American Baptist Children in Poverty grants

ABHMS Children in Poverty grant-recipient church operates successful feeding ministry

CiP Grant Church

Heritage Baptist Church, Annapolis, Md., has been nourishing children and families with healthy food through its “Blessings in a Backpack” ministry since 2009. And American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) has been happy to play a part by supporting the ministry though a Justice for Children Initiative Children in Poverty (CiP) grant.

“When I visited Heritage Baptist, volunteers showed me a pantry well-stocked with packaged goods and boxes of fresh fruit ready for weekly distribution to 75 children at two elementary schools,” says the Rev. Lisa Harris Lee, ABHMS national coordinator of the Justice for Children Initiative.

Lee points out that, as with most other grant recipients, Heritage Baptist has found that the number of children participating in its program has grown yearly.

“The number of children in need of support keeps increasing,” she says.

Read more at American Baptist Home Mission Societies…

Mission Offering for March: America For Christ

America for Christ offering

Our March special mission offering is the annual America For Christ offering for the work of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. The theme for 2016 is “Discipleship: Becoming More Like Christ,” based on Ephesians 2:10: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (NRSV). The America for Christ Offering supports our ABC church programs that seek to meet the needs of refugees, children and youth, those in prison and others in their communities here in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Our goal this year is $850. Please help to support these good works.              

American Baptists Respond to Water Crisis in Flint

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 2/19/16)—In response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Disaster Relief Office has distributed a $2,500 Emergency Grant from American Baptist Churches USA One Great Hour of Sharing funds to American Baptist Churches of Michigan. The region will forward funds to Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Flint, which is coordinating American Baptist relief efforts in the city.

Both the state and federal governments have declared a state of emergency in the city because its drinking water is contaminated with lead, rendering it unsuitable for drinking, cooking and bathing.

“While there are certainly justice and advocacy dimensions to the crisis in Flint, ABHMS is pleased to make this first installment on behalf of American Baptists in responding to the immediate human need for clean water,” says Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS executive director. “And we urge our American Baptist family to continue your generosity, which makes such gifts possible.”

Read more…

Baptist Group Urges Tyson Foods To Address Water Quality

Bob Allen, Baptist News Global

Michaele Birdsall
Michaele Birdsall, deputy director, American Baptist Home Missions Societies

Shareholders of Tyson Foods will vote Feb. 5 on a resolution filed by American Baptist Home Missions Societies asking the food giant to clean up its act regarding water pollution.

Environmentalists say corporate agribusiness is emerging as one of the biggest threats to America’s waterways, contributing to dead zones from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and threatening the nation’s drinking water supply.

Tyson Foods Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of meat and poultry, adds to pollution with manure from its contract growers’ factory farm operations, fertilizer runoff from grain grown to feed livestock and waste from its processing plants.

Read more at Baptist News Global

Pastor Gregory Says…

Greg StevensIt has been another wonderful week serving as your Associate Pastor. On Monday I was with Pastor Rick at the Bay Area Ministers Council retreat. It was great to network with other ministers; it was especially fun to hear how much Rick’s leadership has so greatly influence other Baptists in the area. I left refreshed and excited to work with Rick in growing our faith family. I cooked up pizza’s, a big salad, and some hummus for the Stanford UCCM students on Tuesday, enjoyed a lively Council Meeting, inspiring me to continue working hard in growing our church, and we sent home an exciting mission trip opportunity to New Orleans (through ABHMS) for our older youth! A great week it was. I will continue praying for you and hope to see you Sunday!

“Progressive Evangelical”?

Mixon MusesGregory recently asked on Facebook if “progressive evangelical” is an oxymoron. Though this is an interesting question, I doubt the future of the planet hinges on the answer. Still, it did get me to thinking about whether these two terms are incompatible and, perhaps more importantly, how I see myself in these terms. If pressed, I think I might be willing to claim this as an identity. I’ve been called worse than an oxymoron.

I suppose the biggest part of the problem is the way these terms are used in the vernacular. Each has become something of a stereotype, labels hurled at the “opposition” with derision and disdain. But as someone who has always been interested in the original meaning of words and how original meaning might help to clarify contemporary usage, it seems to me that these two words are more than slogans. Furthermore, I think they are not nearly as incompatible as some would argue.

