A few days ago I, and the rest of the First Family, returned from the hot and humid confines of Kansas City, KS. Why were we in Kansas City? We were attending the American Baptist Biennial, aka Mission Summit. The name change made me highly suspicious, when Baptist churches change names to things it is kind of like trying to fool a kid into eating green beans by saying they are green energy sticks. But it has been awhile since my last Biennial and I wanted to be with my peeps, so we sojourned down I-35.
And my impression? It was the best Biennial I had ever attended. So good in fact, that it was the first denominational gathering that I attended and NOT felt the need to start my own denomination! And that is saying something. (I am exempting the regional Rochester gathering). I left proud of my American Baptist heritage and membership.
Why such jubilation? I do not expect the denomination to reflect the image of Christianity that I practice and that is offered here at Judson Memorial Baptist Church, we are a liberal Baptist church, but I do hope to be heard and felt a part of the denomination. And at this biennial I was heard, felt apart of, and present. I do not want a denomination that is "pure" a ghetto of just the left (or the right). I want to be a part of body that holds hands with the left, middle, and right. And I felt that we all held hands at this gathering. I felt that folk came with open hands and not closed fists. We didn't fight, argue, or pout in the corner. Instead, we focused on issues of ministry through the conversations, presentations, and worship services.
If the future of the denomination looks and feels like the "Mission Summit" then I think American Baptists are primed for a bright future.