VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (ABNS 6/21/19)—The Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA met Tuesday, June 18 through Thursday, June 20, 2019, at the DoubleTree hotel in Virginia Beach, Va. The board meeting occurred prior to the ABCUSA Biennial Mission Summit, which meets June 21-23, 2019, also in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
In his report during the board’s opening session, General Secretary Lee Spitzer said, “From sea to shining sea, we can view God at work in amazing ways through our denomination.” He reflected on recent visits to churches in Indiana where he met with local ministers and listened to their concerns. “American Baptists are doing their part to demonstrate the love of God in practical ways,” he said. Spitzer summarized the vision for the Office of the General Secretary, which involves “unifying our American Baptist family, strengthening our regions, and resourcing churches and pastors for a new day of mission.”
National leaders of American Baptist Churches USA including Board of General Ministries Directors joined together to share a public letter of solidarity and support to the residents of the Virginia Beach area. The letter was published in the local Virginia Beach newspaper, The Virginia Beach Beacon (part of The Virginian Pilot), on Thursday, June 20 and will be published again on Sunday, June 23.
“The response of your city has inspired us, and we hope that our presence and conversations with the members of your community may contribute in some small way to healing and comfort. To this end, we shall pray specifically for Virginia Beach during our Sunday morning service and dedicate an offering to local churches and agencies that are responding to the tragedy.” Read the full letter here.
In the Wednesday board session, José Manuel Magana, Chair of the Credentials and Caucus Committee gave the report of Changed Relationships, noting that there are 5,042 American Baptist churches across the United States and Puerto Rico. This information comes from church information in the American Baptist Churches Information System, which is administered by the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary.
The Board of General Ministries Directors attended a Joint Board Dinner of National Boards on Wednesday evening, June 19, with representatives from the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, American Baptist Women’s Ministries, International Ministries and MMBB Financial Services (the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board). Board members spent time in fellowship and conversation with colleagues from partnering organizations.
On Thursday morning the Board heard reports from the Board of General Ministries Action Groups, who met on Wednesday afternoon, around the following topics: Committee on Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations, and the Beloved Community, Communicating ABC Identity and Finance.
The Rev. Salvador Orellana, director of ABHMS’ Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico initiative, visited the board to share about the initiative. Orellana shared about the initiative’s progress in 2018, and noted that the 2019 goals (Phase 3) are: to help 50 families, expected to impact a total of 200 people, which will require raising $300,000; and the long-range goal (2020-2022) is to help 450 families, which is expected to make a difference in the lives of 1,800 individuals and will require raising $2.7 million.
In light of the announced retirement of General Secretary Lee Spitzer on December 31, 2019, the Board of General Ministries Executive Committee announced that it has begun work on the transition process. The Executive Committee expects to make an announcement regarding this process later in 2019.
In other business, the board passed a motion to plan a denominational Mission Table which will focus on the theme: United in Christ, Together in Mission.
The Board of General Ministries meeting concluded after its final plenary session on Thursday morning, June 20.
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.