American Baptists Come Together in San Juan “For Such a Time as This”

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American Baptists Come Together in San Juan “For Such a Time as This”

The American Baptist Churches 2023 Biennial Mission Summit officially began on Friday, June 23 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

American Baptists have come together from across the United States, Puerto Rico, and the world to gather and connect with one another, hear directly from American Baptist partners and friends, worship together as one family of God, and learn the latest happenings across the American Baptist denomination.

Dr. C. Jeff Woods, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, said “It is so enriching to see the American Baptist family gathered together in Puerto Rico for the first in-person Biennial in four years. The reach of American Baptist mission is incredible, and it is even more evident when the family is gathered in the same place sharing with one another.”

With the theme “For Such a Time as This,” the biennial opened with a Welcome Session and Spotlight on Puerto Rico on Friday afternoon. American Baptists have returned to meet in Puerto Rico after many difficult years, including the destruction caused by Hurricanes Maria and Fiona, and continue to offer support throughout the region. The Spotlight on Puerto Rico session highlighted work done within the region by American Baptists after the storm, including the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

The MMBB Member Luncheon and Address included remarks from MMBB’s Chief Executive Officer, Louis P. Barbarin, CPA, and keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Thad S. Austin. Dr. Barbarin spoke about the ways MMBB has sought to Say Yes to God’s New Thing in this time of change and extraordinary opportunity for the church and our denomination. Dr. Austin explored the current state of the church and shared signs of hope in the midst of the changing church landscape.

The American Baptist Women and Girls day met at the First Baptist Church of Caguas, in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Women and girls from across the country and Puerto Rico gathered for worship, fellowship, Bible study, and community service projects. Rev. Dr. Yamina Apolinaris was the Bible study leader.

The Engage 2023! event, designed to introduce and orient American Baptist seminarians and ministers new to ABC life, held sessions on Thursday evening and Friday evening with leaders of American Baptist partners as well as Regional Executive Ministers from across the United States and Puerto Rico.

On Friday evening at the Committee on Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations Dinner, Dr. Luis N. Rivera-Pagán, Henry Winters Luce Professor of Ecumenics and Mission Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, was awarded the Luke Mowbray Ecumenical Award. The award is given to an individual for “sustained performance or special achievement” in “the cause of ecumenism.”

In the Friday evening worship session, attendees heard from Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes around the theme, “Awareness of the Brokenness in our World.”

“If we are to be the church of Jesus Christ in the world, we at least must be woke to what’s happening in the world,” he said.

“Woke,” he explained, “…is when you are self aware and conscious of what is going on in the world contrary to the laws and justice of God, and then you make up your mind to fight against the laws of white supremacy to make a better world.”

The Biennial Mission Summit continues throughout Saturday and Sunday, ending on Sunday evening with a closing worship service.

Registrants were invited to download the specialized event app to access the event schedule, program book, personalized events, and a map of the Puerto Rico Convention Center. Online attendees may also access the Attendee Hub.

For the 2023 Biennial Mission Summit, the event app is being used for Delegate voting. Attendees of the event have been encouraged to download the app.

View photos from the event and learn more information at

Additionally, search these hashtags to view photos of the event on social media: #ABCUSA2023 and #ABCMissionSummit.

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.