This reflection was written by General Secretary A. Roy Medley, about his experience at the 2014 World Mission Conference and 200th Anniversary event for International Ministries in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
Dear American Baptists:
I am just returning from the 200th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Triennial Missionary Convention, the first national Baptist mission agency in America which continues now as the American Baptist International Ministries. What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the global nature of the church and the world-wide outreach of American Baptists.
Our mission work, which is heralded and honored around the world, springs from who we are as a people. International Ministries is an expression of our commitment to a gospel of peace, reconciliation, and redemption that touches both individuals and societies with transforming power. It reflects our gospel commitments and core values as a people who want to humbly but faithfully serve Christ. Apart from who we are as a people, IM could not be what it is.
It grieves me when I hear American Baptists who treat who we are as a people so lightly, and do not see the value of deeply rooting their ministries and the life of our congregations, in the life of the church writ larger through ABC life.
How rewarding it was as I walked among our people and international guests to have people stop me and say, “I remember when you were in my church and prayed for me as I struggled with God’s call to service,” or “Thank you for what you have in in building bridges of peace,” or “Thank you for speaking for the needs of our people.” The General Secretary of this denomination has the privilege of serving in a unique national pastoral role, representing the life and prayers of the whole in their actions. It is a role I treasure, whether praying, preaching, admonishing, or encouraging our churches.
As I spoke at the mission conference, I reminded those present of what a horrible week in the life of the world, the week of July 13 was. We experienced the downing of Malaysia Air flight 17, the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the expulsion of Christians from Mosul upon threat of death by radical Muslims, and the amassing of 50,000 unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Latin America wondering how they would be received. Each of these events is a call to us for the church to live and offer the gospel of peace and transformation that is possible through the cross of Christ.
While at the conference, I had opportunities for extended conversations around key areas of my ministry as General Secretary. I spent an afternoon with Christian leaders from the Middle East and North Africa. I was eager to learn more from them, one of whom was a Palestinian Baptist who is a citizen of Israel, and the other a ministry leader from Egypt. We spoke at length and in depth about the life of the church in each country and about their perspectives on events there. I am always profoundly moved by the commitment of the church in this troubled part of the world to work for peace and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, and Palestinians and Jews. They were also deeply interested in the Baptist-Muslim dialogue we have been leading and the doors it has opened for me to visit Iran to dialogue with Muslim leaders there, and to meet with the Sudanese ambassador to the United States and the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, to urge the release and security of Miriam Ibrahim.
Through these conversations two more doors for ministry opened. I was asked to meet with a small high level group of Egyptian Christian and Muslim leaders who will visit the United States in October, and to consider co-sponsoring a peace conference in Nazareth sometime in the near future. I have been amazed at how God has opened door after door for me as General Secretary to be our presence in leading efforts such as this in peace building.
Likewise, I was able to call a lunch meeting of our missionaries serving in Mexico and Central and South America to discuss the humanitarian crisis of the 50,000 plus unaccompanied minors who have fled violence and are seeking refuge and asylum in the United States. I did this because I wanted to hear their perspectives as those who live daily in the reality on the other side of our border. In that conversation we discussed the questions, “How do our biblical values move us from hostility to hospitality?” and “How can their experiences inform our relationship to our neighbors to the south, and help us understand the dynamics of our immigration policies that are contributing to the problems?”
Yet another conversation concerned the ongoing religious liberty issues in Burma, and another working to bridge differences between two groups of believers here in America.
In and through all experience at this conference, I had the joy of serving in your behalf and in the name of Christ to whom be honor, glory, power and blessing now and forever.
Now I am off to San Diego to address the annual meeting of the Karen Baptist Churches of America.
Rev. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA