ABHMS convenes aligned action network, other collaborative gatherings in California

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 3/22/18)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) convened an aligned action network meeting and other collaborative gatherings with new and historic partners March 15-17 at American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, Southwest and Hawaii’s (ABCOFLASH) conference center at First Baptist Church of Glendale, Calif.

Thursday’s aligned action network meeting was attended by partners from churches, campus and community ministries in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. It was led by Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern, an adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and facilitated by the Rev. Lisa Harris Lee, ABHMS director of Mission Engagement and National Network Initiative.

ABHMS developed aligned action networks so that American Baptists in geographic clusters throughout the United States and Puerto Rico can convene to share resources, funding opportunities, communication practices and actionable ideas to ultimately create ministries that make a difference in people’s lives.

Participant the Rev. Kevin Doi, founding pastor of Epic Church, Fullerton, Calif., says that he recognizes several real-world uses for the types of collaboration that ABHMS is cultivating via aligned action networks. He uses the approach, for example, with Epic’s JOYA Scholars program, which prepares middle, high school and college students from Fullerton’s Garnet neighborhood for higher education through mentoring, workshops, events and tours.

“Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern presented a crucial shift in how to think about ministry: From focus on scale and growth of one’s own organization—organization-centered—to advancing the field of mission, regardless of who gets credit—mission-centered,” says Doi. “This kind of mission expansion and impact requires collaboration—not competition—rooted in win-win partnerships. Partnerships are necessary because the mission is too large and complex for any one organization, and resources are always limited. This local, organic, grassroots approach requires joining God on the ground and building relationships with potential partners with a spirit of humility and a posture of listening and learning.”

Facilitated by the Rev. Fela Barrueto, ABHMS national coordinator of Prisoner Re-entry Ministries, Friday morning’s “Defending the Undocumented and Supporting Healthy Reentry” workshop featured a video conference with Noel Anderson, Church World Service’s national grassroots coordinator, who presented the #WhereRtheRefugees toolkit.

In addition, Melvin Valiente, pastor of First Baptist Church of Maywood, Calif., discussed ministering to Southern California’s undocumented community through the Matthew 25 Network. He told the story of Noé Carias, a pastor held in ICE detention for 60 days until Matthew 25 Network’s advocacy led to his release.

On Friday afternoon, the Rev. Jamaal Nelson, director of ABHMS’ “In Support of Excellence” program, led the “Unleashing Pastoral Excellence by Lifting the Burden of Debt” workshop.

“More than 15 pastors from across ABCOFLASH came together in community to equip themselves and one another as even stronger stewardship leaders,” Nelson says. “They discussed ways to align church mission, vision and values to the budget.”

On Friday and Saturday evening, more than a dozen diverse young adults participated in the “Empowering Young Intercultural Leaders” workshop hosted cooperatively by ABHMS’ Intercultural Ministries and Emerging Leaders program. The event showcased tools, leadership techniques and wide-ranging discussion geared toward young church leaders who work with multicultural groups.

Participant Kwee Say, M.Div., says she shared learnings from the workshop with her local church and leaders of Karen Baptist Churches USA.

“One thing I learned at the training that really sticks with me was the importance of working across cultural boundaries with ‘RESPECT’ [Responsibility, Empathetic listening, Sensitivity, Pondering, Examining, Confidentiality, Trusting/Tolerating ambiguity] as a minister, a pastor, a chaplain and a servant leader of God,” says Say, a recently endorsed American Baptist Navy chaplain officer candidate, who currently serves as a chaplain intern in Spiritual Care Services at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

To register for updates about ABHMS’ aligned action networks, visit abhms.org > About Us and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Register.”

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.