ABHMS board meeting emphasizes connection among partners, constituents

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/24/16)—During American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) board of directors meeting Monday through Wednesday, Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray announced key goals of ABHMS’ strategic plan which seek to:

  • impact communities and neighborhoods with the Christian gospel by improving ABHMS’ capacity to share and act on information gathered through collaboration and technology;
  • identify significant movements and trends related to mission and ministry;
  • equip Christian leaders through expanded partnerships and networks across diverse disciplines and organizations; and
  • strengthen ABHMS mission engagement in the Southeastern and Southwestern geographic areas of the United States.

Haggray went on to emphasize the importance of connecting to denominational partners, mission partners, constituents and stakeholders.

“There is a real need among American Baptists to reconnect,” Haggray said. “We are a different denomination than we were 25 years ago—even 10 years ago. The ties that used to bind us together—Biennial, United Mission, Green Lake events, regional meetings—are not as strong as they used to be, and can be strengthened with our ‘Connect. Cultivate. Change’ emphasis.

“So much of our vision is connecting with primary partners,” he continued. “We have the opportunity to do our best work by engaging with others in shared conversation and mission.”

During opening devotion on Tuesday, board member the Rev. Dr. Kenneth R. Board, senior pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, Rockford, Ill., said, “As we look at new strategies with a new visionary leader, I want God to connect us to places where we have never been connected before. Let’s look to our power source. Jesus is the engine; the Holy Spirit is the power.”

During the treasurer’s report, Michaele Birdsall, deputy executive director, treasurer and chief financial officer, discussed the Common Investment Fund (CIF) and ABHMS’ Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) efforts, including dialoguing and corresponding with corporations, filing shareholder resolutions, and employing screens that indicate investments to be avoided. She encouraged board members to spread the word that the CIF is not only an easy way for American Baptist-related entities to invest for only a $5,000 minimum but also that investment in the vehicle can mean a diversifying of assets and enhanced SRI. Furthermore, she noted, CIF management fees are under 1 percent, at a nearly-unheard-of .78 percent.

“We believe we have a really, really good fund,” she said, “and we want to get the word out.”

The Rev. Jamaal Nelson, recently appointed director of “In Support of Excellence,” provided an update on the Lilly Endowment Inc.-funded program that seeks to promote financial literacy among American Baptist pastoral leaders. He reported that, by late August to early September, three to four pilot curricula clusters will be established throughout the United States, with the goal of obtaining data-proven curricula and research for the national rollout in January. He further noted that the program will include a suite of resources, including a ministry incubator fund, economic hardship resources and one-on-one financial coaching for leaders and congregations.

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner, associate executive director of Missional Life and Leadership, reported that ABHMS has provided more than a quarter of a million dollars in Justice for Children Initiative Children in Poverty (CiP) grants to various ministries since 2009, including $51,000 this year. In attendance at the meeting to accept a $4,000 2016 CiP check for Second Baptist Church of Germantown’s ministry with the Children’s Initiative of the Philadelphia Interfaith Housing Network were the Rev. Ernest Flores, pastor, and Bessie Jordan-Byrd, chair of the missions board.

Before presenting his report, the Rev. Dr. Eddie Cruz, associate executive director of Mission Advancement, shared with the board that a relative of his was among those killed in the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. A Florida resident, Cruz said he attended several funerals and events for Orlando victims, telling bereaved citizens and family members that ABHMS stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Afterward, board members laid hands on and prayed for Cruz and his family and for the LGBTQ and Orlando communities.

Cruz’s Mission Advancement report focused on “friendraising versus fundraising,” reiterating the importance of ABHMS’ connection with partners and constituents.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on leadership, discipleship and healing communities.

American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.