VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/18/14)—The Board of General Ministries for American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) met November 13-15, 2014, at the Crowne Plaza, Valley Forge.
A significant Agenda item during the Board’s meeting was a presentation given by an Adaptive Challenge Team (ACT), a representative group from across the country. The Team spent eight months examining the economic challenges facing United Mission, the core funding source of American Baptist Churches. The group presented two adaptive challenges to the Board to be worked on over the next five years. To address these, the ACT believes, will go a long way in dealing with the challenge of funding United Mission
According to Don Ng, president of the denomination, “The ACT team invited the BGM to listen to God’s leading into unfamiliar territories. We will need to listen to God’s plan for us and it may very well be that God is doing a new thing among us. We need to give major attention,” continued President Ng, “to emerging groups of people who are searching to belong to a denomination like the American Baptists. To see what we need to do through the lens of adaptive change, we will need to have deep humility, acknowledging the truth that we don’t have easy or obvious answers to solve our problems today. We will need to be sustaining the existing structures, such as United Mission, while at the same time striving to attain what may be emerging. While this reality may be uncomfortable to some, we are also excited to welcome and embrace the new!”
“The next few years will be exciting and unpredictable because God is always full of surprises. We know that the good Lord is not finished with us yet and we are ready to follow Christ today,” said Ng.
“The church is facing a major cultural shift,” said Chris Roush, Adaptive Challenge Team member, “and make no mistake – as a denomination – it is critical for us to seize the moment created by Transformed by the Spirit and let the Spirit move us in a new way.” Another Team member, Jeff Haggray said, “We feel comfortable that doing this adaptive work will have great promise for the American Baptist family.”
Addressing the progress of Transformed by the Spirit during the General Secretary’s Report, A. Roy Medley noted, “We have learned out of the conversations at the Mission Summit that the conversations are the thing helping to transform us. These conversations have become a huge gift to us, coming about in places we did not foresee.”
In addition to the Mission Summit and Mission Table, conversations have been a highlight at the meetings of a number of ABC regions, ABC Caucuses, local churches, and other groups. Conversations, along with Adaptive Challenge Teams, are a significant part of the focus of the Transformed by the Spirit initiative.
“Transformed by the Spirit is working; it is helping to change us and to energize us and to carry us into God’s future,” said Medley.
On Friday morning, November 14, the Board of General Ministries voted to recognize Rainbow Acres as an Associated Ministry Organization of ABCUSA. Rainbow Acres is a residential community that empowers people with developmental disabilities to live to their fullest potential with dignity and purpose. Located in Camp Verde, Arizona, the organization has long been a partner of American Baptist Churches.
“Rainbow Acres is an example of the church at its best – offering compassionate, life-enhancing ministry that honors the image of God in all in the name of Jesus,” said Medley.
“We thank you for the privilege of becoming an Associated Ministry Organization. We thank you for your trust and your confidence,” said Gary W. Wagner, president and CEO of Rainbow Acres. “American Baptist family is important to us! Our core values, trustees and even individual support come through the American Baptist family. We look forward to deepening the ties and relationships in the years ahead.”
On Friday evening, the board was addressed by James E. Winkler, general secretary/president of the National Council of Churches.
During the meetings, the Board of General Ministries passed a Child Care Policy, updated from a previous General Board policy originally adopted in 1993. Board of General Ministries directors will now have relief for childcare costs, when requested. The board also voted to adopt the 2015 budget presented by Budget Review Officer Paul Higgins.
Throughout the meetings, ABCUSA Vice President Judy Fackenthal led the board in varied styles of contemplative prayer. There is continued excitement from BGM members about ongoing ABCUSA-sponsored opportunities for spiritual renewal: a second pilgrimage to the Taizé Community in Burgundy, France, sponsored by ABCUSA (May 21-June 2, 2015); and upcoming “Rhythms of the Spirit” conferences in Exeter, Rhode Island (August 3-7, 2015), and Green Lake, Wisconsin (October 26-30, 2015).
The Board of General Ministries meetings concluded on Saturday, November 15.
American Baptist Churches 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.