VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/11/21)—The American Baptist Churches USA Board of General Ministries met November 5-7, 2021. The meeting was the first in-person meeting held since President Karen Podsiadly began her term as president of American Baptist Churches USA on January 1, 2020, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was incredibly satisfying to gather for the first time in person with the Board of General Ministries and continue our deliberations with the express purpose of ensuring the vitality of the entire family,” said Podsiadly. “I am excited for the continued progress and hope that members of the Board of General Ministries and the greater family continue to engage in ways that allow us, as individuals, congregations and denomination, to minister to a world that needs the love of Christ more than ever. I am especially thankful for the election of Dr. Woods as we continue in this intentional interim process and prepare to launch the search for a General Secretary for the 24-27 term.”
In the report of the Interim General Secretary, Dr. C. Jeff Woods reflected on the journey that board directors embark upon as they begin service in their role. “Every person on this board has a term of service, which heightens rather than lessens the importance of our work together. We are on this journey because of those who became before us, and we give our best for those who come after us,” said Woods. His report reflected on the mission of the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary and its three key areas of service: gathering the denomination; supporting congregations, regions, and national organizations; and creating space for local and global issues.
Woods emphasized work in gathering the denomination through his highlight of “Everyday ABC Conversations,” a new series that has been launched following the success of the Mission Summit Conversations as a new conversation venue providing American Baptists with the opportunity to connect with one another around important topics.
In a later session focused on Board Development, Woods presented Best Practices of Non-Profit Boards, during which directors considered their role of service to the whole of American Baptist Churches USA.
“A significant highlight of the recent BGM meetings held in King of Prussia PA was the election of Dr. C. Jeff Woods for a two-year term as General Secretary of American Baptist Churches. Dr. Woods has provided exemplary leadership and commitment. We eagerly anticipate Dr. Woods’ visionary leadership over the next two years,” said Rev. Dr. James O. Wolfe, ABCUSA Vice President and President-Elect for the 2022-2023 biennium.
Woods was elected to serve as General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA on Friday, November 5, during the board’s first day of meetings. The Board later approved two focus documents which are part of the advancement of its Interim Proposal timeline
In line with the organization’s emphasis on creating space for local and global issues, the Board of General Ministries Executive Committee recommended that the Board consider and vote on a proposal that had been submitted to the Executive Committee by the ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force. The proposal recommended the establishment of an Anti-Racism Commission, which was voted on affirmatively by the Board. The Board also approved a budget of $25,000 for the Anti-Racism Commission for the establishment phase. More details of the establishment phase of the Anti-Racism Commission will be forthcoming.
Vice President Wolfe gave the report of the Executive Committee, and presented the proposed process for the General Secretary Search Committee, who will begin work in 2022 to elect a General Secretary to serve in a term from 2024-2027. Wolfe will serve as chair of this committee.
The board voted to adopt the 2022 budget presented by Budget Review Officer Paul Higgins. Josué Gómez-Menéndez, Chair of the Credentials and Caucus Committee and Past President of ABCUSA, gave the report of Changed Relationships of American Baptist churches across the United States and Puerto Rico. Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri, associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development, highlighted key activities in the areas of public relations, communications, and development. Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez, associate general secretary for Women in Ministry and Transition Ministries, promoted and invited all to the upcoming “Celebrating Ministering Women: Radical. Redeemed. Ready.” conference, which will take place June 15-19, 2022, at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wis. Registration for the event is expected to open in January 2022.
Representatives from the Board’s Action Groups–Beloved Community, Communicating ABC Identity, BGM Finance Committee, and the Committee on Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations–reported on the fiduciary, strategic, and generative work of these sub-groups. All of these groups have also been asked to articulate responsibilities and benefits of people serving on their respective body, and this work will continue into 2022.
During its meeting, the Board approved the President’s nominations for the 2022-2023 Biennium, including:
- Cedric Jones, Judith Christiansen, Raimundo Barreto to the Board of General Ministries Executive Committee
- Janice Fletcher to the World Relief Committee
- Raimundo Barreto, Annie Field, Christopher Hamilton, Lillian Ramos, Angela Russell, and Shawna Simmons to the Committee on Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations
- Raimundo Barreto as Chair of the Committee on Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations
- Janice Fletcher to the Standing Rules Committee
- Kathryn Ray as Board of General Ministries Director to the Board of American Baptist Home Mission Societies
- Marijane Kiley as Board of General Ministries Director to the Board of International Ministries
- Noemi Nunez-Sanchez as Board of General Ministries Director to Board of MMBB Financial Services
The board also confirmed appointments made by President Podsiadly:
- Kathryn Ray, Emmett Dunn, Daryl Ward, Stephanie Commandest, Judith Christiansen, Kurt Kaufman to the ABCUSA Nominating Committee
- Mark Harvey, Cedric Jones, Thomas Gilmore, Noemi Nunez-Sanchez, Tom Ross to the Finance Committee
- John Campbell (Vice Chair), Bill Frederickson, Marilyn Malone to the Biennial/Mission Summit Planning Team
- Judith Christiansen as Chair of the Credentials & Caucus Committee
- Janice Fletcher as Chair of the Standing Rules Committee
The board recognized retiring representatives during its final session on Sunday morning, November 7, who were Josué Gómez-Menéndez, ABCUSA Past President, and Ken Atchison. A special recognition time was also held for President Karen Podsiadly, whose term as President ends, but who will continue her service on the board in 2022-2023 as Past President.
The Board of General Ministries meeting concluded following a communion service on Sunday morning, November 7, led by Kathryn Ray who served as chaplain for the duration of the weekend.
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.