American Baptist Churches USA Affirms and Celebrates Women in Ministry at 2023 Biennial in San Juan

ABCUSA > Gathering the Denomination > American Baptist Churches USA Affirms and Celebrates Women in Ministry at 2023 Biennial in San Juan

American Baptist Churches USA Affirms and Celebrates Women in Ministry at 2023 Biennial in San Juan

San Juan, PR (ABNS 6/28/23)—The American Baptist Churches 2023 Biennial Mission Summit met June 23-25, 2023 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Throughout the event, women in pastoral ministry were strongly affirmed in their call and practice of ministry.

Three of the four worship services at the event featured keynote speakers who serve as American Baptist women in ministry: Rev. Miriam Méndez, executive minister and senior regional pastor of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey region; Rev. Laura I. Ayala-Álvarez, coordinator of Global Missions for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and until 2023 served as general pastor of the First Baptist Church of Río Piedras, Puerto Rico; and Rev. Joy Martinez-Marshall, pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln, Neb. Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Tex. brought the message on Friday evening.

“We heard powerful and prophetic messages from all of our keynote speakers, three of whom we celebrate as women in ministry. The presence of women in ministry was evident throughout the event,” said Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA.

“‘For such a time as this’ – these words from the book of Esther provided the theme and framework for the 2023 Biennial Mission Summit of American Baptist Churches USA in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico. Powerful preaching challenged participants to incarnate God’s justice in our treatment of all people without prejudice to race, gender, or other external characteristics,” said Rev. Dr. James O. Wolfe III, president of American Baptist Churches USA.

In addition to highlighting three keynote speakers that serve as women in ministry, delegates to the Biennial elected the Rev. Nikita G. McCalister to serve as President of the American Baptist Churches USA for its next biennium, which will begin on January 1, 2024 and end on December 31, 2025. McCalister currently serves as Transitional Ministries consultant for the American Baptist Churches of Michigan and Transition Pastor of Westhaven Baptist Church in Port Huron, Mich. McCalister has served in a number of roles throughout her years of ministry, including local church, regional, and national leadership roles.

“I am so ecstatic that my journey has brought me here for such a time as this,” McCalister said when addressing attendees of the business session following her election as the denomination’s next President.

“I am standing here, draped in my American Baptist women in ministry stole, because we have always been on the cutting edge. For a hundred and fifty years we have been ordaining women in ministry. We are indeed a denomination that understands the Biblical basis for equal partnership in God’s Kingdom. Because we understand that God poured out his spirit on all flesh – all flesh….we are all made in God’s image.”

“I get joy when I think about what God has done for us. Not just me, but what God has done for us. I continue to ask that we would be on that cutting edge,” said McCalister.

American Baptist General Secretary Dr. C. Jeff Woods recently released a statement on June 15 offering support to women in ministerial roles.

While in San Juan, the board of directors of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies released a statement affirming women pastors.

The 2023 Biennial Mission Summit closed with worship on Sunday evening, June 25, in a service of sending in to the world and inviting action, led by Rev. Joy Martinez-Marshall.

“We witness the impact of our collective ministry as we gather together,” said Woods. “American Baptists across the denomination find their individual songs through the engagement of American Baptist mission and ministry. Singing our songs comes from personal ministry and involvement. I was delighted to see how people took advantage of the opportunities to learn about new areas of mission and ministry in the workshops, luncheons, and other events that were offered. It is wonderful to hear the singing of these songs together as we gather for an American Baptist Biennial Mission Summit.”

“The 2023 Biennial Mission Summit was a spirit-filled, life-transforming experience that if lived out in our lives and churches, has the potential to change our denomination and culture in the name of Christ,” said Wolfe.

All recordings from sessions in the main ballroom are open to delegates and participants, via the Attendee Hub using a web browser. Use this link to gain access to these recordings. Once logged in, go to “Schedule” and click “On Demand” to view the recordings.

Photos from are available for each day of the event, as follows: Friday, Saturday, Sunday (with new photos added from Sunday afternoon/evening).

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.