Ken Williams, Interim Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, shared a thoughtful reflection following the Biennial Mission Summit, June 30-July 2, 2017, in Portland, Ore. Read about Williams’ time at the Biennial Mission Summit, below:
Baptists, by our very nature – must find our unity in mission. We are not immune to the theological and political divisions of the day. However, our denominational DNA pushes us to join in mission intentionality. In that sense, there was much to celebrate about American Baptist life. The planners used the word “connected” as the guiding theme. Each worship service was dedicated to an aspect of connectedness: Connected to Christ, Connected to Each Other, Connected to the World, Connected in Joy!
This was my 16th Biennial. We’ve had larger attendance, more well-known speakers, and far more drama in past gatherings. But I don’t know that we’ve had a Biennial that was as foundational as this one. There was a clear sense that we are being prepared for the future. A new leadership team has been assembled – Sharon Koh of International Ministries and Jeffrey Haggray of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies have set a very positive tone for their respective fields of ministry. Louis Barbarin is positioning MMBB Financial Services to adapt to shifts in context. Lee Spitzer, new as General Secretary, has a strong team around him as he settles into the clear call to renew and rededicate our organic connections.
I’m still in the afterglow of Saturday night’s worship when an artist (Ronnie Robles) was on stage painting while the flow of the service inspired him. When Melanie Hill, a gospel violinist, played with such conviction, the two artists seemed connected, each feeding the other with unseen, but clearly powerful energy! It was a model for divine connectedness.
I’m pondering with thanksgiving Sharon Koh’s invitation to see the whole world as the mission field and to accept diversity as God’s gift. Jeff Haggray’s sermon on the Body of Christ gave me a renewed sense of that biblical image. I’m challenged by Cheryl Dudley’s address to the Baptist Peace Fellowship to know ourselves, the world, and our mission so that we rise above the pettiness and reactivity of the present day and show the love of Christ. I’m convicted by Kathy Longhat’s challenge to “stop holding it in” when Christians are clearly called to be larger than the desperate fear of the culture. And, Dan and Sharon Buttry gave us the delightful metaphor of a “peacemaking quilt,” God bringing disparate pieces into a whole…
We have work to do – congregations to renew, pastors to support, quality of life ministries to undertake, and missionaries to send. We need to be connected in a transcendent unity. I’m grateful for Portland.