VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/21/16)—The Board of General Ministries for American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) met November 17-19, 2016, at the Crowne Plaza in King of Prussia and at the American Baptist Churches Mission Center in Valley Forge, Pa.
“The Board of General Ministries of ABCUSA had an engaging meeting last week in Valley Forge,” said Rev. Judy Fackenthal, president of ABCUSA. “One particular highlight of our gathering came Thursday evening when Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, joined us as a special guest and spoke of the value of our partnerships as we continue to proclaim the message of God’s love to others. As Thanksgiving approaches, the Board of General Ministries is grateful for this spirit of collaboration and harmony.”
“It is so encouraging to see such a diverse group of American Baptists come together, sharing a passionate commitment to Jesus Christ. This representative board is fulfilling its call to serve our entire ABC family and I am grateful for each member,” said Dr. Susan Gillies, interim general secretary of ABCUSA.
“It really is a celebration every time the Board of General Ministries meets. Our meetings validate us as brothers and sisters and although challenges remain, it is still a source of joy and is without a doubt an affirmation of the plurality of faces that make us strong and allow us to send a strong message today to our society,” said Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, Esq., vice president of ABCUSA.
During its opening plenary session, the Board of General Ministries was led by Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, associate general secretary for Regional Ministries, in an exercise looking at the specific role and focus of the board after five years of work in a new structure.
“Just as it is important for all leaders to engage in performance reviews, excellent boards engage in assessments of their work,” said Woods, who conducted the review and evaluation originally called for by the Board.
Board members responded to the online inquiry. The components of the evaluation lifted up mandated responsibilities as identified in the Bylaws, best practices of nonprofit boards, potential pitfalls, and an identification of board personality.
The results revealed items of effectiveness as well as areas of potential improvement. The Executive Committee will be reviewing the prioritized areas of improvement at their next meeting in March 2017.
On Friday morning, the board toured the American Baptist Churches Mission Center in Valley Forge and met for its morning plenary session there.
The board took action to affirm the Young Adult Caucus as an American Baptist Caucus. The group had formerly met as a Board of General Ministries Caucus, but made a presentation to the board and Executive Committee requesting that it be an American Baptist Caucus. Co-Chairs of the caucus, Tasha Wilson and Rev. Ashley Whitaker, noted hopes for the group to “share our gifts with the denomination, including new visions, a diversity of theology, energy, connectedness, social media skills, and networking skills.”
The goals that the Young Adult Caucus will aim to achieve are to turn an existing, informal but well-connected network into an asset of the denomination and to improve and expand this network for the benefit of all young adults in the denomination. All young adults who meet the following criteria are invited to be a part of the caucus: American Baptists ages 19-39, laity and clergy, all regions, and all ethnicities. The group noted that it is likely that some members may also be members of other American Baptist Caucuses, and hopes that through the Caucus American Baptist Young Adults will be more connected and have more connection to leadership positions within the denomination. On Friday evening, Board of General Ministries members were joined by the co-chairs of the Creation Justice Network, Rev. Ian Mevorach and Rev. Tom Carr, who led the board in a study on creation justice along with Dr. Owen Owens, based on Spiritual Help in Hard Times: The Bible’s Hope for Life on Earth, written by Owens. At its Saturday morning meeting, the board also received a document submitted by the Creation Justice Network calling for dialogue related to recent events at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas.
Rev. Dr. Don Ng, ABCUSA past president, reported on the commission for Baptist Talk, a new way of joining together in conversation to consider issues of importance for the American Baptist family. A Baptist Talk event will be held at the Biennial Mission Summit in Portland, Oregon, June 30-July 2, 2017.
The Board heard reports from Action Groups which met on Friday, including: BGM Finance Committee, Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations, Becoming a Beloved Community, and Communicating ABC Identity.
The Board of General Ministries meetings concluded on Saturday, November 19.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.