OVERLAND PARK, KS (ABNS 6/23/13)—At American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) 2013 Mission Summit/Biennial here Friday through today, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) hosted a variety of justice-related events and activities.
Speaking at opening worship on Friday evening was Michelle Alexander, lawyer, professor, civil rights advocate and author of the acclaimed book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” She urged American Baptists to begin a spiritually enlightened human rights movement to end mass incarceration and the racial caste system in America that relegates millions of males of color to a permanent second-class status marked by legal discrimination.
“We use our criminal justice system to label people of color as criminals,” Alexander said, noting that criminals are legally denied such basic human rights as employment, housing, the vote and, in some states, public benefits, including the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program previously known as “food stamps.”
“I believe that the time has come for courage, for speaking uncomfortable truths, for standing up when others are sitting down,” Alexander said. “It is my prayer that people of faith and people of conscience will say, ‘We will be quiet no more.’”
Continuing in the justice vein, Kym Jones, dance ministry leader at St. James United Methodist Church, Kansas City, performed a liturgical dance with a break-the-chains theme.
Also at opening worship, ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III and Reconciliation Strategist the Rev. Dwight Lundgren announced the awarding of the
Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace Award for significant efforts toward peace to the Reverends Steve and Mary Hammond. Co-pastors of Peace Community Church, Oberlin, Ohio, the couple’s contributions have included establishing Oberlin College’s Peace and Conflict Studies concentration as well as Ecumenical Christians of Oberlin.
Over the course of the Mission Summit, more than 100 individuals prayed for the incarcerated and returning citizens at a prison cell constructed in ABHMS’ space in the exhibit hall at Overland Park Convention Center. Almost 200 letters of encouragement to the incarcerated, hospitalized and military personnel overseas were written by convention-goers who stopped by ABHMS’ area for the onsite mission opportunity.
In addition, attendees perused ABHMS’ museum-quality “Deliver Us From Evil” exhibition on display to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Also in honor of the important historic anniversary, a letter from Abraham Lincoln to the American Baptist Home Mission Society was dramatically read by the Rev. Al Staggs yesterday at ABHMS’ breakfast event.
At ABHMS’ luncheon today, the justice theme continued with a focus on justice for immigrants and refugees from Burma, now known as Myanmar. In addition to a screening of the documentary “A New Land, A New Hope: The Journey of Christians from Burma to the United States,” the Rev. Dr. Saw Ler Htoo and Pastor Ronald Charles Nunuk were commissioned as home missionaries to the Burma Diaspora community in the United States.
During the course of the Mission Summit, 80 ABHMS-coordinated volunteers participated in various mission activities, including those at Habitat for Humanity and Bethel Neighborhood Center. In a mission opportunity with Youth Front’s “Something to Eat” initiative, approximately 1,200 units of soy-based nutritious meals were packaged to provide approximately 7,050 meals to those affected by the tornado in Moore, Okla.
Participating in the food-packaging mission activity were 18 young adults from ABHMS’ “Reconnect, Renew, Re-envision,” which took place Thursday through today, and two young women who were chosen via an application process for the pilot of ABHMS’ Young Adult Leadership Experience, which began on June 15 and continues through the 28th.
For photographs and additional information about ABHMS’ Mission Summit activities and events, visit ABHMS’ website at www.abhms.org.
ABHMS—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.