GREEN LAKE, WI (ABNS 6/17/16)—In her first report to the Board of General Ministries at its meeting on Friday, June 17 in Green Lake, Wis., American Baptist Churches (ABC) Interim General Secretary Dr. Susan Gillies addressed the recent shooting in Orlando, Fla., saying:
“We offer our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the horrible tragedy in Orlando. We extend love to those of our family directly affected. We grieve with our American Baptist brothers and sisters who are part of the LGBTQ community. My message to them is, never mistake our debates and disagreements with the depth of our love for you as part of our family. To the rest of the ABC family my message is, even in the midst of profound disagreement, let us love as Christ loved.
American Baptists agree on many things and we have recently lifted up seven Mission Table priorities on which to work on together. One of these includes dealing with the violence in our society which needs our attention now more than ever. We have an active Task Force at work on Race and Race-Based Violence. The American Baptist Home Mission Societies will take a leadership role in addressing wider issues of violence. I encourage all American Baptists to support this work.
American Baptists are participating in conversations with Muslim faith leaders. Our General Secretary Emeritus, Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, leads in these efforts. We will continue these efforts for understanding and peace in a spirit of love.
Historically, American Baptists believing deeply in individual responsibility and local church autonomy, have grappled with issues of our personal and public witness. We differ on biblical understanding. We are diverse in race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity and we now learn from recent research, we are evenly divided Republican and Democrat. But through it all we’ve learned (and continue to learn) to trust in Jesus. American Baptists believe in and are guided by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are driven in our proclamation and practice by the good news of God’s unceasing love.
Our diversity is a gift of God. We are called to bear witness to the world that living well in diversity can be done. We are who we are. We follow Jesus. For every time we falter, we ask forgiveness. For every time, we succeed, we give thanks.”
Following Gillies remarks, Rev. Judy Fackenthal said, “As President of ABCUSA, I concur with Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies that any act of violence against any part of the human family is fully outside the vision of God’s gracious love for all people. While American Baptists may not agree on a wide variety of issues, we claim God’s love as a just and all-encompassing love. I pray for the people of Orlando, particularly the LGBTQ community as well as the Hispanic community that has been particularly affected by this horrific violence. May we work together to seek to end hate and the outcomes associated with it.”
“The events of last week hurt me deeply, as a Christian, Baptist and as a Puerto Rican,” said Dr. Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, vice president of ABC. “At this time I would like to express my solidarity with all the people who are suffering from the effects of violence, misconceptions and separation. In the end what we discover in the depth of love is that we find our essence and human reality, our claim to the dignity of the human being and our real choice to reflect Jesus in every step.”
The Board of General Ministries is meeting June 16-18, 2016, at the Green Lake Conference Center/American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake, Wis. The Board of General Ministries offering taken at this meeting will be directed toward persons ministering to families of Orlando victims in Florida and Puerto Rico.
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies also released two statements on Friday, June 17. Click the links below to read these statements:
ABHMS Stands with LGBTQ Community in Wake of Orlando Massacre
ABHMS Urges American Baptists to Advocate for Gun Violence Prevention
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.