VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/22/17)—The Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) met November 16-18, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, and also at the ABC Mission Center in Valley Forge, Pa.
Board of General Ministries members gathered with over 100 others for a Celebration and Thanksgiving Service held Thursday afternoon, November 16, at the American Baptist Churches Mission Center in Valley Forge. General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, was installed during a worship service at the Board of General Ministries meeting on Friday evening, November 17. Spitzer and his ministry team gathered together, and Board directors were led in a prayer of renewal and commitment. Six regional executive ministers and members of the National Executive Council participated in the ceremony.
Rev. Judy Fackenthal, president of American Baptist Churches USA, said, “A roller coaster of experiences, conversations, and emotions describes this Board of General Ministries gathering. The entire board, shuttled from our meeting place to the ABCUSA Mission Center, shared in the celebration of a historic building, fondly referred to as the ‘holy donut.’ Hearing remembrances of days gone by brought both joy and bittersweet feelings to the surface. The Mission Center has been both the physical and the symbolic unifying edifice for the coordination of American Baptist related ministries.”
“Another highlight was the Installation/Consecration Service for Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, as the sixth General Secretary of ABCUSA,” said Fackenthal. “Lee steps into this role as we face the tremendous paradigm shift of our culture and our denomination. We celebrated his gifts and leadership while lifting up his entire ministry team in prayer. May all American Baptists join with the Board of General Ministries in support of Dr. Spitzer through prayer.”
On Friday, Spitzer announced two new ministry team members, who will join the staff of the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary in January 2018. Rev. Marsha Scipio will serve as Associate General Secretary for Missional Initiatives and Partnerships, and Rev. Dr. Kevin Walden will serve as Associate General Secretary for Congregational and Pastoral Effectiveness.
General Secretary Spitzer announced to the Board of General Ministries that the 2019 Biennial Mission Summit be held in Virginia Beach, Va., June 21-23, 2019, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Baptist Churches of the South.
He also announced that in 2021, American Baptist Churches USA plans to return to San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Biennial Mission Summit. The goal of this event will be to celebrate the resurrection and restoration of the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico and its churches, and the island itself.
“This last meeting of the year of the Board of General ministries closes this biennium with nostalgic feelings and joy,” said Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, vice president and president-elect of American Baptist Churches USA. “We celebrate the leadership of Judith Fackenthal, our outgoing President, as well as Don Ng, Past President. Their contributions to our family have been invaluable. We embrace the future through the installation service of General Secretary Lee Spitzer, and welcome our new Vice President, Dean Parker, who will serve for the next biennium (January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2019).”
“This was also a very emotional meeting personally for me, for the extraordinary support expressed by all the Board for Puerto Rico,” said President Elect Gómez-Menéndez. “Thank you for your prayers and your proximity. Thanks to all our shareholders for a meeting full of emotions, concerns, dreams and above all, purpose.”
The Board heard a report from Victoria Goff, associate director of Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement and Rev. Salvador Orellana, national coordinator of Latino Ministries, for the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS). The report focused on hurricane and disaster relief and One Great Hour of Sharing giving, and specifically highlighted actions related to Hurricane Maria, and the multi-year initiative, “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico,” launched by ABHMS in partnership with ABCUSA.
The Board approved a motion to endorse a working partnership with the National Institute on Civil Discourse (NICD). The nonpartisan group is currently inviting persons from across the country to take part in Setting the Table for Civility, where NICD and more than 80 national and local partner organizations are urging Americans to make a special effort during the Holiday Season to do two things – pause and reflect on the need to heal the divisions in our country; and take some action to help increase civility and respect between our fellow citizens.
Following a recommendation from the ABC Creation Justice Network, the Board also approved a motion that American Baptist Churches USA partner with ecoAmerica.
President Fackenthal adjourned the meeting, expressing thanks to the board for their work over the past two years, along with continues prayers for General Secretary Spitzer and for the incoming president Josue Gómez-Menéndez, and vice president Dean Parker.