Members of the 2017 Biennial Mission Summit planning team, along with members of the Orientation to American Baptist Life (OTABL) planning team, agreed at a November 2015 planning meeting to join the two events together. The National Executive Council (NEC), made up of the ABC General Secretary and Executive Directors of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, American Baptist International Ministries, American Baptist Women’s Ministries, and MMBB Financial Services, requested the move because of a shortage of available funds to hold OTABL as a stand-alone conference in 2016. Embedding the OTABL experience into the Biennial Mission Summit will significantly reduce costs for speakers, musicians, conference space and travel for ABC staff, while offering the OTABL participants more opportunities for learning about the range of groups and interests in American Baptist life.
The OTABL welcomes and orients seminarians and ministers new to ABC. The purpose of the event is to build relationships, establish a sense of ABC identity, offer resources for ministry and share ABC history and on-going mission. The OTABL will not be a parallel event with the Biennial Mission Summit, but will be integrated into the planning, schedule and activities of the Biennial Mission Summit. Using the 2017 Biennial Mission Summit as an orientation experience will be considered experimental. Further details about OTABL will be announced at later date. The National Executive Council has created the position of Orientation Logistics Coordinator to manage the details of this experiment. The Reverend Holly Vincent Bean will serve in this new role.
Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies says, “I love to listen to the stories ABC pastors tell about life-long friendships begun at Orientation to American Baptist Life conferences. Those stories come first and then stories of learning of the breadth of ABC ministries and how those ministries connect with local churches. I am confident OTABL and Mission Summit planners will successfully capture those values from the past and carry them beautifully into a new format. We will have a great time in Portland in 2017!”
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.