On April 23, 2018, Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) joined American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary, Dr. Lee Spitzer for the Annual Clergy Retreat of the American Baptist Churches of Michigan, held in Dewitt, Mich.
Drs. Spitzer and Lukensmeyer spent two days with pastors and leaders from throughout the region sharing their expertise and reflections on the theme, Ministers of Reconciliation: Being the Church in a Divided World. “It was fantastic to see our partnership with the NICD begin to unfold as Lukensmeyer shared the importance of the Initiative to Revive Civility for times such as this, and for clergy to acknowledge the role the Church can play in promoting more civil conversations in our churches and communities,” said Associate General Secretary of Missional Initiatives and Partnerships, Rev. Marsha Scipio.
The retreat kicked off with a presentation by. Lukensmeyer, “Incivility and Political Dysfunction: What Can We Do About It?” The presentation was followed by a workshop by Spitzer on four models for promoting civil discourse within the church and community, including a model of Christian friendships within the church and ABC’s Baptist Talk. Conference participants had time to process the information in small groups and to ask thought-provoking questions to both Lukensmeyer and Spitzer. “It was so encouraging to hear how both our speakers were actively pursuing ways to improve the ways that people in our nation are having conversations about diversity. It gave me hope for our denomination and for our nation!” said Pastor Lara Freeburg, Vice President of the Michigan Minister’s Council and conference coordinator.
An evening session facilitated by Lukensmeyer engaged participants in dialogue as part of the NICD’s National Week of Conversations project that took place from April 22–28. This gave clergy the opportunity to put the NICD methodology into practice and join hundreds of groups around the nation who also participated in these very poignant conversations. On day two, Spitzer shared his vision and goals for ABCUSA and the importance of the ministry of reconciliation to not just the region but to the denomination.
This retreat was also Spitzer’s first opportunity to visit the American Baptist Churches of Michigan region. Pastors were visibly moved by Spitzer’s personal testimony and the value of reconciliation to his own journey. Executive Minister Dr. Michael Williams reflected, “I am grateful for his vision and the ministry priorities that have been established for the Office of the General Secretary. I believe our pastors left the retreat encouraged by their time with our new ABCUSA General Secretary!”
Dr. Lukensmeyer is looking forward to continuing the work with ABCUSA and other faith partners to help improve civil discourse in our nation. ABCUSA is one of the first faith-based organizations to partner with NICD on the Initiative to Revive Civility. We are hoping our collaborative efforts will be a model for other faith-based groups. If you are interested in learning more about the Initiative to Revive Civility or would like Lukensmeyer and other members of the NICD team to come to your region or church, please contact Rev. Marsha Scipio at firstname.lastname@example.org.