PORTLAND, OR (ABNS 7/3/17)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS)-sponsored activities continued Saturday and Sunday at American Baptist Churches USA’s (ABCUSA) 2017 Biennial Mission Summit at Oregon Convention Center, Portland.
Highlights included ABHMS’ Sunday luncheon, at which the Rev. Katherine Longhat, pastor of Watonga (Okla.) Indian Baptist Church, based her sermon on Jeremiah 20:7-9. (“Oh Lord, you have enticed me. … Within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”)
She told those assembled that she had initially resisted her destiny in ministry. Nonetheless, the Lord continued to entice her to speak out about the world’s injustices. Referring to the violence in today’s headlines, she urged conference-goers to speak out, too.
“We have the numbers, but we don’t have the will,” she said. “If we had the will, we’d be about the business of addressing these problems. I say this because I have a case of the ‘I-can’t-help-it.’”
We will not fear to address injustice, she said, if we allow empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
“Don’t let this feeling of love [that you have experienced at Mission Summit] end here,” she exhorted the crowd. “Things will never change unless we continue to take it out to the highways and byways—because we must continue to cultivate leaders, equip disciples and heal communities, on Earth as it is in heaven.”
In addition, during the luncheon, ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray presented the Suzan Johnson Cook Religious Freedom award to the Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio, senior pastor of Indiana Chin Baptist Church, Indianapolis.
“This award,” Haggray said, “acknowledges Dr. Kio’s unceasing dedication to religious freedom here in the United States as well as in his native Myanmar, where American Baptists have provided a witness for the Gospel as well as personal, political and religious freedom for more than 200 years.
“Remembering the struggles of his own refugee journey from Myanmar because of religious persecution,” Haggray continued, “he has been a voice for the persecuted church—primarily the Chin Church—and has appealed to both national and international entities like Church World Service, as well as private and public sectors like the U.S. government, to provide food, clothing, transportation and housing upon refugees’ resettlement as part of the Burmese Diaspora. In this country alone, Dr. Kio has helped Chin refugees find new homes and has founded church homes so that refugees have both a place to live and to worship.”
At Sunday evening’s worship celebration, Haggray presented the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice award to the Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft Sr., senior pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church, West Chester, Pa.
Croft was chosen for the award, Haggray said, because of his “courageous dedication to social justice, advocacy, peace and human rights, as well as his compassionate Christian witness, as evidenced by his standing with marginalized people from all walks of life in the Philadelphia region, throughout Pennsylvania and across the United States.”
Haggray highlighted Croft’s lifetime commitment to social justice as well as his innumerable accomplishments, including organizing a variety of much-needed “compassionate conversations.” Among them was a public forum held only two weeks after the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American teen killed by a Caucasian police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
“Before a crowd of more than 200 individuals of all races,” Haggray said, “the question ‘How do we take steps to keep what happened in Ferguson from happening in our own backyard?’ was addressed by a panel that included local government officials, law-enforcement personnel, the town’s chief of police, and police officers from surrounding townships. Dr. Croft’s influence was apparent many times in 2016 also, perhaps most notably when St. Paul’s Baptist Church helped to inform statewide guidelines regarding police-involved shootings.”
At Saturday evening’s worship service, Haggray’s sermon maintained the Biennial Mission Summit’s “Connect!” theme. Haggray preached about “Bodily Connections,” based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. (“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”)
In addition, Haggray reminded those in attendance that the present generation suffers the same spiritual alienation as those of Jesus’ time. Stressing the need to unleash Jesus’ Gospel and transmit Christianity to those suffering today, he said, “We are called to introduce them to the Prince of Peace, who settled on a hilltop in Palestine to bless those who mourn, to bless those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, to bless the peacemakers, and to bless all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
“There is so much untapped potential,” he continued, “in the earthly and earthy ministry story of Jesus of Nazareth, who possessed a real body; traversed the dusty roads of Palestine; encountered everyday people experiencing suffering; shared with them a vision of abundant life; and then lifted them above despair, above injustice and above alienation to a position of healing, deliverance and fellowship with God.”
During “Celebrating American Baptist Home Mission Societies: A New Course for Mission,” at Ministry Square on Saturday afternoon, ABHMS national program directors offered an update regarding ABHMS’ “Connect. Cultivate. Change.” ministry framework and aligned action networks strategy.
Afterward, ABHMS staff members delighted the crowd—all wearing free ABHMS T-shirts distributed at ABHMS’ exhibit booth—with a random drawing for prizes. First prize—an Apple iPad Pro—was won by Roxanna Tirado of Spanish Baptist Church, New York City.
“My old iPad was stolen among other valuables when I was living in Mexico,” said Tirado, who ministers with youth for American Baptist Churches of Metro New York. “Because of other financial obligations, I couldn’t make replacing it a priority. But, since I travel a lot for work, an iPad is very, very useful.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
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.