The General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA reviewed the denomination’s newly proposed vision statement and concluded that while the vision for unity is great, there are many issues that must be considered through dialogue and understanding “at this very moment.”
"The vision that has been cast acknowledges just how confident we are--in the width and breadth of our aspirations-as we serve Christ through this decade and beyond," Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley said. "But before we can tackle those challenges, we must face the fact that unity is not yet a reality, and that members of our family are hurting and are not completely comfortable with this denomination as it currently functions. It would be a tragic mistake to presume that greater mutual understanding, dialog and, indeed, healing are not needed-and at this very moment."
The proposed vision statement was developed during the ABCUSA’s “Seek It Summit” last month in Green Lake, Wisconsin, with input from more than 2,500 attendees. Several church leaders will review the statement before it is presented to the General Board for action or adoption in November.
"We are a wonderfully diverse family of faith," Medley said, "and with diversity comes a range of needs and expectations. It's a fact that not all those needs and expectations are being met at the same level."
"It is my experience that the most critical work in dealing with issues of race and ethnicity occurs at those very points where it is most difficult to engage one another-those places where trust and the ability to hold honest dialog are low. In such situations we are utterly dependent upon the reconciling work of the Spirit to move us beyond our stuck points to that place where authentic relationships can be nurtured. For this grace we pray and to this goal we recommit ourselves."
"We have work to do, and we need to begin honestly addressing every concern today," Medley said. "These are challenges, certainly, but I have no doubt that we should move forward with hope and excitement, confident that our God who has blessed us so deeply with a vibrant heritage will lead us forward to Christ-centered, life-changing ministries in the years ahead."
The following is the full text of the ABCUSA’s new vision statement:
"American Baptists are a Christ-centered, biblically grounded, ethnically diverse people called to radical personal discipleship in Christ Jesus. Our commitment to Jesus propels us to nurture authentic relationships with one another; build healthy churches; transform our communities, our nations and our world; engage every member in hands-on ministry; and speak the prophetic word in love.
"As a people of prayer, purpose, and passion, we are in the forefront of creating a community of faith where people of every race, nationality and culture gather as one in worship, service and work.
"The heart of the gospel is God's redemptive love. In our life together, the world will see the power of forgiveness to overcome alienation, the strength of love to transform hate, the power of grace to break the bonds of guilt, the triumph of hope over despair, and the victory of faith over doubt.
"Through the cross of Christ we embrace the world as neighbor. Our vision for mission energizes a multitude of servant ministries of evangelism, discipleship, leadership, new church development, social justice, healing, peacemaking, economic development and education. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we work together in mutual submission, humility, love, and giving that the gospel might be preached and lived in all the world."