Musings on the American Baptist Mission Summit

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By Rev. Mindi

For those of you not familiar with the American Baptist
Churches, USA, you can go to our website  We meet for biennial gatherings much like the
Disciples of Christ meet for General Assembly and the United Church of Christ
meet for General Synod.  Two years ago,
at our Biennial Meeting in Puerto Rico (I was unfortunately unable to attend),
a new structure and bylaws were passed for our denomination. As a result, our
Biennial gathering this year changed to a Mission Summit format. What that
means is that there was a lot less formal business and more opportunity for

Of course, these are just my views, but here they are: I
enjoyed the Mission Summit format. We were given a list of over thirty topics
to choose from and got to go to the table of our topic of choice and meet
others interested in the same topic (some topics had two or three tables—and each
table had a facilitator). There were three rooms of conversations, under the
categories of Our Future, Our Leaders, and Our Witness. We had some basic
questions to get us started in the conversation, and after an hour or so, we
got back together as a larger group in our category and each table shared a
major insight/learning. We had two more opportunities for this, in which we
could stay with the same subject and go deeper, or we could switch topics. I
met new people, had good conversations, and even took away some ideas for my
congregation. Practical stuff.

What I missed: the fact that our formal business session was
fifteen minutes, to accept the nominations as slated. We have done away with
our old Statements of Concern process to create new Public Witness Statements
(which there were none presented at this gathering).  The Resolution and Policy Statements of old
are gone. Old resolutions can be amended or rescinded through a process, but no
new ones can be created under the new bylaws. For some, this perhaps is a
victory—the Statements of Concern process, which I witnessed firsthand at the
Denver Biennial in 2005, was a painful and abusive process by some churches
wanting to impose their views on homosexuality as a sin onto others.  The resolution process was also abused. But
now, we no longer make any resolutions.  The new process for the Public Witness
Statements is still unknown and relatively untested (a few regions have passed
Public Witness Statements, but only a few, and it being so new, there were none
for this gathering).

Who are we? What are we doing? We are answering the question
well within our gathering. We are a diverse body in worship, fellowship and
mission. I enjoyed the worship services, the beauty of music from around the
world, dynamic speakers and positive messages. I enjoyed meeting new people and
reconnecting with my Baptist roots. But outside of our gathering—who knows us?
Who knows who we are and what we are doing, what we believe and what we say
about ourselves?  And as one of the few
Tweeters during the entire gathering, I was disappointed with the denominational
use of social media, that barely existed before the Mission Summit and was gone
as soon as it was finished (by the way, the topic I chose for the Mission
Conversations was Social Media).

I look forward to attending the next Mission Summit, I
really do. But I hope that we American Baptists will find our voice again, will
be willing to risk and to state what we believe in, what we hold dear—even if
others do not feel the same way, even if it is controversial. I hope that we
haven’t made the decision to simply avoid conflict by not saying anything at

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About Rev. Mindi

Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell is an ordained American Baptist minister married to an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and mother of a child with autism. Mindi grew up in Alaska, lived in Oregon, Massachusetts and Oklahoma, and now lives in the Seattle area. She is a pastor, creator of Rev-o-lution (, retreat leader and writer, and a citizen of Red Sox Nation. (Note that her posts are her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of her congregation).

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