VALLEY FORGE, PA (11/12/15)—The second American Baptist Churches Mission Table met November 9-11, 2015, at the Double Tree hotel in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The Mission Table brought together representatives from American Baptist regions, affiliated ministry partners, national staff, executives and officers, to join in conversation with one another and highlight denominational priorities.
The event began with three anticipated outcomes: to narrow the list of 21 Mission Summit Conversations topics to a manageable list of priorities, to build case statements for each of the final priorities encouraging ABC entities to engage these priorities over the next two years, and for Mission Table participants and American Baptist Churches USA as a whole to continue to champion ministries associated with the final priorities.
The topics focused on at the Mission Table were originally a part of the Mission Summit Conversations held at the 2015 Biennial Mission Summit, June 26-28, 2015, in Overland Park, Kansas. From these 21 topics, Mission Table participants spent time in small groups discussing priorities for American Baptist Churches USA, looking at what topics should be championed by ABC in the next 20 months before the Biennial Mission Summit in Portland, Oregon, June 29-July 1, 2017.
The 2015 Mission Table surfaced seven priority topics for American Baptist Churches USA:
- Next Generation of Leaders
- Gospel in a Rapidly Changing Society
- Women in Ministry
- Alternative Models for Pastoral Ministry
“One of the great surprises of Transformed by the Spirit has been the value of conversations across our churches about priorities and challenges,” said American Baptist Churches General Secretary Roy Medley. “The fruit of those conversations has been the meat of our conversations at the Mission Table, leading to seven priorities for our life together. We praise God for the transformative work of the Spirit.”
After the seven priorities were recognized, Mission Table participants then divided into groups based on their interest, and together worked to produce case statements based on each of the seven priorities. These case statements will be available online at www.abc-usa.org in the near future.
The event was led by a planning team, along with Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, Associate General Secretary for Regional Ministries and Conversations Coordinator. “Through the event, worship leader Rev. Zina Jacque kept us focused on God’s Spirit of discernment and inspired us to do our best work. We were blessed by her gifts of preaching and exhortation,” said Woods.
A website, used for conversations prior to and after the 2015 Biennial Mission Summit, was created in spring of 2015 for continued discussion about these and other highlighted topics: www.missionsummitconversations.com.
All topics discussed at the 2015 Biennial Mission Summit continue to be important ministry areas to address and lift up, but these seven topics will be focused on as denominational priorities by American Baptist Churches USA as a whole.
“The Mission Table reveals how our denomination is fully alive! The room of almost 100 people holds a vibrancy of creative thinking that can only be described as Holy Energy springing forth from God’s Spirit. Jeff Woods and the Planning Team have led us though a discernment process that will guide our focus for the next two years. We have much to celebrate with deep gratitude,” said Rev. Judy Fackenthal, Vice President/President-Elect of American Baptist Churches USA and Pastor of Garfield Park Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Watch for more information on the Mission Table, coming soon. View a photo collage of 2015 ABC Mission Table photos, located below the following participant quotes.
Read more quotes from participants about the Mission Table experience:
“Mission Table 2015 presented an exciting reminder of God’s Spirit fueling our very diverse denomination to relive its history of fulfilling Christ’s commission to ‘walk with’ all the world.”
– Rev. Eugene Downing, Regional Representative for American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountain Region and Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Denver, Colorado
“At the Mission Table, you should be discerning what God wants American Baptists to do in the next two years. It’s not about what you want…it’s about what God wants.”
– Rev. Dr. Marcia Patton, Mission Table Planning Team member and Executive Minister of the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches
“We can’t solve or even attempt to solve every issue we face in this world today, but coming together as Believers with hope, as American Baptists, to focus our collective efforts on the most pressing issues, we will have a greater impact.”
– Lynne Punnett, Lay Leader, American Baptist Churches of Michigan Representative and Mission Consultant
“This gathering of gifted and faithful leaders came together in a very unique setting, in the spirit of openness. Coming from different parts of ABC Regions, denominational, church and lay leaders gathered around the table to undertake the enormous task of setting seven priorities for ABCUSA. The format of the Mission Table really allowed us to be together in a way that enhanced our ministries, our mission and our relationships with one another.”
– Rev. Randy Palada, President of the Alliance of Asian American Baptists, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Oneonta, New York
“This gathering is well named: ‘sacred conversations of the ABC.’ Although our task was to lift up mission and ministry priorities and create a network to address the priorities, the time we spent around the table was where the Holy Spirit wove us together in new and exciting ways. New friendships, connections, and appreciation for being part of the wonderfully diverse ABC body were evident in the conversations and laughter in halls, around the table, at meals, and in worship. All praise to the God who gathers us in to send us out!”
– Angela Sudermann, Coordinator, Volunteers in Global Mission, American Baptist International Ministries
“The Mission Table was an energizing opportunity to listen, talk and further discern where God is calling ABCUSA to give time, energy and resources towards now. As we take these seven priorities forward, we are challenged to not rely on someone else to champion the cause. This is unlike anything we have ever done.”
– Rev. Erica Van Brakle, ABC of Metro Chicago Representative and Pastor, First Baptist Church of La Grange, Illinois
“What a dynamic and engaging group of gifted and faithful American Baptist leaders! The diversity and richness of our denomination was evident as we participated in conversations to identify key priorities for our work. I was encouraged by the level of enthusiasm and energy to make a difference. May God grant us the wisdom and courage to press onward!”
– Dr. Laura Miraz, Associate Executive Director, Mission Services, and Director, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministries, American Baptist Home Mission Societies
“The surprise for me in today’s process was how engaged everyone is in these conversations. There was a real presence of engagement around the topics and initiatives and the absence of unnecessary suspicion about the Transformed by the Spirit process. I was encouraged today and believe that we are gaining ground in the conversations.”
– Rev. Dr. Perry J. Hopper, Associate Executive Director, MMBB Financial Services
“My assumption was always that a General Board meeting was like that – a meeting – people sitting on different sides of the table. The Mission Table has synergy: this is much more of a creative, energizing thing. And, we’re all in this together.”
– Rev. Doug Harris, Ministers Council Representative and Pastor at North Short Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois
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.