VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (ABNS 6/25/19)—The American Baptist Churches USA Biennial Mission Summit met June 21-23, 2019 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va. The event centered around the theme “Summit by the Sea” and throughout the event, the speakers looked at different topics around the theme. American Baptists traveled to the Biennial Mission Summit from across the country and around the world. Photos from the Biennial Mission Summit event are available here.
The Friday evening worship service, which was opened at 7:00 pm on June 21 by American Baptist Churches USA President Josué D. Gómez-Menéndez, was an evening hosted by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies with nationally recognized clinical psychologist and researcher Dr. Howard Stevenson speaking during the service about his research in racial literacy and racial trauma. Stevenson considered how children respond to racism, sharing a personal example with attendees.
The ABCUSA Biennial Academy, meeting throughout the day on Saturday, featured many different learning tracks, and brought leaders from across the country to present in sessions about topics integral to attendees’ ministry, churches, and communities. Tracks included: Being the Hands and Feet of Jesus in Society; Bible Study; Biblical Study and Sermon Preparation for the Pastor Using Accordance; Called to Send, Called to Serve (focused on the call to international mission); Creation Care; Financial Wellness; New Paths for Church Renewal and Multiplication in the 21st Century; Practical Resources for Churches and Leadership; Sharing Good News in a Social Media Age; Transformational Leadership and the Renewal of the Church; and Transition-Interim Ministry for Today’s Church.
The Saturday evening worship service, hosted by International Ministries, featured a message by Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. The service highlighted the ministry of International Ministries Global Servants, and the impact that is made throughout the world. Brown called attendees to have a renewed passion, “to live out the kingdom of God, wherever you are, with intentionality for the nations with an evangelistic manner. For out of the 7 billion people in our world today, 3.1 billion are still unreached. 41% of the world’s population. It’s why mission and evangelism remains an important focus of the Baptist World Alliance.”
Rev. Ngwedla Paul Msiza, Baptist World Alliance president, brought the message during Sunday morning worship, which was hosted by the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary and MMBB Financial Services.
Msiza said, “Fellowship brings a divine, true worship…It demonstrates the power – true Christian fellowship is something that the world cannot attain. It’s something that in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, he says, ‘A new commandment I give unto you – love one another as I have loved you.’ So you must love. By this everyone will know that you are my church. True worship comes when we live in true fellowship.”
“Because He is risen we can live in the newness of life. We can preach in Christian fellowship because He is risen – He is alive! He is alive,” said Msiza.
The top United Mission giving church was recognized during the Sunday morning worship service, with a certificate of appreciation presented to Primera Iglesia Bautista de Carolina in Carolina, Puerto Rico (represented by Rev. Carmen C. Adames-Vazquez, Pastor) by United Mission Coordinator Tina Turner. Turner said, “I would also like to thank each and every one of our churches that give to United Mission. Your gifts, no matter how large or small, make a significant difference in the identity and future of American Baptist Churches USA.”
In addition, Charles and Marie Mercer were recognized as co-recipients of the 2019 Cora and John Sparrowk President’s Award. ABCUSA President Josué D. Gómez-Menéndez and General Secretary Lee Spitzer presented the awards on behalf of the Board of General Ministries during the Sunday morning worship service. 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.”
Prior to the Sunday morning service, Dr. Jolene Erlacher, founder, trainer and consultant at Leading Tomorrow who focuses on equipping a new generation of leaders, led a Sunday Morning Word and Witness session focusing on “Navigating Choppy Seas.” In the session, hosted by American Baptist Women’s Ministries, Erlacher offered an opportunity for discussion and questions within the session, where microphones were opened up for sharing with the larger audience.
“It is so critical for us to engage across generations….to listen and hear so that we can effectively teach,” said Erlacher.
During the 2019 Biennial Mission Summit business meeting on Sunday afternoon, the officers for the next biennium, running January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021, were elected. Karen Podsiadly of the Rochester Genesee region of American Baptist Churches was elected as President of American Baptist Churches USA; Rev. James (Jim) Wolfe from the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region was elected as Vice President; and Paul Higgins from the American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, Southwest and Hawaii was elected as Budget Review Officer.
Another highlight of the Biennial Mission Summit included the Baptist Talk Conversations, which grew out of the 2015 and 2017 Mission Summit Conversations. A presentation was given by Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director Emeritus of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, with conversations following.
The 2019 Baptist Talk Conversations featured the following topics: Church Mergers, Satellites; Cross-Generational Ministry; Discipling Alternatives; Faith and Politics; Barriers to Women Serving Congregations; Racism Issues; Selling the Building, Maintaining the Congregation; Systemic Solutions to Poverty; and Systemic Solutions to Violence.
The 2019 Biennial Mission Summit of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) ended on Sunday, June 23, with an evening service hosted by the American Baptist Churches of the South region.
Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr., senior pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., preached during the closing worship session.
Jones preached on Psalm 93, and asked attendees, “Is there a reason to look up?”
“I look up, because I serve the risen savior. He’s in the world today. Are you listening to me? Every one of us has a reason to look up! The more you look up to the hills from which commeth your God, and see the majesty and the eternity of God, the more joy you will have as you live in a world that is layered with sorrow and pain and destruction. I have a reason to look up, because I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.”
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.