway Missionary Baptist Church. “I’m in the neighborhood I grew up in,” he said, “and we’re having church, winning the lost to Christ and causing the saints to love Him more.”

The Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists is involved with the Arizona African American Fellowship in a supporting role.

“We are helping with some expenses, but the leadership and organization has been the initiative of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, which is working on establishing state organizations,” said David Johnson, AZMN executive director.

“We need help to get our African American churches more involved in the work of our network and we need more African American churches to reach people in our state,” he continued. “We want to work with NAAF to accomplish both these goals.”

Gregory Perkins, National African American Fellowship president, said, “We are thankful to Dr. David Johnson for his unwavering support of our efforts to form this new fellowship, and we’re thankful for and excited to join all Arizona Southern Baptists to reach the lost by multiplying and revitalizing our churches.”

Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.

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