VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/16/23)—The Board of General Ministries met at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, Pa., beginning on Friday, November 3 with an Appreciation Celebration service for ABCUSA General Secretary Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods. At the service, family, friends, staff and persons who have worked with Woods recognized his leadership and impact on American Baptist Churches USA through his roles as pastor, leader, region Executive Minister (ABC of Ohio), Associate General Secretary, Interim General Secretary and General Secretary.
On Saturday, November 4, the board opened its plenary session as it does each meeting with a reading of the American Baptist Churches focus statement: American Baptist Churches are missional congregations that nurture devoted disciples of Jesus Christ who live their lives in mission and ministry for the healing of the world through the love of God.
The board received a report of the General Secretary Search Committee during an executive session, and at that time voted to elect the Rev. Dr. Gina Jacobs-Strain as the next General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA. Dr. Jacobs-Strain’s term of service will begin on February 1, 2024.
Read more about Dr. Jacobs-Strain here.
The call of Dr. Jacobs-Strain comes after a four-year transitional ministry plan originally adopted by the Board of General Ministries in November 2019. Rev. Dr. James O. Wolfe, III, president of American Baptist Churches USA said, “Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods has served with great distinction as General Secretary and as Interim General Secretary through this transitional period, and the board thanks him for his outstanding leadership and commitment.” Woods will continue to serve ABCUSA, ministering to regions in the role of Associate General Secretary for Regional Ministries.
Reflecting on his years of service, Woods said during his board report, “American Baptists have had many adventurous leaders. It is time for the next one. John Naisbitt once wrote that ‘followers create leaders,’ rather than leaders creating followers. I happen to think that it is both. Followers are necessary to great leaders. Soon I will be one of those followers as the next General Secretary is called. I hope that you will join me in doing our part to follow the next great ABC adventurer.”
Board actions included electing new directors, Rev. Suleima Rosario-Diaz as At-Large Director for the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey (first term 2024-2027) and Rev. Abraham Gross as At-Large Director for the American Baptist Churches of Vermont New Hampshire (first term 2025-2028).
The board reelected the following as at Large Directors for a first term (first term 2025-2028) following filled term vacancies, as recommended by the ABCUSA Nominating Committee: Mr. Orin Clinger (American Baptist Churches of Nebraska); Mr. Douglas Hill (American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware); Rev. Mathew Toupin (American Baptist Churches of the Central Pacific Coast). Presidential nominations and appointments by President-Elect Rev. Nikita McCalister were also confirmed and voted on for the coming biennium.
Following a budget presentation from Budget Review Officer Paul Higgins, the board voted to approve the 2024 ABCUSA Budget.
The board directors and staff joined together for worship in an evening vespers and communion service on Saturday evening.
On Sunday morning, the ABCUSA Board of General Ministries Executive Committee welcomed Kathryn Choy-Wong, who led them in work on anti-racism, centered around “Building Lasting Bridges.” Rev. Kathryn Choy-Wong (Katie) is a consultant, trainer and writer in Intercultural Ministries. Along with two colleagues, Choy-Wong recently published a book for Judson Press, “Building Lasting Bridges: An Updated Handbook for Intercultural Ministries” and an online workbook to accompany the handbook. The session was the second of its kind led by Choy-Wong, who also lead the board in a similar session at a meeting in June 2023.
The board heard reports from its four Action Groups who met on Friday and Saturday afternoons: Board of General Ministries Finance Committee, Christian Unity & Interfaith Relations, Becoming a Beloved Community and Communicating ABC Identity.
At the close of the meeting, a recognition service was held for the Retiring Directors:
Raimundo Barreto (8 years, 2016-2023)
Michelle Nickens (2 years, 2022-2023)
Karen Podsiadly (4 years, 2020-2023)
The Board meetings concluded following meetings on Sunday morning, November 5.
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.