VALLEY FORGE, PA (3/8/17)—At its March 1-3 meeting in Caguas, Puerto Rico, the board of directors of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) connected with the Puerto Rico region of American Baptist Churches USA and participated in a workshop designed to provide people of faith practical experience in relating theological imagination with systems of finance.
ABHMS board members and staff joined in the opening dinner of Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico’s annual gathering, where ABHMS board President Dr. Clifford Johnson brought greetings to the region’s officers and pastors. The evening’s program featured a video highlighting the region’s history and the work of missionaries sent to Puerto Rico by The American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1899.
At the gathering’s closing worship that honored Executive Minister the Rev. Dr. Roberto Dieppa Báez as he finishes out his term of service, ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray presented Báez with a gift, lifting up the longstanding ministry relationship between the two organizations: “We are your brothers and sisters. We have been partners with you since your beginnings,” Haggray said.
A focus of the ABHMS board meeting was the facilitated interactive workshop “Discovering God’s Economy Toolkit,” led by Joy Anderson of Criterion Institute, a think tank that considers finance as a tool for social change.
“Churches are significant players in the economy,” Anderson said. “We made up the rules of finance, markets and systems, and we can change them.”
She challenged board members to consider the role the church can have in shaping the economy. “Remaking the economy is at the core of what it means to be Christian,” she said. “It is embedded in our call to steward creation. God is already out ahead of us shaping the economy. We should seek God out.”
If people of faith engage more in conversations about finance, she said, these conversations will most certainly change how we view the transformative power of economic relationships in the world.
The Rev. Edith Yamina Apolinaris Concepción, executive director of Corporacion Milagros del Amor, a community ministry in Caguas that serves children in poverty, shared the story of this ministry as an example of the relationship between finance and mission.
In response to Anderson’s workshop, Johnson said, “You have challenged us to go back to our communities, our contexts, and make a difference.”
Haggray said the workshop was “a gift of the spirit,” and “part of God’s mission in the world. There is no shortage of God’s abundance in the world. We are just part of what God is already doing. Through all that ABHMS does, we are in a position to model Christ-centered generosity.”
Lois Chiles, board vice president, introduced three new members: the Rev. Lacey Alford of Wheat Street Baptist Church, Atlanta; the Rev. Sanetta Ponton of First Baptist Church, Englewood, N.J.; and Xyomara Medina Ramos of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Castañer, Puerto Rico.
Opening devotions at the meeting were offered by the Rev. Dr. Robert Scott, who asked the question: “Who are we really?” How we believe God identifies us is important, he said, because “knowing who we are in Christ should bring a positive shape to our lives.”
The Rev. Jay Rambo offered closing devotions, reminding board members that we are called to be faithful—not successful. “If you drive a certain car and live in a nice house, you are successful,” he said. “This is what the world teaches us. But God doesn’t care if we are successful. God cares if we follow God’s call.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists in answering God’s call to promote Christian faith across the United States and Puerto Rico to cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and heal and transform communities, by developing aligned action networks and programs.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.