American Baptist Churches Biennial Mission Summit Concludes with Celebration of Local Church Pastors, Communion

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American Baptist Churches Biennial Mission Summit Concludes with Celebration of Local Church Pastors, Communion

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/5/17)The 2017 Biennial Mission Summit of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) ended on Sunday, July 2, with a communion service and a time of celebrating local church pastors. Four pastors from different parts of the country and representing different church environments were interviewed to give a window into their lives as church pastors and as American Baptists. localpastors.smallThroughout the service, worship leaders gave thanks and offered blessings for local church pastors, and a time of community prayer around local church pastors attending the worship service was held.

“As American Baptists, we recognize the ministry of the whole people of God but we need and deeply treasure those who are called to the specialized ministry of pastoral leadership in the local church. What we don’t do often enough is thank them sufficiently for their ministry,” wrote Rev. Steve Bils, chair of the Biennial Mission Summit Planning Team and Dr. Susan Gillies, past chair, in the event program book. “We honor those who love the local congregation even when the congregation is less than lovable, who love when energized as well as when tired, who offer encouragement, who teach and preach from the heart as well as the mind.”

The worship service included a presentation of the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice award by Dr. Jeffrey Haggray 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.”

Emilie Ballard and Newton Old Crow, Sr., were co-recipients of the 2017 Cora and John Sparrowk President’s Award. ABCUSA President Judy Fackenthal and General Secretary Lee Spitzer presented the awards on behalf of the Board of General Ministries. A recipient of the award must “be an American Baptist, who has over a period of years made an exceptional and outstanding contribution to the life of Christ’s Church and who in life and service manifests richly the fruits and gifts of the Spirit.”

Top United Mission giving churches were celebrated during the service, with certificates of appreciation presented to church representatives from four churches by Rev. Dr. Al Fletcher, acting associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development. Fletcher remarked, “United Mission supports the work of the whole body. Your region benefits the most. United Mission is designed to encourage healthy churches.  Healthy churches are generous churches, sending churches, transforming churches. The Office of the General Secretary encourages generosity, mission, and transformation throughout the whole body, and works with regions. Regional ministry serves and encourages churches to be the hands and feet of Christ.”

Certificate recipients included:

  • Pastor Rev. Carmen C. Adames-Vazquez accepted the certificate for Primera Iglesia Bautista de Carolina in Carolina, PR
  • Rev. David Gregg, Awenam Anifrani, Holale Azondjagni, and Madison McClendon  accepted the certificate for North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago, IL

(Pictured left to right) ABC President Judy Fackenthal, President-Elect Josue Gómez-Menéndez, Louis Barbarin, chief executive officer of MMBB Financial Services, Joshua Spitzer, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, General Secretary, Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, and Rev. Sharon T. Koh, executive director/CEO of International Ministries

  • Alicia Porterfield, Associate Minister for Adult Education at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, and Dr. Max Hill, Associate Executive Minister for the West Virginia Baptist Convention, accepted the certificate for Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Huntington, WV
  • Rev. Danny Langley, Past President of the American Baptist Churches of Michigan  accepted the certificate for Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, MI

The final worship service of the 2017 Biennial Mission Summit closed with the ABC President and President-Elect, members of the National Executive Council, and the son of the new ABC General Secretary, leading worship experience attendees in communion.

View a Facebook Live video of each Worship Experience at: Or, click the video below to view the Sunday evening service.

Another major highlight of the Biennial Mission Summit included the Mission Summit Conversations, in which 553 people advanced the current ABC priorities through the sharing of their hopes, dreams, insights and practices with one another. In 2017, the Mission Summit Conversations featured these seven priorities: Anti-Violence, Discipleship, Ending Poverty, Gospel in a Rapidly Changing Society, Innovative Models of Pastoral Ministry, Next Generation of Leaders, and Women in Ministry. American Baptists who did not attend the event are invited to join in the discussion about these topics through Groups on the American Baptist Churches USA Facebook Page which were introduced prior to the event. There is a Group for each of the seven priorities, with a goal of encouraging discussion and learning before, during and after the event.

The event also highlighted times on Saturday morning for Bible Studies and on both Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon for Learning Opportunities, as well as meal events held by American Baptist organizations and related organizations, including partners, colleges, seminaries, committees and associated ministry organizations

On Sunday afternoon, American Baptists were invited to a Learning Opportunity session where “Baptist Talk” was introduced. Baptist Talk is an outgrowth of the Mission Summit Conversations. While the purpose of the Mission Summit Conversations is to engage in topics that are or could become ministry priorities for the denomination, the purpose of Baptist Talk is to increase our understanding and respect for one another as American Baptists.

“Once again American Baptists demonstrated that we can have respectful, energizing, and also emotion-filled conversation when we create the space for it and follow historic Baptist premises for dialogue,” said Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, associate general secretary for Regional Ministries of ABCUSA. “At the Baptist Talk session, some tables had laughter and other tables had tears but all expressed appreciation for the process. One person is going back to her state of Washington and plans to invite the community around her church to engage in issues affecting the neighborhood using the newly developed process of Baptist Talk.”

Throughout the event, new leaders of American Baptist Churches USA had the opportunity to preach and address delegates and participants gathered in Portland. Rev. Sharon T. Koh, executive director/CEO of International Ministries, gave the message during the Friday evening Worship Experience; Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, preached during the Saturday evening Worship Experience; and new ABCUSA General Secretary Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer gave the sermon during the Sunday morning Worship Experience. On Friday evening, Spitzer, whose role began on June 1, 2017, was officially introduced to Biennial Mission Summit attendees as General Secretary by ABCUSA President Judy Fackenthal. Members of the General Secretary Search Committee joined Spitzer on stage as he gave his opening remarks, and prayed around him along with those in attendance.

Attendees are invited to complete a feedback survey for the 2017 Biennial Mission Summit to help in planning for 2019. Please take the Feedback Survey here.

Photos from the Biennial Mission Summit are available here.

Recordings from 2017 Biennial Mission Summit events are available – place your order with Dove Cassettes.

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.