In simplest terms, evangel, like gospel, means good news, so an evangelical is one who brings or announces “good news.” Now I know this gets complicated when we try to define exactly what good news is.  Some set rigidly literal standards from the Bible as they understand it. This is characteristic of Christian fundamentalism. For many the “news” announced from this perspective is hardly good. This perspective is often equated with being evangelical. So, overreacting, many liberal or progressive folk eschew evangelical and turn their backs on proclaiming the good news. This is sad and unfortunate in a world in desperate need of good news – and, I would argue specifically, the good news of Jesus Christ.

Then, progress – “forward or onward movement toward a destination” – can also mean more than a euphemism for soft-bellied, bleeding heart liberals. It does not necessarily mean getting better and better day by day either, that kind of linear climb toward perfection. Today progressive is often understood as the antithesis of fundamentalism, a way of living in the world without any clear standards, a kind of “whatever” approach to life. But again, I find something meaningful in the idea that as progressives, especially Christian progressives, we are moving toward something. Again, if we are followers, of Jesus, we are moving toward the Kingdom of God or God’s Beloved Community. This is not meaningless meandering.

When I was much younger, I was invited to be a member of the planning team for American Baptist participation in a national evangelistic enterprise called “Key ’73.” As I recall a number of mainline denominations and evangelical groups joined in a loosely coordinated effort to “win souls for Christ.” In those days I was probably more stereotypically evangelical and less stereotypically progressive, but I had already been spoiled by seminary and was well on my way to becoming a heretic.

The reason I mention this is because in those days the Division of Evangelism of the American Baptist Home Mission Board was probably the most progressive group in our denomination. In particular, they had provided significant support for and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Among my heroes in this group was Jitsuo Morikawa, its director. Morikawa, who had experienced internment as a young Japanese-American during World War II, was someone I have come to understand as a “progressive evangelical.”

Though there was a heavy Billy Graham-style emphasis among the Key ’73 participants, under Morikawa’s leadership, we developed a plan that was radically different. Morikawa, who had equal passion for justice, economic equity, peace and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, kept talking about something he called “evangelistic life-style.” For him salvation (health, well-being, centered in God, alive in Christ, moved by the Spirit) was both personal and social. One could not separate the two. If you were alive in Christ you both shared that good news, boldly, verbally, and you committed your life to working toward making God’s Beloved Community real on earth in the here and now.

If you had found new life in Christ then you were also called to live with compassion, justice, peace, concern for the poor, the outcast, the stigmatized, responsible stewardship of creation, shaping every aspect of your life. At the same time you progress toward righteousness – right living, setting the world right side up – you also share with others what motivates your work. And sharing with others that you are “born again” only has integrity if it manifests in the ways you express compassion, justice, economic equity and peace. For a progressive evangelical, the good news must be proclaimed in word and deed. Salvation is personal and social. Love for God is matched by love for all creation. These are of one piece.

The false distinction between progressive – moving steadily and faithfully toward the Beloved Community – and evangelical – sharing the good news everywhere – has been, in my way of thinking, a serious disservice to Christianity and the church. As we allow the culture wars, especially in this country, to define these crucial terms and divide us into camps, it should be no surprise to see people looking for good news and good ways to turn their backs on us in disgust. It is past time for us to reclaim our identity as progressive evangelicals and bring God’s Beloved Community alive today. This is our high calling.

Rick

March Mission Offering: America For Christ (4/01/15)

America for Christ- Discipleship: A Journey of GraceThe MARCH SPECIAL OFFERING is the annual America for Christ offering presented by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. The theme this year, “Discipleship: A Journey of Grace, “ based on Titus 2:11-13, is a wonderful reminder that Jesus’ public ministry was all about connecting and caring for people in need. On each day of his journey, the compassion of Jesus was felt by someone else…We should live to love because true freedom in Christ enables us to do so by the power of the Spirit in our life. The outworking of God’s grace will be seen most often during difficult times. God’s grace is being manifested in our lives as we gladly seek to help others carry their burdens. …” The America for Christ Offering allows us to help others in their journeys through life in a large number of ways.

We have received $770 toward our goal of $850.