VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/14/18)—The Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) met November 9-11, 2018, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia.
Highlights of the meeting included a visit from Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute on Civil Discourse (NICD), and a delegation from the Burma Refugee Commission.
Josué Gómez-Menéndez, President of American Baptist Churches USA, said, “During our meetings I have witnessed how, through sincere and timely dialogue, we can see the hand of God at work. The NICD and the visit from the special delegation from the Burma Refugee Commission with International Ministries, American Baptist Home Mission Societies and other leaders, were instruments that God put in our way to affirm a new way of building our country and the world.”
In its opening plenary session, the Board participated in a workshop led by Lukensmeyer. The Board originally endorsed a working partnership with the NICD in November 2017, and the Beloved Community Action Group invited them to facilitate a workshop at this November 2018 meeting.
Lukensmeyer highlighted resources on the NICD website, www.revivecivility.org. The Board looked at the question, “How do you reach out to someone with different views?” Lukensmeyer encouraged American Baptists to sign the Civility Pledge and consider holding a Revive Civility Conversation.
“The continuing education event conducted by the National Institute for Civil Discourse enhanced the skills of our board members in ways that hopefully will continue for several meetings into the future,” said Acting General Secretary C. Jeff Woods.
On Sunday, November 11, a delegation of members of the Burma Refugee Commission addressed the board, letting directors know about things that are happening in the refugee community here and the Myanmar community abroad. They shared about a UNHCR Letter released to the Chin Communities in Malaysia, the outcome of which will have great effect on the Chin community members living there.
The representatives also shared how Christians are suffering in Burma and requested prayer from American Baptists. The delegation asked for continued further action and advocacy from American Baptist Churches USA.
The delegation included:
Rev. Hkawng Lum Laking, Pennsylvania Kachin Baptist Church, Associate General Secretary of Kachin KBCUSA; Gum San Nsang, President of Kachin Alliance, USA; Rollin Van Bik, President of Chin Baptist Churches USA; Rev. Saw Thomas, Karen Pastor at Philadelphia Burmese Baptist Church; American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ national coordinator of Asian Ministries, the Rev. Florence Li; and Leslie Turley, International Ministries Area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan.
During his report to the Board, Acting General Secretary Woods highlighted the five priorities of ABCUSA vision, saying, “We continued to advance the five priorities, namely, unifying the denomination, promoting the work of the national boards, emphasizing regional ministry, encouraging growth, and creating partnerships; while at the same time giving equal attention to how we pursue each of these activities.”
Looking forward, Gómez-Menéndez, noted his excitement about the diversity of the 2019 Board, including 23 males, 21 females; 23 clergy, 21 lay; and many different ethnic groups represented.
The board elected Board Director Noemi Nunez-Sanchez to serve as special director to the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, and James Wolfe to serve as special director to the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
At its Saturday morning session, the Board recognized the following retiring Board of General Ministries Directors (years served in parentheses):
Andy Arndt (11 Years)
Felipe Candelaria (7 Years)
Bill Frederickson (9 Years)
Danny Jack (9 Years)
Nancy O’Neill (11 Years)
Wesley Su-Ming Sun (7 Years)
Elmore Warren, Jr. (9 Years).
On Saturday evening during its communion service, the board received an offering of $1,068 for the First Baptist Church of Wakefield, Massachusetts, which was destroyed by a fire due to a lightning strike on October 23, 2018.
The board voted to adopt the 2019 budget presented by budget review officer Paul Higgins. ABCUSA Vice President Dean Parker gave the Report of the BGM Executive Committee, and board director José Manuel Magana gave the Report of the Credentials and Caucus Committee, noting that there are now 5,065 active American Baptist churches.
Yvonne Carter, executive minister of the Cleveland Baptist Association and representative of the Regional Executive Ministers Council, addressed the Board saying, “It has been a great joy to observe your worshipful work….I continue to be extremely impressed that you are not an in name only board. It’s very clear to me as I sit in the room and observe the reports, that you as board members are here and are treating this as a ministry, you’re invested in the life of American Baptist Churches, and you care about what you do.”
Reflecting on the meeting, Woods noted, “When Baptists receive excellent meeting preparation, come ready to engage, expect to be led by the Holy Spirit, and have outstanding meeting and worship leading, they can accomplish tasks that exceed expectations and portray the abundance of God. It is an honor to be associated with this healthy board of directors.”
The Board of General Ministries meetings concluded on Sunday, November 11.
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.