VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 3/14/19)—In a letter dated March 1, 2019 and presented in person to the ABCUSA Board of General Ministries (BGM) Executive Committee at their meetings in Orlando March 13-15, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer announced his intention to retire from denominational leadership on December 31, 2019. Dr. Spitzer’s letter to the entire ABCUSA family was released earlier today.
“It has been an honor and a joy to have served the ABC family for 4 decades, culminating in my tenure as General Secretary,” said Dr. Spitzer. “I am sharing my intention to retire 10 months ahead of time so that the denomination’s transition to new leadership can be accomplished in a deliberate and unhurried manner, and so that I can focus my energies and attention on the pastoral work that needs to be accomplished during this last phase of my journey as General Secretary. There is much to do!”
To read Dr. Spitzer’s letter, see here.
“Walking with Lee for the past two years has been a growth experience,” responded Josué Gómez-Menéndez, Board of General Ministries President, after receiving Dr. Spitzer’s letter. “I’ve learned to recognize him as a family man, with an unquestionable dedication, love and pride for his wife and children. I met a man with extraordinary writing skill, who is able to produce in a text a real project of life. When I am with Lee, I’m in front of a man with an unwavering passion for ministry, with an approach to the Bible that drives him to reach out to others with love and hope. With Lee I can say that even in the midst of our diversity, as Baptists, we can always find convergence points to move forward. I respect Lee as a man of God, who has known how to put all his gifts and talents into our favor, to believe God and to trust his promises. But ultimately, I will always appreciate his wisdom for always finding and having a word of hope.”
During his recovery from open heart surgery, Dr. Spitzer deeply appreciated the support he received from American Baptists across the country. In particular, conversations he had with his immediate predecessor, Susan Gillies, made a deep impression on him. ”Lee Spitzer and I never anticipated belonging to an exclusive club with only two members,” she reflected. “Membership is limited to those who have served as General Secretary (in my case as interim) and have had open heart surgery to replace the aortic valve. Though we’ve known each other for years, the depth of our communication through these months of his recovery has been what I consider a gift of ABC life. I deeply respect Lee’s decision and know it to be the result of true spiritual discernment. I pray the Board, Staff and National Leadership Council also will take time for discernment with mutual respect and love. The result: ABCUSA will experience and emerge from this transition well.”
Dr. Spitzer also was encouraged by the support he has received from former General Secretary A. Roy Medley, who said: “For all of us, crises and new circumstances provoke the question of what is God’s will for my life in this moment and for the foreseeable future. For Lee, ‘waiting before the Lord’ these past several months has brought clarity and peace as he has pondered how he best serves God, ABC, and his family. I am grateful for the trust we shared as he brought me into his discernment process and I affirm his decision as wise and as that which best serves the needs of his health, his family and ABC. God will continue to use Lee for the kingdom, though in new ways. And God will sustain ABC through this transition as God has through each previous change in leadership.”
In light of his 14 years of experience serving as the Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, one of Dr. Spitzer’s priorities as General Secretary has been to strengthen the life and mission of our regions and clergy.
“At his core, Lee has always been called to be a pastor—to be a leader who walked alongside the flock that has been entrusted to his care, seeking to love, encourage and exhort them to greater depths of faithfulness in their efforts for the Kingdom,” said Rev. Dr. Frank Frischkorn, Regional Executive Ministers Council President and American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware Executive Minister. “As American Baptists we have benefited from his leadership for over four decades in a variety of capacities and now we pray God’s blessing and favor upon him as he moves into this new chapter of life and ministry. As God has cared and will care for Lee and his family in the days to come, so we also believe the LORD has a plan and purpose for our ABC Family as we confidently lean into the guidance of the Spirit.”
Now that he is back at work, Dr. Spitzer is eager to make this, his final year of full-time pastoral ministry, a season of positive and fruitful service. “Even though I will retire at year’s end, for the next 10 months I remain focused on several key projects which will be a blessing for the ABC family. Most importantly, the upcoming Biennial Mission Summit will be a wonderful event, and I am looking forward to being with everyone in Virginia Beach. Come and celebrate with me at the Summit by the Sea!”
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.