There was no Midweek Message last week as I was in Kansas City for the American Baptist Mission Summit. Many I heard commented that this was the best biennial meeting in many years. I went early for the theology conference, held at Central Baptist Seminary. The theme was “Baptists and the Spirit: Living into God’s Future.” It began with a fine address by Central’s President, Molly Marshall. It was good to see my mentor, David Bartlett, there along with other friends and colleagues. One of the joys of these events is seeing old friends.
The Mission Summit itself started with a stirring address by author and attorney, Michelle Alexander. You can see a report on her address on “The New Jim Crow” here. There were fine programs with excellent speakers at the MMBB luncheon, BPFNA and Coalition for Baptist Principles breakfasts and the Roger Williams Fellowship dinner. Worship was well coordinated by Brad Berglund. We celebrated three historical events – the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of missionaries Ann and Adoniram Judson in Burma and the 375th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in America (Providence, Rhode Island.) One night we had a “battle of Burmese choirs” from opposite sides of the convention hall. Two different choirs of Burmese-Americans and refugees from different ethnic groups, each over 300 strong, sang beautiful Burmese songs of praise. A centerpiece of the Mission Summit was a series of facilitated “table conversations” in which participants shared their dreams and concerns for the ongoing mission of the ABC-USA.
On Sunday, June 23, I participated in the gathering of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists at Crossroads Church in Kansas City, Missouri. We led the morning worship service, with the AWAB Executive Director, Robin Lunn, preaching. After a typically delicious KC barbecue we witnessed a powerful documentary entitled, God Loves Uganda. The film portrays the homo-hatred and abuse of lgbtq folk in that central African country, which has legislation pending that would make lgbtq identity a capital offense. Part of the sad state of affairs is that this terror is being fueled by Christian fundamentalists from the USA, in particular the members of a KC mega-church called the International House of Prayer. I hope we may be able to show this movie in the coming year. It deserves to be seen widely.
Thanks to those who filled in in my absence. This Sunday is the church picnic. The theme for out intergenerational service is “Oh, Freedom!” We will use the 5th chapter of Galatians as a text, which includes Paul’s famous proclamation, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.” But what is the nature of this freedom and how do we live it out? Paul has timely suggestions in this chapter about freedom and “fruits of the Spirit.”
Come this Sunday at 10 AM dressed for the picnic and ready for celebration. Bring someone along to share the morning with you.
May God’s new thing flourish within us and among us.